I was at dinner with my husband the other night when I heard a song by Led Zeppelin playing in the background. “Play ‘Name that band with me,’” I urged. He looked up, “Is there music playing? How do you even notice that?” I could tell he was stalling. “Come on, play with me,” I pleaded. “You know I don’t care who sings what and I’m terrible at that game,” he resisted. I played the game constantly with my youngest son, who shared my obsession for recognizing songs and bands. “You’ll know this one, come on, just listen to it.” He leveled his gaze at me and guessed, unblinking, “OK—Depeche Mode.”
It took me a speechless second to process whether he was serious. I couldn’t tell, based on his deadpan expression. My mind floated back to when we first met. He knew Depeche Mode had been my favorite group, and he made it clear he despised their music. On rare occasion, he would barely tolerate it for me. Once, I answered the phone and heard “I Just Can’t Get Enough,” blaring on the other end. I was certain it was the one friend I had found in my neighborhood who shared my love of 80’s alternative music. I was shocked to find out it was my husband. He finally responded to my “Hello-Hello-Hellos,” yelling over the music, “This is Depeche Mode, isn’t it? You love Depeche Mode.” “Yeah,” I hesitated, “but you hate Depeche Mode.” This was weird. What was he up to? “I don’t mind fun Depeche Mode,” he said. “I just don’t like that dark crap.”
My mind shot back to the present task at hand—making sense out of the fact that my husband had really just said out loud that a Led Zeppelin song was sung by Depeche Mode. “For real?” I clarified, “How are we even married? That’s your real live guess? Are you trying to hurt me?” He shrugged, reinforcing his disinterest in the song’s artists and silently asserting that if I was going to make him guess, he was going to come up with the worst guess possible.
I prodded, “Come on, LISTEN to the voice—you know that doesn’t sound a thing like Depeche Mode—it’s not even the same genre. Just guess!” “OK—AC/DC,” he conceded. “Phew—OK that’s closer—you had me worried.” He shrugged again, “You know I don’t care about that.” “Yeah, I KNOW,” I snapped, irritated at his lack of effort.
Even though these moments seem trivial, they can be momentarily disconnecting. How could he care so little about something that had always been energizing for me? “Hey,” he interrupted my reverie, smiling, “I still love you even if I’m not as passionate about music as you are.” He sensed my disconnect and was reaching out for reconnection. I slid my hand across the table, “I know,” I responded as he took my hand, “Plus, I still have decades left to influence you.”
In my experience with couples, most of them can be fairly mismatched in many of their interests. Sometimes it can feel distressing in contrast to the resonance experienced by realizing shared pursuits. There is a natural attraction for people who like what we like. We feel understood at some level.
It’s important for couples to know that dissimilar interests aren’t bad. As long as couples agree about major life decisions and have common long-term goals, having different interests can enhance the marriage.
In short, EVERYONE has “How are we even married?” moments. If my husband were writing this post, he would probably mention that I don’t share his same fascination with slalom water-skiing, among other things.
Later that week, my son and I were driving in the car with my husband when “Shake the Disease,” shuffled on from my 80’s playlist, and my husband remarked, “THIS is Depeche Mode, right?” “I don’t know—isn’t this Led Zeppelin?” I called over my shoulder to my son in the backseat. “No, it’s definitely Depeche Mode,” my husband interrupted, “See,” he offered his hand to me, “I do pay attention sometimes.”
In that moment, I felt authentic gratitude for my husband’s efforts. I knew that at the core, he really had no personal interest in music and was trying to connect again. In this instance, our dissimilar interests highlighted my value to him. He was attempting to understand something that mattered to me and only because it mattered to me. It was a perfect example of how differences can actually be used as a source of attachment security.
And that is one of the great reasons to be married.
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