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Can our relationship survive living apart after living together?
March 17, 2008 2:12 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend of almost 3 years and I have been living together for a year and a half. About a year ago he decided he wanted to start making his own music, something he never had the chance to do earlier in his life. He's also a very successful grad student in a PHD program, so he thinks that before he graduates is the only time he will be able to devote enough time to making music while still being a good student. And now he's telling me that the only way he can really give this a shot is for us to not live together for a while so he can have some "space" to really discover himself and focus on his music whenever he's not in school. He says he wants to work on it so much that he would seem neglectful if we lived together.

This is shocking for me because we have a really strong relationship and until about 2 weeks ago, when he started feeling like he needs "space", we were really happy and everything was fine. He doesn't want to break up, he just wants to take a step back from the relationship and just see eachother a few times a week or whenever he's not doing his music stuff. I told him that this was really disturbing to me and that I'm not sure if we are going to work out if he really wants to do this. To clarify, he wants to move into a loft-style situation with some of our mutual friends who are musicians so they can play music and just be creative whenever they want. I was originally supposed to be a part of this living situation (I'm a visual artist, not a musician but I like singing with the guys once in a while) and now he wants to exclude me from this plan.

He also thinks I don't respect his new passion for music and that I consider it a hobby, so this is another reason why he doesnt want me around while he's recording songs.

Am I overreacting by thinking that our relationship is doomed by this new and unexpected need of his to be "more on his own?" Or am I right to be hurt by such selfishness? I've never turned to askmefi before for relationship advice, so please be gentle!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (85 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you been actively negative or otherwise dismissive of his musical tendencies? In other words, does he have a reason to think you don't respect his music? Be honest with yourself, or you won't get the answer you need.
posted by aramaic at 2:17 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I always heard the maxim "relationships can't go backwards" and I think this is true for a lot of couples (though not all). I.e., if you're living together and then move to living apart, it just delays the inevitable and you're going to break up. I'd also be concerned that he doesn't feel like you respect his passion for the music. It sounds like there are problems here. You should just talk to him about your concerns and where you think things are going.
posted by sweetkid at 2:18 PM on March 17, 2008


I've tried to be supportive but there was a time when he was really spending all his free time doing music stuff and I felt like he wasn't making enough time for us to spend together. So yeah, he does have a reason. I don't think I realized how passionate he was about it at first and thought it was just a hobby. After all, he's getting his PHD in something totally unrelated!
posted by minicloud at 2:21 PM on March 17, 2008


Agree with sweetkid, if he loved and cherished you to the point of wanting to get married someday, then he would not be asking you to leave. This is a huge step back and his way of saying "I'm growing in a different direction, and don't want you going there with me."
posted by Melismata at 2:21 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Given that you have had a strong relationship until recently, perhaps you should trust that relationship, and let him have his personal space to make music for a while.

As I see it, this isn't much different from someone deciding to move into a secluded cabin and work on a book without distractions.

Yes, it hurts to know that you are not the absolute center of his life at this moment, but it seems refreshingly honest of him to ask you to agree to this. If the relationship is as strong as you believe it is, perhaps this experience will make the relationship stronger by establishing your respect for each other's independence.

If the relationship doesn't survive this, then maybe it wasn't worth staying in, anyway.

(Having said all that, I am a little skeptical of his motives for wanting to move out.)
posted by jayder at 2:23 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


You are not overreacting.
posted by thomas144 at 2:24 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Your relationship certainly can survive living apart for a while. Relationships have survived worse. Whether it will or not is up to the two of you, and how truthful both of you are being. And by truthful I suppose I mean objective and accurate. Was everything really perfect a mere two weeks ago? Does he really just want to play his instrument more without disrespecting you? Probably "no" on both counts. Do I find his behavior, as you describe it, weird? Yeah.

You are overreacting if you think this spells doom, but you are right to be hurt. This came out of left field, and it's totally valid for you to not be happy about your boyfriend's sudden decision to follow his art away from you. Doom is certainly a possibility, but it's not the only one. As with many relationshipfilter questions, I fear the answer is "you need better communication."
posted by mumkin at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Does he have a room in your current home in which he can shut himself in to make music? Are you able to leave him alone for hours and hours at a time while he works on projects? That's pretty much all you need.

He might have a problem concentrating when he knows another person is around (I sometimes have that problem), although if he's been in grad school for that long, I imagine you guys have gotten over that. If this is the case, maybe you can offer to help him by going out when he's working on music.

Otherwise, he might just be making an excuse to get away from you. I hope it's not the case, but it's possibly.
posted by ignignokt at 2:28 PM on March 17, 2008


Sounds like an excuse to break up. I can't imagine a good relationship where one person preemptively tries to strike a deal like this. Furthermore, the "wouldn't be fair to you," is a cop-out designed to make the person doing the asshole thing like a saint for being concerned about your feelings.

Trouble. Absolutely gives me a bad feeling.
posted by agregoli at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


"Does he have a room in your current home in which he can shut himself in to make music? Are you able to leave him alone for hours and hours at a time while he works on projects? That's pretty much all you need."

He doesnt right now. And our downstairs neighbors knock on the ceiling and complain when he plays. So we were going to move soon anyway and one of the things we were looking for was a place with a seperate room for that stuff. But still he feels like it wont be enough.
posted by minicloud at 2:30 PM on March 17, 2008


To me this sounds like he wants to break up with you, even though he hasn't articulated this to himself yet. But first he wants to see if he can keep you around so that he can still have sex whenever he wants it without having to go to the trouble of looking for a new girlfriend.

It's undoubtedly more complex than this, and there could be any number of things causing it, but in the end it doesn't really matter why he's thinking about doing this. It comes down to the fact that instead of looking for ways you can help him explore and develop this new interest, he's looking to get you out of the way. This does not a healthy or growing relationship make. There's no reason for him to force this music vs. relationship dichotomy (plenty of musicians get support and strength from being in a loving relationship), and the fact that he wants whatever the music symbolizes to him (his last chance to be young and "cool", or whatever) more than he wants you means that he's not interested in seeing the relationship grow. So unless you want to always feel second-best, get out now.
posted by MsMolly at 2:32 PM on March 17, 2008 [30 favorites]


I wish I could favorite MsMolly's comment 15 times. Also, do you really want someone who says petulant things like "you don't support me enough in my music?" Is he giving you what you need in this relationship?
posted by sweetkid at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Completely with agregoli here. Trouble.

I'm sorry, because it sucks, but if you do live apart so he can concentrate on his music, the 'music' may turn out to be another girl. And I think she is likely already in the picture, expressing some interest in him, and so he is having doubts about your relationship. Seeing you a couple or three times a week sounds like a safety net in case the new girl doesn't work out. She's likely in one of his classes.

The best thing to do is probably ask him directly if there is someone he is interested in seeing and that is where all this talk about space is coming from. It will be very hard, but try not to sound accusing. It may just be that the two of you need to work on some things in the relationship before he feels comfortable moving into a new place with you again.
posted by misha at 2:38 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


To me this sounds like he wants to break up with you, even though he hasn't articulated this to himself yet. But first he wants to see if he can keep you around so that he can still have sex whenever he wants it without having to go to the trouble of looking for a new girlfriend.

Totally. There is very little one can accomplish that requires you be single. But this guy wants to have his cake and eat it, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:43 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


But first he wants to see if he can keep you around so that he can still have sex whenever he wants it without having to go to the trouble of looking for a new girlfriend.

Wow, cynical much? I agree that asking a significant other to move out so the other can jam with their buddies seems a bit immature, it doesn't sound like a devious plot to keep the physical parts of the relationship while ditching the obligations. The guy might just be afraid of the commitment the relationship is inevitably leading to, but isn't mature enough to address it directly. I've known a lot of graduate students (having been one) and a good number of them didn't possess top-notch personal relations skills.

Or he could simply be afraid of the "Real World" lurking just past the thesis defense and thinks this is going to be his last chance to really slack off, both in terms of a relationship and his activities.

