Why isn't my husband interested in what I do?
January 26, 2013 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm a writer married to a jazz musician. I always hoped I'd end up in this sort of arty, creative marriage. But there's a problem that is becoming overwhelming. In spite of fully expecting me to experience and support his art, my husband never, ever, reads anything I write. Not a two-page story or a blog post much less anything longer. He says he feels awful about never getting around to it (and I've made it clear it's fine if he hates it—I just want him to be willing to check it out) and he seems to be sincere... But he still doesn't read it. It really hurts me.

My husband makes his living writing music for TV shows, but his passion is his jazz band. I spend a lot of my time at shows and festivals; the vast majority of my social life is connected to that scene. It wasn't music I particularly liked when I met him, but I have come to appreciate and enjoy it a great deal.

I am a writer. Not a successful one, but I feel confident adding "yet." I have had a fair number of stories published, and my novel and screenplays have gotten a good bit of favorable attention. My husband (an avid reader) has never read anything I've written. I've asked him to, both generally ("hey, some of my stuff is up at this website") and specifically ("please read this thing I am handing/emailing to you. Your feedback mean would mean a lot to me").

He just doesn't read it. If I tell him this bums me out, he becomes very apologetic and says he is going to read it, honest. He seems genuinely sad to have hurt me. And then he still doesn't read it. When I ask him why, he says he doesn't know, he just forgot, looks miserable. I assure him that its fine if he absolutely hates it, I just want him to read it (really, I want him to WANT to read it). He promises up one side and down the other that he will, and I eventually let it go, and then he still doesn't.

For a while I was performing, reading personal essays at the sort of show where people do that, and getting a lot of praise for it. It was so outside my comfort zone, but I loved it. I did more than a dozen of them. He never came to one of the shows. Most of the time it was because he had a gig or rehearsal--perfectly legitimate reasons--but not always. Finally, after yet another night of people asking where he was, I told him that it was very, very important to me that he come to the next one that happened on a night he was free, and he said he completely understood and promised he would. A week later, I had a show on a night he usually has rehearsals. When I got home, he asked me how the show went. I told him and asked how the rehearsal were. He responded casually that he hadn't had rehearsal, and had hung out with some friends instead.

We had a pretty big fight, and I told him that when people ask me why he'd never been to one of my shows, I always just say they only fell on nights he was working, because I felt like the true answer must be "he doesn't love me enough." I told him that I needed, for our marriage, for him to come to the next show I did. He absolutely, 100% promised that he would... And I haven't done one since. I know that's ridiculous and awful, but every time I consider it I get scared. Because if he still doesn't come (and based on the evidence there's a very good chance he won't, because he has made similar 100% promises about reading things and then blown it off) what will I do?

I mostly don't ask him to read my stuff anymore, even though it hurts me that, for instance, he's never read my blog when I know he reads our friend's blogs. But recently I wrote a screenplay that includes a character who is a jazz musician, with some technical stuff about the craft that he knows all about. So I asked him to read it and he enthusiastically said he would. I asked him about it a couple times. When I was still getting the same answer weeks later, I told him not to worry about it. I told him again (I promise I don't nag him constantly about this; I'd say we've had the conversation four or five times in seven years) that it made me feel bad that he'd never read anything I'd written (and bit my tongue to keep from pointing out that roughly 80% of my life is spent listening to jazz and that he fully expects me to go to his shows) but that I knew he was busy. He clearly felt awful, made a big deal about putting "read wife's screenplay" on his calendar. That was many weeks ago--I didn't bring it up again--but today he was asking me about notes a friend gave me on the screenplay and I asked if he'd read it (it sounded like he had). He has not--that he'd scheduled a time to do it bu that during the time that time a big emergency had come up (he couldn't remember what the emergency was, just that it was a "house on fire" level emergency).

I let it drop. I think at this point the only answer is for me to stop asking, stop wanting or expecting him to read my stuff. But, that makes me feel incredibly sad. I want a husband who is as interested in my art as I am in his. I know he'd be miserable if I stopped seeing his band—and I'd be miserable too! But it's getting to the point where I resent going to his shows or having him sit me down to hear music he's working on.

Our marriage is generally a very happy one. We get along, laugh at the same things, and I can tell he adores me. He is affectionate and kind. He encourages me hugely in my writing, tells me he's proud of me, brags about me to others. He just isn't interested in reading my writing (or seeing me perform it). Is it wrong for that to bother me so much? It bothers me so much.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (89 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any advice for how to fix this (besides the obligatory therapy rec) but it is absolutely not wrong for it to bother you like this. It's incredibly one-sided of him and he's continually hurting you which is the part that is not ok.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:07 AM on January 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

You alluded to possibly seeing his band but you didn't specifically say. Do you ever go to see his gigs or rehearsals?

Regardless, there are certain aspects of both your lives that are career-oriented and there should be aspects that are relationship-oriented. Don't mix the two and always leave room for the relationship that doesn't depend on the career.

You shouldn't get upset about him not reading your work or coming to your events. You should get upset if he stands you up on an anniversary dinner or some thing else that is relationship-oriented. Keep the two things separate. If he has the time to read your work then "bonus points", but never make it a requirement.
posted by JJ86 at 7:11 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Adult relationships are an ongoing process of negotiation; what you need, what you want, what you will tolerate, and up with which you will not put. It's okay if the terms change over time. That signals growth and change, a good thing. There is no absolute "yes this must happen" or "no this must not happen". It's okay that this issue about him not reading your words makes you feel crummy. But then it's on you to own your feelings and then expose them to him as terms, so that it can then be on him to either meet your terms or refuse them.

It seems like you have not expressed the depths of your feelings about this issue to him. That's important; he needs to know so he can properly judge whether his own behaviour meets your terms. Because right now it seems like he doesn't understand how important this is to you.

Make it crystal clear and see what happens.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:13 AM on January 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

You say that you know he'd be miserable if you stopped going to his gigs, and you say he sits you down to have you listen to something.

I'd point out that difference to him -- he expects you to drop everything and listen to something, but he doesn't make the time to sit down and read what you wrote - and say that that's not fair. And so, next time he tries to make you sit down to listen to something, you will refuse unless he's read something of yours.

And then do it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [78 favorites]

It sounds to me that he's making up any excuse he can think of because he's afraid. Afraid he won't like your writing, that he'll think less of you, that it'll destroy some impression of you and your work that he's built up in your mind.

Clearly he knows this is important to you and he doesn't like the fact that it's hurting you. Addressing this with him as not a time management problem, but a deeper, trepidation problem, may help you get to the heart of it. He may still refuse to read your writing or attend your readings, but you may have a better idea of exactly why.
posted by payoto at 7:15 AM on January 26, 2013 [40 favorites]

I totally disagree with JJ86. That's not the kind of career you have. Writing - like music - is a deeply personal thing for most people who do it seriously, and to not have any support from your spouse is kind of awful, really. I make an effort to attend the art shows/readings/concerts of even casual friends, because art is important to me (as it clearly is to your husband), so I know how much it means to those folks - and plenty of them have returned the favor over the years, even when it's meant sitting through something that is objectively pretty boring.

If you go to his stuff all the time and he won't go to yours - even after he's made these lovely effusive promises - I'd stop going to his stuff, honestly. I know that's kind of vengeful but it seems like he is not getting the point at all. He can't expect that you are going to support him and his work, and his artistic life, if he refuses to make any sacrifices at all to support yours.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:17 AM on January 26, 2013 [58 favorites]

I don't know what to do about the deeper issues, like why he doesn't want to read your stuff or why he refuses to tell you why or admit that he doesn't want to, but if you really want him to hear your writing it's easy to accomplish; sometime when he's not busy just start reading it to him without telling him what it is; just "hey, hon, listen to this".

Is it possible that he's read your stuff without telling you and he hates it, or doesn't understand it, or feels intimidated by it, or just doesn't enjoy reading that type of work? Is it possible that if he exposed himself to your art, it would start to feel competitive for him and he wants to avoid that? Does he need to be "the artist"? Does he need to show off to you? If he cares about you, he might not not want to show you that, say, he thinks your writing is pedantic and dull, regardless of how much you say that you want his honest opinion, because he wants to protect you from that. Just some possibilities to consider.
posted by windykites at 7:19 AM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was going to suggest that maybe he's just not a reader, until I got to this:

My husband (an avid reader)

My only thought there is that maybe you aren't writing things he's interested in reading. It's possible, anyway. I'm pretty omnivorous in my literary appetites, but I know several people who read more than I do but only in a couple-three very narrow genres. Like the woman I know who reads almost every mystery novel that gets published but won't touch non-fiction with a ten-foot pole. Or the guy who reads a dozen blogs every day but hasn't picked up a novel in years.

But the whole "I'll do it, I promise" and then never doing it bit is troublesome. He's not being honest.

Here's the thing: being married to someone means learning and being okay with what it means to get along with them. If your spouse wants/doesn't want you to do something that has absolutely no moral valence to them, simply out of preference, it's incumbent upon you to at least seriously consider going along with them out of love.

Your husband does not appear to be doing this.

Sounds like it's time for therapy. If nothing else, suggesting that to him might do something to demonstrate to your husband how big of a deal this is to you.

That being said, writing is your job. Your passion, maybe, but your still your job. Artists frequently conflate the two of those things, but they are conceptually distinct. You presumably want to get paid for this. I'm a lawyer, and I've written numerous things that I'm immensely proud of for my work. But I wouldn't dream of asking my wife to read even the things that I could let her, because legal documents are boring even to other lawyers unless you've got some direct interest in the case. It may not seem like it to you, but the mere fact that you've written something does not and should not automatically make it of interest to your husband. Not to put too fine a point on it, you are a grown woman, and your husband is not your parent. He is under no obligation to gush over everything you do.

On the other hand, you said that your husband "fully expect[s] me to experience and support his art." What exactly does that mean? If attendance at his gigs is mandatory, he's treating your work like a job, and his like something more personal. That doesn't seem equitable. If, on the other hand, he wants your general encouragement and support but doesn't expect this to be any kind of serious time commitment, this may be more balanced than it appears. All we've got is your side of the story, and I'm certain there are relevant facts we don't know.

Regardless, this is a big deal for you. Whether or not it should be isn't something we're going to be able to figure out for you, but there mere fact that it is suggests that taking some formal steps towards dealing with that, i.e., seeking counseling with your husband, is a good idea.
posted by valkyryn at 7:20 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's time to say that you enjoy his shows, but you resent going to them because he refuses to read your work, and since you don't want to start disliking his music, you won't be listening to as much of it. You won't go to all his shows; you won't listen to his practices.

I'd also, when he sits you down to listen to music, hand him something I wrote and tell him to read it now, but this is probably not a good idea.

