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The 20% Rule Of Sharing Hobbies In A Relationship

This is article #40 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

(Photo: Sara Robertson)

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A lot of couples freak out about their differences in relationships: “He likes to read at home every evening and goes to the movies twice a week, but I’m crazy for nightlife and dancing at indie-rock gigs. Does this mean we’re doomed as a couple?!”

Not necessarily.

Too many people immediately equate difference in a relationship with a clash. They think that every disparity between hobbies and passions must be indicative of an incompatible discord between personalities.

After all, if he’s read 50 classic novels this year and you only flick through a page-turning thriller once a year, does that mean you suddenly have no understanding of his world? Isn’t it obvious he ought to be with a girl who is as crazy about books as him?

Again, not necessarily.

In truth, we actually don’t mind if our partner doesn’t share our deepest obsessions. What we really want to see is:

(a) Our partner shares the value that the hobby embraces – I’m a big reader, but it’s not as if I need any woman I date to have absorbed as many pages a year as I do. If you’re the same, you shouldn’t care about it either. That would be stupid. But it is essential to find a partner with a hobby that embraces the same values, such as the enjoyment of art, a passion for learning and contemplative thought, all values that reading literature represents.

If you don’t share exact hobbies with your partner, that’s ok. You can both learn. But if as partners you can’t even appreciate the value of each other’s hobby, that’s a big sign of trouble.

(b) Our partner must be willing to indulge in at least 20% of that hobby – If your boyfriend is a comic-book nerd, and you can’t even muster up the enthusiasm to accompany him to Comic-Con once every year, or go watch the new Avengers with him and his buddies, you’re with the wrong person.

Although we don’t have to necessarily share interests with our partner, as a rule I think we have to be willing to indulge at least 20% of their most fervent obsessions (and we must enjoy that 20%, even if no more).

So if you’re crazy about gigs, he should at least be up for joining you at a music festival once every summer, or come along once a month to check out that new band at the local open-mic night you’re always hitting up. If you love travel, he should at least be willing to come along on some of your adventures, even if he doesn’t take every vacation with you.

It’s not that we need our partners to be crazy about the same things as us. There are many passions that only a comparatively few people on earth are as intensely interested in as we are. But part of a relationship is sharing our passions with someone else, even if just a meagre slice. If someone finds those passions childish, pointless, or boring, it denies one of the fundamental joys of a relationship.

Most women very quickly find out that I’m a film nut. If I’ve ever been on a date with a girl who has god-awful taste in movies, couldn’t care less about going to the cinema, and whose stomach would turn over at the idea of chatting about favourite directors, I get disappointed that they can’t share in even a taste of a passion that plays such a big role in my life.

Life is too short to have to hide what you love, or pretend that something you spend your time doing isn’t important to you. Find a partner who respects and enjoys what you do. Even if only 20% of the time.

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12 Replies to “The 20% Rule Of Sharing Hobbies In A Relationship”

  • Hi Steve, I agree with this. G, my partner of 16 months, is sports mad … I have no interest whatsoever. However, I went to the pub with him on Sunday and we shared a meal before his game started. Then I sat and played scrabble on my phone whilst he was immersed in the game … I watched enough ((and know enough) to be able to comment on the fact that they only won because the other side gifted them 2x home goals. It was a bonding experience for both of us. He occasionally agrees to come to a movie based on marvel comics with me too – we both love movies – just different types. We are both open to learning from the other – whilst supporting one another in our interests/ passions etc. And – it is a great way to get out and experience something new too!

  • Hi Stephen, this is a great subject to talk about. A very important subject for strong minded people especially, as some people don’t even have any hobbies or interests unless you count taking selfies in the bathroom or talking about oneself non-stop as a hobby.

    I am game for everything. I can sit and smile through everything if I like the guy enough. I see it as a different experience. If I get bored I say “Isn’t there a porn version of this?” and the guy wants to leave everything aside and give you all the attention. haha! If you are bored and want his attention, just stick the word “porn” in there or something slutty. There is nothing more attractive than a well-mannered, intellectual woman’s acting slutty when he least expects it. Even his most interesting hobby will be unimportant at that moment. I hope you don’t mind me putting it so bluntly. I am just saying all you gotta do is to wake up the beast. =) I literally studied dirty talk just to pet that beast.