But no matter how you slice it, it's not good for your relationship nor very respectful towards you. If he's serious about music, what's to prevent him from joining a band and finding some interruption-free space to practice in? As you said, it is a bit odd that this has become such a important thing for him while he's currently engaged in another truly towering endeavour (Ph.D.) that isn't at all related. For some reason or another, he's deprioritized the relationship with you over something that previously wasn't that important. Regardless of the reasons, that deserves some serious scrutiny.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:55 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I dunno, think of it like this: If instead of being a grad student when you met him he was a musician living in a loft who made music all the time, and you said "Move in with me!" and he said "There's not enough space and free time at your place for me to make music", would you think he was full of crap?

I mean, yes it totally sucks, and a change such as this might be the end of your relationship, but I think his motivations and reasoning sound totally genuine. I don't think it makes sense to say "If he didn't want to break up with me, he would half-ass it on making music."
posted by 23skidoo at 2:57 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


To be brutally honest (but hopefully not at all insensitive) here... If I did this, it would be the opening salvo to a letting-you-down-gently-style breakup.

As a matter of fact, if any guy I know did this, it would mean "breakup."

I know a lot of guys.

I'm not trying to 'hex' your relationship, and he might be totally unlike any of the guys I know... but I'd second or third the voices in this thread telling you to prepare for breakup as a possibility. What you do with this preparation--using it to cope, or using it as motivation to try to subvert his (possible) intentions to leave--is very much up to you... and I certainly hope it works out for the very best for you.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 3:01 PM on March 17, 2008


When people ask for space, that generally means they're ready to end the relationship, and looking for a way to let you down easy.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:02 PM on March 17, 2008


so, what jjjjjjijjjjjj said.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:02 PM on March 17, 2008


he wants to work on it so much that he would seem neglectful if we lived together.

That makes no sense. By not living together and spending all his time on music he would be neglectful. At least by living with you, you'd see a little of each other every day: at meals, brushing teeth, reading comics. If I was in love with someone and had a choice to spend daily inconsequential moments or rarer weekly visits, I'd take the first choice always.

Never waste you time with someone who is "too busy" to see you. If they care, there is always room in the day. Maybe after three years, he does need a break, or space, or something. But don't be fooled that he could somehow be more caring by seeing as little of you as possible.
posted by yeti at 3:04 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


When the missus and I need to work on projects (artistic or otherwise) we usually separate out into different rooms. Otherwise it gets too distracting, as the urge to hang out with each other ends up overbalancing the urge to focus. I can understand this urge in your boyfriend.

Unfortunately, my opinion echoes everyone else's here, as I had a friend go through much the same process you're going through now. They loved each other and the relationship was stable, but he wanted one last shot at a college-y bachelor type life before settling into that (ironically?) music PHD program and the impending adulthood afterwards.

He didn't SAY that, of course, and presented the situation with a weird, confusing, illogical justification much like your boyfriend is doing now. (I mean, if he really wants some alone space then he can rent a rehearsal room.)

It sounds like he's preparing for a break-up. Worse, that he's trying to set up precedent for a break-up that he can't be "blamed" for, at least in his own mind. Needing to be away from you so his art can flourish isn't too far away from him saying that he needs to be away from you so HE can grow. In the end that implies that he had no choice but to leave, when he was the one to initiate the process in the first place.

Even if a break-up isn't his aim, he's still damaged your trust more than he probably realizes. He definitely needs to be called on this, although that's going to be an awful process. I hope in the end this works out as well it can for you.
posted by greenland at 3:11 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I don't think any of us can know enough to say that he wants to break up with you, let alone that he doesn't yet know he wants to break up with you, but we do. So take all of these comments with a grain of salt, and consider the possibilities without jumping to conclusions.

To me, it sounds like he's nervous about the huge steps that he's going to have to take in the near future. Your relationship is getting more and more serious, and he's going to graduate soon. He wants to do the things he's always wanted to do before he becomes a salaryman and a groom, and sometimes that means shaking up the status quo a bit. I'm with jayder on this: it speaks volumes about his trust in you to be able to tell you what he wants and how he feels so bluntly. Give him a chance to follow his instincts.
posted by svolix at 3:19 PM on March 17, 2008


I'd also like to strongly echo Nelsormensch's rejection of MsMolly's "Keeping you around to have sex with you" comment. That's just... horribly jaded and cynical advice, and it's irresponsible to an extreme.

He might be trying to break up with you... he might be going about this in lamentably oblique ways... hell, he might even be an asshole because of what he's doing (don't have enough info to make these calls conclusively). But let's not ALSO assume that he's a womanizing, objectifying cad who is comfortable with fucking someone over emotionally just to have steady access to sex. It's just as likely that his actions could be attributed to oversensitivity than under-.

(And if you were wanting insight into this Objectifying Cad's mindset at the time of breakup [you probably weren't]... Efforts directed towards securing "continued sexual access" to a woman I had been with hundreds of times over many years would, uh... be entirely BURIED under the mountain of effort directed at securing new partners. Seriously. You wouldn't believe the disparity. My earlier comments I'll invest with a degree of universality... but this [lamentable] trait may be very uncommon and just my bad luck... At any rate, it's offered with constructive intent, and I hope it's received in the same way.)
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 3:22 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll echo the break up chorus. His logic is suspect and his reasoning could be resolved more simply without removing you from his life. The only logical conclusion is that he doesn't want to be with you anymore even if he hasn't quite come to that conclusion yet.
posted by fenriq at 3:26 PM on March 17, 2008


Sounds like an excuse to break up.

Yeah, to me too. No way to be sure, of course, and you'll probably want to give him his space for a while to see what happens, but if I were you I'd be preparing myself to move on.

Or, what jjjjjjijjjjjj said.
posted by languagehat at 3:29 PM on March 17, 2008


It's absolutely understandable that this change in your situation is very hard for you to take, but in my opinion your boyfriend is probably being completely honest with you, and it's worth giving the new arrangement a chance if you can manage it.
posted by tomcooke at 3:31 PM on March 17, 2008


he wants to move into a loft-style situation with some of our mutual friends who are musicians so they can play music and just be creative whenever they want.

To me, that doesn't pass the laugh test. Why can't he just meet up with those guys and "be creative whenever they want"? Do they live so far away that that'd take up too much transportation time, or what? (Of course, if so, they could solve the problem by moving closer to each other, and you two could still live together.) Why does he need more immediate access to them ... than to you?

It's also unfortunate that within an hour of asking the question, you've already decided to mark the most positive answer as the best answer. (Nothing against that particular answer -- I just think you're jumping the gun.) I hate to say it, but you might want to mull over some of the more negative feedback more carefully.

In particular, I think the following comments (each from a different one of the above commenters) bear repeating:

...first he wants to see if he can keep you around so that he can still have sex whenever he wants it without having to go to the trouble of looking for a new girlfriend.

If I did this, it would be the opening salvo to a letting-you-down-gently-style breakup.

...the "wouldn't be fair to you," is a cop-out designed to make the person doing the asshole thing like a saint for being concerned about your feelings.

posted by jejune at 3:34 PM on March 17, 2008


I disagree.
MsMolly is right he wants his cake and you too! it's very hard for men to leave regular sex behind, I'm sorry if it offends some men here, but I believe in this instance he thinks he can have the best of both worlds.

You can either look on this as :-

wow , you rock at sexing him up! (in which case, if he is good in bed, stay for some regular sex)

Or:-

Girl you totally deserve to be sexed by someone who puts YOU first!
posted by Wilder at 3:35 PM on March 17, 2008


This exact scenario went down with a family friend and her husband. He was going through a mid life crisis basically and came crawling back a few months after moving out. It was all nonsense when he accused his wife of not being supportive, and not giving him enough creative space. Sure she complained once in a while that they weren't spending enough time together, but she never forced him to choose & he never told her once in 15 years that he didn't really want to be a successful land developer. What it boiled down to was him being scared because he was running out of time to become a rock star and instead of rightly blaming himself for never properly pursuing this dream, he blamed the closest person & ran away to pretend he was 19 again. If he'd been more rational about it he could have worked it out without losing his wife.
posted by zarah at 3:35 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ugh, I cut myself off there somehow, doh. So anyway, it's good this guy is doing this NOW, instead of years down the road, after you've wasted your youth and childbearing years on him. You never know, it might work out really well, and you'll probably be able to tell pretty quickly whether he's breaking up with you or not. If you feel bad all the time for the first few weeks, and nothing he says or does comforts you or makes you feel safe, then walk away fast.
posted by zarah at 3:44 PM on March 17, 2008


Wilder: it's very hard for men to leave regular sex behind

A glance at your profile info shows me that you are a woman.

