Image: Matthew Loffhagen
She’s not even trying to support my work.
He won’t accept that great writing takes time.
If this was any other job, she’d give me a break.
He just doesn’t get it.
Does your partner’s lack of support for your writing leave you feeling this way? One of the essentials of the writing life is having a safe and supportive space in which to practice your craft. Being distracted by other responsibilities, struggling with personal problems, or being frustrated by unmet expectations makes your job that much harder. Add to that a partner or spouse who isn’t supportive of your work, and you have yet another worry weighing you down.
Conversely, a partner who helps you, cheers you on, and promotes your work is an invaluable asset to your success. Even better, your achievements are their achievements, and when you celebrate, you can celebrate together.
If you feel there’s room in your relationship to improve your support system, I’m here to help, with a few suggestions for finding the best path to what you need.
Know what support you need
Of course, no two writers are the same. What kind of support do you need from your spouse or partner? Do you wish he or she would take the kids for a few hours, clean the house, run errands for you, cook dinner? Do you need her to check up on you and be a listening ear while you process a story problem? Or do you just need him to leave you alone and let you work?You need to know what you need from your partner before you can ask for it. Click To Tweet
Before you can begin to think about how to communicate your needs and desires, the first step is to identify exactly what they are. But before you initiate that conversation, stop and think. Is your partner truly being unsupportive, or is it possible he or she is genuinely trying to support you but in a way you don’t receive as being helpful?
Before you go on the defensive, try to get an objective view of your situation. That perspective will help you cultivate a more generous attitude before you initiate a conversation. As far as it’s possible and reasonable, give your partner the benefit of the doubt.
Communicate clearly and kindly
Now it’s time to talk. Do your best to clearly communicate your feelings and needs to your partner. Consider the following questions if you’re not sure how to start.
- Does your partner understand the time, energy, and emotional demands of your work? If not, this is a problem of perception. Your conversation may need to start at achieving shared understanding.
- What can your spouse do differently to give you the support you need? Approach them with gratitude and appreciation, not from a position of complaining or shaming. If this is a person who wants to support you and just isn’t doing it in the way you need, he or she is already on your team. There’s a good chance they’ll be willing to hear you out.
- Does your spouse undervalue your work as a writer? This one is much harder to tackle. If you’re starting from a place where your work isn’t valued at all, your task is more challenging. I sincerely hope you can convince them that your work is worthwhile, but if that doesn’t happen, you may have to approach this conversation from a more practical perspective. Can you barter? What can you offer your spouse in exchange for their support?
Look for ways to reciprocate
The glue of relationships is compromise. Even if the last scenario above doesn’t apply to you, you’re still asking for something precious from your partner. What will you give in return? This is especially true if you’re asking him or her to change their natural, comfortable way of supporting you. Try to put yourself in their shoes. What if they were asking you to change the way you show support for their career or dream?
How will you reciprocate? If you’re not sure, just tell your partner: “I know I’m asking a lot of you. What can I do to make this easier for you? Is there something I can do to help you?”Getting good writing support from your partner may mean striking a bargain.Click To Tweet
And remember that the tone of this conversation is as important as the physical outcome. It doesn’t do you much good to get what you want if your partner resents you afterwards. Do your best to cultivate an atmosphere of gratitude and service. Call it karma, the Golden Rule, or the law of reciprocity; you are sure to get back what you give, both in action and attitude.
Don’t ask for too much
One of the biggest problems faced by writers in relationships is that their partners don’t understand a) what they’re trying to achieve and b) why it’s important for them to achieve it. It may be that you’re in a relationship with someone who isn’t a big reader, or who enjoys a totally different kind of genre or style than your own. If you’re with someone who would never look twice at your chosen genre, it can feel hurtful to have your work come under the umbrella of their disinterest.
Often, writers respond with evangelism – trying to prove to their partner why they should care, often through amazing examples of their genre or field of interest. Sometimes it works, but often it’s just a matter of taste, and there’s no chance of changing your partner’s mind. In this kind of situation, it often makes sense to ‘abstract’ the problem. Here, the idea is to pull back from the specifics and instead ask for their more general support of your writing.Do you need your partner to value your work, or just to appreciate its value to you? Click To Tweet
It may sound obvious, but couples have been left at loggerheads because one is asking another to enjoy something that they’re just not built to appreciate. It may be that your partner knows it’s impossible, and is getting protective (even dismissive) because they’ve decided there’s no way to give you what you want.
Removing the work itself from the equation, and just asking your partner to support and value your writing because it’s something you need from them, may feel like a half-measure, but it can be a much easier approach. It may even be the beginning of a long-term process in which they’re able to see the effect their support has on your ability to write and produce.
Check in with each other
Give yourself and your spouse the gift of realistic expectations. If you expect too much too quickly, you’ll both be disappointed and frustrated. This is a work in progress, and it probably isn’t going to happen overnight for most people. So check in with your partner every few weeks. How is each of you feeling? Is your spouse doing what he or she agreed to do for you? Are you holding up your end of the bargain? Be honest and be patient with each other. You’ll get there.Achieving great spousal support for your writing is a process – just like writing itself.Click To Tweet
Most of all, keep telling and showing your significant other how much you appreciate his efforts. Let her know how much you appreciate her. In time, this new support of your writing will make all the difference. Celebrate your successes together, both the big ones and the small ones. The more you find yourselves working as a team, the easier it will become.
In what ways is your partner an invaluable support to your writing? What challenges did you have to navigate to support each other’s work? If you have a story about how you got your spouse to support your writing, we want to hear it!
Or, for more on finding the support you need, check out Why Joining A Writing Group May Be The Best Thing You Do All Year and Want To Improve Your Writing? Here Are The Six People You Need To Find. Have you already reached a place of understanding with your partner? Then try Is Now The Time For An Alpha Reader? for more suggestions on how they can help you produce amazing work.