When I first started dating my husband 32 years ago (but who’s counting?), the first thing I noticed about him besides his legs was how different we were from each other.
I was concerned we didn’t have many things in common. Would this be a stumbling block to our future marriage?
Now, I see the benefits. I see how not acting the same, not thinking the same, interacting with others exactly the same, or even having a whole lot in common became a strength in our marriage, not a problem. The things we didn’t have in common caused us to respect each other and support each other better. I had to stop myself from continually thinking we had to have everything in common. I realized the words from Jerry Maguire were absolutely wrong. It’s not about seeking to complete each other, but learning to complement each other despite differences.
Here are some things you and your spouse DON’T need to have in common:
From the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I were and are different. He liked Lakers’ Showtime of the ’80s while I was a fan of the Bad Boys of Detroit. I loved pro-football, and he was a big college football fan. I am an extreme extrovert who loves being around many people. At the same time, he is much more comfortable around a small group of close friends. Neither one of us is right or wrong. Instead, we learned to respect and embrace our differences.
2. Common Interests and Activities
Many couples struggle with the idea that they must spend “all their time together.” Yes, you and your spouse need to spend intentional quality time together. You don’t need to spend every waking moment together or have all your interests and activities in common. While you are a part of a couple, it’s vital for you as an individual to grow and develop. The key is to support your spouse in their activities. I enjoy reading. My husband—not so much. It makes me feel loved and valued when he goes to a bookstore with me while I just wander around. Or he takes care of our family while I head to a bookstore. In both cases, he is demonstrating his care and support for me and my interests.
3. Family/Cultural Background
Although my husband and I come from the same racial & ethnic background, our families are very different. My family is composed of biological family and friends that become family. His family was basically made of his immediate family, aunts, uncles, and biologically-related cousins. It doesn’t matter if you come from a single-parent family with one child or a large family with several children. You could have been born in Georgia while your spouse is from Utah. As long as you recognize and appreciate what you each bring to your relationship, it will not suffer because of your cultural differences.
As a young adult, I watched James Carville and Mary Matalin work for 2 different presidential campaigns. I watched how they disagreed politically yet didn’t let it negatively affect their relationship. Political beliefs are deeply felt and long-standing. Allowing your spouse to hold their opinions, which differ from yours, causes us to create spaces of patience, understanding, and civility.
5. Housekeeping and Organizational Skills
As someone who is organizationally challenged, I am grateful that my husband and I don’t have this in common. If we did, we might have ended up on “Hoarders.” (Not really…). For him, everything has a place. For me, as long as I can find it, I’m good. The key is to respect each other and not mandate your spouse to change to be exactly like you. Remember, it’s about complementing each other, not making a clone.
★ For a long time, I wanted him to act like me, like the same things I liked; be involved with the same activities. I thought it would make our relationship better if we liked ALL the same things. I now understand and respect our differences. The fact that we are not the same and see things differently makes us STRONGER. We lovingly and consistently challenge each other to see old things in a new and unique way.
No matter where you are in your relationship, it’s vital to love and accept your spouse for who they are without spending all of your energy worrying you don’t have things in common.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***