Finding Common Interests and Hobbies

By Greg Smalley
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Focus on the Family

Developing common interests and hobbies can decrease conflict in marriage and strengthen the idea that you and your spouse are a team.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” — C.S. Lewis

It’s a common theme for many married couples—he likes to do “guy stuff” like playing sports, collecting baseball cards, or going hunting. She likes “girly stuff” like scrapbooking, sewing, or blogging about bargains. When it comes to movies, he’s a Saving Private Ryan fan while she loves any film with the phrase “based on the novel by Jane Austen” in the credits. Where dining is concerned, he could eat meat and potatoes at every meal, while she enjoys sampling cuisine from all over the world. And on it goes.

Certainly, some of these activities speak to the innate differences between males and females. There’s nothing wrong with husbands and wives having different likes and dislikes based on their unique personalities, talents, and experiences. It would be a serious mistake, however, for couples to assume that every moment of free time should be relegated to “his interests” and “her interests,” and never the twain shall meet.

When husbands and wives get too caught up in “doing their own thing,” they are missing out on critical opportunities to connect with one another. Developing common interests and hobbies can decrease conflict in marriage and strengthen the idea that you and your spouse are a team. Having common hobbies can help couples deepen their sense of intimacy, connection, and especially friendship.

When was the last time you thought about your spouse as your friend—someone you enjoy spending time with and with whom you can engage in mutually satisfying pursuits? If husbands and wives have a firm grasp of their roles as partners, lovers, or parents, but fail to understand what it means to be friends, they are missing out on a key component of marriage. The Bible places the concept of friendship front-and-center in the depiction of romantic love found in the words of Solomon: “This is my lover, this my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16b, emphasis added).

Date Night

Remember to always act like you’re trying to get a second date! Sometimes in marriage, we forget that we need to pursue and “woo” our mate. So dress up a bit. Be polite and open doors. Compliment one another. Be affectionate—hold hands, cuddle and steal kisses. Remember to protect your date night from conflict by cutting off any arguments and agreeing to talk about the issue at a later time.

Step 1: Go someplace different for dinner.

Instead of visiting the same familiar locations and eating the same old food, pick somewhere new or try a different type of cuisine. In fact, choosing a new restaurant is a fantastic way for husbands and wives to develop a common interest. Find a restaurant or a type of cuisine that neither of you has tried before. You’ll experience something new together for the first time. And who knows? You both just might like it! If so, you’ve already identified something that you both enjoy. All it took was venturing out of your comfort zone and trying something new.

Step 2: Discuss your interests over dinner.

As you prepare for your adventure together, discuss what makes each of you “tick” when it comes to hobbies and pastimes. Here are a few questions to ask your spouse:

  • What were some of your favorite hobbies as a child?
  • Did your parents and/or other family members support those hobbies?
  • Have any of your childhood hobbies retained your interest as an adult?
  • If not, what are some of your favorite hobbies now? • What are some of the key things that make your favorite hobbies enjoyable?
  • Do you prefer activities that are more physical in nature, or those that provide a mental challenge?
  • What hobby would you pursue if time and money were not factors?
  • Are there any popular pastimes that you know just “aren’t for you,” and that you would definitely like to avoid?
  • What are some of the hobbies that you feel are equally suited for both men and women?
  • Do you view hobbies as primarily for rest and relaxation, or for personal enrichment and growth?

Step 3: Discover your common interests!

Now for the fun part—picking an activity to do together. The following list, while by no means exhaustive, contains 20 activities you may find fun to do together:

  1. Playing sports or learning a new sport
  2. Cycling
  3. Bird watching
  4. Co-authoring a blog
  5. Participating in social work
  6. Collecting antiques or artwork
  7. Composing music together or “jamming” on instruments
  8. Photography
  9. Clay modeling or pottery
  10. Scuba diving
  11. Horseback riding
  12. Learning a form of self-defense
  13. “Treasure hunting” with a metal detector
  14. Frisbee golf
  15. Exploring a specific movie genre or director
  16. Hiking
  17. Gardening or landscaping
  18. Cooking
  19. Volunteering at church, or with a local social service agency
  20. Visiting local tourist attractions or museums

Step 4: Process what you’ve just experienced together.

With creativity and communication, hopefully this process has enabled you to take the focus off of simply “his interests” and “her interests” to create an enriching new category: our interests. Now that your activity is over, talk about your time together.

  • Did both of you truly enjoy your shared experience? Remember, the goal here is not to let one spouse be a “martyr” for the sake of the other, suffering through something that he or she truly doesn’t enjoy. The purpose is to identify and cultivate activities that both spouses genuinely enjoy doing together.
  • What did you learn about your spouse as a result of performing your activity together? What did you learn about yourself?
  • If you read a book or watched a movie together, what did you learn? What were some of the underlying themes and messages? Were there certain parts of the story that resonated with you? Were there parts with which you disagreed?
  • What exactly did you enjoy about the activity? How did it make you feel?
  • Whether it’s playing Frisbee golf, going to museums, exploring the films of Steven Spielberg, planting a garden, or visiting the local hiking trails, how was your experience enhanced as a result of doing it with your spouse, as opposed to doing it alone?

Step 5: Relax and Unwind

After your shared event is over, find a quiet place for dessert or coffee to slow down and emotionally connect over good conversation. In addition to the above questions, answer the following. Be sure to keep your responses positive, encouraging and uplifting.

  • What was your favorite part of the evening?
  • What is one thing you learned about me tonight that you didn’t know before?
  • How can we cultivate further opportunities to nurture shared interests and hobbies?

Step 6: Home Sweet Home

As you drive home, spend time planning your next date. Also, think about ways you can either expand on an area of shared interest, or else identify another area of shared interest yet to be explored. Once you get home, however, it’s up to you what happens next. Have a great final adventure!

More Tips and Ideas for Cultivating Common Interests

Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Wives, there are plenty of women who enjoy films in which “stuff gets blowed up real good,” to coin a phrase used by Roger Ebert and other film critics. And husbands, there are a ton of guys who appreciate films like The Young Victoria—although they probably wouldn’t admit as much to their male friends.

  • Consider what you’re already doing. Your wife may enjoy your woodworking hobby. Your husband might like to try gardening with you. But have you ever asked them to participate?
  • Try visiting some museums in your area to develop a shared love for history or art. Imagine how fun it could be to explore medieval history or learn about 19th-century Impressionism.
  • Start your own two-person reading group. Try reading the same book over the course of a week or two, and then come together on your Date Night to discuss what you’ve read.
  • Put the pieces together. Consider tackling one of those enormous, 1,000+ piece puzzles—doing so will give you the chance to work as a team, improve your communication skills, and create something beautiful.
  • Serve together. Your areas of common interest shouldn’t be confined to just entertainment and recreation. Perhaps there’s a social issue that you both feel passionate about, such as feeding the hungry or advocating for pro-life causes. Look for volunteer opportunities in your area.

© 2012 Focus on the Family.

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About the Author

Greg Smalley

Dr. Greg Smalley serves as the Vice President of Marriage at Focus on the Family. In this role, he develops and oversees initiatives that prepare individuals for marriage, strengthen and nurture existing marriages and help couples in marital crises. Prior to joining Focus, Smalley worked for the Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University and as President of the …

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