Think back to your first couple of meaningful relationships? When I think about mine, it is clear that I had a lot in common with the person I saw. For me, we liked doing the same sports which was squash and running (btw – not great for knees when you hit 50!) enjoyed Japanese food and loved Dire Straits (still do!).
However, my life experience has demonstrated that while these commonalities helped in our ability to connect and want to spend time together –
On their own ‘shared interests’ were not enough to ensure a lasting relationship.
I know at least a dozen couples who have enjoyed longstanding and fulfilling relationship but who share very few interests. The reason these relationships are so successful is because the bond between them is created by what they ‘believe’ rather than what they ‘do’. What they have in common is values.
This doesn’t mean that your values have to be exactly the same – but it is handy if they are at least attuned and not actively distasteful to your partner. While I have many different tastes and opinions about things to my partner – the compatibility of our values tend to facilitate the choices we make together as a couple and ultimately as a family.
Our values are the essential belief systems that impact almost every aspect of our lives. These beliefs informed us on how we brought up our children, how we disciplined them, who we voted for and our vocational and lifestyle choices.
My clinical experience suggests that having tremendously different values can make a relationships very challenging. For example, if you are a firm believer in monogamy but you meet someone who believes in open relationships, you can’t continue together unless one of you is prepared to change your values.
When any couple get together a certain amount of negotiation on both sides is necessary to bring their lives into harmony. Deciding to change a habit that annoys your partner or taking up a new hobby because it is something everyone enjoys is all part of compromising and developing a healthy relationship. At the Family Peace Foundation we believe that there needs to be flexibility on both sides.
If you compromise on deeper issues – the old ‘go along to get along’ philosophy, which affect your core values you may end up finding that the relationship is untenable. Many people do this because there are so many positives in the relationship. For example, if your partner has a good job, you have a beautiful house in a nice suburb, they treat you well, you enjoy many of the same things as you but s/he doesn’t believe in a civil union or marriage – you might decide that although it is important to you, you will let it go for the sake of the relationship and the lifestyle benefits that accrue from being in it.
But, if you relinquish a core value, that really matters – it can grumble away in the background, like a slow growing emotional tumour, increasing your levels of misery over time.
It won’t feel ‘ok’ and it may prove unbearable and ultimately impossible to get rid of that feeling.
Being in a relationship with someone who has shared interests will give you common ground for conversation when you meet. It is a fantastic feeling when you meet someone who has read the same books or been to the same concerts for example. You have an immediate bond and affinity and the conversation will probably uncover more things you have in common.
This is how friendships are made but for it to develop into something more intimate there must also be commonality at a deeper level. This may only be revealed as you go deeper into the relationship.