    This nails it “Life is too short to have to hide what you love, or pretend that something you spend your time doing isn’t important to you.” I agree. We don’t need to like how the other person wants to spend his spare time, we need to “respect” it. I am a photographer. It started as a hobby first. I don’t expect the guy to be interested in it. But I would teach him if he wanted to learn. To me, that is the meaning of being together with someone. “Growing together”. I would want him to teach me new things while I teach him new things. What is the point of being together otherwise? That is not how majority of relationships are, that is why you see a lot of couples sitting in a coffee shop staring around bored. Relationship is not being together psychically. It has to be the meeting of the minds and working for the future to get better and better. That kind of relationship never gets old.

    ops. I wrote too much again. Thank you for reading in advance. I am hooked on this blog. =)

    Kiraz xxx

    1. We shouldn’t even call it a relationship, like the post Matthew shared the other day on twitter: “I don’t want a relationship, they hold you back. I want a bestfriend I can sleep with, make love to, hustle with, travel with, shop with, club with, and live with. I want a partner in crime, a life partner. Someone that I can laugh with and build with. Somebody that I can trust with my heart, my money, and my life. Somebody I’m not afraid to lose because I know they’ll always be there. Relationships just aren’t for me but a partnership, I’ll take that.”

      This is not for everyone, but definitely for me. I am a very evolved, intellectual Aquarius. I know… I know…you guys don’t believe that bs. But there are many specific characteristics that my sign shares with the professional management personality test I was required to take before I pursued my master’s degree in management. One is based on the position of the stars, the other is based on scientific psychological studies. How is it possible! It is mind boggling. Of course, I don’t judge people based on that, that would be stupid. It helped me to analyze myself in some ways. The need for independence and space, the need for mental stimulation and the need for that best friend you can enjoy your time without calling it a specific name…

      These ideas make the wrong guy very insecure and jealous. They try to control you and want to see you act like the typical jealous girl friend. When I see my guy flirting with other girls, I find it kinky. ha! Competition is good. I like challenge. It keeps it fresh. I am saying all this to offer a different perspective. When you keep your relationship fresh and exciting, having some different interests is really not a big deal at all. If the relationship is boring then everything is a problem.

      Kiraz xxx

  • Great advice Stephen! I’ve met people who equate not sharing hobbies with not being relationship material….or a minor disagreement in tastes as “not meant to be”
    I’ve had guys ask me every little thing–do you life coffee? in the morning? which coffee? how much sugar? morning lark or owl? what, you don’t like sports? you don’t KNOW about ____(insert TV show)? They tally all these little points on their checklists and it all has to match otherwise she’s not The One. Some of them take it upon themselves to mould their gfs into their own image a la Annie Hall, trying to “educate” them about “world cinema”, classical music and the “finer” points of life. Yeah, I’ve met a lot of those funny characters.
    I’ve seen my gfs do this too–oooh that guy hasn’t read Jane Austen, he hates shopping…and then dismiss them.
    So, yes, 20% sharing is enough–and values go a long way.
    I’ve also seen the opposite–that liking peanut butter with banana means they are your soulmate, as if having the same interests mean they’re the “same” and thus meant to be. And then they wonder why their relationship falls apart–because you see, “they liked ALL the same things!!!!”

    I’ve seen something very funny as well–though mostly in women. They will completely mould themselves into what their guy wants, often becoming a very poor clone of their other half. So if he likes soccer, all of a sudden, so does she. She starts using his pet expressions, and picks up all of his tastes in movies too. She drops all her friends for his and basically, she becomes him.
    Maybe you could do a post about this in the future–how not to become your boyfriend (by sharing ALL of his hobbies 100%).

  • Hi Stephen, I’ve often wondered when it comes to lasting relationships what is more important – chemistry or compatibility. I think you’ve touched on this in your article a bit. Obviously, both are important but what if you are very physically attracted to someone but you have limited common interests – is the chemistry enough to sustain it. Just wondering. Thanks.


  • I totally agree with you when you say that differences are not a problem if the values are in harmony. It’s more of a complex area than you initially think. I had a guy recently, assumed I was huge potential for a friend, partner because we share a love of literature, art, French cinema and classical music. But he assumed it was all I liked and that, like himself, I didn’t like modern culture, cinema. When we all went bowling it’s all he wanted to talk about. I like nice food and fine wine but I’ m just as happy with the burger meal deal, bowling, playing the arcade games and a game of pool. Driving home, the bass is cranked up in my car, listening to a wide range of music. He looked at me like I was off another planet. As though he had built me up to be a perfect image of what he was looking for and I was cruelly dashing it.
    At the end of the day, differences can be great but when you do find someone who shares not just your likes or hobbies but your passions it is so easy and lovely. What am I saying I’ve yet to find that person! Someone commented to me recently that I didn’t know what or who I want. I don’t think they could be more wrong.
    Kathryn x

    Same (or sometimes higher) excitement as for the very first one when I start to read it.
    Thank you! Learnt so much these past months with you.

  • Thanku for this!!! (This i would say count in Every relationship, such as friendship)
    I’ve been asking myself this a Lot of times.. I just get attract have that proplem that those guys i fall in love with have sport as passion, and er usually dont have the same music taste witch is mens a big deal to me, but music or artist people are ofte Eiter too sentetive or too much tavern people or smoking.. What do i do then? Because i Dream about a relationship i Can share and listen to music with, i’ve only been attracted to one person who felt like that. But that never happened.