A glance at your comment shows me that you are very wrong. Not only is it actually quite easy for most guys I know to "leave regular sex behind"... some of us *gasp* would actually not hesitate to do so rather than to perpetrate some emotional mind-fuck on another person.

Also: Your comment is about as offensive to me as would be a comment from a male poster asserting that "Women love to cook a good meal."
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 3:46 PM on March 17, 2008 [10 favorites]


People with artistic tendencies sometimes need the space to discover that potential unimpeded. Anyone who has creative drive will tell you that they can't always control their passions, or the extent to which they want to explore those passions. For your boyfriend, the door is closing on an opportunity in his life to see what's inside him. This does not sound strange to me.

I'm reminded of a story, I think it was Stephen King, who was working as a janitor or something. He and his wife were poor - real poor. He wanted to write books. His wife granted him a window of time, something like a year, to write his damn books. If he was going to start being successful as a writer then he had a limited amount of time to get the job done. And if nothing came of it, back to the mop and bucket. Well, he was given that time to explore something, with a very clear limit on how much the woman in his life was going to tolerate, and he made something happen. The rest is history.

What I'm saying is that any long term relationship faces it's challenges, both from within and without. This is one of those challenges. And my opinion is that if you care about him and trust him then give him his chance. But don't be a damn fool. Give him a time limit. And if he doesn't place you back in the center of his life after his time has expired then be prepared to move on. It's the risk/reward that you're going to have to accept and if it works out your relationship will probably be stronger.
posted by quadog at 3:49 PM on March 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wow, doesn't this sound like the Jason Bateman character in Juno? This last-ditch effort at being young and hip and cool. I'm not going to jump on the "he's breaking up with you pre-emptively" bandwagon, but I do think you deserve some respect and honesty in this situation. I don't think it's entirely about the music, I think it's an opportunity to live with his buddies without the ball and chain. I would find this attitude horribly hurtful, and I think he has to be made aware that he doesn't get to have his cake and eat it too. He can either continue committing to you and the relationship, knowing that has both positive and negatives (security, closeness, emotional support, but also familiarity, domesticity, and a decidedly less "hip" lifestyle), or break up for this adolescent fantasy of a loft situation. On the plus side, once he's living by himself again he might really miss you a great deal and realize what he's given up; on the minus side, that might be too late for him to regain your trust. I'm sorry you're going through this; good luck.
posted by alicetiara at 3:49 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


The key point here is that you guys currently have different expectations on what a relationship means. To him, it means something outside the relationship comes first. To you the relationship comes first (at least in the end).

This where the tension is coming from. Each of you had certain ideas in your head and probably assumed the other had the same idea. Now it's out that you don't and in the process of discovering this you have inadvertently pushed him away by insisting he stop doing x even though he loves X because he didn't articulate and/or you didn't understand how much this meant to him.

So now what? You should decide what you want. Whether ya'll continue living together or not, your relationship is changing. He's going through a period where he's exploring an aspect of himself and he wants to dive into that fully, even at the risk of spending less active time in the relationship. How do you feel about that? No, really, how do you feel about that? Because you need to know that answer before you start questioning where the relationship is going.

But if you want to stay with him, you need to articulate that him and that his desire to explore music is ok with you and while you do wish he would rethink ya'll living together, you'll respect his wishes because you love him and want him to be happy, even if it means spending less time with you and you have to mean it. 'Cause right now, you've probably hurt him deeply, to the point where he doesn't want to share part of his life with you, he uses you a roadblock to his happiness and that's no way to continue a relationship.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if he's trying to break up with you, as a lot of the people above say. I think the three-year mark in a relationship is when the dynamics change as it becomes more long-term and less new and shiny, and sometimes people think that that means it requires less maintenance than before. Combined with the fact that he's "growing up" in a year or two when he graduates might be making him look at everything weird. I don't think he's ill-intentioned, just dealing with all this in a really bad way. If you two can sit down in a week or two when head are clearer and figure out some way for this to work that makes both of you comfortable then way to go. But if he stays completely inflexible on the subject, even when he knows how it's hurting you, I wouldn't try to hold on the relationship. It won't be worth it at that point.

Also, I'm with yeti on the I'll-neglect-you-if-we-live-together argument. Something about that seems wrong.
posted by lilac girl at 4:18 PM on March 17, 2008


Wow, thanks to all of you for your responses, most of which have been really helpful. I may have prematurely selected the "best answer" but I think that theres a lot of good advice here and I'm really thankful for it. It helps me step outside of the situation a little and has actually helped me see his point of view a little more, even though I'm still a little pessimistic about where things may be going.
posted by minicloud at 4:24 PM on March 17, 2008


I can't help but chime in with the chorus and say that the whole thing seems very hinky to me.

That said, even if he's not engaged in a covert "let you down easy" salvo, I still think it's not a great situation. I tend to agree with the sentiment that he doesn't sound ready to make the serious, grownup-style commitment that your relationship is moving toward. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's stopped caring about you or that he doesn't want to see you anymore, but clearly, it does mean that he isn't in a place where he can (or where he wants to) prioritize you, your needs, and the relationship. If he's convinced he can't be a good musician and a good boyfriend with you around, he's almost certainly not going to be able to be both of those things with you away.

I can't say whether he knows, unconsciously or consciously, that he wants to break up with you, but it's pretty blatantly clear that the two of you don't have the same goals for the relationship. It seems to me like your options right now are break up and have no boyfriend or stay together and have a crappy one who doesn't value you or what you have together enough to put it high on his list. I'd urge you not to let the fear of losing him or being alone make you sell yourself short and stay with someone who can't or won't give you what you need.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:25 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling the need to contribute a bit more on the side of this being a genuine need to work on a sincerely held personal passion. Here's why he'll be better able to work on his music in the loft situation:

1) His friends will be expecting a lot less from him in terms of attention and sensitivity. You would probably find it upsetting if you didn't get much more than a grunt out of him over a couple of days while he's really in the zone, with his friends that won't be an issue.

2) If he's just shut in a room at home, he's going to feel (maybe rightly) that you're going to expect that he's going to be working hard on music while he's there, and this turns the process of being creative into an immediate obligation. This is a real enthusiasm-killer.

3) If you're (understandably) worried that your boyfriend may be turning into a capricious, irresponsible flake, he's going to pick this up and it'll add even more pressure on him when he's around you.

On the last point, I think you need to really consider how his hoped-for change in career path has affected your perception of him as a long-term partner. You don't need to be a gold-digger to find it worrying that your SO appears to be heading towards a career that may not provide the security you were expecting. Can you deal with this? Have you ever had a serious talk about your attitudes to money and security? Getting those issues into the open might set your mind at rest - or it might make it clear that your attitudes have diverged to the point where you would be better off separating.

Last question - do you actually believe he has talent? If the answer is "I'm not sure yet", I think that's OK, but if the answer is "no, he's wasting his time", then it's time to call it a day, I think.
posted by tomcooke at 4:39 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


I can't think of a good reason someone would leave a three year relationship, living together for half that time, for a new hobby.
posted by OmieWise at 4:52 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry for all your pain.

He doesn't appreciate you enough for you to as much as consider staying with him.

Stop having sex with him as soon as possible. A few months down the line, if you find you can't achieve closure without payback of some kind, you can always sleep with his drummer.
posted by jamjam at 5:05 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many people who've answered so far are artists or musicians.

