Last week I talked about the 4 simple ingredients for keeping your relationship happy and one of those main ingredients was to show interest in your partner’s interests. This is an important main ingredient because you want to make sure that the things your partner is interested in you also show interest in. This doesn’t mean a total jump-in of your partner’s interests, however.
From a recovering people pleaser, I can tell you that love in a relationship used to be incredibly imbalanced for me. This looked like me doing all the things my partner wanted to do and feigning interest in everything they were interested in. Well not everything but pretty dang close. It would became his world of love rather than OUR world of love. Certainly out of no ill wish on his part but my give, give, give, and “make others happy” part of me would lead me to nod my head yes enthusiastically and plaster a smile on my face to nearly anything and everything he wanted.
And I’m not the only one. I hear things like “in my past relationship I stuffed down everything I wanted” in many of the women I work with as well as many men and unfortunately this creates an unsustainable dynamic. Sometimes it’s only a couple of years before the relationship feels the negative impact of this imbalance, or it might slowly build and eat away at your relationship for decades. Needless to say a one-sided focus is not sustainable in a relationship.
Because a long-term sustainable relationship requires there to be love with balance.
What does it mean to Love with Balance?
Loving with balance is not only making sure you show interest and sometimes partake in the things that your partner loves, but also making space for your partner to show interest in the things you love and for them to partake in your interests occasionally.
It’s helpful to consider the concept of Loving with Balance using what I call the Relationship Venn Diagram. There is the center, which includes the things you and your partner both like, share interest in, and do together. This is the OUR interests space. These shared interests are likely pretty easy to want to do with your partner because you also enjoy these things. For me this would be things like enjoying delicious tacos on taco Tuesday or watching 8 out of 10 cats does countdown.
In a healthy relationship it doesn’t require that your middle shared space is huge. It helps, sure, but what is also important and creates the loving balance is to focus on the intentionality around showing open interest toward the independent sides of the relationship venn diagram. These represent the things that really only your partner likes or the things that really only you like.
Balance for HIS Interests
If I had it my way my partner and I would never talk about the new Zeta upgrade on his Star Wars phone game. Or we would never play complicated board games like Settlers of Catan (I’m more of a scrabble and Sorry kind of gal). These interests definitely hang out in the HIS interests area of the relationship venn diagram. Although I don’t particularly love these things, these are interests of his and I love him and so not only do I show occasional interest in them but I sometimes partake in them genuinely.
What does showing interest mean. The key in this for you is to show open curiosity and engagement in your partner’s individual interests without dragging your feet the whole way or an eye-roll every 5 minutes. In my relationship it looks like asking questions to honestly try and understand the importance of a Zeta upgrade. Or it means I sometimes play the occasional epic board game that may take 5 hours long when a book is perhaps calling my name.
Balance for MY Interests
The balance means you’re not doing HIS Interests all the time. This would leave your side of the relationship venn diagram completely ignored and look like that give, give, give relationship where there is complete neglect over your side of the relationship venn diagram. It perhaps can be easy to say “my interests are your interests” but that chameleon attitude doesn’t work for a sustainable relationship. You are completely allowed to have interests your partner doesn’t like and you need to make sure your partner knows that you have likes outside of his so he can show interest in them.
For example, in my relationship the love is balanced when my partner reaches into my side of interests and occasionally talks about how I’m trying to find my signature clothing style, he shows interest when I’m gushing about my new favorite book I’m reading, or watches that movie I know wouldn’t be his first pick.
Now It’s Your Turn:
→ Where in your relationship can you show interest in your partner’s side of the relationship venn diagram? Do you usually roll your eyes when your partner is watching the football game? Try showing curiosity by asking questions and genuinely listening to his responses. That doesn’t mean you need to ask questions about football all the time or watch every game with him. But maybe the next game try sitting down for a quarter and show interest.
→ Where in your relationship do you perhaps squash your interests and say “yes” to your partners? Try speaking up next time you notice the agreeable part of you wanting to speak up. Maybe you partner is asking at your night out if “you want to get the usual” but in reality you’re totally craving sushi. Use this as an opportunity to say “Oh man the usual sounds good but I’m craving sushi. Is it Ok if we do that this week?”
Key Things to Remember:
showing interest in your partner’s interests is a key relationship Ingredient.
The shared OUR interests doesn’t need to be huge
Relationships are sustained on a love balance of HIS Interest and MY Interests
Show genuine interest in your partner’s interest - no eye-rolling!
Speak up for your interests and don’t make them all about him