How to find common interests with your mate

Shared interests can help you and your mate form a strong bond

Special to The TribuneJune 29, 2012 

You’ve heard the age-old adage: Couples who play together, stay together. Like other pearls of ancient wisdom, it’s true. Partners who regularly engage in mutually enjoyable activities are more likely to have strong, loving relationships and are less apt to serve each other divorce papers.

In fact, common interests act as a kind of barometer for a relationship’s state of health The more joint activities partners can cite, the more vital the bond is between them.

It’s easy to see why this is so. Spouses with common interests spend hours together. They feel happy in each other’s presence. They have plenty to discuss at the dinner table. They develop a social network of like-minded friends. They have fun planning, doing and rehashing events they’ve shared. They fill a psychic treasure chest with communal memories

Joint activities also serve as an emotional adhesive that binds couples together during their inevitable rough patches. A wife may think, “I’m not happy with you at the moment. But we always have a great time when we’re with friends at our cabin. I know my frustration will pass.”

When it comes to common interests, you just can’t have enough. Sure, one shared hobby is better than nothing. But multiple activities are better yet.

Common interests are as varied as the folks who enjoy them. Some couples seek adventure. Others like plein air painting or foreign films. Still others love doing volunteer work or going to spiritual retreats. There’s no right or wrong way to play together. The key is that both people are engaged.

Common interests also change over the course of arelationship. Activities that call out to 20-somethings may not be right for people who have had total hip replacements. Personal interests waver, too. A couple might enjoy breeding cocker spaniels for a number of years then move on to something else they haven’t tried.

It’s also appropriate to approach one common interest from differing viewpoints. A husband might like skiing in the Rockies, while his less athletic wife enjoys spa treatments and shopping at the resort.

Having common interests doesn’t mean you’re joined at the hip. There’s room in a relationship to pursue hobbies on your own. Still, wise couples are forever on the lookout for things to do in tandem. They know this bit of age-old wisdom never goes out of style.

Tips for finding common interests with your mate

Do some soul searching. Ask yourselves, “What brings us joy together?” Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times you’ll need to dig.

Make a list. On separate sheets of paper, write down what each of you might like to do. Then compare your ideas. You may be pleasantly surprised at how similar your visions are.

Hark back to your dating years. Recall what you did when you were first together. Those activities obviously appealed to you once before. Perhaps those early interests can be dusted off and shared again.

Try something new. Seek out activities that spark your interest that you’ve never tried before. Take bridge lessons at the adult school. Join a choir. Buy a travel trailer. You may discover a new passion. At the very least you’ll have given it a try.

Schedule time to play together. Don’t let chronic overscheduling interfere with your relationship. Block out a chunk of time on your mutual calendars. Better yet, make a recurring date so that you always save time for each other.

Be creative. Sometimes no answer is obvious. You need to think outside the relational box. Perhaps you volunteer to build scenery while your wife performs in a community play. Or you offer to bring chili to your husband’s softball picnic. You’ll be involved in the action. You’ll be working together as a team.

Have a good attitude. Whatever you do together, do it with a loving heart and a cooperative demeanor. If you’re sullen and resentful, you’ve defeated the entire purpose. Decide that you’ll have fun with your partner, then put on your best smiling face. There’s so much resting on your mutual cooperation. Your marriage is at stake.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com.

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