I'm a visual artist, partnered to a musician (15+ years), and here's how our 2008 has gone so far: The first week in January, I went away in order to work on a photo idea that required warmer conditions. Before I returned, he left for a week to go to a remote cabin in order to write. We were both back for about 4 days and then he left again to go to a recording studio for ten days. Before he returned, I left to housesit for a friend for a week. Then we had two weeks home together before I left for a monthlong artists' residency in another state. We'll be home alone together for two weeks in April, then his band will stay with us rehearsing for two weeks, then they all go to Europe for a month.

I have ample workspace at home, but it was vital for me to be at this residency. I need dialogue with other artists about the work I'm creating, so I can take it to new places and really examine what I'm communicating. I love that any night I can say, "I'm heading back to my studio to work," and no one argues with me. I need the networking in order to get more gallery shows and letters of recommendation for grants and programs. I need to NOT think about whether I left clothes unfolded in my bedroom.

In other words, I think 24/7 access to musical collaboration for a period of time is a reasonable request. Whether you moving out is the only way it can be accomplished is something only you two can decide -- have you been that dismissive of his desire to create? Have you led him to believe that he wouldn't be able to work on an idea for ten or thirty days straight without you pressuring him to stop? In your heart, do you believe that his working on a musical project is a waste of time? Could you be happy living in the loft and doing your own thing much of the time while he works?
posted by xo at 5:12 PM on March 17, 2008 [8 favorites]


I agree with tomcooke that this might not be the "abandon ship!" signal that a lot of other folks feel it is (though take that with the appropriate dosage of salt, as I must admit I do tend to be rather naive about these sorts of things ... nevertheless I do suspect people in general have far fewer "hidden agendas" than other folks often assume they do). No matter what, though, I think the important thing now is to figure out what exactly you plan on doing. Yes, this may be a signal that your relationship is in trouble, or it may just be exactly what your bf says it is. You are in a far better position than any of us to gauge this - but regardless of what your boyfriend's intents truly are, they're obviously concerning you right now. Towards that end, it seems to me that your best course of action would be to talk to him - tell him you're concerned that this may be a signal of worse things in your relationship, and since you value the relationship you're hoping the two of you can address these concerns and either put them to rest or really talk about where things stand.

Who knows, maybe he doesn't realize how you're reading this situation (the few true artists I've ever been fortunate enough to know have been incredibly passionate about their art, to the point that it really does "blind" them somewhat to the people in their lives), maybe sitting down and talking openly about it will help to alleviate your concerns. Or maybe it will get "the bad stuff" out into the open so you can stop wondering and at least know. One way or the other, if you haven't yet been upfront and honest (but not accusatory) with him about your concerns, you're never going to know for sure no matter how many other people say one way or the other.

Either way, good luck to you, I hope it does end up working out all right in the end =)
posted by zeph at 5:18 PM on March 17, 2008


I absolutely hate how people have interjected "sex" (by way of "instilling doubt and insecurity in our questioner about her boyfriend's motivations behind...", and now, full-circle into "calculated witholding of" and even "retributive, directed sexual-vengeance.")

She asked a straight-up, important, emotional question about a very specific concern, and she's having the issues and hangups of a thousand sexually-broken cackling, easily-titillated vultures shat onto her--compounding and confusing her very legitimate original concerns at the worst possible moment.

She didn't bring up one thing to do with sex. It was about her boyfriend moving out. Take your sexed-up "you go girl" bullshit to daytime television... or to parts of the internet not filled with people I have an irrationally benevolent and idealized attitude towards.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 5:20 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


not a musician but I like singing with the guys once in a while

EXACTLY!

My bro did this, makes lots of cool music, still gets on with his gf, and will soon be moving cross country w/her, where they will again live together

and his shit is good, really good!

things can work if you want them to...

what choice do you have?

so he moves out, plays tunes, it doesn't work out then at least he's gone, if it does, then forward you go, and eventually move in again
posted by Salvatorparadise at 5:21 PM on March 17, 2008


Imagine for a second that he wanted to go back to school instead of pursuing music or that his job asked him to take a job that required him to move somewhere else. I'm guessing most of the answers here would be quite different. It's sad that almost nobody has taken his interest in music seriously.

Just because he's making a conscious, independent choice to seek out a happier life, people seem to take it as him being a jerk. I'm not saying that he's not a jerk or that I have any idea about his intentions, but I think it's just depressing that so many people in here, particularly women, instantly think that as soon as a man wants to be creative, he must be just wanted to get drunk with his buddies and flirt with young girls. Can a man not have creative interests and take them seriously?

Do you take his music seriously? Do you actually support him in it? Do you give him enough time and space to work on it? I have roommates and I even feel weird about making music while they're around. It's a somewhat personal thing that unfortunately is very hard to keep personal from roommates. If he's somewhat insecure about his music, then it will be very hard for him to work on it while you're around.

Also, it can be quite hard to have a serious hobby and a live-in relationship when the other person doesn't appreciate the import of said hobby. Just the fact that people are saying things like, "I can't think of a good reason someone would leave a three year relationship, living together for half that time, for a new hobby," makes me sad. A hobby is not a bad thing, especially when it's a serious hobby that one is pursuing to make their lives happier and with the intention of doing it full-time. What, really, is the difference between aggressively pursuing a hobby and going to school?

I think that if you perceive his passion for music to be genuine, then you should at least give it a chance and not assume the worst. You should, in fact, support him. I can't see why it would be a bad thing to see a person you love do something to make themselves happier and ultimately, hopefully create something of beauty.
posted by atomly at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2008 [5 favorites]


Imagine for a second that he wanted to go back to school instead of pursuing music or that his job asked him to take a job that required him to move somewhere else. I'm guessing most of the answers here would be quite different. It's sad that almost nobody has taken his interest in music seriously.

I agree, it's much easier to give him the benefit of the doubt when you completely rewrite the question and turn his into a reasonable request.
posted by OmieWise at 5:27 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


I agree, it's much easier to give him the benefit of the doubt when you completely rewrite the question and turn his into a reasonable request.

I agree, it's much easier to dismiss my response with an if-by-whiskey fallacy than an actual retort.
posted by atomly at 5:31 PM on March 17, 2008


This doesn't sound to me like a "hobby," and his need for a separate space doesn't necessarily mean he wants to indulge in some last-ditch immaturity or dump you.

I'm an amateur musician and have a business in a creative field, and both are very important to me. I can't just shut off the creative drive. If I get an idea, I really really want to chase it down while it's still alive. I don't want to have to tell it, "Wait until 7:30 PM, because that's when I'm allowed to go in my room and be creative, and you have to become a fully formed idea by 9 PM, because then I'm supposed to watch a movie with my partner."

The kind of relationship that works for me is with someone who has a full, separate life and their own place to live. I wonder if that's what your boyfriend is hoping will evolve with you, at least during this intense phase of his life.
posted by PatoPata at 5:35 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I may have misread something but it seems to me from your original post that your boyfriend was originally going to be living with you and your mutual friends and now he wants to exclude you from the set up but keep everything else the same. To me this is more of a concern than if he had just decided that he wanted to temporarily live with his friends. He can't really use the excuse that he needs to be around them constantly if that was the original plan anyway. For whatever reason he doesn't want you around and I can't see that being a good thing for the relationship.

If you want the relationship to continue I would talk to him about where he sees it going. Does he plan to move in with you again after he has finished his PHD? What if he decides he wants to continue with his music after he graduates? Would he be OK with setting a specific amount of time that you were going to live apart (e.g. 3 months) and then making plans to move in together after that date? If you suggest that to him it might give you an idea of how he feels about the long term potential of your relationship.

