Question: “Help! We’re engaged and have very different interests and hobbies. Is our marriage doomed?”

That’s a very good question! And while we both will chime in separately and give a “his and hers” flavor to the discussion, we both agreed that it is VERY important to have your own interests, and to encourage and celebrate those in each other. Read on:

Kari Says:

Not necessarily.

I think it all depends on how interested you are in each other.

Okay, let me explain.

Marriage is a balancing act. It takes both of you giving of yourselves to each other.

I’ve always felt that one of the best ways to build a strong marriage is to put the other person’s needs first.

One of the coolest things I love about being married to Jeremy is learning about him, his interests and learning about myself in the process. For example, when we first met, I listened to Rock music. Bear in mind that I’m an 80’s kid, so Def Leppard was my favorite band. Jeremy liked rock, but he also liked classical, Opera, and just about everything else but country.

Because I wanted to learn about Jeremy, I wanted to learn about everything he liked. I now have a very eclectic range of taste in music, and I’m better for it.

By the way, Jeremy just came home from a business trip and told me, “Wow! Def Leppard’s a REALLY good band!” (Well DUH!). If I had decided that I didn’t want to learn about his interests, I would have missed out on something for myself as well as a really cool part of my best friend and something special about the love of my life.

Do you have to share everything that interests each of you? Of course not. I would never talk Jeremy into going to get his nails done, (nor would I want to), but it’s something I like to do. And I LOVE to watch old Kung Fu movies. The cheesier the better, but Jeremy just can’t get into them. However, our daughter loves them as much as I do and we have a blast watching them.

That said, there are times that Jeremy and I do something that the other wants to do just because it makes the other person happy and we want to be together. Jeremy has been shopping with me more times that I can count, and he HATES shopping. But I know he’s there for me.

So, here’s the deal. You don’t have to like everything that the other person likes, but you have to be willing to compromise and put the other person’s wishes first once in a while.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. He likes steak, so you go to his favorite steakhouse this weekend, and he’ll remember that, and take you to that great little Italian restaurant that you love next time, because he wants to make you happy.

In the grand scheme of things, neither of you will remember on your 50th anniversary what restaurant you ate at for Valentines day on your 5th anniversary. But you will remember that your husband/wife loved you and put your needs first.

And when you both do that, you grow closer and your marriage grows stronger. And over the years, you will be surprised how you both found a LOT of things that you liked to do, some together, some apart, and neither of you will feel like you gave up what your interests were just to make the other person happy.

Jeremy Says:

I think it’s incredibly important for you to have your own interests and hobbies! The two of you becoming “one flesh” doesn’t mean losing yourself to the relationship: it means bringing two unique people together to create a new life together.

Let me give you an easy example: I love the theater. I was trained to be an actor, I love acting, I’m always the center of the room, etc. Kari is not that way, at all. I remember one college class she took that required her to record giving a speech. She needed to get halfway drunk to have the courage to do it, and she was only talking to the camera on our iPad.

So have your interests, and let her have hers.

If you’re into music, or art, or golf, or extreme sports, or whatever, you need to be YOU in order for you to be able to fully be “present” for your spouse.

I’ve seen a lot of men in my life who only have “one foot” in the marriage, and my experience has been, it’s those men who feel like they’ve lost themselves to the relationship and are rebelling – secretly – to maintain some sense of self.

That’s entirely unnecessary. You can be fully invested in the marriage and fully “you” at the same time (unless, I suppose, you’re some cheater or addict or abuser).

It’s important for each spouse to let the other have the space they need to find and have fulfilling hobbies and interests. Your obligation as the spouse isn’t to do them too, or to even like the hobbies your partner has. Your obligation is to like your partner.

In fact, not only should you merely tolerate the healthy hobbies and interests of your spouse, I strongly urge you to encourage them. It’s way too easy for me to always put myself last in our family, and slowly that can build up resentment and frustration over time. It’s not as if my family forbids me from pursuing my interests, but my sense of duty to my family usually means I put my own needs on the back-burner most of the time.

That’s not a healthy place to be. You MUST be able to express what makes you, you. You must have a sense of individuality, even in a long-term marriage. Not doing so only bottles and represses an urge and a drive that won’t go away. It will only make you bitter and resentful of your partner.

However, what I’ve said so far doesn’t mean you also don’t sometimes compromise so that you can do activities together. Marriage is a genuine union of two people, so it can’t be two people walking separately but filing a joint tax return.

I’ve always found it strange for couples to take separate vacations, for example. It’s one thing if you are going to visit your parents or old college friends or something like that, but to take a cruise without your spouse? That’s dangerous nonsense. You should never be making new memories or having entirely new experiences without your partner.

That’s not what I’m talking about; having a hobby, like archery, that your wife isn’t into, is not the same thing as taking a trip to Jamaica without her. But I think anyone who would or could do that isn’t fully invested in the marriage to begin with.

Bottom line, get out there and be you, fully and completely. Only then can you be authentically “all in” in the marriage.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!