Having differing interests is very normal for couples.
It is also healthy and potentially enriching to be with someone who has different interests than you. Who doesn’t have friends who have completely different personalities yet are happy together?
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Where it can become tricky however is when those differing interests start creating tension in the relationship, particularly when one of the partners feels that its needs are either being overlooked, or constantly criticized.
A very classical example is the “socializer type”- he loves dancing the night away – versus the “intimacy seeking” type- she is more toned down and likes movies and dinners.
This is normal in couples and can fluctuate throughout their relationship, the socializer becoming at times the intimacy seeker, and vice versa.
It sometimes manifests as the distancer/pursuer dynamic; one of the partner needs to distance itself a bit, while the other longs for intimacy, and the more it longs for intimacy, the more the other needs space. It can be a vicious circle.
So here are a few things you can do if and when your partner’s search for intimacy seem to be getting in your way of enjoying a good night out with your friends, or to put it the other way around, if your partner’s regular evenings out with his mates come to the cost of your need of intimacy:
1. Acknowledge your partners’ needs: this does not mean you are giving in to them, it just means that you are seeing them, versus being indifferent or critical towards them.
2. Dip your toes into your partner’s ‘land” or values: what is important to your partner about going out with its friends? What is important to your partner about intimacy? What does socializing mean to him/her, what does intimacy mean to him/her?
3. For the intimacy seeker/pursuer: you may wish to look and see whether you have any insecurities first. A lot of women particularly rely on their partners to satisfy their need of intimacy, so much so that they become dependant on them. This can create a lot of pressure for their partners who feel like they have to constantly fulfill their needs. Stand up for yourself! That is the greatest gift you can give your partner, and you can still have intimacy when he is around you. Remember to “give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping” (K.Gibran, The Prophet).
4. For the socializer/distancer: stay EMOTIONALLY connected to your partner, acknowledge his/her needs, get out of your heads and into your hearts! That can make a big difference, plus you will still be able to enjoy your night out ! Oftentimes, your partner just needs to be reassured that you care.
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5. Trade roles! Sometimes we get stuck into our roles and get tired of always assuming the emotional (usually women) or rational (usually men) side of things. How would your relationship look like for example if you brought more intimacy to your relationship, if you played that part for a while?
And eventually remember: Diversity is beautiful, celebrate it!