I'm probably biased because I've been in a similar situation and it ended disasterously but it really sounds like you deserve better.
posted by Laura_J at 5:49 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was following along in this thread, and thinking what a sensitive and empathetic dude jjjjjjjijjjjjjj must be in a real relationship and then I get to THIS:

she's having the issues and hangups of a thousand sexually-broken cackling, easily-titillated vultures

And it floored me. Not being a cackling, sexually-broken, easily-titillated vulture, I know you can't be referring to me, and I love that you are ascribing the best of possible intentions to this guy you have never met. However, unless you are the guy in question, dismissing all of the rest of us in such a cavalier way (when clearly both the men and women here are offering sincere relationship advice AS REQUESTED FROM THE ASKER, based on their own experiences or those of people they know) is just petty and mean, and it certainly does nothing to further any valuable discourse on the subject at hand.
posted by misha at 6:06 PM on March 17, 2008


He says he wants to work on it so much that he would seem neglectful if we lived together.

Well, I was in a somewhat similar situation as him (I developed/resurrected a music focused hobby halfway through grad school that has occupied both a fair amount of time and money), and I have to say some things seem quite weird about what he is saying to you. I didn't even remotely consider the idea that it would make me more neglectful to my girlfriend to continue living with her, nor has it, she says. (I do have to admit that I consider my music a hobby, though perhaps also a "passion" at the same time, and actually I kinda think it may eventually cause problems for his PhD/career if he doesn't do the same.) Unless there is some further dynamic not being reported, this just doesn't seem like a reasonable explanation to me. I don't necessarily think he is trying to break up with you, but he is certainly trying to put a brake on the relationship, and using the music as a focus for this. I suspect that he may not have really thought it out very far, though.
posted by advil at 6:19 PM on March 17, 2008


Imagine for a second that he wanted to go back to school instead of pursuing music or that his job asked him to take a job that required him to move somewhere else. I'm guessing most of the answers here would be quite different. It's sad that almost nobody has taken his interest in music seriously.

Let me be more clear for the folks who don't understand a retort when they read it: the hypothetical situation above bears no resemblance to the situation outlined by minicloud. minicloud's boyfriend is not leaving to pursue a "happier life," unless by happier life one means a life devoid of the commitments he has already taken on. He may well have no interest in drinking beer or flirting with other women, but that does not make this a good or respectful proposal, and is an astonishingly crappy metric by which to judge his choice in either respect.

The responses begging consideration for the importance of creativity and the artistic temperament are red herrings. Not only do they shittly try to cast the blame and responsibility on minicloud ("Do you take his music seriously? Do you actually support him in it? Do you give him enough time and space to work on it?"), suggesting that a request to radically alter a shared life is something that should be commended and supported regardless of it's destruction, they fail the test of considering the commitment of a live-in relationship of three years standing. (They also, not surprisingly, rely on overlooking minicloud's description of herself as a "visual artist," which presumably gives her a more sympathetic stance than is being imparted to her.) Creativity and artistic expression, as valuable as they are, are not magical or holy.

The truth of the matter is that minicloud's boyfriend has decided that his desire to make music is more important to him than is the history or future of their relationship. That he is not saying so in so many words makes him either a coward, or too immature to recognize that serious relationships need both compromise and serious consideration. He is displaying a willingness for neither, and is, instead, asking for a major realignment of his girlfriend's life to pursue a hobby. Perhaps that hobby will develop into something more, but unless he's quitting his PhD program now, too, he's treating it as a hobby himself. (The hobby could be anything, but I wonder if folks would think it was as worthy if it were running a marathon, or playing WOW.) Anyone who thinks that a hobby is as important as either graduate school, or a serious relationship, is not worth taking seriously. (And I say that as someone who spends hours of toil and sweat in pursuit of mine.)

I have no idea if mr.[sic]minicloud thinks that he is asking for the dissolution of their relationship, but that he may not know what he is asking does not mean he is not asking for it. He is either desirous of ending this relationship, or really really clueless and immature. I know, I know, music is cool and sexy and creative, and sometimes you've got to follow your bliss. But, the point is precisely that when your bliss does not include your girlfriend, well then it isn't her bliss, is it? And it sure as shit isn't her fault when she points that out.

I'm sorry, minicloud. I think you're being dealt a very bad hand. I think you have every right to be hurt by this, extending all the way to blindingly furious. I think those that would cast this as your problem for (potentially) not supporting him enough are bastards. I think that your boyfriend made a commitment to you when you moved in together one and a half years ago, that he is now seeking to back out of. If you want to work things out, I really hope that you can find a way to do that, and that it does not require that all the support and compromise come from you.
posted by OmieWise at 6:23 PM on March 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


misha: ...a sensitive and empathetic dude jjjjjjjijjjjjjj must be in a real relationship... ascribing the best of possible intentions to this guy you have never met.... However, unless you are the guy in question, dismissing all of the rest of us in such a cavalier way

It was not my intention to be as broadly dismissive as it appears that I might've been. I should've made it more clear that I was objecting (and only objecting) to the responses that tried to introduce a sexual component to a non-sexual question. I can see how I wasn't as clear as I should've been, and I apologize.

Also wasn't my intention to "assume the best intentions" of the bf--was trying to act in the capacity of providing a voice to not drag this guy's sexual motivations into an argument when doing so would seem unwarranted. But again, I can easily see how I could've been clearer on that point, as well.

Regarding being sensitive and empathetic in a relationship--To my personal shame, I'm afraid you'd find a distressing number of women who would (for the most part) disagree... and I'd feel like an utter fraud if I was led to believe that I had ever postured as such or... preached from that pulpit. If I'm to be cast as the lone voice of male empathy and sensitivity in this thread, I'm afraid that we all might be better-off reverting to single-sex hunter-gatherer tribes and riding-out the decline of our species isolated by gender.

But seriously--i'd feel like an ass if my comment was interpreted to be a broad dismissal of advice given in this thread--most of which I have agreed with. Sorries.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 6:23 PM on March 17, 2008


Thanks for the clarification, and I am glad to see that you are a sensitive and empathetic dude after all.
posted by misha at 6:27 PM on March 17, 2008


Atomly makes a good point. I don't think that, based on the question, we can jump to the conclusion that the guy is an asshole. I think this question is triggering a lot of semi-automatic prejudices about the types of people we know who are musicians, for whom the musician's lifestyle seems to be just an excuse to party, hang out, and be cool.

Therefore, a request for clarification: Is he actually a talented, dedicated musician who will actually pursue his art as a dedicated professional? Or is he more at the hip dilettante end of the spectrum?

There is an essay by Robertson Davies in this book in which he disparages the commonly held myth that clearing out a bunch of time for your art will actually increase one's production. Davies is of the opinion that one will only grow as an artist when one does so in the midst of the struggle of work and family routines.
posted by jayder at 6:29 PM on March 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


Man, I am sort of going through exactly this right now. I read xo's comment very, very carefully and will probably read it several times over in the next few days. But I think what that person is willfully ignoring, and others asking you "are you really dismissive?" are too, is the way your boyfriend asked for creative space in a really shitty hurtful way. Setting up your partner as the sole (or main, or any) obstacle to your creativity is unfair and cowardly. He's making excuses for his own feelings (of inadequacy, aging, whatever) and throwing you under the train.

I'm writing this on my laptop and over the top it my boyfriend is babbling about the modern living room and all the feng shui changes he's going to make, and how great is it that he moved the stereo out of the bedroom and wait till I see what he's going to do with the kitchen--all this when a few weeks ago he was staying at his parents and looking on craigslist for available apartments. I mean a whole bunch of things have happened since them, and I'm not even entirely sure how we've mended things or if they're going to stay mended for good. But one of the first things that happened was that I told him he HAD to stop blaming me for his life choices. I made it really clear that I was not to be used as an excuse for not doing things he wants to do. Once we got that out of the way we could deal with all the other things that were hurt & broken.
posted by kelseyq at 6:42 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


We're pulling for you Minicloud.

I know from having been in your emotional mindset in the past that it is no fucking fun. This kind of emotional... turmoil and upheaval is something that touches most everyone at some point--and is something that most everybody has a story about or an opinion regarding. The fact that there are so many viewpoints and so many different recommendations in this thread on how best to react is a testament to how many people have dealt with things like this in the past. Maybe it'd be difficult right this moment, but there might be a time or a mood that'd strike you where you could draw a great deal of strength from how ubiquitous and ingrained-in-the-human experience these feelings you're having really are.

