Help! We have nothing in common.

oppositesI hear that refrain a lot from unhappy couples. They bemoan their lack of common hobbies and interests. He likes watching sports. She likes reality TV. He enjoys go-cart racing. She prefers basket weaving. He likes to socialize. She likes to stay in.

Most people assume they must have things in common in order to be happy, but you really don’t. You need very little common ground to make a relationship work. All you really need to have in common are two things:

  • You both want your relationship to work.
  • You are both willing to make changes to continually improve your relationship.

That’s it. You don’t need to do every single thing together in order to be happy. You don’t need shared hobbies. You just need a good relationship, one that is based on mutual respect. The “we have nothing in common” complaint is really not a complaint about having things in common. Rather it’s a complaint about the overall state of the relationship, which usually isn’t good. Couples who complain about not having things in common usually have other problems: they are not communicating, they are not having sex, they are not romancing each other, and so on.

Once you fix the other issues, the issue of not having things in common usually evaporates. After all, if it were really an issue, it would be easy to solve. You’d just come up with something you both want to do together-perhaps learn a language, start a fitness regimen, or spice up your sex life-and you’d do it.

I know all of this because my husband and I are complete opposites, and we’re very happily married.

This wasn’t always the case. Just a few years ago, I was as miserable as any wife could possibly be, and I told anyone who would listen that my husband and I had “nothing in common,” as if having nothing in common was a disease that married people could catch.

But it wasn’t. We’re happy now, but the not having much in common hasn’t changed.

For instance, just yesterday he rode his motorcycle to Philadelphia to marshal a bike race. This is something I would never in a million years want to do. You could not pay me to do it. Not even a million dollars. My husband? He’d probably pay someone else for the privilege. For safety, he wore full riding gear that looks a lot like what firemen wear when they go into a burning building. Theoretically such protective gear would keep him from losing every inch of his skin were he to get in an accident, but it also serves as a great insulator. It was 85 degrees yesterday. He basically spent his day hunched over on his crotch rocket, riding in circles while wearing the equivalent of a down jumpsuit.

When he got home and took off his helmet, his hair was all matted together and his face looked like it had been exposed to an Everglades swamp for a few weeks. My parents happened to be visiting. My mother said, “He just rode that thing to and from Philadelphia?”

I said, “There are things I will never understand about my husband. Wanting to ride a motorcycle for 8 hours straight in the heat is one of them. That doesn’t mean I don’t love him.”

And it’s true.

There are many, many things I will never understand about my husband. I still wonder how anyone could want to spend so much time reading about cycling as he does, for instance. I also can’t, for the life of me, figure out exactly what he does with his portable GPS and why whatever it is that he does with it takes up so much of his time. He even tried to help me understand this. One night he asked me to sit next to him while he showed me the GPS readout from one of his bike rides.

“See that’s the route,” he said. “If I press this button here, see what happens!”

What was happening was that a little arrow was following a line around the mapped out route.

“Oh, interesting, “I said. What I really meant was, “Oh, I really don’t find that interesting.” But I didn’t say that because I thought it was incredibly sweet that he was trying to help me understand his hobby. I also like that he’s blessed with a sense of direction. I’m not. Getting lost is a way of life for me. Oh, and he knows how to light a charcoal grill. That’s something I don’t know how to do. In fact, I’m sort of scared of the grill, much as I was scared of Bunsen burners when I was in high school. He doesn’t mind killing bugs either. That’s a good thing because I hate bugs, and I also hate killing them because I hate the squishy stuff that comes out of them. He can also throw a baseball in a fairly straight line, something that my daughter will tell anyone I just can’t do. I’ve accidentally lobbed balls into her head I don’t know how many times.

I appreciate that my husband is not me. I’m very glad that he’s not me. If he were just like me, we’d only be able to eat grilled food at BBQ restaurants, our daughter would have a permanent concussion, our house would be overrun with bugs, and we’d be lost somewhere on the Interstate.

In the end, you really don’t need to adopt each other’s interests, and you really shouldn’t. It’s good to have a strong identity. It’s not good to lose yourself in your partner, only to, years later, realize that you have no idea who you are. If you are opposites who have nothing in common, stop worrying about it. Just focus on what’s most important: continually getting to know one another just a little bit better.

Do you think couples need things in common in order to be happy? Leave a comment.

161 comments… add one

  • Brooke August 7, 2014, 12:02 am

    I LOVED YOUR COMMENTS! I read it and it’s so true and really helped. Thank you so muchh, you’re lovely!

    • phil August 29, 2014, 4:30 pm

      I cannot see my previous comments

  • Amy August 16, 2014, 11:14 pm

    common interests what’s that ???
    Married 47 years and we have done nothing together except go our separate way every day. Since first married he hasn’t done any thing with me, we never talk, sleep together we even live on different levels of our house. He has lived all our marriage alone in our basement, he even built his own separate entrance. He won’t park his car in our garage next to mine, of courser he built a separate garage for himself. In our upper 60′s and life has pretty much topped out for us, there isn’t much more to do. I’ve lived with depression for all these years and made many payments on my shrink’s BMW. The husband just left him self go long straggly hair and beard and dresses in 60′s type clothes he probably picked up at the thrift store.

  • Juanita January 19, 2015, 5:48 am

    What was said would be true—-if the husband and wife weren’t forced to live away from family, friends, and home. Then, as soon as connections begin to be made with other people, forced to move again. So they always have each other, and they have nothing in common even though they’ve been to five counsellors together, the wife has been to one alone, the wife has a million hobbies & the husband has a job. But the wife continues to be lonely, and the husband continues to act like marriage is a pain. Yes, we’ve been through the love languages. How to be an awesome spouse. When Sorry isn’t Enough. Even Ephesians 4.

  • Nikki January 20, 2015, 2:50 pm

    Thanks so much this has helped me greatly. I was pretty worried when my partner started complaining about this.

  • mary January 25, 2015, 7:27 am

    You give me hope for my marriage! This is my husbands #1 complaint. This how I always respond… I was beginning to wonder if anybody else felt this way. Now to get him to read this ! ;)

  • anonymous March 9, 2015, 10:10 am

    Hi, your post is really good and I definitely think it’s true. I’ve been married for only 3 and a half months now and I’m already bored. I don’t find my husband very interesting, he has almost no hobbies or interests apart from religion (which I cannot talk about all the time, I’m sure most people would agree that religion is not the most interesting conversation topic). I, on the other hand, have quite a few hobbies and interests, none that I can get him interested in though. I love sports, board games of all different types, cooking, health and fitness, reading etc but I can’t even get him to watch a movie with me (he is strict in his religion so yeah) and he’s not interested in cartoons (which I am since I’m fairly young, but there’s not exactly a huge age gap between us as he’s 5 years older than me) I would love to go for walks in parks or something but the weather is quite cold at the moment and he absolutely hates the cold. He is also very busy as he is working and studying at the same time, so he doesn’t have a day off throughout the week. I feel like he’s not compromising in this relationship, and I’m sure it’s not normal for it to be like this so early in the marriage! Many a times I’ve asked him if he wouldn’t mind just wrapping up well so we can go for a short walk together, but to no avail. Also, I love having conversations with the people I’m close to, I’m sort of like a nerd so I enjoy talking about science, but I understand that’s not for everybody so I try to find out what he likes to talk about, but again, nothing apart from religion. I also enjoying talking about human behaviour and psychology but he seems to think I’m crazy in how deep I think. I wish I could just have a decent conversation with him but he is not very receptive, so even if I try to start a conversation with him, it ends very quickly since he doesn’t add much to it and I start to feel like I’m just talking to myself! I like vintage he likes modern, I like nature and landscapes, he likes tall buildings and cityscapes. The more I find out about him, the more different we seem and it just makes me feel more and more like we have absolutely nothing in common. I want him to give me his attention and to show that he’s very interested in me as a person, my likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests etc I’ve told him this straight up, but he just doesn’t seem to get it. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t even know what my favourite colour is. He has never even gotten me a gift apart from on our wedding day when he bought me a perfume, I don’t even like perfumes! I feel like he doesn’t truly love me even though he says he loves me (quite excessively in my opinion). Please help me, he’s a good person but I’m just not sure he loves me enough to be putting in the effort to make this relationship work. I try and do everything I can for him, but I feel like he’s doing nothing for me. I really want this relationship to work and I know I have to do my part, and I do believe I am. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but he says I am perfect. He says he loves me so much, but I fail to see his actions prove his statements. Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thank you very much

    • Jodie March 25, 2015, 12:03 am

      A letter allows to to have your say and will get a response from him. Write down all your feelings, then google “how to write a love letter” for some tips, edit your notes to sweeten it up a little and put it in a letter format addressed to him. Print it out and hand it to him to read. I find talking to my hubby can seem hard because he never tells me how he feels or thinks about anything. I’ve been the one calling the shots all these years only to discover that he’s never liked the things we been doing, he just did them to avoid conflict. He never told me and we grew further apart. I wrote him a letter and now we are working on communicating better and spending time together in different ways.

  • Belle March 21, 2015, 10:31 am

    I am grateful for you advice and think it is true it is the relationship that is the problem not the hobbies, however, in my experience I find it hard to support his interests (airsoft, violent movies, Xbox games) when I hate his interests. This is like a double wammy. Each evening he wants to spend time doing things he loves, but knows I can’t be a part of, and he doesn’t want to spend this time with me. This makes me intensely lonely. All he wants to do is his hobbies and this shuts me out. It is hard to bridge the gap when they more interested in spending their time on their hobbies than on addressing their communication issues with you. How do I become more important than his hobbies? If we had hobbies in common I could spend all that time with him, to beat my loneliness, and enjoy a deeper connection in his life.


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