An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 4

pie-chart-people-count by Wonkhe

(Image/Wonkhe)

Imagine a pie chart.

But not the kind with only a few slices like you might see in classroom presentations or this image above.

Think about a pie chart that is attempting to illustrate every imaginable hobby or personal interest known to man.

Mountain biking.

Astrophysics.

Rap music.

Sewing.

Tap dancing.

Politics.

Mixed martial arts.

Gardening.

Architectural design.

Cars.

Books.

Religion.

Solitaire.

Ice sculpting.

It would be the largest, most impossible-to-read pie chart in history, but please try to imagine it anyway.

So, because we only live for about 80-ish years on average, and because most of us tend to grow up surrounded by “people like us” in our cities, towns, schools, sports teams, churches, etc., the vast majority of us only ever see a ridiculously tiny slice of this Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart in our lifetime. Add up all of our hobbies and interests over the course of our lives, and maybe none of us ever even come close to sniffing 0.01% of all of the possible things out there that people do and care about.

Kids growing up in rural Manitoba, Canada or Oklahoma are statistically likely to have different hobbies and interests than kids who grow up in the heart of Los Angeles or central Prague.

There are all kinds of wonderful applications for this thought exercise.

Dwell on this long enough, and the obviousness of how insane and bullshitty it is to dislike or mistreat other people based on their particular religion or skin color or political affiliations or personal preferences for who they love simply because they’re different than yours becomes really evident.

People have a nasty habit of classifying anything different than what they believe or prefer as ‘bad’ or ‘worse’ or even ‘wrong.’

I know it’s uncomfortable to think about the possibility that everything you were taught might be bullshit like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but the sooner you come to terms with the fact that literally no human beings know, or have ever known, with 100% certainty the answers to life’s greatest mysteries (we can’t even get a manned mission to Mars—the nearest planet to Earth), the sooner we can all stop being gigantic dicks to one another just because some of us were taught different stories when we were little than other kids who were taught different things in faraway places.

But healthy self-awareness and mature social consciousness aside (which as a cool bonus will make you much less of an asshole for the rest of your life), the reason we’re thinking about this massive Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart is because I don’t want you to accidentally hurt the person you’re dating or married to every day for the rest of your life until you inevitably break up or get divorced and end up a lonely sad sack with no friends.

You’re worth so much more than that.

And THIS super-simple idea can help your relationship with your future romantic partner or spouse thrive, or at the very least, help you NOT accidentally sabotage it because you didn’t know this secret.

Relationship Secret: Care About Things Because the Person You Love Cares About Them

You are NOT a bad person for liking pro wrestling and video games, and hating classical music and knitting classes.

That’s not what makes a person bad. DIFFERENT does not mean the same thing as BAD.

However.

If you’re anything like me, you have a natural tendency to prefer some things over other things, and your brain mistakes your preferences and interests as having greater value than everything that ISN’T in your tiny sliver of the Imaginary Hobby & Interest Pie Chart.

Your stuff is “worth more.” Your stuff “matters more.”

So, maybe you love steak and you’re out with friends, and one of them orders some abomination like a well-done strip steak, and then dips it in ketchup when they eat it.

It is NOT bad that in your mind and heart, you’re secretly like holy shit, do they know how to ruin a steak dinner.

It IS bad if you say out loud: “Holy shit. What are you—stupid or something?” It will likely lead to having fewer friends and the people you spend time with not liking you very much.

And if the person demonstrating different preferences than you is someone you hope to have a long-term romantic relationship with, acting this way WILL end your relationship one way or another.

Don’t just think about food or musical tastes or what you like to do with your free time.

It’s everything.

Everything someone thinks, does, and feels is a result of all of their individual experiences from the moment they were born through right now.

Everyone’s 0.01% of the pie chart is going to be a different blend then everyone else’s, and inevitably lacking 99.9% of the life experiences necessary to objectively measure how much they like or dislike other slices of the pie chart they’ve never even heard of or experienced before.

Imagine a large black piece of construction paper.

One that I punch a tiny hole into with a needle.

And then I block your view with that piece of paper and ask you to accurately describe what’s on the other side only having that tiny pinhole to work with.

That’s what all of us are doing every second of our lives.

None of us have unlimited knowledge, time, nor the education and life experiences necessary to evaluate the big, uncharted alien world around us.

Everyone who tries ends up looking and sounding like an asshole, and they make their spouses or romantic partners feel shitty. They make their spouses or romantic partners fantasize about being with someone who wouldn’t communicate—verbally or otherwise: “Everything you like and care about is stupid and worthless. I don’t love or respect you enough to try to understand why it matters to you because it’s a complete waste of my time.”

Again: The Reason to Care is Because You Care About Them; Not Because You’re Naturally Interested in the Same Stuff

I can’t emphasize strongly enough how much this matters.

You have to learn how to silence your inner monologue that communicates how ugly that painting they love is, or how terrible that food they love tastes, or how crappy that song they love sounds.