I know that the times I've been dealing with issues such as yours, that I would've taken a page-full of advice such as this and obsessed over every answer and used each to forecast ways that the scenario would play out (because that's truly the only thing that'd ease your mind at this point... access to some script detailing exactly how all of this is going to play out. I know how much it sucks to know that you can't get ahold of that script!).

I know you'll "try on" each answer--reveling in the optimistic ones--fearful of the ones with less-than-happy endings (and that there might be what seems like a perverse mood where you'll find yourself reveling in the "bad" endings, and fearful of the "good"). The process of trying these various advices on is a very important one, and only you have the intimacy with your situation to figure out which one feels right.

I'll only caution you against settling-in too comfortably with any potential advice that provides a quick shot of relief at the price of developing an unwarranted callousness or cynicism. No rose-colored glasses, but no "men are pigs"/"all people do X" hard-and-fast rules to cripple your romantic future, either... Your future with this guy or with any other.

(That being said... if this guy's confused, you can work with him. If this guy's a prick, you need to disengage. [and nobody in this thread can tell you whether he's confused, a prick, a confused prick, or neither...])
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


i first want to offer you a hug, or a shot of tequila, or a punching bag so you can just get out whatever you need to get out. I'm sorry about this. It sucks. I have been here in many ways before.

I'm a writer. I've got various projects going on, and I just finished my second novel. I already went through the incredibly hard road of writing the first novel, getting an agent, and then having that agent not be able to sell the first novel, despite the fact that everyone at the agency predicted an immediate sale and the beginning to an auspicious career.

I mention this not because I am trying to show off, but because I want to paint a situation for you.

I wrote the first novel in a cafe and at home, when I lived with myself and my cat. The boyfriend moved into an apartment I had rented with the precise goal of being able to write at home and have us be able to cohabit. For a NYC apt, it's pretty big. We have two bedrooms, one of which is my office.

I can't write at home to save my life. Maybe it's lack of discipline, I don't know. My boyfriend could be quiet as a church mouse on my writing days when he was home - and understand that he would pick up things with oven mitts to avoid making noise - and I still couldn't write. He wore socks. He wired the tv so he could watch with headphones. He took phone calls outside. I could not begin to tell you how supportive he was. I still couldn't write with him in the house.

I got a membership at a writer's space and I go write there now. I didn't break up with him, or even think about breaking up with him. Or asking him to move out. Or telling him I needed more space.

If your boyfriend truly needs more space to create music - which I accept - then no matter where you live, there is some guy (or gal) who has a warehouse or a basement or a garage and he could rent it out to go work. Even in the heart of New York City people rent out and share basements underneath bodegas. Trust me that this exists and they can be found by walking into the nearest Guitar Center and asking.

If you are truly supportive of him then all you can do is not only say it but show it. Reassure him that you understand that this is his priority - but words aren't even it, action is the killer. I can't tell you how many guys I dated before the current one who would be all "oh, i totally support your dream' but when it meant getting up at 9am on Sunday to go put in the time in front of the page, all I got was "you can't force creativity" or some such bullshit. I'm not saying you do any of this, minicloud, if you lived in my town I would take you to the nearest bar and pour alcohol in and let you have a good rant.

I hope you know that this isn't about you. I have a feeling that even if you were incredibly, unconditionally supportive, he is just waking up and realizing that he doesn't know what he wants. Leaving grad school is scary. realizing that you're committed to a relationship is scary. This probably seems to him to be the right way to do things. Maybe he never got enough time to fuck around when he was younger and he's panicking at the thought that graduating will mean the end of his life as he knows it.

hang in there. and come back and tell us how it works out.
posted by micawber at 7:17 PM on March 17, 2008 [6 favorites]


To the people who are judging the boyfriend because he's interested in music: The basic issue is that he has changed. He has developed an intense interest that his girlfriend doesn't share; for the last year, he has lived with his girlfriend while pursuing that interest; and after trying that, he now he feels he needs time apart "for awhile" to pursue that interest and "really discover himself." The "discover himself" bit isn't encouraging for the long-term survival of the relationship, but it doesn't mean that he's just a dilettante out to screw drunk roadies. The fact that it's music is irrelevant. People change.
posted by PatoPata at 7:48 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I got a membership at a writer's space and I go write there now. I didn't break up with him, or even think about breaking up with him. Or asking him to move out. Or telling him I needed more space.

I question the idea that getting serious about music needs to equal moving out, too. I write songs and play gigs. I'm not planning to make a career out of and am not particularly professional, but I'm dead serious about it. And I have not had a problem negotiating the space for it - whether it means carving out a weekend day and an evening per week, setting aside a whole week to concentrate on a project, or asking the SO to spend the day elsewhere so I can use the equipment at home without any interruption. Most professional musicians I know live with an SO and when they practice together, they do so in a practice space or meet at one house while everyone else is out. Occasionally people might take a 'retreat' week or so together and hole up at a beach house to work...and then return home to their lives.

So I don't think there's any reason that seriousness about music requires a separate residence. So I think that this situation with your boyfriend, minicloud, is about more than music. It seems to be about wanting a different kind of life, one with less personal accountability and investment of attention. There may be a lot of room to work this out between you, but it sounds to me like you need to get at the root issue - does he still want to be in this relationship? Is he regretting being so settled and wanting to sow more wild oats, live with the boys, not worry about prioritizing you and your relationship? I think that only by setting the 'music' argument aside will you stand a chance at getting a read on the status of your relationship. Best of luck to you.
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Would you rather have a messy break-up with someone you were currently living with, or someone you were no longer living with?

Yes, exactly.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:32 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


If his interest in music is sincere and at the core of his life, how is his stepping away from the relationship really any different than the various work-imposed separations that people deal with all the time? One partner will often work overseas for a year or more, while the other partner maintains the home back in the home country, and nobody really questions that. Emigrants from Mexico to the US often leave a family behind in Mexico while they try to expand their opportunities here in the U.S. Assuming this is really important to him, I don't see his desire to have a separation to be different, in principle, from other forms of career separation.

On the other hand, if this is just wanting to live with the guys, smoking weed and chuckling over the latest issue of McSweeney's, trying to fit in an occasional jam-session before the latest South Park comes on, then screw him.
posted by jayder at 8:41 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd ask him, calmly, that since this just happened in a way that seems out of the blue, if he has met someone else that has made him start to reevaluate the relationship. Tell him that although you have no reason to believe this, that it is probably best that you know everything so you can make a decision.

Otherwise, this isn't a death sentence, but it will be important to you to start to look out for yourself a lot more than you would in a long-term relationship normally.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:14 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, when you are asking him about whether or not there might be someone else, say something along the lines of "I'm certain you understand why I have to ask these questions."
posted by Ironmouth at 9:18 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


He doesn't want to break up, he just wants to take a step back from the relationship and just see eachother a few times a week or whenever he's not doing his music stuff.

He might not want to break up with you, but he certainly wants to know what it's like to not have you around (except for the few times a week he will 'see' you... which is code for something else, but I'm sure you know that). So now you're going to have to play the waiting game to see if you're good enough for him to return to. If he finds someone better in his eyes, or simply enjoys his freedom, you'll lose him. And in the latter case he'll probably string you along as long as he can until you start demanding an end to the arrangement. I know, sounds cold. But it will be colder in the end if you agree to this.

I'd call him on it. I'd tell him you believe in his music. That you'll give him all the space he needs for his music. I'd tell him that if you two are in it for the long run you can't simply separate when some project/dream/idea comes around, that you should be able to deal with this and come up with a solution like two adults. Not just bail.

Of course, judging by your best answer choice, which in my mind is the most naive answer given, you're willing to wait until he deems you worthy or not.

I hope I'm wrong and it works out for you.
posted by justgary at 10:14 PM on March 17, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe when guys ask for space, they just want space.

Maybe relationships end because it is easier than fighting for space all the time.

Maybe there are some things that, to do right, require total emersion.

