I once dated a guy with whom I had very little in common. I liked to read; he didn't. He was really into soccer; I wasn't. We had different tastes in movies, music, food, and basically everything else.
Ultimately the relationship didn't work out — but the fact that we had so little in common wasn't why.
Don Cole, master certified Gottman therapist at couples counseling and research center The Gottman Institute, told Revelist that there are really only two things that couples need to have in common in order to make their relationships work: having a shared meaning in the relationship, and showing interest in our partner's interests.
Happy couples find a way of creating shared meaning.
"One of the things we know to be a big predictor of long-term relationship success is when people have a sense of shared meaning in the relationship, and they tend to create that together," Cole said. "Happy couples find a way of creating shared meaning — ‘this is what we are about, this is what we are, this is what’s important to us.’"
This doesn't necessarily mean that couples have to abandon the values they had when they were single in favor of new, shared values, though they should create shared values together, too. The best couples will also look at the dreams each person had before entering the relationship, and help each others' dreams come to fruition.
Happy couples show interest in their partners' interests.
Say you love Wes Anderson films, but your partner hates them. Not only that, but he or she thinks Wes Anderson is the worst film director of all time, and thinks you have poor taste in movies. Something like this, said Cole, is a no-go.
"Are we compatible because we both like football? Are we compatible because we both like rock music, or opera, or whatever? Those things are nice, but not essential," he said. "What is essential is that we show interest in our partner. Even if their interests are different."
At the end of the day, couples really don't need to have any shared interests at all — though these are nice-to-haves and make the work in the relationship a little easier, Cole said. What's important is that they respect what their partners are interested in.
"Really, what makes a successful relationship isn’t compatibility, it’s more how we feel about each other, and how we treat each other," Cole said. "The difference between the couples that make it and the ones that don’t isn’t the number of differences they have," he added. It’s how they manage — and talk about — those differences.