It’s totally okay that you feel that way. It’s a math equation that made you feel that way. It would be impossible for you to NOT feel that way. You can’t control that.

But you CAN control what you do with that feeling.

I used to believe it was okay to just be honest and say out loud what I was thinking. I used to believe it was okay to openly mock or chide my friends or wife for everything they liked or believed that was different than my likes and beliefs.

But then my wife moved out after nine years of marriage and I lost a bunch of my friends and now every day is shittier and more difficult than necessary.

It seemed fine, totally fine, to like what I liked and pay no attention to the rest of it.

And if you want to live a single life with a bunch of surface-level relationships with other people (no judgments here—that’s totally an option if you don’t crave the things long-term relationships and marriage provide), it IS totally fine to live that way.

There’s no law against asshole-ism. Choose it if you want.

But.

If deep down, you’re embarrassed by the idea that you might be causing people you care about to feel awful and not even realize it, and if you’re really interested in a long-term romantic relationship or marriage that doesn’t end all shitty and horrible with a bunch of tears and lawyer fees, then try this one simple life trick.

That person you care about is super-interested in something that doesn’t interest you at all.

I’m not asking you to change your internal chemistry through sorcery to make yourself like stuff you don’t naturally like. That’s impossible.

But it IS possible to mindfully invest your time and energy to understand what it is about a particular hobby or interest that captivates this person you love.

It IS possible to learn more about it, and through that discovery, gain a greater appreciatiation for your loved one’s personal passions.

In addition to not constantly shitting all over the things that make your spouse or partner or friend feel joy, the simple act of you investing in what they care about will build a new bridge between you. A new bond. An extra tether, binding you together.

You know what happens when you add additional tethers to two objects, right?

They strengthen.

Become more secure.

Sturdier.

They don’t drift apart.

Steady.

They stay connected.

Together.

Always.

Unbreakable.

And if I may be so bold, I think every day of the rest of your life, and the lives of everyone you interact with will be better for it.

You don’t change the world one grand dramatic act at a time. You do it by making the slightest little course adjustments millions of times, causing other people to do the same. Like ripples in a pond.

Leaving everything just a little bit better than you found it.

Maybe they won’t write books or sing songs about it. But that’s what makes you legend.

That’s how you change the world.

And I can’t wait to see it.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 3

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

24 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 4

  1. Natasha says:

    What if your partner loves John Mayer? Even then?

    This is fantastic!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Tina says:

    Here’s a piece I think you left out Matt, although tell to go jump in a lake if you disagree.

    Your partner should be making this same effort for you. If you are the only one investing – this is a bad investment and get the hell out!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matt says:

      Absolutely Tina. In the Imaginary Fairytale Land which exists only in my head, two young people are both reading this and then applying it when they meet someday.

      Without question, in good marriages and healthy relationships, there is not a huge disparity between how much effort one person gives vs. the other.

      Thank you for emphasizing and reinforcing that fact. And for reading and commenting at all. Means a lot.

      Like

      • Tina says:

        Matt-

        I don’t know what relationship advice young men get never having been one but I can tell you a lot of young women are advised – learn about what interests him – make an effort to get involved in and do the things he likes to do. But they are rarely told – he should do the same for you. I literally had never heard that once back when I was dating. No one ever warned me that you can end up losing any idea of who you are if you invest too much in someone else without them investing right back.

        I think society reinforces this because its more acceptable for women to be interested in stereo typically “guy things” than vice versa. Female sports fan – cool as hell. Male knitter, arts and crafter, dancer, decorater, uh not so “cool” – actually maybe kinda odd.

        There are fields that used to be considered feminine slowly becoming more gender neutral – cooking, for example but we still have so many that are not seen that way. Like my friends husband who was an infantryman that chose to teach kindermusic classes for preschoolers after he left the service. The crap that poor guy takes for like to teach toddlers Raffi music is unreal. But they work amazingly as a couple in a large part because they both genuinely enjoy sports – they both genuinely enjoy spending time with their kids. He does sports photography as a hobby – she’s not into it bet appreciates aspects of it and respects his passion for it. She likes to sew – which he is totally not into but makes time for her to do it and appreciates the nice things she makes for their home and the kids.

        I think its important for couples to have some shared interests they both enjoy together – and some individual interests that they may sometimes do together sometimes apart. But they both have to be equally respectful of each others individual interests. Like my friends, its not necessarily 50 / 50 all the time or a tit for tat kind of accounting – but over time it should work out to be a shared investment of time, interest in, and respect for the things your other cares about.

        Liked by 5 people

  3. Once again, Matt, you give sage advice. It feels difficult to put energy into things that other people value (when I don’t) but so worth the effort. It builds bridges. True with my grown children! Thanks for continuing to make this world better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Your endless string of kind comments are very much appreciated. Thank you. It’s a simple-enough thing that I don’t believe gets its due during the average day inside the average mind.

      And that’s okay. We’ll forever be imperfect. But once the idea seed is planted, at least people can finally consider it and decide what makes sense for them.