But I wonder if he hasn't actually read some of your stuff already and didn't like it but didn't know how to tell you.
posted by jeather at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Normaly I think its a mistake to play tit for tat in relationships, but this situation calls for some consiquences. I would go playful- find him when he is laofing around and hand Hume a print out. Announce that before you listen to another single song of his- he will.have to read your goddamned stuff. With a smile, walk away and do it again every time he asks.

Dont expect a 180, but a good faith, hand holding reading once a month is reaaonable.
posted by Blisterlips at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2013

I know he'd be miserable if I stopped seeing his band—and I'd be miserable too! But it's getting to the point where I resent going to his shows or having him sit me down to hear music he's working on.

What? You're going to his shows and sitting down to listen to his music? What? No. "Sorry, no, I'm not feeling like this relationship is balanced and I am not in the right head space to support your show. I hope you have a really good gig, though! See you when you get home!"

But you have to say it not-in-a-snit and you have to mean it when you wish him a good show. You should also ask him about it and be nice when he gets home. I suspect a time or two of this will rebalance things. If it doesn't, this guy is never going to step up to your ideal.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:22 AM on January 26, 2013 [18 favorites]

He needs to give you an explanation. He needs to think deep down and figure out what the hang up is. You can tell him that if he can't sort it out himself, you two can see if you can figure it out in therapy because it bothers you that much.

Here's some explanations you can offer to him to get his brain working:
• your work is very personal and he's uncomfortable with those emotions
• he views his work as important and yours as a trivial hobby pastime
• he's uncomfortable giving a critique
• he has read it and he doesn't like it and doesn't know how to support you in that
• he can't read

Work through each one of these and explore the emotions that come up with them. And then, please, continue with your public readings and, if you aren't already, get involved in a group or workshop that does writing crits so that you can be working on your craft.
posted by amanda at 7:23 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

goodbyewaffles said: I totally disagree with JJ86. That's not the kind of career you have. Writing - like music - is a deeply personal thing for most people who do it seriously...

It doesn't matter what you do, you have to separate your personal life and your work life. If not you will never be happy and you will never find someone to make you happy. Disagree all you want. This isn't a snowflake issue.
posted by JJ86 at 7:25 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't stop going to his shows or listening to his music unless you dislike it. That's petty and childish, and an unhealthy response. Being supportive or interested shouldn't be a deliberate manipulation. It will hurt your relationship and cause resentment even if it gets you what you want.
posted by windykites at 7:26 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sounds like he wants out. Why else would he be repeatedly and overtly not doing what you ask, that you have said is important to you? Does he have any other real opportunity/means to hurt you? If this is it, and he's doing it, maybe he's looking for an exit. Indeed, maybe he doesn't love you enough. It happens, things change.
If you don't have kids, consider separating and moving on.

I think a lot of the excuses above are silly. How many times have you asked? 10? 15? Over how long a period of time? More than a year? This is about something besides writing and music preferences.
posted by kellybird at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sounds to me like it's possible that he has read your stuff and he's afraid to be critical of it. Yes, you say it's OK to hear that it's awful, but that really only goes down in a, "Do I look fat in these jeans?" type of way.

As anecdote, I had a writer in my life once. She asked me to read her stuff and even make notations in the margins with constructive criticism. Punctuation fixing and grammar correction were also fair game. To make a long story short, the documents were so riddled with these errors, I had to tread carefully. In the end she resented my corrections because, well, she was the "writer", not me.

Just something to consider.

With that said, this is important to you; there are many suggestions above on how to address the problem.
posted by teg4rvn at 7:35 AM on January 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Yeah, this is really super-weird.

Now, I would never, ever ask my spouse to read something—please see the most recent episode of "Girls" for the kind of person I don't want to be!—in part because he is not in my profession and his opinion might be misleading or misguiding to me (even though I love and respect his brain and taste!), but also because I'm very private about my work.

That being said, we are all different! And this is something you want to share with him; it's the kind of life you want to lead. So it is bizarre that he is not listening to you and is blowing you off. If I were you, we'd have a really serious talk about reciprocity and respect. And I would sort of go and find my own way with this stuff, and I sure would not be listening to all that jazz, because I'd be busy doing writing things.

But, in answer to your real question—"is it wrong that this bothers me"—the answer is always "of course it's not wrong." It bothers you. That is the beginning and end of it. I would be a thousand kinds of resentful if I were you, and not being listened to or respected would drive a wedge into my relationship. His inability to follow-through on requests, for whatever dumb or secret reason OR POSSIBLY NO REASON AT ALL that he has, is totally bananas. Also his inability to articulate the reasons about why he doesn't keep promises is super irritating.

That being said... there is something about banging your head against a closed metal door about all this. In relationships, you learn about these weird, inexplicable things. My spouse does this thing where he'll text at 5 p.m. and be like "leaving work now!" and then at 7 p.m. he'll text me about something else... WHILE STILL AT WORK. It's just amazing to me, and so alien. It really could make me insane. Instead, I have learned that this is what he does, and that if I want to make plans, including plans to like, FEED MYSELF like a human being, I have to be crazily explicit and organized about it. Marriage is about fitting the weird parts of yourselves together.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

You want him to read your work and have asked him too. What happens after he reads it? Will you ask him what he think so of it? Could he be averse to the prospect of being asked for his opinions? Could he be trying to avoid being placed in a position of providing a critique?
posted by biffa at 7:40 AM on January 26, 2013

I disagree with JJ86 too. She's supportive of his music and he isn't supportive of her writing. If they want to keep the two separate, that's fine but to date she's been giving more than she's getting and that's not fair.

I would stop going to his shows and listening to his music. I don't think that's childish. It's demanding fair treatment, courtesy and respect.
posted by shoesietart at 7:41 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

It doesn't matter what you do, you have to separate your personal life and your work life. If not you will never be happy and you will never find someone to make you happy. Disagree all you want. This isn't a snowflake issue.

This is 100% flat out false. JJ86, you're presenting this as if it's a fact that is true for all people and all relationships, and it's simply not. There are infinite ways to have a happy life and a happy relationship, and it is wrong and dangerous to tell people that they can't be happy because they want something from their relationship that you don't want from yours, or that you wouldn't be willing to give in yours.

I have a career I'm passionate about. I would not be happy in a relationship that didn't include significant support for my career, including being willing to talk about and participate in things related to my career. So I completely understand where anonymous is coming from. I have broken up with people who don't care about or disagree with my work simply because I can't be in a relationship with someone who doesn't support something so fundamental to my life. Yes, there are lots of aspects of my relationships that have nothing to do with my career, but when you have a career that is centered around something you're incredibly passionate about, something that is central to your personality, it is both reasonable and important for your partner to support that.

I think you and your husband need to get counseling as a couple for two reasons. First, it seems as though it may not be getting through to him how much this upsets you. And second, he's not being honest with you. If he "100% promises" to do something and then doesn't ever do it, he's introducing a lack of trust into your relationship that is deeply destructive. Regardless of whether it ever results in him reading your work, the two of you need to learn to communicate about important issues better than you are right now, or else stuff like this will eat away at your relationship.
posted by decathecting at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2013 [34 favorites]

He doesn't like your writing and is afraid to give you honest feedback.
posted by downing street memo at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

It sounds to me like he has some kind of anxiety about reading your work, or hearing it read, that he either can't or won't articulate, probably because it flares up whenever you guys talk about this. I think this is the kind of situation in which a few sessions with a couple's counselor can really help. That's what counselors are really useful - helping couples to have difficult discussions that one or both of them are resisting. If you're in NYC, feel free to MeMail me - I have a recommendation.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2013

I did this to a friend once. She's shy but very smart, and an aspiring fantasy fiction author. I read tons of fantasy fiction. She sent me a novel she wrote. I almost fell asleep within the first half chapter and didn't have the heart to tell her her writing was so bland, so I lied for two years about not having time to read her stuff. I'm not proud, but it's what I did.

Part of the reason was because even though her work was fantasy fiction and I read fantasy fiction, she didn't write fantasy fiction I read. I also found The Wheel of Time exceedingly boring, but that doesn't make it unsuccessful.

Part of the reason was that it was her first novel and unedited. It just want going to be that good.

But how are you supposed to tell an aspiring author you don't like their work? I mean, with visual artists, you can just take a moment to look at it, and they say you don't really get it, but you think maybe x, y, and z. With musicians, you go when they're at a venue with food and drink and hang out with friends. But if you're reading something, you have to actually read it... And what, tell them every single time that you didn't enjoy their work? Under the circumstances, it's easy to think lying is just easier.
posted by ethidda at 7:46 AM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

My answer is going to be wildly divergent from most peoples' here.

I'm a professional writer. Before I wrote fiction, I was a poet (got a degree in it and everything). My husband also writes, though he's never been into either poetry or my current genre (YA books). I give him encouragement and edit his work for him.

He generally doesn't read my writing without significant nagging.

There have been exceptions--when I was writing poetry, pieces were so short that I could read them aloud if he wanted to hear them or not, damn it. He's read a couple of my novels for me when I was really, really in a crunch in terms of deadlines and had no one else to help me and was crying hysterically. He's read a short story or two, willingly, which were more his style. This is over the course of ten years, maybe. He's never actively volunteered to read anything I wrote--he always has to be asked.

But, okay, to be fair, when he read those short stories he hated one and we had a fight about it. So that's definitely part of it. Because the truth is, I didn't want his honest opinion, I wanted a cheerleader. So I understand his reluctance, particularly when most of my writing is in a genre he's not really into at all.

I've learned to adjust my expectations. I will never have a husband-as-cheerleader, the kind writers talk about who enthusiastically read everything they've written as soon as they're done. Ironically, the vast majority of writers I know have spouses who aren't particularly engaged with--or interested in--their actual books.

But that doesn't mean my husband doesn't support me in a myriad of other ways. For example, we sit around talking about story ideas all the time. A key part of my creative process is that, when I'm stuck, we go out to eat and he lets me monologue plot at him until I get unstuck. He's helped me financially when I needed to step back paying work to achieve my dreams. He corrals family when they're on my case about spending too much time at home writing. He cooks dinner for us when I'm on deadline.

There are so many ways to be supportive, and I've found it's better to work with the actual husband who I have than to try to make him into some ideal writer's husband who I don't. Everything else just ends in nagging and tears and resentment. No fun for anyone.

Anyway, you and your husband are not alone here. Seriously, you're not--this is super common among writers. I hope you're able to find a way to peace and acceptance with it. It's taken me time to recognize the other ways my husband supports me, but it's been really worth it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:47 AM on January 26, 2013 [73 favorites]

I did this to a friend once. She's shy but very smart, and an aspiring fantasy fiction author. I read tons of fantasy fiction. She sent me a novel she wrote. I almost fell asleep within the first half chapter and didn't have the heart to tell her her writing was so bland, so I lied for two years about not having time to read her stuff. I'm not proud, but it's what I did.

Also, this is super common, too. It's what pretty much every professional writer I know does to save face and maintain the friendship when they don't like a friend's writing. It's not in any way limited to husbands.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:48 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Might be worth asking him what he thinks will happen and what he thinks you are expecting from his reading.

