Why Shared Interests Aren’t Enough In A Relationship
It’s not about cultivating interests but about cultivating these.
“The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it, but in what one pays for it — what it costs you.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
There are two words that get confused all the time. These are the same two words that can have us going from one relationship to the next, one friendship to another, or one career move to the next — all while continuing to feel incomplete and empty.
These two words: interests and values.
Most of us step into a relationship with the intent of having similar shared interests between ourselves and the other person. Human nature is hardwired for connection, so when we recognize someone has a shared interest, it initially gives us something to talk about, and ideally, in which to build.
After all, without a shared topic of conversation, we’re reduced to awkward silence or superficial chitchat which squelches anything long-term. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, …”do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this person into your old age? Everything else is transitory — most of the time you’re together will be devoted to conversation.”
For example, if you and your partner both like the same self-help book, you may go on the assumption that you both share an interest in personal development; however, there may be two different perspectives in play. While you may value intellect or knowledge gained within the self-help book, the other person may be drawn to the pictures or may have only said they liked the book to impress you.
Or, you may believe that a shared interest in working out is based on the same values you hold about health and fitness, however, the other person’s fitness values may be based on social image or popularity.
This is where differences seen can cause relationship strain — where initial interests get mistaken for shared values.
Similar interests; different values….
Interests are extrinsic; our interests can change based on things like emotional maturity, or personal growth. The more we experience in the world and in our lives, the more our interests evolve and build on each other based on our lived experiences.
Values are intrinsic; our values shouldn’t change much as we grow and evolve, except to build a deeper and richer understanding of why we hold specific values in the first place. Values are based on our beliefs, or a personal set of principles that stick with us, and are usually learned in childhood.
If we weren’t taught about interests in childhood, we can grow into our own interests as we get to know ourselves. However, if we weren’t taught about values in childhood, this can affect character later in life.
While relationships — be it friend, coworker or significant other — can start out amazing with shared interests, shared experiences or shared hobbies — it’s shared values that build a solid foundation with lasting power. Our values are how we see our world, how we embrace (or don’t) our world, and how we feel about ourselves and life.
Our values are our hopes, our fears, our desires for emotional and spiritual growth, or what we envision for ourselves and those in our lives. They are a product of our character, and how we were taught to view relationships — both with ourselves and others. If what we value is out of whack with those in our lives, it upsets the balance in the relationship and we wind up feeling incomplete, and our needs unmet.
Here are 6 critical core values that should be non-negotiable in our relationships and within our Self:
To Feel Heard. Maslow’s Hierarchy speaks of a need for affiliation and belonging, right after having our foundational needs and safety needs met. Part of feeling heard walks hand-in-hand with the relationships we choose to keep. Our core values should include a need to be heard — where the relationships we keep with ourselves and those in our lives validate this core value. This works both ways; feeling heard means listening to others, and having our voice heard in the process.
By embracing a core value of feeling heard, this means that the relationships we choose to have in our lives are honoring us as a person; we’re allowed a voice, an opinion, and are respected and heard by those closest to us. Without feeling heard, we’re reduced to feeling invalidated.
Empathy. There’s a difference between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy, and both are critical to having a value base, both with ourselves and with those we keep in our lives. With cognitive empathy, we’re able to take another person’s perspective, and the people we choose to have in our lives should feel comfortable putting themselves in our shoes. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with them, or vice versa. It simply means that we get where the other person is coming from and they should respect where we’re coming from.
With emotional empathy, we’re taking your relationships to a whole other level of intimacy. This requires vulnerability — to be OK knowing that there are going to be emotionally uncomfortable moments in our relationships where anger, tears, depression, or even rage may show up. By having a core value of emotional empathy, we’re building stronger, more authentic relationships that allow for other shared values. Emotional empathy piggybacks on trust; we can’t feel comfortable having empathy towards someone if we don’t trust them.
Respect. This core boundary also works two-ways; both as self-respect and respect from those in our lives. It also means that the people we keep in our lives should value respecting themselves and us in the process. When the core value of respect is compromised, it also violates our boundaries.
When the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves and our lives are violated, so is our sense of respect. When a person in our lives has violated our core value of respect, this can also impact our sense of self-respect. The fact is, if a person in our lives wasn’t respectful of our boundaries or our trust in them as a person, we need to make a choice on how a violation of respect impacts our own sense of self-respect.
Accountability. This is a tough core value for a lot of us. Why? It means owning up to the crap we caused. With accountability, we’re able to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Maybe we hurt someone, or maybe we’re in the habit of hurting ourselves. Maybe most of our relationships had an expiration date, or maybe we’ve ditched those relationships before finding out if there was an expiration date. When having a core value of accountability, this means that we should be expecting the same for those in our lives, who should also value responsibility for their choices and beliefs.
Accountability is about responsibility. It means that we have a solid sense of who we are, and why we are. When we have accountability as a core value, it’s not about finger-pointing or blame-shifting. It’s not about ducking and running when the going gets tough. Accountability simply means that we’re a person of our word, that our word and deed are adding up…and if they aren’t, we’re OK in making things right.
To Feel Safe. Our safety needs are actually more important to our overall needs than feeling loved. Maslow’s Hierarchy places safety needs towards the bottom of his pyramid, before belonging (love) needs. In other words, having a core value of trust and safety are critical in our relationships before we can feel authentic, unconditional love for someone. Otherwise, ‘love’ is based on conditions, unmet needs and self-serving agendas.
Self-Discipline and Self-Improvement. These are two very different core values, with a very important shared foundation: our Self. With self-discipline, we’re taking stock of our habits, recognizing if there a need to change what isn’t helping us, and learning what isn’t positively serving us. With self-improvement, we’re starting the process of actually setting healthy goals to conquer what isn’t positively serving us. These two core values piggyback on one another in helping create self-acceptance and self-awareness.
By having these core values that work collaboratively, we’re choosing to conquer things like emotional growth, perseverance and self-forgiveness as part of our overall growth. Equally important is having those in our lives who share similar values and not only understand what we are obtaining and working towards, but can empathize and support us in the process.
Our core values not only affect us, they affect our choices, our goals and our overall growth. It’s important that the people we choose to have in our lives also represent the same core values, not just the same interests as us…
Nietzsche’s quote, …“The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it, but in what one pays for it — what it costs you” can be interpreted in many ways.
On a macro level, our values may suggest our freedom, our dignity or our right to an education. On a micro level, this quote can hit even closer to home by resonating with the relationships we keep and how they affect our lives, our happiness, our vulnerability, our self-love, our self-forgiveness, our desire for positive change, and most importantly our emotional growth.
…. In other words, are your relationships adding value to your life — and if not, what’s the personal cost of keeping them?
Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–396.
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality. New York: Harper.