Dealing with unsupportive partners when you’re a creative

Creative people rely on their affect, talents, and techniques to engage in creative endeavors. A lot of the work you do takes places in solitude, as this is the space where creative ideas have the room to emerge and expand in an uncensored way. You reach deep within into the depths of your consciousness and take risks by plunging into the unknown without much of a guarantee of fame or success. And while creative people have been described as introverted and thinking types (not always the case) able to support themselves in the process of creativity, we’re still social beings and need people around us. We need a good supportive system in place and the people around us (partners, friends, family) to encourage us and be there for us when we need it; and in return, we do the same for them.

A supportive partner can truly impact the success of the creative person and an unsupportive one will help bring insecurities and fears to the surface, thus affecting the confidence levels that help you step into the creative space. While theoretically we can all understand the role of a good support system, in reality, there are many times when we just can’t see it or when our partners are unaware that they are unsupportive.

Having a relationship with an artist or a creative person might seem exciting at first. People can be easily seduced by the potential of being with someone so complex, as most creative types are, but few understand that creativity in general and the creative person in particular are not stagnant in either work or life; creativity requires movement and change and oftentimes outsiders will feel left out or out of control and attempt to resist this constant movement while at the same time hitting the breaks for the creative and the relationship.

It is not uncommon for people to dislike and resist change but for the creative, change is a desirable and continuous state that needs support and encouragement.

Most times, our partners don’t realize the role they play and the high degree of influence they have over the creative person; their resistance to change and resulting unsupportiveness is not conscious or done out of malice. Putting the breaks for change is a defense system, more than anything, and it has very little to do with the creative and a whole lot more with their own fears, insecurities, and complexes.

So what do you do when you feel unsupported by your partner?
First, determine the ways in which you feel that way. What is it about what your partner is doing or saying that makes you feel unsupported? It may be as obvious as verbal discouragements for further engagement with your creative passion, based on the “fact” that you have yet to earn recognition or to fully rely financially on your craft. There may be subtle comments, sarcastic jokes, or avoidance of the creative community you are part of, things that when taken out of context, might not mean a whole lot.

Regardless of what it is you pick up on, take the step to talk to your partner about the things you observe and how they affect you. A talk like this might be scary, especially since it requires you to be vulnerable without the promise of finding understanding or resolve.

It has been my experience (personal and in my therapy practice) that the other person might feel offended by the implication that they negatively affect you, and if you are able to move the discussion past this initial response (using gentle words to describe your experience without blaming and name calling) you might get to the bottom of it and find a resolution.

Many times, the partner of the creative might fear failure and rejection for themselves with no relation to you, so their own feelings end up being projected onto you and what you do.
With a talk like this, some relationships will immediately fail, others get stronger and yet other remain the same thus creating a state of continuous tension. Either way, for those with a creative drive, a supportive partner is a must. When you believe that you have no choice but to create there is very little room for concessions and compromises regarding your creative passion and sometimes relationships will fail, particularly when they are used by the unsupportive partner to get leverage.