Has he ever witnessed a situation where you were unhappy with the feedback/reaction you got from other people who have read your work? Is there any chance that he thinks you are expecting a deep and thoughtful critique? Is it ok if he is present, and gives you a hug and says "good job honey" without "I really liked your use of adverbs in the 3rd stanza"?

I know someone - a musician - who gets very uncomfortable hearing people who he thinks are not that great or are not to his taste, because he has no idea what to say. I told him that it's ok to say things like "wow, you are really having fun" or "I can tell you love what you are doing" or whatever, without saying "That was A+" if you don't believe it.
posted by bunderful at 7:49 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

There have been cases of some quite famous female writers whose husbands never read their work. Each situation is different.

L.M. Montgomery's husband never read a single one of her books or took any pleasure in her success or seemed at all proud of her, which really hurt her. He was a depressive with a weirdly flat emotional scale at the best of times, and struggled with a crippling sense of inferiority, and I think he had a harder time being married to an exceptionally talented and successful woman whom everyone liked better than him than Maud ever realized. And then too he was a man of his time with a medieval mindset about women: he never really saw them as intellectual beings whose work could be worth consideration.

Elizabeth Gray Vining who is little known today was a quite successful children's writer (she won the Newbery once in the forties and was short listed for it a few other times) whose husband never read any of her books. He simply wasn't interested in children's books and he wasn't going to pretend to be. She accepted this and they had a happy marriage (if short-lived because he died after 4.5 years).

In my own life (I write) I've come across a few people who didn't want to read my work for various reasons. A college roommate wanted me to read (and fulsomely praise) her work but was very reluctant to read mine because she thought my writing was better than hers and it just made her angry and jealous to read it. Sometimes a friend or a boyfriend was simply too self-absorbed to really care about reading or supporting anyone else's work.

Basically, you don't know what's going on. It could be any of the above reasons, or none. So I'd say you need to dig to the bottom of this. Maybe you will ultimately need to accept that your husband simply won't ever read your work, but these false promises of his need to stop and he needs to tell you what's really going on. Don't make any assumptions, but just tell him you want to hear why he won't read it and that you're going to listen respectfully to whatever he has to say. Once you know what his reasons are, you'll be in a much better position to deal with this situation.
posted by orange swan at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

This isn't just he doesn't read her stuff, or that her stuff may not be his style. He stonewalls her and lies to her and doesn't even go to live performances. I go to live performances of friends of friends even when what they're performing is not my thing. It's just what people who value creativity do.

OP what your husband is doing to you is affecting your confidence, your productivity, and your career.

I told him that I needed, for our marriage, for him to come to the next show I did. He absolutely, 100% promised that he would... And I haven't done one since. I know that's ridiculous and awful, but every time I consider it I get scared. Because if he still doesn't come (and based on the evidence there's a very good chance he won't, because he has made similar 100% promises about reading things and then blown it off) what will I do?

You need to put your foot down, not let his hollow promises slide by, and insist that he be completely honest with you. So get to the bottom of it. If that requires couples counseling, so be it. But you deserve to know what is going on.

No matter what: you know through an objective audience that your work is good & creative & interesting & valuable. You know you are good at what you do. Hold on to that, don't let whatever issues your husband has undercut your creativity.

You don't need him to love your work. But you deserve to have him support your work. As a creative person himself, he should know the difference. But since he doesn't seem to, you need to make that unequivocally clear.
posted by headnsouth at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2013 [34 favorites]

It's not wrong for it to bother you - but it is "wrong" that it's bothering you so much.

This is not the sword you want the marriage to suffer and die on. You have an otherwise healthy, happy marriage with a man you love. This should be set on auto-repeat in your mind when this issue arises. This happens, unfortunately often in relationships - one or both partners become obsessed on "rectifying" just this one issue. There is no total satisfaction to such issues, as experience shows. It only seems so from the position you're in.

My belief is couples should have a steady stream of counseling they take part in throughout their relationship, instead of one-off issues. So, I would not recommend joint therapy, but it may be helpful for you to seek counseling by yourself for perspective's sake.

In the meantime, stop asking him to read your writing (because it will cause you further frustration), and do not indulge in tit-for-tat tactics, as they will undermine further your generally good and healthy marriage. Good luck.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:57 AM on January 26, 2013 [6 favorites]

It is not wrong for this to bother you, because it's perfect inequality. He expects you to do for him exactly what he refuses to do for you. It's not even that he doesn't read your stuff (I don't think I'd want or expect my SO, if I had one, to read everything I wrote) it's the imbalance of it.

I don't know if he "doesn't love you enough"...obviously as a stranger I can't have any idea. But it really does sound to me like he doesn't respect you enough. It sounds like he has a mental image of your relationship in which he is the one with the important career, and you're the supportive one. (Maybe specifically that he's the *man* with the important career, maybe not.)

My view might be colored by my own experience, but I've found writing is very much a career that a lot of people think of as just a little hobby. Even if it's your full-time job. This sometimes changes when you happen to write something in some form that they, for whatever reason, think is respectable. (If you start doing reported pieces when you usually write personal essays, or if you have a book published, or whatever it may be.)

I would not be surprised if your relationship changes (for good or for bad or for bad-that-turns-out-to-be-good-in-the-long-run) when you reach a level of success with your writing that he considers "real."

For now, maybe go to some of his shows and listen to some of his work but don't do it every time. You can still support him without being constantly there for him while he does nothing in return. That will just make you increasingly resentful. Maybe for your own self-respect, you need to start separating your professional lives a bit. (Though I do not agree that you absolutely have to separate them completely.)

Oh, and I've read/seen work of friends that, while not bad, was just totally not my thing. And I've said truthfully, "I don't even know enough about this genre to comment, but congratulations/good job/I'm impressed you did this." That's where the respect and support comes in, even if he can't actually praise the writing itself.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:02 AM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

He is affectionate and kind.

But, at least in this regard, inconsiderate. I wonder if you and he have ever used that word (or a synonym) in discussing this problem. Often I do not think it's helpful to characterize behavior with adjectives rather than discussing it in concrete terms, but sometimes it is helpful.

Have you tried treating him like an eight-year-old? (I am serious, and don't mean to be condescending.) If your kid were consistently refusing to read his assignments, you would sit down with him at the kitchen table and watch him read in front of you. Have you considered proposing this to your husband? You describe him as apologetic and say he genuinely wants to solve this issue, and if that's true, this suggestion doesn't have to come across as a demand. It's something that might make sense mutually. Maybe you set aside fifteen minutes where you listen to something he's recorded and he reads some of your writing.

I wouldn't shy away from blunt solutions, is my point. You really want to change this behavior, and if he's to be believed then he wants to change this behavior, too. That sort of mutuality gives you a lot more freedom to address the problem—as contrasted with a circumstance where you might need to be more delicate because he isn't necessarily on board.

Also, I'll throw out a psychological possibility purely for sake of brainstorming. (Obviously I don't know your husband.) Proposing that somebody read "a book" is quantitatively different from proposing that somebody read "your writing." Pages and pages and pages of difference, with no end in sight. It can be daunting. Maybe he feels the weight of that.

...And I say this as a former-professional jazz musician who dates a writer. I do read her stuff, and I genuinely like it. But I am emotionally conscious that I'm not signing on to spend, for example, four hours investing in this and then I'm done. No, it is assuming an ongoing responsibility. For me, it was important to be cognizant of that.
posted by cribcage at 8:02 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried treating him like an eight-year-old? (I am serious, and don't mean to be condescending.)

If either party in my marriage did this, it would be a quick path to divorce. It sounds really disrespectful, as does a lot of the passive aggressive game playing suggested here.

You can't change other people--even husbands. You can only change yourself and your reactions to them. Women are socialized to see this kind of creative and career support as intrinsic to love, but I don't necessarily know that's the case--you may even be overestimating how much it means to him to have you at his shows. I've certainly had friends who were musicians of a stripe that didn't interest me. We continue to be friends despite my not attending their performances; our friendships have their foundation on other shared interests.

He encourages me hugely in my writing, tells me he's proud of me, brags about me to others.

When people tell you about themselves, believe it. He clearly loves you and is proud of you--I don't think he needs to read your writing or attend spoken word performances for that to be true.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:18 AM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

He said he'd go to a reading if you had another one. Why not schedule a private showing for him? When you've got a sample you like, something you think he might be interested in (based on whatever it is he's an avid reader of, you might choose a story or an essay or just a few paragraphs of something). Read it to him. Aloud. While he's sitting there looking at you and not holding any other form of media in his hands.
Maybe the discussion that this sparks will help you understand why he's not followed through on reading any of your work himself.
posted by aimedwander at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think I know where your husband is at. He knows he's hurt you over this and the entire topic is soaked in guilt for him. He may never have been that interested in your writing, but now he's positively averse to it, because every time he thinks about it he feels bad about himself and bad about hurting you. He just wants to avoid the subject altogether, take his lumps when he has to, and otherwise not think about it.

> Our marriage is generally a very happy one.

Happy husbands are trainable. You can probably train your husband to read your writing, at least some of it, if you're willing to make reading your work into a husbandly chore. (There's nothing wrong with that, IMO.) Just train him the way you'd train him to do the dishes every night. Start with something small (really small), have him read it *right then*, give him a hug and a thank you when he's done. Don't ask him for feedback or do anything that might lead to negativity. Arrange the task in a way so it is impossible for him to screw it up or let you down. Lather, rinse, repeat, until it is routine.

You'll probably never get him to be enthusiastic about your writing the way you'd like. Sorry, but I think you should give that idea up. Modifying his behavior is a reasonable goal, modifying his inclinations not. But it *sounds* like modifying his behavior even a little bit would make you quite a bit happier, so try that.
posted by mattu at 8:19 AM on January 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

There's this idea in principled negotiation about the difference between positions and interests. Basically, a position is the solution you say you want, and an interest is the reason why you want it.

Your position here is that you want him to read your work and attend your performances. His position (as demonstrated by his actions) is that he does not want to do this.

Because all of your conversations with him on this have focused on those two positions, it sounds irreconcilable. If you start to talk about interests, you will probably get further.

