Go to any marriage counsellor, and they’ll tell you that for a relationship to work couples must share common interests. But what happens when conventional wisdom proves to be wrong?
That’s the question Catherine Baab-Muguira poses in her article about her marriage. She admits that she and her husband have nothing in common, but that’s what makes their relationship work.
“We’ve been married for ten years now, and we get happier all the time. I am profoundly grateful for our differences. And they are… legion” is how she describes her marriage.
Although Chris, her husband, is smart, kind and funny, he isn’t interested in any of the things Catherine cares about; he prefers playing video games to reading, and is a web designer, while she’s a writer. Their worldviews are entirely different.
Normally such differences would be the ingredients for divorce; a study by Pew Research Center shows that Americans rate having shared interests as one of the elements that make a marriage work. But is this necessarily true?
Stephanie Coontz, one of the America’s foremost authorities on marriage, believes that there’s no one magic tip or only secret for marriage. According to her, people only started marrying for love in the last 50 years, otherwise, for the longest time “marriage was more about gaining in-laws, channelling authority, and handling the tasks of daily life.”
Our expectations of marriage are much higher today and include the desire for emotional fulfilment, like-mindedness, as well as assistance in doing the house chores. Coontz says “It’s not so much the case that couples must share hobbies and interests … it is essential to be interested in your partner, to experience joy in their joy.”
Catherine says that the differences between herself and her husband are more than just personality. Even their family backgrounds seem to clash; while she comes from a white, conservative household of faithful Catholics, Chris’ family is quite liberal and accepting of people no matter where they come from.
Marrying someone so different from herself has, in turn, broadened Catherine’s experience and deepened her understanding of love. She believes that the emotional connection between her and Chris is “more significant than any shared interest.”
Everett Worthington, a licensed clinical psychologist, doesn’t find it unusual that couples with differences like Catherine and her hubby seem to get along just fine. According to him “good communication—which many people believe is the cause of a good marriage—is more the product of having a strong emotional connection than the cause,” He believes that even though common interests and values help marriages, it doesn’t mean that marriage partners have to be joined at the hip.
Hearing the excitement of your partner as they narrate their experiences or accomplishments can be very fulfilling for a couple; much more than sharing an interest in something like shopping or watching TV.
In the end, having common interests helps, but it’s the differences between couples that help grow them as individuals and create the room to broaden their horizons.