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You and your spouse are making plans for the weekend. You want to spend Sunday afternoon watching sports; your spouse wants to go hiking. Neither of you has any interest in the other activity. Should you compromise? Should you just do what you want? What does this mean for your relationship? Are you even compatible?

Have you been there? Don't worry; your relationship isn't in trouble. Many couples don't have everything in common. The reality is you don't have to share all the same interests. It's OK to care about different things. What matters is that you care about each other!

Marriage isn't just about doing things together. Healthy, vibrant marriages happen when two people help each other become the best version of themselves. That means allowing your spouse to be fully them, enjoying and participating in what brings them joy and life.

It's essential to have certain interests or goals in common with your spouse, but don't worry if you don't have everything in common. Goals, values and boundaries are just a few areas where it's vital to be on the same page as your spouse. Couples who share core values and beliefs are more likely to maintain healthy, long-term relationships.

There are inevitably areas of life where your interests will differ. What's important is that you care about your spouse's interests because you care about your spouse. Hear me out; you don't have to share their interests, though. I bought my wife a Cricut for Christmas last year because she loves crafts. She's wanted one for a couple of years, and she loves it. She likes to create and design cards and stickers. I love that she loves it; I enjoy what she makes. I recognize creating brings her joy, and that brings me joy. Do I want to learn how to use it? Nope, not at all. And that's OK. I support her in it, and we budget for her to expand her tools. The same applies to some of my interests. She supports me but doesn't desire to do them with me.

Showing you care about your spouse's interests is critical to maintain connection in your marriage. According to researcher John Gottman, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, "the important thing is not what you do together; it's how you interact while doing it." You should show respect and support for your spouse's hobbies. When there's a lack of respect or support, there's an opportunity for resentment to grow. You may begin to resent the time they spend working on their interest. They may start to resent your lack of support. Don't let your differences divide you, though. Embrace them and support your spouse.

"A stronger predictor of compatibility than shared interests is the ratio of positive to negative interactions, which should be 20-to-1 in everyday situations, whether a couple is doing something they both enjoy or not," says Gottman.

So you don't have to share common interests, but the way you interact about those interests has more benefit for your relationship. When engaging in an activity together, choose to be positive and uplifting. You are strengthening your connection and intimacy by spending time together enjoying one another. Stephanie Coontz, a historian who's spent decades researching and writing about marriage, puts it this way: "It is essential to be interested in your partner, to experience joy in their joy."

So, on Sunday afternoon, when you both want to do something different, there's no need to give your spouse grief for not wanting to do what you want to do. Maybe you can compromise to watch sports one Sunday and go hike the next. But don't do it begrudgingly. Look at it as a way to support what your spouse loves.

Mitchell Qualls is the operations director at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at mitchell@firstthings.org.

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Mitchell Qualls
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