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Relationships

We’re Too Focused On Having Mutual Interests When Dating

By Meghan Dillon·· 6 min read
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I was a history major in college, and my program almost entirely consisted of guys. In a class of 20 to 30 students, I was lucky if there were three or more other girls in my class to hang out with. I thought it would be easier to date while being around so many guys who had common interests with me, but I was wrong.

Sometimes there was no attraction. Sometimes we had similar interests, but completely different values. Sometimes there was nothing more than friendship. Sometimes mutual interests were the only thing we shared, and sometimes they were just jerks.

This led me to realize that even though having mutual interests in relationships is good, there are more important things, like finding someone with similar values. I also wondered if our emphasis on finding someone with mutual interests has led to relationships based entirely on those interests, with little to no emotional connection.

Shared Interests Are Important, but Not As Much As Shared Values

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that finding someone with mutual interests isn’t important. It’s usually the most natural way to make a connection, and if you don’t have any shared interests, what are you going to talk about? It’s impossible to develop a strong relationship without common interests, but we sometimes put too much emphasis on finding someone with similar interests.

Common interests are usually the most natural way to make a connection, and if you don’t have any shared interests, what are you going to talk about?

If you build the foundation of your relationship on your mutual interests, it’s bound to fail. Some relationships even last longer than they should because we tend to hold onto those mutual interests. Mark D. White, Ph.D., writes, “I think that, in some cases, whatever shared interests we did have may have masked the underlying problems that ended the relationships, making them last longer than they otherwise would have and, in the process, hurting us both even more.”

This is why it’s important for the foundation of the relationship to be over mutual values because it’s a stronger foundation and less likely to fail.

Values Should Be the Foundation of a Relationship

I can’t think of a better example of this concept than the song, “The Bones” by Maren Morris. She sings, “When the bones are good, the rest don't matter, Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter, Let it rain 'cause you and I remain the same, When there ain't a crack in the foundation, Baby, I know any storm we're facing will blow right over while we stay put, The house don't fall when the bones are good.”

She wrote the song about her relationship with her husband, Ryan Hurd. (They have been married for two years and welcomed their first child, Hayes Andrew Hurd, on March 23 of this year.) Morris’s beautiful song has a good point: A relationship with a strong foundation is less likely to break when things get tough. Building a relationship on your shared values is more likely to succeed than a foundation of shared interests. Think about it — your values like faith or a mutual devotion to family are more likely to get you through tough times than your mutual love of baseball or Harry Potter.

Experts agree on the importance of having similar values in relationships. Life coach Kali Rogers says, "If your core values do not add up, then the relationship is already in a precarious position. Focus on things like religion, finances, gender politics, family, sex and principles. Little things that you have in common or pique your interest (income, looks, similarities) should be considered bonuses. Life is long and challenging, and you need a partner who has the same overall view on life that you do in order to take on its obstacles as a team."

Think about it — your values like faith or a mutual devotion to family are more likely to get you through tough times than your mutual love of baseball or Harry Potter.

The problem is that it can be hard to find someone with similar values in our current dating culture. In a culture of swiping right based on someone’s looks, values are often put on the back burner. It’s not impossible to find someone with similar values on a dating app or through casual dating, but it makes it more difficult. This is why it’s important that we take a step back and think about what we want before getting into a relationship. If you want a long-term relationship, apps like Tinder and Bumble probably aren’t your best bet.

At the end of the day, it’s important to find someone with both mutual values and interests for a successful long-term relationship, but establishing the relationship on values is the critical key to that success.

What about Someone Who Can Make You Laugh?

Another thing that’s often overlooked in relationships is finding someone with a similar sense of humor. Studies show shows that couples who share a similar sense of humor and like to laugh together are likely to stay together longer. Studies also show that couples who like to have fun and make fun of each other are more likely to have a more successful relationship. There are physiological reasons behind this too, since laughter has been scientifically proven to reduce stress.

Studies show shows that couples who share a similar sense of humor and like to laugh together are likely to stay together longer. 

Think about it, have you ever been attracted to someone who has never made you laugh? Nope? Me neither. The most successful couples I know (including my parents and grandparents) have always shared the ability to make each other laugh. Life can get tough at times, and it’s important to spend it with someone who can turn your frown upside down by making you laugh.

Closing Thoughts

It’s important to have mutual interests with you’re significant other if you want to have a long-term relationship. However, our tendency to try to find someone with mutual interests often excludes other factors like finding someone with similar values or a shared sense of humor. Shared values should be the foundation of any successful relationship. At the end of the day, it’s important to have all three factors (values, interests, and humor) to have a successful long-term relationship.

Dating