Interests I see popping up in your AskMe:
  • You want him to be interested in your work. This has been expressed as the position, "read my work, show up to performances." He may be expressing it as "brag about her work, encourage her in it."
  • You want your marriage to include a shared celebration of both of your artistic endeavours, for it to be an arty partnership. You want it to be an equal back-and-forth, not just about you supporting his art.
  • You love all the beautiful things he's shown you through jazz, and you want to share beautiful things with him through your writing.
  • You want his support when you do risky things, like the live performances. For you, 'support' has been defined as 'show up'.
  • Something that hasn't been quite teased out, but it has to do with the fact that he reads your friends' writing and not yours. You want to feel heard? You want to feel worth spending time on?
  • You want to be able to trust his word when he promises to do something. You do not want to feel lied to.
Now, his interests are another kettle of fish. It's helpful to become very very curious about his interests. Possibilities, some of which have been raised in this discussion:
  • I'm afraid to damage my relationship with my wife by criticizing her work, or not being 100% keen on it. [Option A: Hasn't read your work due to this fear. Option B: Has read it, didn't 100% like it, is lying to avoid disappointing you.]
  • I'm afraid to attend her performances because writers write about their lives, and we share a life, and I don't want to feel exposed in front of a crowd like that.
  • [unlikely due to the rest of your question] I don't actually give a shit about my wife's work, and I want to make that clear to her by actively avoiding it.
Our marriage is generally a very happy one. We get along, laugh at the same things, and I can tell he adores me. He is affectionate and kind. He encourages me hugely in my writing, tells me he's proud of me, brags about me to others.

This is SO important to remember. Odds are very high that Mr Anonymous is not avoiding your shows just so he can make you feel horrible. He's not out to get you, he's not trying to rain on your parade. He does what he can to support your work. What you need to find out is what is stopping him from [admitting to?] reading your work, and attending your shows.

It may be that he doesn't personally like your work, but he LOVES that you're writing and enjoying it and becoming successful. It may be that he knows that your work, just like jazz, isn't everyone's cup of tea and that doesn't mean you shouldn't rock it. Maybe he knows that he's horrible at hiding it when he doesn't like something, so he's avoiding the conversation. And it may be that he is very sensitive to criticism from key people in his life and he doesn't want to hurt you the way he's been hurt. This may all be done out of an effort to support you.

It might be possible that if you have this conversation about interests with him, he will come to understand that you need reading-my-story support more than loving-every-bit-of-my-story support. Or you might decide that he's-not-so-keen-on-my-writing is actually more difficult for you than he-hasn't-read-it-yet. Who knows?

Now, if that is the case and you respond not by talking it out but by stopping going to his shows and getting pissy about his music that you actually do enjoy, then I can't see that working out well for either of you. It's difficult to stay positive and open when you are feeling hurt, but it's worth the effort because it makes it possible for him to open up instead of hiding. Go on the offensive and he has no option but defense.

If you have an iPad, I would recommend trying the app Unstuck. It has some interesting tools for getting to the heart of matters like this, and uncovering your interests and new options. For books, I would recommend Hold Me Tight as a guide for navigating these conversations while strengthening your bond with him.
posted by heatherann at 8:30 AM on January 26, 2013 [25 favorites]

I completely disagree with commenters who are saying that this is acceptable behavior and you are wrong to be hurt. However, writing can be a very difficult thing to engage with for a loved one. I think that this is a very difficult situation with no easy answers. In short, if he wasn't expecting you to engage with his hobby I'd say to just leave well enough alone, but the fact he wants you involved with his hobby but ignores yours makes this an issue of creative respect and fairness.

My ex-husband was equally involved with his hobby, which is comparable in intensity to being a musician. He expected me to participate nearly as deeply as he did, and he pouted for days when I didn't. I had to go to the shows, help out with the technical work associated with it, and continually host his equally-obsessed friends.

On the other hand, he completely ignored my own hobbies and would passive-aggressively refuse to engage them in much the same way your husband is doing. So for a long time I did what you are doing. I participated in his hobby and ignored his contempt for mine. But the fact that he valued his own creative outlets over mine and expected me to prioritize his creative outlets over mine were corrosive to my belief that he valued me as an individual.

On the other hand, I have friends who are writers, and as an avid reader myself I dread when they ask me to read their work. With the best will in the world when someone's writing is bad I don't feel quite the same about them afterward. I forever after see them, for example, as the person who thought languish was a noun. This is a very stupid quirk of mine, but from other comments in this thread I'm not the only one.

I also have a friend who is a good writer, but they expect me to give good feedback and really engage with their material, which can be exhausting after a while and reminds me of graduate school. I tend to avoid giving feedback because I run out of things to say other that 'I like what you did with that one idea' and that is apparently inadequate for his feedback needs so we spend an hour on one of his stories as if it were 'The Dubliners' or something. I love my friend dearly, but analyzing fiction on that level IS work and I'm not always up to it.

Nonetheless, those possible explanations absolutely do not excuse your husband's behavior in the smallest degree and you are right to find it painful. He is an adult and he should find some way to support you and your interests even if you were writing Friends fanfic set in the Gor universe and reading it made his eyes bleed. He should definitely not expect you to indulge his hobby and then behave this way about yours. It is childish and cruel.

First you need to think about what YOU truly want. Do you really want him to give you feedback, even if it ended up being 'your work is so bad it's damaged my understanding of the English language'? Do you want him to have long discussions with you about the significance of the color choice of the main character's tie and how it relates to the underlying theme of the work? Both of those things are hard expectations, but if you're having to listen to a bunch of jazz musicians noodle on for hours a week (NB: I like jazz) then it's reasonable to expect some level of engagement with your work in return, assuming that he doesn't admit he really doesn't care for your work.

After you decide what YOU want, you need to have an honest direct conversation with him about his passive-aggressive behavior. You have to give him room to say he just doesn't like it. He also may be unwilling to go the grad school seminar route - unless it is only a very occasional request I tend to think that is a perfectly acceptable response.

That does not excuse him from being supportive of your hobby, however. Unless your writing is somehow dangerous to you or others, he needs to show up now and then to your shows and events at a minimum. There is no excuse, none, for him not doing so and you should accept none.

I would also stop indulging his expectations about your participation in his hobby until this is straightened out. Society has a long history of discounting the creative work of women while focusing on that of men and you don't need to put up with it in your own home. If he wants you to spend so much of your time celebrating his creative outlet, he needs to find a way to celebrate yours.

This is a very hard situation. I hope things work out.
posted by winna at 8:37 AM on January 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


This *would* be the sword that I would have my relationship die on. I mean, what this is about? *He doesn't take what you say seriously.* When you tell him it's important that he reads your writing, he doesn't take what you've said seriously enough to actually read it. What you say in your writing isn't important enough for him to read. What you perform isn't important enough for him to witness.

Meanwhile, you take what he says completely seriously. You go to his shows, and you believe him when he lies to you and says that this time he really (really!) will read your writing.

Maybe he's afraid, maybe you're nagging, maybe you're confusing work with relationships, maybe you should lower your expectations.

Maybe he doesn't take what you have to say seriously.

I would leave.
posted by january at 8:41 AM on January 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

I want a husband who is as interested in my art as I am in his.

If you have an otherwise good and satisfying marriage, and you don't want this to be the hill your marriage dies on, I would suggest no more ultimatums, no tit-for-tat, no training. You will either be put in the position of following through/ not following through, or he will be put in the position of capitulating which will probably make you feel worse - because you will know that he's still not really interested.

It sounds like you want your husband to WANT to read your work, not to do it grudgingly. But it sounds like that isn't the guy you married. If you believe that he is genuine when he is encouraging you, when he brags about you to others, when he tells you that he is proud of you, then he is being supportive (in his mind at least). If that is not enough for you, you may need to really think about whether this relationship, in it's current form, is sustainable.
posted by sm1tten at 8:45 AM on January 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

It may not seem like it to you, but the mere fact that you've written something does not and should not automatically make it of interest to your husband. Not to put too fine a point on it, you are a grown woman, and your husband is not your parent. He is under no obligation to gush over everything you do.

I find this patronizing and unhelpful, since the OP made it clear she doesn't necessarily need him to love it; she supports everything he does, and yes, it should be absolutely of interest to her husband if it's something that is extremely important to her. It's not like she has asked him to attend every one of her performances and read every single piece of writing.

The fact that he refused to come to any of your shows and even blew you off to go hang out with his friends when he had told you he was rehearsing when you go to his shows and gigs and have centered your social life around his interests would be a huge problem for me; much more of a big deal than not reading your writing. I write too, not professionally, but when I was with my last partner he read the things I wrote because it was important to me and he was extremely supportive about it. Your husband's lying, broken promises, and blatant disrespect would be dealbreakers for me. You got to his gigs, support him, ask for support in return and he keeps promising to and won't spend 5 minutes skimming a blog post? Those saying that he's probably read it and just doesn't like and doesn't want to tell her- they are adults. It really shouldn't be that hard to tell her it wasn't really his thing but he's glad she's doing what she loves.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 8:53 AM on January 26, 2013 [26 favorites]

You need to sit down and talk with him about this, but from a slightly different perspective. Not "Why don't you read my writing?" but "Why don't you read my writing?" We already know that he is not going to read your writing, but if you and he can come to an honest understanding of why he is so resistant to it, perhaps you can get to a solution. Personally, I tend towards the theory that he is worried that he will think less of you if he doesn't like your work, but you won't know unless you talk it out.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:09 AM on January 26, 2013

My daughter writes. She's actually pretty good. But the truth is I am so busy with MY stuff that I don't really read much of what she writes.

I don't think this is so much that your husband doesn't love you but he is so busy with what he does and then now it probably feels like Mount Everest for him to read your writing. No, it isn't fair. But I am a songwriter and my husband doesn't usually come hear me perform my stuff when I present it at a group or worse, come listen when we did our two group recordings. My husband loves me and still thinks I should go to all his political stuff.

Now, I don't. I go to what I want to go to (I mean, why not go see Newt Gingrich in the flesh?) and the rest I take a pass on.

I'm not saying your hubby is not being a minor jerk, at all. But if I were you I wouldn't feel obligated to go to all of his stuff till he at least makes an appearance at one of yours.

Every marriage has its pain in the butt stuff. If your marriage is otherwise good, don't make more of this than it is. I get how it feels, I am a creative myself, but it doesn't have to be that big a deal. In your case, sit him down with a cup of coffee or an adult beverage and just read him a short excerpt of your stuff, and you will both feel better.

(It could be that he doesn't feel qualified to comment on your writing, doesn't understand it, or is afraid he will come off looking like an idiot in your eyes. In fact the more I think about it, that could be it. Just because he is an avid reader doesn't mean that couldn't be true. Really.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:12 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You say he reads, bit is he a reader, as in, critiques good/bad writing, the craft? or does he just read things casually sometimes?

He sounds like me and decorating the house. My wife is excellent at it. She used to do theater sets. Our house is 1000 times more awesome than when we bought it less than a year ago.

But she will NOT stop asking me my opinion on her plans. How will these curtains look, what about this vase in that one corner, etc.

Two things about that: I don't really care that much. There's a minimum level of not-trashy-looking beyond which its all the same to me. It drives me nuts to keep talking about "irrelevant" details after that.

That's because of the second thing: I don't know a damn thing about decorating. Would this look good? I don't know. I have absolutely no artistic mind like that. I'm visually tone-deaf. How do I answer? She will just pester me until I say yes or no, but then ask why? What do/don't I like about it? I DON'T FUCKING KNOW. STOP MAKING ME FEEL STUPID.

