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Dear Evan,

I know that the most important things to look for in a man are his character and how he treats me. However, most of the guys I meet online have hobbies that include things like extreme hiking, skiing, biking, four-wheeling, etc. I understand every guy needs hobbies and that’s great but these guys always mention that they want a woman who shares their interests and I don’t like any of those things, in fact, I can’t do most of them because of health issues and lack of any athletic ability. I know I could just search for guys who are more low-key and into things I’m into but when these sporty/outdoorsy guys message me, should I ignore them? It seems they are the only ones messaging me and they have other good qualities so I don’t know if I’m wasting my time or not if I go out with them.

Mandy

I know it’s not popular to say this — especially since it would seem to condemn many of my readers, but, well, I’ve got to follow the truth where it leads. Let’s start with a fact:

There are a finite number of hours in a day and a week.

We spend 8 hours a day sleeping. We spend 10 more working or commuting. We have two weekend days to catch up on our errands, priorities, or hobbies.

If you’re passionate about your hobby, you are likely devoting a lot of your spare time to it. Which makes sense when you’re single and have a lot of time to fill.

Might as well do something you love.

But when you’re looking for a relationship, hobbies can be extremely problematic.

Being a marathoner or an animal activist may be the most profound and meaningful experience on earth for those who share your passion, yet they’re kind of rough on the 99% who don’t.

Which is why there are dating sites to match up people based on being athletic or spiritual. Why haven’t you had any success on these sites? Well, because anyone who puts her love of horses or his passion for skiing ahead of a relationship is likely to remain alone.

When you’re looking for a relationship, hobbies can be extremely problematic.

You’ve heard of the phrase “must love dogs?”

That was clearly written by a single person who thought mutual hobbies were important.

Free advice from a happily married dating coach: he must TOLERATE your dogs.

Just like you must TOLERATE his fantasy football. And he must TOLERATE how long it takes you to get ready. And you must TOLERATE how he only listens to half of what you tell him.

The people who insist that others share their hobbies eliminate most of the population, but worse, they don’t realize the damage they do to their patient partners.

The Wall St. Journal even wrote about this years ago in an article called “The Plight of the Training Widow,” a term coined to describe the woman whose alpha husband works hard and plays hard, waking up at 5am and going to sleep at 8:30pm, leaving her effectively widowed.

She may have a ring on her finger and a roof over her head. What she doesn’t have is much quality time with her partner.

So yes, Mandy, I hijacked your question to say something I’ve wanted to say for 14 years.

Many of my clients have passions: restoring houses, forming new businesses, traveling internationally. While such ventures are benign, when you consider how much time they take away from both meeting Mr. Right and nurturing a relationship with him, it’s no surprise when my clients continue to struggle.

In fact, perhaps the greatest thing I have going for me as a husband is that I have no hobbies! J

I work from 9 to 5:30.

I come out of work and play with my kids, bathe ‘em, feed ‘em, put ‘em to bed.

I eat dinner with my wife at 8 and watch TV until 9 or 10.

I go upstairs and read until I fall asleep.

I suppose you can say that reading is a hobby, but I only do it for one hour a day and I’m more than willing to sacrifice if circumstances demand. I also work out some mornings between 7:30-8:30, but that never gets in the way of our life. My wife and kids always come before my “hobbies.”

If your hobbies are structured similarly, that’s great. Keep doing what you’re doing. However, this is not the case for many people who prefer to build their relationships around their passions instead of vice versa. Alas, most of us don’t want to come in second to a video game or a cat.

Ultimately, the answer is determined by how happy YOU are in your relationship.

Nor should we.

I’m not here to tell you passionate hobbyists to immediately cease all activities outside your marriage. Really, I’m not. Whatever works for you.

If he plays golf for four hours every Saturday and Sunday, and you see it as a perfect time to ride your bike or see your girlfriends, that’s cool. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that every second you spend apart is a second you could be spending together. And last thing you want to be is the couple that leads separate lives, with hobbies that take the place of conversation and connection.

Long story short, Mandy, if a guy demands you take up four-wheeling to be with him, dump him.

But just because he likes four-wheeling doesn’t mean you ignore him; rather it means you get to determine over time if you are content with the effort he’s putting into the relationship.

If he rides every day after work and all weekend at the expense of your relationship, you know what to do. If he squeezes this in the hours you’re otherwise occupied, then congratulations, you found a way to make it work with a hobbyist.

Ultimately, the answer is determined by how happy YOU are in your relationship.