  • Hi Matthew, how are you doing? I’m from Brazil and I’m just LOVING your videos. I was trying to find some youtube channel as a way of practicing my listening in english and guess what? I found your youtube channel and I’m just surprised of how intelligent you are. While watching your videos I realized how people are insecure in relationships in all the world. I mean, the questions are always the same as the people here. We are always trying to find somebody to call “our love”, although society increasingly want to prove us that there is no time for love or family. I agree with your view about relationships and your advices are being very useful to me.Thank you! =)

  • Morning Stephen, I’m a little confused??
    If I got this right, what you mean is: (1) 100% of having the same values and (2) minimum of 20% of willingness of your partner to indulge in your hobby (?) <– as your "20% Rule".

    I absolutely agree on the fact that for a healthy relationship we need to share the same values in life, some of which are embraced in our hobbies, but I'm not really following your reasoning when you say that our partner must be willing to indulge at least 20% in our hobby. I understand the point you are making, that some sort of participation is required from both sides. I'm just confused as to the angle of approach. Perhaps we are looking at it from the same page but are not on the same line?

    How I understand this, it's necessary that our partner shows willingness to "support" us (at least 20%) in our hobbies, because they understand that it's important to us. Whether they "enjoy" it or not is another thing, to which I will get in a minute.
    The reason why I'm stressing the difference between "enjoying" and "supporting", is because one comes from a place of sharing while the other comes from a deeper place of caring. Bearing in mind that here you are addressing it from the perspective of the partner indulging at least 20% in *our* hobby as a prerequisite for a healthy relationship. This is what confuses me. For me, "indulging" would mean that some sort of participation is required as well as respect, hence support would be the prime thing to demonstrate towards our partner and not the enjoyment of the hobby. Now, I might be completely wrong here, but I sincerely believe that in the worst case scenario, one should not direct its attention towards the activity of the hobby itself but instead direct it towards their partners' association to that hobby. So, if at least our partner cannot enjoy that hobby, them supporting us at least 20% would be the minimum requirement for a healthy relationship.
    Otherwise, to me it would make sense if you say that – What you need is that your partner enjoys YOU enjoying your hobby.

    Now, regarding their enjoyment of our hobbies.
    I'm a big believer that the way we introduce/convey our hobby is an important step to getting more than the minimum requirement. As much as you'd ask me what my hobbies are and why, I believe that it is as important as to how I would respond to that. Meaning, what and why are not enough to expect our partner to at least indulge 20% the next day in all our hobbies. We also have to sell it well. My point is, if our partner is not capable of enjoying our hobby, it's not their fault, it's our problem. Because it's our hobby not theirs. It's us who enjoy an intimate relationship with that activity, not them. Thus, how we communicate our passion is also an essential part of the process to enjoy a healthy relationship. Proactively Introducing it would help our partner to learn how to appreciate our (same) values albeit disguised under another form of activity.

    Like you said, we don't need our partner to be crazy about our hobbies. What we need though, is a partner crazy enough to see through our activities back into us. They need to be capable of recognising as well as discovering us through what we choose for activities, but they can't always do that without our help. We need to open up and build an association between them and our "means of" getting value in our life.
    It is up to us to introduce and share the value of our hobbies, for our partner to enjoy at least 20% of it and why not more. :) So I think that the willingness/effort has to come from us to invite them to indulge in our hobby, not the other way around.

    M x

  • This is one of those areas surrounding relationships where I admit to being completely flummoxed. There are certain qualities that I need in a partner. His hobbies aren’t really a big concern. I want a man who’s very intelligent (by which I mean “book” smart, not just “street” smart). I’ve never met a man who was highly intelligent who wasn’t also an avid reader, but it’s the quality of intelligence I’m looking for not the hobby of reading books.

    I also would like to travel with my partner. If he doesn’t like to travel, that would be something I’d struggle with and probably long for throughout the entire relationship. Would I dump a guy who didn’t like to travel? No. Would I refuse to date a guy who wasn’t adventurous? Absolutely.

    My hobbies are reading, gardening, traveling, kickboxing/MMA, Pinterest, dancing, watching TV/movies, and eating food from all around the world. I’d love a man who supported my gardening and helped when he could. I feel like I need a man who will travel with me. It’d be nice if he’d dance with me if we went out. If he doesn’t like spicy food, he’ll be cooking most of his own meals. But about the rest, I’m completely neutral. In fact, I’d prefer that he spent time doing the things he enjoys rather than bothering me when I’m trying to do the things I like.

    I feel like if you want someone that enjoys the things you enjoy then join a Meetup group and do those things with people who actually enjoy them rather than with someone who’s there only because you’re there. You each should really have your own lives when it comes to hobbies.

    I know I’m in the minority on this one. And, I confess that other people are generally a mystery to me, so I guess to each his own. But I’ve always found this issue kind of unfathomable.

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