Maybe it is hard to not sensor your self around the ones you love.
posted by IronSurfer at 10:26 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Minicloud, I feel for you.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had much the same thing happen to me. He needed his "space" in order to have his "creative pursuits." He then proceeded to avoid me, not return my calls, basically act like he was single - yup, I was dumped. And in a very passive-aggressive, roundabout, chickenshit way to boot. Being in that limbo was the hardest thing!

So, while it may be that he's a genuine artist who really and truly needs "his space" - be prepared for the more likely possibility that he's choosing a chickenshit way to break up with you. The bottom line is, don't let yourself be jerked around or treated badly. You are entitled to decent treatment from your SO - even if that means he comes clean about wanting to break up.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:27 PM on March 17, 2008


Wait, he "never had a chance" to make music earlier in his life? Why?

I was a full time professional musician --including roadwork -- all through my PhD program years. I also lived with my girlfriend (actually, one, and then another I later married), and wrote a dissertation. I never needed "space." I was happy to be living with someone I loved when I came in off the road. Music is not some mystical thing, any more than writing a dissertation, that requires solitude to be done well. That's Romantic BS. Musicians need love, just like everyone else.

I'm with the folks saying he's playing for the soft letdown. And I also suspect he's finding reasons to procrastinate on the PhD. Or he's a narcissistic asshole. Or both.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:45 PM on March 17, 2008 [4 favorites]


minicloud - he wants out. Spare yourself the heartache of trying to hold him to a living situation (and perhaps relationship) that he doesn't want. He can justify that in any way he wants...must follow my music, need time to write my dissertation, etc.

Also, space is mutual. You should not stagnate and wait for him to return to you. Use that time to do what you want to do. You may find that being a distant second choice to his music isn't adequate for you.
posted by 26.2 at 12:58 AM on March 18, 2008


You know, there's something very nice and liberating about a relationship that while not taken for granted, is the assumed bedrock that allows both parties to pursue their own individual interests and needs.

Maybe marriage or a stated life-long commitment is different, but if my husband said "I want to move to Tibet / join the Peace Corps / make music in a garage in Seattle for a year" my response would be "sure, honey. Sit down and we'll sort out how to make that work."

I mean, on the one hand, he gets one life. Who am I to limit what he can experience in that time? And on the other hand, we have fifty or sixty years together. What's one out of sixty?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 AM on March 18, 2008 [9 favorites]


xo said: "I wonder how many people who've answered so far are artists or musicians..."

xo, while I appreciate that you can contribute the relatively unique perspective of two-full-time-artists-making-it-work, your comment scanned to me as "If you support art and since he is An Artist, this is how it should be, because Real Artist Relationships work like this, and anyone who doesn't get that, doesn't Get Art and The Creative Process." I hope there's room in your perspective to acknowledge that, just because you and your partner are Real Artists, doesn't mean that what works for you is what should or will work for anyone else.

jjjjjjjijjjjjjj said: "She didn't bring up one thing to do with sex. It was about her boyfriend moving out. Take your sexed-up "you go girl" bullshit to daytime television... or to parts of the internet not filled with people I have an irrationally benevolent and idealized attitude towards."

Dude. I didn't agree with the Wilder comment either, but flag it, and move on, or take it to MeTa and move on. But you've weighed in several times now, and not so much with unique additional material, and at this point it's starting to feel to me like you've forgotten who this thread is actually for.

jayder i said: "I think this question is triggering a lot of semi-automatic prejudices about the types of people we know who are musicians, for whom the musician's lifestyle seems to be just an excuse to party, hang out, and be cool. Therefore, a request for clarification: Is he actually a talented, dedicated musician who will actually pursue his art as a dedicated professional? Or is he more at the hip dilettante end of the spectrum?"

Respectfully, I think that the "request for clarification" is actually just going to create additional prejudice (albeit unintentional and well-meaning). Does it really matter whether the OP perceives the BF to be "talented, dedicated" or "hip dilettante"? Isn't it likely that the BF perceives himself to be the former, regardless? Is there a measurable level of talent at which what the BF is doing will hurt less or not suck so much?

I hear what you're saying, that we might try to solve for mitigating circumstances. But I think that when it comes to what by most reasonable definitions would be considered a hobby (he just got into music as an avocation one year ago... he's not quitting his schoolwork to pursue it... his preferred path to grow musically seems to consist of "jamming at loft with buddies" rather than some sort of extracurricular music instruction or tutelage -- I just can't help but think of the high school Ross Geller who reports seriously that he's going to spend the summer "working on his music", which we see to be practicing "Axel F" on his Casio keyboard)... it's probably futile for the AskMe gang to try to determine a set of parameters by which minicloud's partner's music is more or less legitimate.
posted by pineapple at 4:25 AM on March 18, 2008


This happened to me. After living together for a year, he announced that he needed more time to be alone and work on his "art". Apparently "art" was a 19 year-old undergraduate student, as I soon discovered.
posted by Evangeline at 8:22 AM on March 18, 2008


Everything in your question points to trouble. However, if you have had a trustworthy relationship, it might be worth taking him at his word and see how it goes. Consider: If he actually IS telling you the truth about all this, the only way you'll keep him long term is to loosen your grasp while he goes through this phase. And if it's just a 'let you down gently' thing, well, that will become apparent soon enough.

If you want to avoid the strong likelihood of excess pain, end it now. If you want a shot at making it work long term, then take him at his word ... but go into it with both eyes open.
posted by Happydaz at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2008


It seems like you might want to have a serious conversation in which you lay all this out: "I support your music etc/it's occurred to me that you may just be looking for a way out of the relationship etc" and see what comes of that. If you decide to stay together in a good faith effort to maintain the relationship but elect to live separately, perhaps it would help to set a date down the road at which you re-evaluate how it's going. For instance, agree that if he moves out in April, you will sit down again in Juneto talk about how the relationship and the music project have been affected and where you would each like things to go. That way you both have a planned decision point ahead, rather than tiptoeing through an uncertain time in which any argument can become a minefield. You might use the time to think about whether this arrangement meets your needs for a mutually fulfilling, attentive relationship in which you both contribute to your shared life and you both work toward your individual goals.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on March 18, 2008


What your boyfriend said sounds like something I could have said and meant. It doesn't sound to me like your relationship is automatically doomed.

Your boyfriend needs to feel like you respect his musical pursuits and his need for time for them. It may or may not be fair that he doesn't feel that way now, but he needs to get there to feel secure in your relationship.

As was said above, of course it's going to hurt to so conspicuously be not the most important thing in his life.

Whether it's worth it to go through that pain for the chance he'll come around and you'll reconcile, well, we can't help with that one.

My sympathies for a tough situation.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:13 AM on March 18, 2008


The responses begging consideration for the importance of creativity and the artistic temperament are red herrings. Not only do they shittly try to cast the blame and responsibility on minicloud ("Do you take his music seriously? Do you actually support him in it? Do you give him enough time and space to work on it?"), suggesting that a request to radically alter a shared life is something that should be commended and supported regardless of it's destruction, they fail the test of considering the commitment of a live-in relationship of three years standing. (They also, not surprisingly, rely on overlooking minicloud's description of herself as a "visual artist," which presumably gives her a more sympathetic stance than is being imparted to her.) Creativity and artistic expression, as valuable as they are, are not magical or holy.

Well, technically it'd be more of a straw man than a red herring, but that wasn't my point. My point is that just because she said he wanted to pursue music, everybody instantly assumed that he was immature, cheating on her and probably doing a lot of drugs with his friends. If she had said he was going back to business school, a lot of the responders would not have so quickly vilified him.

I'm not trying to cast the blame on her, but rather trying to find out where she stands on the whole thing. Those weren't accusative questions, but really things I wanted her to consider. If she thinks his music is worthwhile and something that he should pursue, then that changes the whole decision process. If, on the other hand, she thinks he's just screwing around on a guitar with a few friends and not at all interested in what he's doing, then screw it. There's a really good chance that this is the case, but it's not 100% guaranteed like so many people here seemed to think.