I appreciate what she does, and I get that she just wants me to be involved in our life together. But damn, sometimes I wish I could lie and say I don't have time to look at her decorating plans.

You say it's ok if he hates it, but that implies that you're going to want some sort of feedback, right? Maybe try to make clear that you don't even want an opinion, just for him to know what you do? No pressure to have even an intelligent thing to say about it afterwards?
posted by ctmf at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

In this area he is acting like a child... for whatever reason, be it guilt, be it disinterest, be is actually not liking what you have written in the past but not telling you. If he has read and does not like what you write there are diplomatic, and adult, ways to say that. Ditto, if he is not interested in your writing. If it is wrapped in some guilt thing then you know? Next time you have a public reading, schedule it well in advance and tell him I need you to be here, at least this once and you get ready together and you drive there together an dyou come home together.

And you know in the future, eh, only go to his shows if you feel like it, rather than going to support him... or perhaps just not all of them.
I am in a marriage with someone who is an artist and she has a fair number of shows, and while I absolutely love art and I like much of what she makes, I kind of don't like art shows. Outside of looking at the art, for an attendee they embody a lot of social interaction I value the least. But, while I do not go to every show my wife has, I certainly go to most of the important ones and some of the smaller ones as well. I go, and yeah after 1/2 hour I am bored, but sometimes you do things that aren't all about your own satisfaction. You do things that make other people, who are important in your life, happy.

The "I don't know" excuse is ridiculous.
posted by edgeways at 9:14 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

While I agree on principle that tit-for-tat behavior is unhelpful and corrosive to goodwill, I think that you should give yourself permission not to go to shows if/when it is going to make you feel resentful. Ideally, you would be able to be honest with your husband about why you are doing this, but I don't get the feeling from your post that a simple conversation about it is going to get you anywhere. I agree with those about who suggest counseling to deal with the issues of trust, respect, and communication that have come up as a result of this imbalance in your relationship.
posted by mustard seeds at 9:16 AM on January 26, 2013

I'm really surprised at the people saying this isn't a big deal and you shouldn't make a mountain out of it. He's engaging in behaviour that is eroding your self confidence, hurting you emotionally and is affecting your work. He's doing it for no apparent reason, and has started lying in order to continue. And you are supposed to slap a stepford grin on your face and ignore it??

If I sat someone down and explained that what they were doing was having this affect on me and why and laid out a simple and quick way to solve the issue, and they then made zero effort to deal with it and starting lying straight to me face instead of adjusting their behaviour, I'd be out the door.

Honestly, it sounds like he's sabotaging you. He may not even be consciously aware of it. I wouldn't be surprised if things in your relationship took a dive if your success became greater then his.
posted by Dynex at 9:22 AM on January 26, 2013 [26 favorites]

Why isn't my husband interested in what I do?

Have you ever directly asked him this question? If so, what did he say?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:24 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I also don't think it's your responsibility to figure out WHY he's doing this. It's his, and the fact that he's refusing completely to confront his own behaviour or explain it is more of a problem for your relationship then his not reading your work.
posted by Dynex at 9:25 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

The fact that this is about writing is a bit of a red herring I think. He's being disrespectful about something that's important to you, making promises he doesn't keep, and creating a wildly inequitable situation in your marriage. Those are all serious problems and you're well within your rights to be upset and concerned about them. The two of you appear to be at an impasse, so therapy is probably a good next step. There has to be some reason he won't even read a blog post or attend a reading, even if it's a bad one. People here can only speculate. Whatever his reason is, he's not telling, and he's not handling it well. Hopefully a therapist can get it out of him and help you guys deal with it.
posted by Mavri at 9:27 AM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Enchanting Grasshopper: "The fact that he refused to come to any of your shows and even blew you off to go hang out with his friends when he had told you he was rehearsing"


"and he keeps promising to and won't spend 5 minutes skimming a blog post?"

I'm really surprised this hasn't gotten more attention in the responses.

This isn't about couples needing separate interests, or not imposing on your partner, or whether or not someone has an interest in the topic. It's five minutes. I understand not wanting to hurt someone's feelings, but I doubt the OP is such a horrible writer that her own husband can't find something nice to say about it once in a while. Or even once. As an artist I would think it was really weird (and not a statement on my art at all) if an SO would somehow manage to avoid ever looking at any of my work.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:28 AM on January 26, 2013 [21 favorites]

I don't think you should take this so personally. I know that seems wrong, but you're not your writing. My husband and I both work in "creative" fields, and while I like to have him come to openings and wrap parties, I don't actually expect him to watch everything I've ever worked on--hell, I almost never watch the finished film. And while it's nice if he reads my freelance pieces, I don't really expect him to do so--sometimes, he's not the target audience, and sometimes, it's not his area of interest. Since I get paid and published, I'm not so worried about feedback from my loved ones or even my social circle--sure, I like complements, but that approval chorus isn't why I write.

I think that as your work becomes more career and less passion project, you might not need or want his approval or even his interest. While it's cool that you learned to enjoy his style of music and go to the gigs, I think those events aren't quite the same process--you enjoy the social aspect, as well as the music itself--and you stopped doing your own performance pieces, which more directly correlates to his gigs. Do another soon, get him to come and then see how you both go on.

And I think he's read some of your stuff, didn't care for it, and has no vocabulary to tell you about his reaction.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

If either party in my marriage did this, it would be a quick path to divorce. It sounds really disrespectful...

I'm not a big fan of going back and forth in AskMe threads, but on the chance that this is correct and my suggestion did come across as disrespectful, for the OP's sake I'll clarify, because that was not my intention. I am not proposing that you speak to your husband as if he were an eight-year-old. What I am proposing is that sometimes the simplest and most effective behavior-modification techniques are one we use with children; and sometimes because we use these techniques with children, we forget that we can also use them as adults.

I don't know if you can "change people," but it certainly isn't a very controversial idea that you can change behavior. The behavior in question here is that your husband neglects to read your writing. If your story is to be believed, then you want to change this behavior and, importantly, so does your husband. That's a lucky scenario. It affords all kinds of different options that you can try together without coming within a mile of being disrespectful, and it seems to me there is no reason why the two of you can't set aside time to sit down together and experience each other's interests. "Let's do it on Sunday night. For a half-hour before our favorite TV show, I'll listen to some of your music and you'll read my recent writing, and we will do it together on the couch."

With due respect to everybody in this thread and all their individual circumstances, it is difficult for me to imagine that this could possibly put you on a quick path to divorce unless your marriage were already far from being the "very happy one" that I'm taking your word it is.

You describe various attempts at solving this problem, but thus far they all appear to have relied on your husband's initiative. You ask him to do something for you, but you set no time frame. You don't appear to have tried, "Please read this for me today," or even "right now." And, well, those tactics aren't working. If you and he sit down together and he reads with you beside him, that would seem to preclude any house-on-fire interruptions. (Or at least this time, you'll know exactly what they were.)

I appreciate that your ultimate goal is for your husband to take initiative without hand-holding or even being asked ("really, I want him to WANT to read it"). You are describing a situation where he appears to share some of that desire—for instance, his guilt and shame about the present situation. It may be a realistic goal. But attempting to shoehorn yourselves into a place where that desire has come true doesn't appear to be working, so you might consider baby steps. I am suggesting that if you frame the problem very narrowly as, "My husband doesn't read my writing," that is relatively simple to fix, and doing so brings you a step closer to your end goal. Maybe the end goal becomes more attainable, or maybe you decide you can live with that much.
posted by cribcage at 9:36 AM on January 26, 2013

Frankly, without knowing the nature of the material it's impossible to answer. For example, are you using your blog entries to comment about personal topics, to win fights? That would completely change the answers people are giving you.
posted by rr at 9:39 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

First off, if you have told him that you need him to read something you've written, he should do so. That's part of being in a relationship. I'd schedule some time with him, put it on the calendar and all, for him to read a short piece you have written. While he reads, you can go into another room and listen to something he'd like you to listen to. (I'd probably insert a parenthetical into the piece that said, "_____, when you read this, stop what you are doing and come kiss me." but that's just me.)

You mention that he earns a living through music. Do you earn a living through writing? Or something else? There might be a professional/hobbyist disconnect going on. He might not realize how lucky he is to earn a living doing something he loves.

When you are at his jazz shows, are you there strictly to listen? Or do you help out doing a bit of roadie/merch work? Does his band make money or is it just for fun? If they are earning something and you're helping them out, then you're an employee. As an employee, you're able to make the decision as to what will benefit you more: pursuing a career in roadie-ing or working on your writing. You can then make the decision not to go, or go, but not work in that capacity (ie, go as a fan/supportive spouse). If he says he wants you to help out, then you know your wage: read my stuff. If he says he wants your support as a spouse, you know your response: quid pro quo.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:40 AM on January 26, 2013

I think that payoto has it. He doesn't sound like he's acting spiteful or mean or even careless and forgetful. He sounds scared. He is procrastinating because something about the act of reading your work unsettles him. Find out what that is and I think you'll have your answer.
posted by Lieber Frau at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

He just isn't interested in reading my writing (or seeing me perform it)

You're assuming you know his motivation (interest), but there are many different reasons, a lot of which are discussed upthread, why he could be avoiding your writing.

At the end of the day, there's no way we can help you unless you talk to him about why. I don't believe that he really doesn't know why he won't read it, although he may be reluctant to admit it. The two of you really need to have a heart-to-heart exploring what his block is around this. Until you do that, you're simply jumping to conclusions that may or may not be true.

Whether you can have this conversation openly and honestly without a third party facilitator (i.e. therapist) depends on your relationship, but I really think you need to have it unless you're willing to just accept the situation for what it is.
posted by scrute at 9:54 AM on January 26, 2013

I wonder if you might be a bit exaggerating in your own mind how much he expects/wants you to go to his shows? As someone who has certain expectations about what spouses of artists do to support each other, you may be projecting some of that onto him when he says he 'likes' to have you at his shows or that he's 'glad' you came out to something (or even when he doesn't say those things, that he didn't say them because he thought of course you would be there, rather than because it's just not that big of a deal to him).

Honestly, I would stop going to his shows, but not as a sort of manipulative 'if you want me there, do this thing!'. Just because going to the shows reminds you that you're doing things for him that he isn't doing for you. So reclaim your own freedom to do what you want with an evening, and it may help you feel happy for him on evenings that he does the same.
posted by Lady Li at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I were a writer who does performance -- especially if I was nervous at first but overcame that, I would want support in the form of
-- feedback; and
-- being a witness to my success, and being proud for me.

The first bit has been well covered up-thread. Partners and friends are afraid to read and / or afraid to critique.

But maybe the second is equally important? Would it be worth saying to your partner something to the effect of:

"It's okay to come to my show and say nothing about the content of the work I read. I really want you to come so you can see this crowd dig my stuff, see them clap and laugh and cry at the right bits, and witness the applause. I want you to be proud of me.

