A friend wanted to introduce me to someone who apparently 'shared a lot of the same interests' as me. I found this very hard to believe on the basis my interests are mainly shoes, wine and make-up, and I don't particularly want a potential suitor with such fetishes. But also because I am convinced 'interests' are rarely shared in a relationship.
The only thing my ex and I had in common was a postcode; we voted differently, liked different music, films, TV programmes, food... and definitely no shared hobbies. And our separate ones often caused fall outs over clashing dates causing childcare issues, and the levels of commitment our various courses, classes and clubs needed resulted in resentment and rows. Eventually I stopped all my extra curricula stuff because it just wasn't worth the hassle.
In fact, I reckon 'outside interests' probably cause more rows than anything else in relationships. And a lot of these rows seem to be based on the different ways men and women embrace their 'free time', and in particular the fact (based on experience and other women I've spoken to) that male hobbies and pastimes are generally things they've carried on from their youth that they are reluctant to ease up on or phase out.
For example, my friend Marie despairs of her husband's devotion to the local football team he's played for since he was a schoolboy (he is now pushing 40). 'They come first on the basis he's been playing with them for nearly thirty years,' she says. 'It is a constant bone of contention, and because they have practice every Tuesday I have not been able to do an evening class I've been hankering to join for years but which only runs on Tuesdays. Then there's Sunday matches and occasional Saturday night socials. It drives me to the point where I am relieved when he's injured – but even then he usually hobbles along to 'show support'. And as for us doing something together – on the nights he's not playing footie, he's watching it on TV, or asleep by 8pm!'
'Men's pastimes are ALWAYS childish and an example of them clinging on to their youth,' agrees Lucy, 41, whose partner still hangs out with his sixth-form pals at the pub they first went to as students and still follows the same bands. 'There is some rubbish local group they all still worship,' she rages. 'And they refer to them as the 'boys' – honestly, half of them have no teeth, and they're all bald but it's always, 'we can't let the boys down' 'gotta go and watch the boys play'. I know if I ever suggest us doing something together – like the theatre or going for dinner – it'll either clash with one of their poxy gigs OR be deemed a waste of money. I suggested us doing an evening course in Spanish once ahead of a holiday and he actually fell off the sofa laughing.'
'Practically every man I know has a hobby that excludes his wife and family,' says Faye, who recently divorced. 'I can't think of a single couple who do stuff like a sport or evening class together. I guess it's important to have your own life and do your own things, but it does seem that the activities men chose take over their lives in a way a woman's hobby never could – or would be allowed to.'
I agree with Faye – I don't know of a single woman whose hobby or pastime is ever allowed to impinge on family life in the same way that men's seemingly can. One friend was even unable to progress through the ranks in her job because the evening courses she needed to take clashed with her husband's circuit training!
But despite all that, to be quite honest, the thought of sharing a hobby is even worse – or am I being pessimist? Do the family who play together stay together? Do you successfully share a hobby with your partner, or do you agree that mens' pastimes always come first to the detriment of everything else?