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FAMILY MATTERS: Having different hobbies doesn't have to be a bad thing

January 25, 2011

It can often be difficult to provide support when a partner has a hobby or passion that is not shared.
Many partnerships have to contend with one person who experiences great joy and satisfaction from an activity that is not a shared experience.
People may often feel resentment when time spent in after-work activities does not include a partner.
Partners who are regularly excluded from an enthusiastically pursued hobby or recreational activity may become dissatisfied with the relationship because of mounting resentments regarding time or the financial costs of the activity.
A ‘left out’ partner may benefit from establishing agreements that balance couple time with the hobbyist’s individual desires.
Conversations that address the impact of hobbies or recreational activities can be helpful as both parties can express their own values and expectations for the relationship.
Open, ongoing conversations can help to diffuse resentment and anger about external interests so that both people in the relationship can feel that individual needs are honored and addressed.
When people express concerns about the impact of an impassioned hobby, they create an environment where they can share the positive elements of individual experiences in a supportive way.
When partners have developed a negative interactional style (i.e. fighting) about time spent on hobbies then beginning a positive dialogue can seem impossible. Frequent arguments can create an atmosphere where one partner feels the need to defend time away as a way to escape arguments about the hobby.
This situation can create an impasse where both people then refuse to speak about the disagreement.
Couples may feel that the relationship is damaged and may not be salvageable.
Beginning a dialogue about these frustrations may be best handled when both people agree that they want to improve the way that the relationship is structured.
Discussing the positive aspects of a relationship may be a starting point (“I like the way that we parent together and I want to bring this collaboration into our choices of how to spend free time”).
When conversations begin with a criticism, people become defensive and possibly angry. Conversations that begin with positive statements may make a person feel willing to participate and may also have the positive outcome of a successful negotiation.
Couples may benefit by an agreement to put aside past hurt stemming from previous arguments in order to focus on the need to establish prioritizing time together in a relationship.
It is not important that two people share the same passions but it is necessary that people create space in a relationship for individuals to develop their own hobbies in a way that doesn’t lead to alienation.

Jody Eyre MS LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Her practice is Marriage and Family Counseling in North Kingstown. She can be reached at or 294-3780.

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