      That alone would be an excellent thing.

      Like

  4. LJK says:

    Matt, is it possible yet to be cloned? I’m ready for a new relationship and if only it were you. I love, love, love your commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I feel like the idea that you should care about things because your partner cares about things should almost go without saying– I wonder if social media has caused people to get further away from this? It’s possible that everyone is so busy with building what they want their ‘best life’ to look like that they forget to consider the people in the picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary says:

    It’s so hard not to lose yourself in the interests of another. But yes, excellent point that BOTH should care about similarities, as well as have individualized interests. Matt I love reading your blog and always look forward to a new post. Sure wish I could get my husband to listen to what you say before we divorce, but he’ll inevitably learn the hard way by losing me and our children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      That “like” is in no way related to the idea of your family breaking up, and everything to do with your nice comment.

      Like

      • Mary says:

        Thank you for that. I do enjoy your blog and always look forward to the next post. You have taught me a lot about myself, but also what to expect in the future. I’ve not been a perfect wife, but I’ve certainly tried in more aspects than my husband. Marriages simply cannot survive with only 1 spouse working toward a happy life.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Matt says:

          No. No, it can’t. By definition.

          A marriage isn’t two individual things like when two people first meet.

          A marriage is very specifically ONE thing, but built from two parts working in tandem. Like airplanes.

          Airplanes are one thing. And they have two super-important parts — an engine, and wings.

          Either one fails, no more airplane.

          Marriage is the same.

          Both have to be functioning well, or else bad things happen.

          Apologies for stating the obvious. I do it for anyone new who is reading through comments, and not to insult your intelligence.

          Hope you have a great day, Mary. Thank you for reading and commenting.

          Like

          • Mary says:

            Matt… I’m going to Copy & Paste your comments to my husband… Who is an airplane mechanic! Maybe then he’ll get it…….

            Liked by 1 person

            • Matt says:

              My reply to you actually inspired me to write an individual post about that metaphor because I think it’s such a useful one.

              Typing it now! You made me laugh. Thank you for that.

              Like

  7. YamIhere says:

    But don’t pretend to like it – LEARN to like it.

    You like WWII movies. She’s watched ll your favorites multiple times, can recite the dialogue, knows the director, actors & who composed the score. She may have seen a couple of those movies before you, but she purposefully set out to learn about them, and watched them repeatedly BECAUSE YOU LIKE THEM AND YOU ASKED HER TO.

    Groovy, it’s all good, she enjoys movies you enjoy.

    How many of HER personal favorites have you LEARNED about, and LEARNED to like? I’ll go out on a limb here, out my nearly 4 decades of marriage to the same guy and say: ZERO.

    I don’t really give two farts what your excuses are – it’s a chick flick, it’s sci-fi or fantasy yada yada yada – the point is, you didn’t like them before and you don’t like them now and you have made NO sincere effort to like them JUST BECAUSE SHE DOES.

    Inequity much?

    She noticed, dude. That’s why when you say for the 47th time, “What do you want to watch tonight, babe?” she says “I don’t care.” She cares – but anything she proposes that’s not on YOUR watchlist isn’t going to be watched – not by the two of you, together, anyway.

    After awhile, you’re watching what you like and she’s watching something else in another room, or she’s online or on Twitter or on the phone rather than watch the 47th presentation of PATTON.

    Separation gets wider. As desperation sets in you might say, “We’ll watch whatever you want, honey, just stay in here with me!” But when she answers, “OK, I’ve been wanting to watch the 3 hour documentary on the Eagles on Amazon Channel,” you’re all “That’s kinda long, why don’t we plan to watch that next Friday & Saturday night so we can watch the whole thing?” Which is the same as NO I DON’T WANT TO WATCH THAT PROGRAM YOU’VE MENTIONED THREE DOZEN TIMES BECAUSE I’M NOT INTERESTED AND MAYBE YOU’LL FORGET THIS BY NEXT WEEKEND.

    Yes it is, yes it is, yes it is. And what she heard is, you rejected her selection after you supposedly solicited it for the pleasure of her company, so her company must not mean that much to you, which is the same as rejecting her. Yes it is.

    There’s only one way you can make her believe that you care about what she likes and that you value her company: without a reminder and without fanfare, you can do the dishes next Friday, have the popcorn popped and the TV set for The History of the EAGLES cued up and ready to go. And WATCH IT WITH HER. Do not get on your phone, tablet or PC or wander off to check what’s on another channel in the other room.

    And if you can’t do that, if it’s too much trouble, then she’s right: you’re a jerk and you’re just not that into her.

    Like

  8. Patricia says:

    Matt, you didn’t mention “the face”. Him pretending that he is going along with your suggestion but making “the face” that says so very much. Like “I am saying what she expects me to say – but I think she is stupid for wanting that”. It tell all the friends what he really thinks of her. And expressed enough times that they no longer want to come for the show. I am sure there is the female version of “the face”. But the male version is the one I see when I close my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

Join the Conversation!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: