Finding Balance When You and Your Partner Enjoy Different Things

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If you'd have asked me six years ago about NFL draft picks, what makes a strong defensive line, why you should (or shouldn't go for it on fourth down), the nuances of an onside kick, or what exactly makes Barry Sanders the best running back of all time, the answer likely wouldn't have been nearly as informed as it would be today. That's because over the years, I've grown fond of football thanks to my boyfriend's interest and near genius-level knowledge of the sport, obscure rulings and all. While it started as his hobby, it's now something we enjoy together (even though our respective teams are rivals).

However, I realize things aren't always that simple and partners may have hobbies that don't overlap at all, making it difficult to navigate. It got me thinking ... What are you supposed to do in this case? I started asking around to learn what friends and colleagues thought of finding this oftentimes delicate balance. Here are a few things I've learned when discussing the subject.

Express curiosity in your partner's hobbies and encourage them to do the same about yours! A colleague—whose interests include writing short stories, baking and crafting—finds genuine enjoyment in her partner's car hobby because he teaches her about the history behind certain makes and models when they attend car shows. She in return teaches him about her favorite art pieces and authors. Having this kind of playful curiosity allows you to share something together, have deeper conversations and also potentially inspire you both to explore new interests together. You might also learn you've got more common ground than you may have initially realized!

In 2023, I got back into running and recently ran a half marathon. While I certainly wouldn't turn my boyfriend away if he wanted to join me in a race, I know it's not his thing. The best thing he did during my training and race was simply be there and be supportive, whether it was asking how a Sunday morning long run went, traveling to the race and waking up with me at 3:45 a.m. or cheering and filming me crossing the finish line. He knew how much it meant to me and made compromises to ensure I had a good experience. In addition, he ended up enjoying the race day energy and had fun soaking it all in while I was out there on the course doing my thing.

If you and your partner's hobbies cause occasional friction in terms of scheduling and sharing the load at home, you could take a page out of one of my colleague's books and draft up a (literal on-paper) contract with your significant other specifically outlining expectations for one another surrounding said hobbies. By doing this, you're in full agreement and understanding of what works for each other. And yes, amendments to the contract can certainly be made along the way. It's your shared document, after all!

Do you both love movies but the genre of the newest release isn't quite your jam? That's totally fine! There's nothing wrong with skipping out on what you genuinely don't enjoy. There will always be another movie you can go see together or a cozy movie night at home to plan. You could also still be "alone together" (a.k.a. in the presence of each other while enjoying different hobbies). This could mean reading on the couch while the other works on assembling a miniature model on the coffee table. You're not less of a partner for being free birds every now and again!

Of course, if one party in the relationship finds the other's hobby to be hurtful or disrespectful in some way, that warrants a larger conversation and assessment of whether a compromise can realistically be reached.

Remember: Not everyone is going to be into the same things you are ... And that's OK! As long as you're both on the same page and show you respect the things that make each other happy, you'll be on the right track.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Dec '23/Jan '24 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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