In short, pretend like we're like in an 80s teen movie, and I'm the tap dancing son and you are the football coach dad who doesn't get dancing but comes to big show at the end of the third act and beams when he sees how the world-of-those-who-get-it love his son."

This might give him some space to understand how to come and support you without having to comment on your work. He can say -- amazing crowd! great voice! you looked super and had them going! -- even if he found story totally not his thing.

Bonus, he can listen to conversations of others critiquing the readers. You will have people there you know, and you can let him hear how you and they talk about this sort of thing. The language of critique, which is probably different for writing than for jazz musicians.

(My partner is a musician as a hobby. I can't sing happy birthday. When we first started dating he would ask me for my opinion of his shows and I would just say "Great!" That was all I had to say, and I felt a bit dumb for it. Having spent the last 5 years listening to him and his friends discuss shows, I am gaining an ear and a vocab so I can pick out moments, instruments, etc and say something more precise. And precise allows me to provide feedback without being critical. Focus not whether I liked it or not, but on whether the drums really came through this time, or whether having the female backup vocals makes that one song "pop".)
posted by girlpublisher at 10:18 AM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a writer. Not a successful one, but I feel confident adding "yet." I have had a fair number of stories published, and my novel and screenplays have gotten a good bit of favorable attention. My husband (an avid reader) has never read anything I've written. I've asked him to, both generally ("hey, some of my stuff is up at this website") and specifically ("please read this thing I am handing/emailing to you. Your feedback mean would mean a lot to me").

Maybe he's worried that he's going to be asked to encourage you, in terms specifically of writing as a career path. It doesn't sound like you are terribly naive at that level, and it sounds like you have been putting your stuff out there, so you're not asking him to give encouragement to something that's really embryonic. But he may have that fear and if so, it's not an illegitimate fear.

I don't like the whole evasive thing. You probably need to discuss this, and be prepared for whatever you might hear. But as people have said above, his not being willing to read your stuff is not necessarily that worrying on its own.
posted by BibiRose at 10:23 AM on January 26, 2013

I agree with those who say that you're right to feel unsettled about this imbalance. Fundamentally, how is it any different from a spouse who expects you to listen to a long diatribe about his/her day at work, and then walks away as soon as YOU open YOUR mouth?

Sure there could theoretically be good reasons for that spouse walking away. But the message that comes across is "listen, spouse, YOU do the caring around here. I do the being-awesome."

Which is bullshit.

And I say this as someone who's notorious for diving into my partners' various passions, sometimes to the detriment of the rest of my life.

1) Definitely start scaling back your participation. Go only to the things you *really* love going to. Bail on the rest.

2) For serious, start scheduling readings again. Pronto. Recruit friends to be your fan club so you don't back out. And don't invite him, so he can't let you down.

3) Pour the love you wish he'd show you into your work. It won't make him do anything, but it'll make you awesomer at what you do, and that can never be a bad thing. ;)

4) Tell him that his behavior is straight up bullshit, full stop. No threats, no ultimatums. Just "you, my husband, are behaving like a straight up asshat. And I don't like it."

[And I recognize this will come across as generalizing and dismissive, but jesus christ, I never felt so neglected/unrecognized in partnerships as I did when dating musicians. My artsy partners (painters, etc) coached me in my own dabblings. Writerly partners read and workshopped with me. The musicians --every last one-- just flat out acted like I wasn't in the goddamn room. Your frustration, it resonates, is what I'm sayin.]
posted by like_a_friend at 10:27 AM on January 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

> And so, next time he tries to make you sit down to listen to something, you will refuse unless he's read something of yours.

I agree with this. Either you're willing to accept the situation as it is, which it doesn't sound like you are (and in my opinion, you shouldn't), or you do something to change it. Now, it's possible that if you stop going to see his band he won't even care/notice, but that will at least give you additional information. Hopefully, he will see what it's like when the shoe's on the other foot and change his behavior. (Sure, you can try to find out what's behind it, but that may be much harder—he may not even know, even if he's theoretically willing to tell you—and it seems to me the important thing is to get him to read your stuff, not psychoanalyze his reluctance.)
posted by languagehat at 10:47 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is my opinion that he is "afraid" to read them or attend a show because he thinks he may not like your work and dreads having to tell you he thinks it sucks. I know you said you don't care what he thinks, just that he at least considers it, but that is what I think is causing his avoidance.

I am not sure of a solution. Maybe ask him to read an article you say is written by someone else but is actually yours. Use a pen name. Try to get him to read it and see what his reaction is.

Of course, you are well within normal to expect he reciprocate your willingness to check out his art. The only question there is how far are you willing to fight for it or how far before you give up and leave.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:52 AM on January 26, 2013

My facebook feed is being clogged up today by an old friend of mine who's posting pictures from a preschool program fair where his wife has a booth promoting her baby-einstein-ish program. This guys doesn't like kids, calls them parasites and their parents breeders. Half in jest, but he really doesn't like kids.

His wife's business is kids and he's there voluntarily, surrounded by kids & parents, encouraging her, promoting her on social media, and proud as punch.

Your husband doesn't have to love what you do, but he's gotta have your back. As someone else said above, the fact that it's writing is a red herring. He's not being a real partner to you if he isn't your biggest fan.
posted by headnsouth at 11:05 AM on January 26, 2013 [12 favorites]

Man, this is a tough one. I'm a writer with lots of writer friends, so I'm familiar with a lot of the pitfalls - reading something dreadful by someone you respect and the resulting awkwardness, having to give feedback when you don't know whether the person can take it, how much mental work critique really is - and I have definitely avoided reading stuff when any of those got to be too much for me. (I finally, after a month, sat down with my writing partner's husband's novel, and... well, let's hope he can take criticism.)

PhoB outlined the problem and some reasonable expectations really well, I think, and I wanted to hit on a separate point. Your problem is not that your husband won't support you. Your problem is that your husband is lying to you and so you can't interpret his behavior as anything but willful disrespect. Sure, maybe he's scared or out of his depth or contemptuous or just not that interested - any of those are possible - but until he is able to be honest about the situation, you'll never know.

So, you know, therapy is always an option, but what I'd start with is sitting down when you're both calm, when you *don't* have a piece ready or a show coming up, and talk about what you need - namely, you need him to be honest about his ability and intention to respond to your requests. This will probably require some leading - you may have to ask "if I never asked you to read anything again, would you be relieved?" Because he probably would, and he won't say that until you give him permission to say that, and until you can do that y'all can't communicate about the issue.

You probably can't get what you want, here, and you're probably going to have to find ways to deal with it. Me, I'd find other beta readers and never ask him for feedback again, and I'd also stop offering feedback on his music at home, because the imbalance would make me super resentful.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:11 AM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

You know how sometimes you have to take a book back to the library, but the library's out of your way and it's raining and you don't want to make the trip, and so you think "well, I'll just pay the overdue fine instead"? For some people, guilt can work like that overdue fine. I do this when I'm procrastinating about things (because I'm a perfectionist and the things become huge unachievable tasks in my head) - it is easier to feel guilty about not doing them than it is to do them, so I wallow in the guilt, and then it feels like I've paid my fine. If I want to get stuff done, I actually have to consciously forbid myself from guilt.

It sounds like your husband might be doing the same thing. He knows he's hurting you, he feels terrible for hurting you, and yet he would rather feel terrible about it than actually do the thing he's avoiding. (And there are any number of reasons he might be avoiding it - he's worried he'll hate it, he's worried he won't be able to give you any useful feedback, he's worried that if he starts off down that path he'll end up having to give up 80% of his time for your stuff the same way that you're doing for his, he had a former partner who was controlling about this so he's passive-aggressively resisting it now - but honestly, you can't work out why if he doesn't want to work out why.)

So if I were you, I would start off with something smaller than this next rehearsal you're afraid of, and ask him to do something concrete and minor - reading a short blog post before you put it up tomorrow, say. If he makes a big show about scheduling it - "No, I don't want you to show me that you're putting it in your calendar. You've done that before and then not gone through with it, and that's really hurt me. I don't need to know about when you're planning to do it, I would just like you to do it." If he tells you how terrible he feels about having let you down before - "Okay, thank you, but I'm not asking you to feel bad - I'm just asking you to read that blog post." If he says he'll start coming to rehearsals and reading your screenplays - "That's great, and right now I just want you to read that blog post."

And if he still doesn't read it, tell him that you are really, really not happy and things are going to have to change. Be open with him about how much it's affecting you, that you now daren't go ahead with a rehearsal because you're so sure he's going to break his promise to attend, that it's ruining your enjoyment of his things because you feel so resentful about it. Ask him what the two of you are going to do to fix this. "I feel really bad!" "That's not what I'm asking you - I'm asking you how we're going to fix this." "I promise I'll do it the next time!" "No, we've tried that, and it doesn't happen. We need to try something else." And you need to make it clear to him that this needs fixing - no more biting your tongue instead of pointing out the imbalance to him, no more happily letting him play you music he's working on - because he's made it very clear that he would much rather feel bad about the status quo than take actions to change it.

It might be that whatever block he's got about this is going to be too strong for him ever to do what you want him to. But I think you deserve, at the very least, for him to find out and tell you what that block is in that case. This is a choice he is making here. He might not know why he's doing it, but he's not doing it by accident.
posted by Catseye at 11:44 AM on January 26, 2013 [23 favorites]

At this point, I think you need to put the "please read my stuff" on the back burner until you have addressed the "why won't you read my stuff?".

You need to sit him down and say something like this: "You know that I want you to read my stuff, and from my perspective, you've gone out of your way to avoid doing so. So I have to assume that either you actually have read my stuff and refuse to admit it, or you're afraid to read my stuff for some reason. This is really hurtful to me. So for now, I'm not going to ask you to read my stuff, I'm just going to ask why you won't. And don't worry about hurting my feelings, because you're already doing that. It's more important right now that we clear the air."

Obviously "I don't know" is not an acceptable response, so keep at him if he gives you that. Once he gives you a credible answer, maybe then you can get to a point where he's willing to read your stuff.
posted by adamrice at 11:56 AM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

And don't worry about hurting my feelings

Only say this is you really mean it.
posted by rr at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thread got super long so I don't know if anybody's mentioned this yet or not, but it's also possible that he has read your stuff secretly already and felt so guilty about his reaction to it that he is trying to avoid having that feeling again at all costs. But we really have no way of knowing that.

I think the advice above about not acknowledging his guilt (which, I'm sure he doesn't mean it to be this way, but is actually a manipulation technique that makes the situation about his feelings instead of yours) is really good.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:30 PM on January 26, 2013

Oh man, my heart is breaking for you. I write, and my husband doesn't even read normally, and he will read my stuff because he's interested in my thoughts. If I were in your position I would feel like my husband isn't curious about my thoughts and doesn't think things that are important to me are worth spending time on and does not think it's important to emotionally support me by showing up to my shows. The fact that he does this for friends would be devastating.