I admitted in my question that I had no idea of his intentions and I don't think any of us could ever even begin to guess, but I couldn't stand to see so many people attack him just because he wanted to pursue a music career.
posted by atomly at 10:09 AM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I couldn't stand to see so many people attack him just because he wanted to pursue a music career.

Well, I don't see too much attacking "because he wanted to pursue a music career." I do see some challenging of the idea that the only way to pursue a music career is to move out. As I mentioned, the world is full of serious, successful musicians who share their homes with a partner.

In a way I don't think it even matters how good he is at the music or what his prospects are. If music is important, it becomes a priority. I think the decision needs to be made in the same way whether he is a good musician or a crappy one, because the decision is not really about the music.
posted by Miko at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2008


If she had said he was going back to business school, a lot of the responders would not have so quickly vilified him[...]I couldn't stand to see so many people attack him just because he wanted to pursue a music career.

Well, quite aside from the fact that hardly anyone (is there, in fact, anyone?) in the thread criticized anything about his desire to pursue music per se, this guy never said that he wanted to pursue a career as a musician. (In fact, he's getting a PhD in a "totally unrelated" field, and still working hard to get "good grades.") What we know is that he has a newfound "passion" for music, and that he wants to radically change his relationship to pursue it, for no logically explained reason. You've read the rest into it. It continues to misrepresent the situation to compare it to returning to school, a pursuit that is both fundamentally about career, and also often carries with it unavoidable logistical necessities.

By repeatedly failing to account for the extent to which this radical disruption is purely a matter of choice for minicloud's boyfriend, and by seeking to legitimize his illogical statements about why he wants to move out, you cloud the issue and make it seem as if he is acting more reasonable than he is. This, in turn, is a de facto criticism of minicloud, who posted a question trying to figure out if her emotional pain was justified. It is justified, his actions are not.

I happen to agree with what I take to be the root of your position, that people should help their partners to live the most fulfilling lives possible. And, I further think that people act irrationally in pursuit of passionate hobbies. (As I was thinking about this last night, I was remembering a time or two that I've literally pissed blood in pursuit of mine.) I just don't think that defending those things are at the heart of this question, which is, to me, about something else I hold dear: demonstrating through actions our respect for the people we claim to love.
posted by OmieWise at 10:56 AM on March 18, 2008


OmieWise, living up to the name.

No one can tell you for sure what's going on this dude's head. But as a serious musician, I think the boyfriend's story smells like BS.

And I will say this too: if you are just getting serious about making music at the age when you are likely to be in a PhD program, your chances of doing anything more serious than a hobbyist-level pursuit with it are slim to none, making the pretense to total seriousness requiring leaving your long-term live-in loving relationship behind rather obviously either delusional or stupid. That's why I called him a narcissist. There's nothing wrong with starting to play or make music at any age, of course. But the pretense to a sudden all-consuming passion (especially when, as a PhD student, it *must* remain a secondary passion if he's serious about his grad school trip) just sounds totally wrong to me. As does the "never had a chance to make music" line. What does that even mean?

Everyone has a chance to make music. Humans have been doing it for, oh, something like 100-200 thousand years even as they have managed to procreate, raise or hunt food, marry, build houses, and write PhD dissertations. He ain't Beethoven, and he ain't Hildegard von Bingen. He's just another schmuck with a ProTools rig, I suspect.

What he's obviously really saying is that he's more into whatever "music" means here (I like the suggestion that it means another love interest, sounds right) than he is into someone who obviously loves and cares for and supports him, and deserves no less in return.

At least he's got the right personality to be a certain kind of musician (I've played with a few hundred guys for whom "music" was an excuse to get laid on the road before heading home to the wife and kids). But I doubt he has the chops to live his dreams, so like I say, he's kidding you, or himself, or both.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:49 AM on March 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


...hardly anyone (is there, in fact, anyone?) in the thread criticized anything about his desire to pursue music per se...

Though they did mostly jump to the conclusion that he was doing this for disingenuous reasons and not for a real passion. My whole point with the business school analogy was that people instantly assume that if he's pursuing music, it can't be a valid venture.

By repeatedly failing to account for the extent to which this radical disruption is purely a matter of choice for minicloud's boyfriend, and by seeking to legitimize his illogical statements about why he wants to move out, you cloud the issue and make it seem as if he is acting more reasonable than he is. This, in turn, is a de facto criticism of minicloud, who posted a question trying to figure out if her emotional pain was justified. It is justified, his actions are not.

I'm not criticizing minicloud at all. I appreciate the situation that she's in and in fact have been in a very similar situation myself (on her side of it). In fact, the more we talk, the more I think that we basically agree on the whole thing, I'm just hesitant to instantly label him as a cheater, drug addict, bum, etc. which seems to be the consensus around here (not speaking to you, but the general mood of the comments above).

Perhaps my biggest sticking point and what I was originally trying to get at is the "matter of choice" aspect of it. Most things in life are, in fact, a matter of choice, but some get labeled as such while others are obscured as an obligation. Going back to school, getting moved for work and many other things that aren't lumped in the same "matter of choice" category as pursuing music are, in fact.

Regardless, the guy's probably a jerk. My whole point was that people shouldn't be so quick to assume it just because of what he said he wanted to do.
posted by atomly at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2008


I cant believe how many responses there are to this question! Ok I feel like I should clarify a few things just for the sake of making things clearer to anyone else who might ever use this post as help for their own relationship issues:

First off, this may sound to you all like a naive thing to say, but no, he is not cheating on me (at least not yet). We have actually talked very extensively about alllll of this; pretty much everything anyone questioned here has been talked about openly, and one of those things was "this isnt about someone else is it?" No matter how shitty the situation is right now, we have built up a lot of trust.

That being said, yes, there is still a failure of communication in many ways, but i think thats mostly because he isn't quite sure what he is feeling yet. This is sudden, but he has gut feelings and it might take a while for those to become apparent to him. I am starting to feel (from talking to him, not from the posts here) that breaking up might be the best thing for both of us, and thats not because i dont respect his need to develop as a person, its because I DO. He's never really been without a serious relationship ever since high school and I dont know..maybe that is part of this. I myself have had what I think is a good balance of relationships and not-bring-in-a-relationship so I can't imagine the alternative. Will he be able to stay single and follow through with this? That I dont know.

This is all really really sad for me but I cant force someone to stay with me nor would I want to. If we really are going to eventually make a life together (and I still think that could be possible) I want to make a life with someone who feels whole and has no regrets. Resentment is a relationship killer, and if he stays that will just fester under the surface to do further damage later.

So the most recent development is that he's going to move out almost immediately and I'm going to stay in our apartment. I really dont know whether we will stay together or not when that happens, but I'm kind of ready for both. Actually I kind of want to tell him that we should make a clean break, even if its temporary. The best case scenario is that he gets his time to be creative on his terms and then we will be able to re-evaluate the situation when he has his sense of self together more. The worst case scenario is that this split just widens to the point that the relationship isnt salvagable, but if that happens then thats whats supposed to be.

I am angry at him, but also I feel sorry that he hasnt had the chance to figure himself out yet. How can you really be angry about that? I feel lucky that I myself do feel pretty confident about who I am because thats a hard thing to do and it took a lot of work. And because my art is done at a drawing table I have almost no restrictions to getting my work done. So I dont know. He's not an asshole, though he may not be the most attuned to the needs of a relationship right now.

I really hope he doesnt find this post though. He'll be kind of mortified I took this anonymousley public. I just needed some outside perspective and this really helped a lot so thanks again!
posted by minicloud at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh and also he's definitely not a drug addict or a bum!
posted by minicloud at 1:37 PM on March 18, 2008


Ach, sorry to hear it. Best of luck, and take care of yourself.
posted by OmieWise at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2008


Keep your head up. Stay strong... keep yourself busy, and spend as much time as you possibly can with close and encouraging friends.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 3:59 PM on March 18, 2008


You sound so, so grounded and mature. This definitely must be a sad time, but I have no doubt that the outcome will be the best for you and him, whatever it is, because you really are acting lovingly and courageously. Best of luck.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on March 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


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