You Can Be Happily Married Without Shared Interests

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 

My husband has been a car fanatic practically since birth. My mother-in-law has fondly recounted stories of him tinkering with auto engines at the age of 3, and she loves to tell a now infamous story of him taking the family car for a spin when he was 12. He is obsessed with all things related to cars and if my garage is any indication, his love for collecting the cars he dreamed about as a boy has reached a fever pitch. The man eats, sleeps, and breathes cars, and our neighbors just shake their heads when they drive by our recent two car garage addition. It’s enough to drive me insane (pun intended).

I, on the other hand, can tell you that I drive a gray car and it has four wheels. I know nothing about car engines and my eyes glaze over when I hear words like “torque” and “horsepower”. I choose my cars based on the number of cup holders and automatic doors while my husband makes his selections based on multiport, fuel-carbonated whatchamacallit thingamajigs. Like I said, I am clueless when it comes to autos and their mechanics, and my husband often shakes his head when I try to explain car malfunctions to him. I maintain that “squeaky sounds from the part by the wheel” is a perfectly legitimate way to describe a brake issue.

Just as I cannot fathom spending hours on end browsing row after row of cars at an auto show or pouring over an engine covered in grease and sweat, my husband cannot comprehend my voracious reading habit. While the man is not an illiterate dullard, the last thing he’d rather do is curl up on the couch with a juicy, page-turning thriller. He wants no part of an in-depth, hour-long discussion about the nuances of characters and themes, and he rolls his eyes when he sees me sobbing at the end of a tear jerker. Books are my escape from my chaotic life as a mom and I could spend hours (and thousands of dollars) trolling the aisles of Barnes and Noble. My husband may occasionally read a magazine once in a while, but, on the whole, he’d rather be in his garage, slinging wrenches and listening to Nascar on the radio.

My point? My husband and I share vastly different passions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a happy and fulfilling marriage. Quite the contrary, in fact. We have, over the years, given each other the time and space needed to rejuvenate our souls and enjoy the hobbies that bring us joy. Just because we don’t do those activities side by side does not mean we aren’t tight as a couple. Our separate interests have allowed us to learn to voice our needs to each other, and we’ve learned to be honest and forthright when we feel we aren’t getting enough time to rejuvenate with our beloved hobbies.

This is not to say that I have completely checked out of my husband’s complete and utter fascination with the motorized world. I have come to appreciate the subtle distinctions between model years of certain antique cars and I’ve gleaned a little bit of knowledge of automotive history. I’ve probably attended close to 50 car shows, and I’ve even visited Henry Ford’s home, for God’s sakes.

I can certainly appreciate the exhilarating feel of your hair whipping at your face as you cruise country roads in a 1966 Mustang convertible with the oldies station blaring. And I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find the sound of an engine revving a tiny bit sexy. But regardless of learned appreciation, cars on the whole never have been — and never will be — a hobby I will choose to pursue. My husband, sometimes grudgingly, accepts this of me just as I accept that he will never have an opinion on Pride and Prejudice.

Our passions define us as individuals and that is vitally important in a healthy marriage. So often, while juggling kids and careers, it is easy for a couple to fall into a monotonous rut of a life on repeat. Our individual hobbies allow us a respite from our family chaos, an opportunity to separate a bit and renew our spirits. And frankly, when he’s happy tinkering under the hood in the garage, the couch is all mine for reading with a glass of wine. It’s a win-win in my book (pun intended again).

My husband and I have forged a mutual respect for each other’s hobbies. We’ve both indulged the other in lengthy conversations about a rare car at an auto show or a discussion about a thought-provoking scene in my latest read. Yes, I’m guilty of having rolled my eyes when he drags me through a parking lot to look at some car with a fancy logo and a paint job that’s more expensive than my house.

But I can’t resist his genuine exuberance or the way his face lights up when my son mentions a car he saw on the way to school. I know, too, my husband loves seeing our kids curled up next to me on the couch with books on a snowy afternoon. And when he grabs his latest car magazine and settles in to join us, it feels like our hobbies are getting along just fine.

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