I get people saying he probably either doesn't like it or worries he won't -- but that's just as alarming that he can't simply express those things! I find it insulting when peole can't be honest with me. Even though it's usually about them, if my own husband felt I was just too delicate to handle it despite my saying otherwise, it would alarm me. Cowardly behavior has always been a red flag with me, because cowards end up hurting other people *because* they're too afraid of hurting other people.

It sounds like you've actually done an explicit job of expressing yourself to him, and he still isn't getting it. I would be completely blunt at this point, something like, "Husband, you have repeatedly broken promises to me and lied to me to avoid reading my work, and this is bullshit. If you don't like it, or are afraid you won't, you need to quit being a baby and just say so, because you are letting your cowardice hurt me and that's shitty behavior from someone who is supposed to care about me. Don't you think that as generous as I am with my time and support, that I deserve someone who is honest with me, and doesn't continually, willfully hurt me for years because he can't bring himself to read my writing or admit he doesn't like it? Being treated as if I am not worth the time has ruined my sense of self-worth much more than you hating my writing could ever do, and it is assholish behavior. You cannot brush this aside anymore, you are going to man up and be honest like an adult because I should at least be worth that much to you."
posted by Nattie at 1:33 PM on January 26, 2013 [14 favorites]

Wanted to add that I have absolutely read awful (I thought so anyway) writing by friends and part of being an adult is being honest that it wasn't your thing. Most mature creative types recognize that other people like things they think are awful and are capable of being tactful.

Sometimes people have personalities such that they're difficult to be honest with. I don't know if that's the case with you, or if your husband somehow erroneously got that idea, or is just a wuss or what. But I do know that when you agree to be in a committed relationship with someone, you know that there will sometimes be difficult situations and you will have to confront them. If you have that personality or your husband thinks you do, he doesn't get to be in a relationship with you and never be honest with you because of it.

Obviously people still have a responsibility to make themselves approachable, but you've already made clear that he doesn't have to like it, just read it. He should be honest even if he's wary. Very few people are actually unbearable when they're mad, it's usually just people are too cowardly to deal with what is actually not a world-ending unpleasantness. I have dealt with countless people who have actually talked about suicide when they're upset and yeah it's not a happy place to be, but my god, you can't expect to go through life without encountering someone else's unhappiness, much less that of your spouse. What was he expecting? You don't even bring it up very much, so it's not asking a lot to be very unhappy around him a couple times over the years.

The way your husband is skirting around this is disfunctional and cannot continue. It would concern me in other scenarios as well, just that he seems to think it's cool to dismiss your concerns and disrespect you that way (regardless of if he feels bad, he feels okay enough to continue doing it) because it might introduce a hiccup in his life. I would be extremely uncomfortable being in a relationship with someone who exhibited that behavior, even if they were otherwise perfect. It means they'll trade huge amounts of my pain to avoid any tiny pain of their own. You deserve better than that. In a healthy relationship, a spouse usually *wants* to trade some pains to reduce your own; that's why they take care of each other when they're sick, listen to each other vent, and so on. And I think it's normal and fine to want your spouse to be curious about you. If my husband wrote anything, I would read it immediately, even though it would probably be awful! And I would be able to be honest with him because I respect him!

And on the note of respect, I would be alarmed if my husband felt his perception of me would be damaged if he didn't like my writing, as some have suggested. I'm not saying he doesn't feel this way (he very well could) but it sorta blows my mind. You've been together seven years. If your husband wrote something awful (prose OR music) would you suddenly not respect his intelligence? I would hope not, right? My husband could do some really terrible creative stuff and I would still have a firm perception of him. I say this to point out that even if that turns out to be his reason, it is what it is, but I'd then be concerned that my husband is so judgmental or insecure in that regard. It would make me feel uneasy and shitty to know my husband could think less of me for being bad at something (in his eyes) or not good at something in the right way or whatever. That will probably be a hard conversation if it comes to pass, but it will need to be had.
posted by Nattie at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

You know, I'm a writer (poetry), and I've had non-writer boyfriends who gave me cautious feedback about my work ("you may want to think about whether you're writing for an audience, or for yourself... "), non-writer boyfriends who read my work dutifully but seemed bored or disinterested, and non-writer boyfriends who've voraciously consumed my work and lavished praise on it. I've had one writer boyfriend who asked me out because he liked my writing, when he heard me at a poetry reading. People have a lot of different tastes and beyond that, sometimes people who aren't writers don't understand what's interesting about your particular brand of writing. There could be lots of reasons he doesn't read your work, including intimidation, laziness, fear of hating it, and actually hating it. (I find that often men don't like reading "women's writing" and think it's a waste of time, so if your writing is personal and emotional like you say, there could just be some good ol' fashioned sexism going on too.)

BUT, the really truly crazy thing is that he won't go to your performances. What?!?!? You go to his shows and gigs and have build your social life around his music. He ditches your reading so that he can hang out with the guys? He NEVER attends one of your readings? I mean Jesus, if my boyfriend were a terrible writer I might have a hard time finding time to sit down and read his stuff, but I would sure as hell show up to his performances. This isn't just about your writing, this is about your career and passion and the social aspect of your work. I might not care about my boyfriend's software security career, but will I go to his office holiday party with him? Will I attend professional events that are open to a general audience? Absolutely. Maybe not everyone would, but I mean, you're going above and beyond to be supportive of his personal art.

I am really shocked by the brazen act of telling you he would go to a performance and then hanging out with friends instead. It's just so uncaring and disrespectful. I can understand procrastination, but not that. I think BEYOND everything else, you need to tell him that his lying and hedging and lack of support is deeply hurting with you and he needs to find a way to communicate what's really bothering him. I agree with adamrice's advice.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

This *would* be the sword that I would have my relationship die on. I mean, what this is about? *He doesn't take what you say seriously.*

Equally, is it possible she doesn't take what he doesn't say seriously?
posted by biffa at 3:04 PM on January 26, 2013

Equally, is it possible she doesn't take what he doesn't say seriously?

If he's an adult he needs to use his words and explain, then.

Because this:

roughly 80% of my life is spent listening to jazz and that he fully expects me to go to his shows

is unacceptable if he's not willing to at least engage with what she does, too.

I don't think that the biggest problem here is not that he doesn't read her writing - it is the massive inequity involved in his expectations that she will be a good little jazz wife but he doesn't have to expend any effort on her interests in return.
posted by winna at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm going to try to stick to answering the question, which was:

> "Is it wrong for that to bother me so much?"

In my opinion, no. It is not wrong for that to bother you so much. It would drive me absolutely bonkers.

My partner certainly doesn't share all my interests (she doesn't play role playing games.) I don't share all of my partner's interests (I'm not really into yoga.) This sort of thing has caused occasional minor friction at one time or another, but both of us acknowledge that we can have interests the other doesn't share and so be it.

But when one of us is jumping up and down and saying, "Hi this is not just an interest I have but my personal means of expressing myself creatively as a human being and it is super terribly important for you to at least take a look every now and again because I want to share it with you and I want to know you are interested in seeing what I have to express and how I do it and I want to know you simply care enough to show up" ... if that got completely ignored? Like, to the level of not taking ten minutes to read a blog post every now and then?

Yeah, it would bother me THAT MUCH.

(Coincidentally, I am a writer who used to be married to a jazz musician.)
posted by kyrademon at 4:06 PM on January 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

For what it's worth, I've probably published a thousand articles in my career as a freelance writer, and my friends and loved ones have read very few. I used to have a weekly column in the town where my parents lived, in a FREE PAPER, and they never read it. It just seems to be a thing. We can sell our writing to strangers, but the people we know don't want to read what we write.

The only upside to it is that you can write about your husband secure in the knowledge that he'll probably never read it. This doesn't mean you can violate his privacy, but you can write about dopey stuff he does around the house and kind of make fun of him in print.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:09 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've probably published a thousand articles in my career as a freelance writer, and my friends and loved ones have read very few. I used to have a weekly column in the town where my parents lived, in a FREE PAPER, and they never read it. It just seems to be a thing.

That's as may be, but jazz may also not be the OP's thing either - and yet her husband expects her to come to his shows as a show of support.

If he expects it of her, he should extend it to her, I say. OP, that was the biggest reason I responded as I did -I was actually about to say "well, it sometimes just isn't a thing for people," but then when I read that he was expecting you to go to his shows, then it was "okay HOLD the phone, that changes things."

This isn't about either music OR writing any more, this is about the partnership not being equal - and he needs to know that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:15 PM on January 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

For what it's worth, I've probably published a thousand articles in my career as a freelance writer, and my friends and loved ones have read very few. I used to have a weekly column in the town where my parents lived, in a FREE PAPER, and they never read it. It just seems to be a thing. We can sell our writing to strangers, but the people we know don't want to read what we write.

You know, that's true. Hardly anyone I know IRL has read anything of mine, or even expressed interest in doing so. I have one family friend who asks, but he's super flaky and I don't actually think he'd read it. And dude isn't a reader on top of that. My mother only asks to read my work when the family friend starts nagging about it. Years ago I used to actually print out the work for her, and she never read a bit of it, not once. Though the stuff I read isn't like the stuff she'd want to read either, so I didn't expect her to. Every time my mom asks (say, 1-2x/year), I say that she never bothered to read anything before and I know darned well she's not going to, so why should I take the time to send her a doc/sacrifice trees for it? Then she pouts a little at why won't I give her a chance, and then she forgets about it all over again. So yeah, relatives and close friends who aren't writers themselves probably aren't the folks you should count on for support.

But...I strongly suspect that he has read your work and for whatever reason, just doesn't like it and doesn't want to have to say so to your face. And I think that even if that's not the case, he obviously doesn't wanna and ain't gonna be there for you writing-wise. You've asked and asked and he'll do anything not to, and it makes you feel like shit. About the only thing you can do is to stop asking.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:41 PM on January 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

This made me very sad. You thought you were getting a partnership centered around mutual artistic goals and instead you are his cheerleader not worthy of his attention or honesty. Oftentimes, people treat their partners the way they want to be treated (like your unwavering support, interest, and time commitment to his art); he however seems to have been clear that he has expectations for your behaviour he is not willing to follow for you. To me, your issue is huge and rightfully something to end a relationship over; that you have only had "four or five" big discussions, including a heated argument, over seven years about such a big issue makes me wonder how much of you in this relationship has been diminished and de-prioritised by both of you.

People will treat you how you allow them to treat you. That your SO treats you so selfishly is on him; that you have put up with such disrespectful behavior for so long is on you. I would suggest an honest conversation where you discuss the problems you have raised in your post and suggest that for the next seven years 80% of both your lives will revolve around your art. His skills and career have benefited greatly from your mutual prioritisation, a fair partnership would now devote those same resources to going to your and your friend's readings, reading/discussing your writings together, reducing his rehearsals/shows to a manageable level, freeing your time to write, building a social life together that networks you with editors and publishers.

