You can’t know what somebody else’s relationship is like. Lately, though, I am starting to believe you can tell the state of a relationship by how the couple share – or don’t share — interests.
A few months ago, I read an ex-friend’s comment that, when he and his wife went to the cinema, they didn’t always go to the same movie. Admittedly, they worked together, but this comment horrified me. Why get married if you don’t want to spend time with the other person? Because you’re in love with the idea of marriage, rather than a particular person? After such an admission, I wasn’t surprised to hear from another source that this couple had come close to divorce at least once.
An equally unhealthy interaction is common among the weight-lifters in the exercise room half a mile from our townhouse. Every once in a while one of the younger male weight-lifters will bring a girl friend with him. Inevitably, the young woman will do a couple of slow minutes on the treadmill, pedal the cycling machine half-heartedly while reading People, and pull unenthusiastically on a few weights while the young man struts with the other weight-lifters.
Except for one, who has taken up serious training, none of the young women return. However, a couple of the men have brought other women a week or two later. My guess is that the women wouldn’t have come once, except that they felt they should try to share their lovers’ interests. But they did so as a duty, making no effort to get into the spirit of what they were doing. Having one person feeling martyred and the other feeling humored isn’t exactly the best recipe for a relationship, so I’m not surprised at the apparent failure of these relationships, either.
In contrast to these two situations, I interviewed a free software advocate in a local pub a couple of weeks ago. When he sat down, he immediately pulled out a complicated-looking piece of knitting involving three needles and a couple of balls of wool. He explained that he and his wife had made a pact that they would at least try each other’s interests. His wife had learned enough to install FreeBSD for herself, and he had learned enough knitting to design a couple of patterns, and soon hoped to do more.
“How does that work out?” I asked.
“Pretty well,” he said shyly. “We’ve been married fifteen years so far.”
Well, no wonder, I thought. Admittedly, his wife might never learn to enjoy installing a computer operating system, and he might never learn to love knitting. But at the very least, they could both learn something about the other’s passions –and that has to be good for any relationship.