If the idea of explicitly asking him to make your writing career a priority makes you react in horror - "oh no, we couldn't neglect his career", then ask yourself why you expect him to make you a priority when you yourself don't think your own writing is important?
posted by saucysault at 6:06 PM on January 26, 2013 [19 favorites]

Is there a possibility that he's on some level threatened by your creative abilities (and potential success)?

But it's getting to the point where I resent going to his shows or having him sit me down to hear music he's working on.

I would stop doing that, then. He really needs to work on his own issues surrounding your work (and whether this is an ego thing), and you need to step back and not be so supportive of him (and maybe focus on your own creative output).
posted by heyjude at 8:03 PM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I feel like this sounds like an issue that is deeply embedded in the structure of your relationship together, and so it must be scary to deal with. I just wanted to say that if you feel unhappy and resentful then you are totally in the right to deal with it, and things can fall into place differently. It might take work and be scary but if you're listening to each other, things can change.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:19 PM on January 26, 2013

Funny how all the posts on this thread are longer than usual, like all the writers are on board with this thread.
Anyhoos, I'm with Room 641-A. You could make endless assumptions about your husband's state of mind and why he doesn't read your writing. Ultimately, it's up to you how you run your mind and what you allow to make you unhappy. Your well-being is far more dependent on healthy and loving relationships than it is on your husband reading your writing.
On the other hand, your husband continually making promises that he then breaks seems passive aggressive to me. There's an eloquent statement there, it's just your husband doesn't seem to have the cajones to actually out with it. If you were still dating, I'd say DTMFA as Dan Savage puts it. Since you are happily married and presumably will continue to be so, I say you need to start putting up mental walls between your writing career and your marriage. Absolutely separate them, be fiercely protective of your creative energies and un-invite your husband from all future participation, if only mentally.
posted by diode at 9:48 PM on January 26, 2013

This is the way sexism works. It's based on the principle that men and things men do are important and need support, while women and things women do are unimportant and not in need of support. I don't know your husband. I don't know what he's thinking. But the way this is playing out in your relationship is sexist, and I would have a big problem with that if it occurred in my relationship.

I would also challenge the idea that you are in a "happy marriage" when your husband's lies and evasions are making you unhappy.
posted by medusa at 10:18 PM on January 26, 2013 [13 favorites]

Since your husband is closed tighter than a clam on this issue, you can only extrapolate from the behaviors you can observe:

* He expresses a strong desire that you attend his shows, go to festivals he likes, and stop whatever you're doing to listen to his music choices. His artistic endeavors dominate your free time. You do these things because you express your love by supporting his labors of love. Plus, you gradually develop an appreciation for jazz music which enriches your artistic palette.

* Over the course of seven years he refuses to read a single word you've written or performed. Not even a blog post, even though he reads friends' blogs. He makes a passive-aggressive "calendar note" to read something your wrote which he never intended to keep, and he made up a ridiculous lie when you asked. That's way more than not wanting to critique your long work. He wishes your artistic endeavors to occupy 0% of his time. In fact, he wishes you would never mention them again.

* You've had several conversations, not so close together as to be nagging, about how much it would mean to you if he would pay some attention to your work, somehow, some way. He says he will and he flakes, again and again.

Observation #1: Your husband ascribes major value to having people close to him be fans of his art.

Observation #2: Your husband is not willing to be a fan of your art - nowhere and nohow.

Observation #3: Your husband is so unwilling to discuss #2 that he stonewalls and lies every time it comes up.

Conclusions you can draw from these? If someone treated me that way I'd feel that they were egotistical, controlling, and contemptuous of me. According to his value system, he is a creative god and you are worth nothing. Perhaps that is not what is happening in his head, but it is an understandable conclusion - and he won't give you anything else to work with.

You are spending so much of your energy on his self-expression. How much of your harmony derives from the amount of energy you spend stroking his ego? What would happen to your relationship if you rebalanced that energy such that you spent as much effort on your art as you do on his? What would happen if you stopped caring about his opinion and stopped paying him quite so much attention? I bet he'd start behaving like a toddler - fussy and even more passive-aggressive.

It's incredibly scary when you're bound by marriage to someone who feels so entitled to dictate so much. The insurmountable issue here is your husband's refusal to engage honestly. Without that I don't know how you can move through this besides redirecting your energy to creating your independent creative space - and being ready to land on your feet if he melts down when you stop being his groupie.
posted by SakuraK at 11:52 PM on January 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

Separate out that it's about your writing, for a moment, if possible. What if he were to engage in this worthless-promise behavior in other areas of your relationship? Hell, what if he did it to his fellow musicians?

I think you need to stay home during some of his gigs to work on your writing. And not as a Gesture, either, I think you should get some of that time and energy for your own work, which is important because it is yours, whatever his actual problem with reading it really is.
posted by tomboko at 5:27 AM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

How about reading some of your work to him?
posted by rmmcclay at 5:28 AM on January 27, 2013

One thing. You have to have confidence in your work whether or not your husband takes an interest. Heck yes he SHOULD take an interest, of course he should, and he should be just as supportive of you as you of him, but bottom line is YOU have to get your own confidence.

I have a feeling once you own that you will have a lot less trouble getting him interested. And even if he isn't, it can only benefit you as a creative. I am someone who has folk come up to me to look at their stuff, and I always prefer to see someone who knows they are showing their best work to me and just want my ideas versus someone who wants me to validate them as someone who has a talent because they don't trust their own instinct about it. I have been both people in that scenario, so trust me when I say it is and it MAKES a major difference.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:52 AM on January 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's a fair bit of reading into the OP's husband's motivations here. For example, a lot of comments have him entitled or dictatorial, demanding the OP's attention and that they go to his shows. Who knows: maybe he's someone who would have come perfectly well to terms with the OP never coming to his shows if they didn't seem interested to begin with. Maybe his including the OP in his art is something he does partly mostly he thinks it makes them happy. We don't know. I don't think it's productive to jump to accusations of sexism or outright disrespect either. It's completely possible that the worst interpretations of his behavior are correct, but the best ones could be too. I think, if the OP is going to work this out, then it's probably most productive not to start out assuming the worst motivations.

I think that to answer the original question, knowing whether feeling upset is reasonable depends a lot on what the explanation is for his behavior. There's a huge difference between him doing things out of disrespect or just lack of caring, for example -- which I think would definitely be worth being upset about -- and him doing them out of weakness, because he might not know how to deal with his feelings about the OP's writing, or because he's just so insanely clueless that he really doesn't get how important it is -- in which case being upset might be reasonable too (I honestly don't know) but I don't think it's as big a personal failing as some comments have made it out to be.

(Regarding the possibility that he's scared of something: I think it is important to recognize that people react to art in all sorts of different ways. Some people take criticism easily while some see every critique as a personal attack, even if they know that's not true and that they shouldn't. Some people have their self-worth tied up in their art and some don't. It's the same in the other direction: some can read a person's work and evaluate it entirely independently of what they think or feel about the person, and some have a lot of difficulty in doing that. Is that really a failing? Maybe, I don't know, but I'm not sure it's a given. The point is that just because he's the sort of person who's comfortable putting his work out there in front of someone he loves doesn't necessarily make him the sort of person who's comfortable evaluating something that someone he loves produces. If that is in fact what's going on here (and it's not a small if) then I think how upset you should be depends on how important having access to that evaluation is to you.)

I think you really need to talk with him and figure out what's going on. And if it turns out that his motivations are not ones you find too hurtful, then the question is whether there are ways he can offer his support that would be meaningful to you and less stressful or terrifying or whatever to him. Could he help you by reading specific excerpts and answering narrow questions ("is this musician behaving realistically in this scene?" "do you think this character's tone in this dialogue is angry or ironic?") Could he help you with the process of submitting your work for publication, if that's something you're doing, or organizing more events? Could you two talk about plots together, or just how your writing went today?

Ideally you'd get him reading your work, he'd appreciate it, and you'd both be happy. If that ideal is problematic to achieve for whatever reason, the question is what level of support can he provide despite that, and whether it's enough for you.
posted by mail at 7:00 AM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing he's not interested (or thinks he's not interested) in what you write and that's the reason he hasn't prioritized it (that's an understatement). You were not so interested in his music but you still prioritized it. So what we see here is a difference in personalties and behavior. You should talk to him about it because it bothers you a lot and you consider what he's doing to be unfair and inconsiderate. Or, you can decide not to let it bother you anymore (I'm not suggesting you do that, but just as a reference point, my wife and I don't talk to each other much about each other's work and it's not a problem for us).
posted by Dansaman at 7:11 PM on January 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, if he adores you and is otherwise good about keeping his promises, the problem might be as simple as avoiding something you've procrastinated on doing simply because you've ashamed of having procrastinated so much already. I mean, he's an avid reader, he loves you, duh, this is easy sauce and he should have done it ages ago. But of course, he hasn't...and somehow keeps flaking. What should have been easy has turned into a big deal.

He might be prioritizing other things over it because it's easier to hang out with friends than face what he's been avoiding for so long. It seems like he needs a face to be accountable to rather than an open deadline. How about arranging a reading date where the two of you hang out and read in companionable silence? He can read a piece of your writing and you can read whatever you prefer. Then talk about it, or not, as you choose.

If he stands you up(!), you can then pull out the big guns: come to a full stop on including him in your writing life. You don't need to announce this (in fact, don't, unless you want to start a fight). Just stop including him. Stop mentioning what you're working on to him. Stop asking him to your gigs. Don't ever prioritize his gigs over yours. Flip the script a little--rather than it being about him not loving you or respecting your ability enough to read your work, it's about him being unable to see that he's lucky to have the access to your gigs that he does. So stop casting your pearls before swine.

I suspect you want to avoid cutting him off because you're afraid that he won't care when you stop offering. But...he already doesn't care enough about it to get past his hangups. You have nothing to lose by accepting that this is never going to be a relationship where he supports your interests the way you do his. Whether or not the rest of the relationship makes up for it is up to you.
posted by rhythm and booze at 1:49 AM on January 28, 2013

late to the party, but can you print this thread out and leave it for him in a binder, labeled in huge letters "Theories that strangers on the internet have about why you never come to my shows or read my writing"?

also, OP, an update would be good to read. It's hard keeping a balance when both partners are involved in creative endeavors. I'm always excited when my partner is able to attend stuff I'm involved with, or check out my writing/art - but for me the bigger deal is how he talks about my work with other people (and how I talk about his music and creative work to other people). It's a sign of mutual respect that we can do that. If something is important to you, and your partner keeps blowing it off, your partner must not understand what your needs are. You're not asking him to praise you, attend everything, or even read in front of you. You're asking for mutual respect.
posted by salem at 11:17 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

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