The unsupportive spouse, and why it’s your fault

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on October 5, 2014

in This is Life

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My wife and I got into a fight because of you.

And it was all my fault.

But I’ll tell that story in a minute…

There is a harsh reality of change, of resistance arising in response to you chasing your dreams:

The folks who love you won’t get it.

In fact, they’re going to push back.

They’re going to misunderstand.

They’re going to discourage you.

But you need to recognize, the same fear you’ve experienced about going pro is the same fear they’re feeling, but for different reasons.

One dear PTP reader wrote me recently that her husband doesn’t understand the time she’s putting into her ‘hobby.’

This is a tale told many times by all kinds of artists, creators and makers as they pursued their passions.

“Why are you putting so much time into that? You have more important things to do.”

It’s okay; while surely this kind of response from a loved one or dear friend is discouraging and can draw out an emotional response (especially when you’re already facing your own fears and tumult), this is your dream: the onus is on you to recognize and handle patiently the fears your spouse or others express, often in unobvious ways.

We all resist change. It’s built into us as a survival mechanism – we’re built from the lizard brain out to find and live a stable life. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

While through our reading about the Resistance we learn to see and practice overcoming the many roadblocks we put in our own way, it is much more subtle and disarming when we face that Resistance in the form of our loved ones’ opinions and concerns.

They only want what’s best for us, right?

They don’t want us to get hurt, or embarassed, or to disappoint ourselves.

If they don’t get it, why do we naively think anyone else will? Much less pay us for our foolishness!

Those of us blessed with interested, curious, supportive spouses, friends, and loved ones are in the minority – if you have these kinds of voices in your life, be grateful for them every chance.

Most of us are in circles of people who live in unconscious survivor mode – they’re just trying to get by.

Your passion is…out of place.

Your dream disturbs their sense of well being.

Your facing your fears and chasing your vision of success puts them in a subconscious position of facing their own fears, of defining their own success. In the right circles, this is a powerful way you can enable others’ best lives; in typical social circles, however, people respond to your passion as a threat.

They don’t understand it. They don’t have a fire in their hearts, so they don’t ‘get’ yours.

They feel awkward when you get fired up and talk about your art, your business, your dream. They’re not actively trying to discourage you, but their ego is trying to protect itself in the presence of your grand aspiration.

This is normal.

And it’s okay.

I know; when it comes to something you care about so much, you ask: how can they care so little? How can they be so mean? Why are they holding me back?

And of course, as these are people from whom you typically seek wise counsel, you hear them – you listen – and you begin to question yourself.

Good dreams lose steam when the dreamer loses heart.

You can’t let this happen.

Your dreams – and your heart – deserve better than to give up because someone else dumps a bucket of water on your fire.

Just like so many fears, taking control requires recognizing this resistance for what it is, and why it happens.

When your spouse uses certain language that makes your dream feel small – words like hobby, silly, waste of time, unimportant, a distraction – they’re not trying to hurt you or discourage you; they’re showing you they don’t understand what you’re trying to do, or why.

And we all fear the unknowns, right? We fear what we don’t understand.

As part of that, we fear change.

We especially fear change when it comes to those people we hold closest to our hearts.

Consider: if your spouse or best friend didn’t truly care about you (both individually and as an important, integral part of their lives), they’d gladhand you and have no real investment in what you do. “Sure! Go for it! (Why do I care…)

The passion you have for becoming a part time professional photographer can be interpreted subconsciously as a threat: as your losing interest in that person, or their not being good enough to make you happy, or your drifting away from them, or their losing time with you to this passion, or your growing beyond them.

This is okay, it’s normal. But sometimes this subconscious fear in your spouse manifests itself in the form of discouragement and belittling.

You have to recognize, they’re already very happy with you – they’re in their comfort zone with you. Your newfound passion for the idea of becoming a working artist destabilizes that comfort zone.

It’s hard enough for we artists, driven by our passion, to reach beyond our comfort zones. It can be even harder for our loved ones to be brought by us out of theirs.

They don’t understand.

Yet.

When my wife and I started dating, I had already been a professional photographer for years – there was no big change to grow through there.

But when I launched PTP and started pouring my heart into my writing, helping startup photographers learn the art of business, we went through growing pains.

Especially with three young children at home, it became harder and harder for her to understand why they were home and I was out writing all evening, or all day on a Saturday.

She broke down and asked me one night, “This thing you’re doing doesn’t even make any money – why are you spending your time writing instead of with us?”

Ouch.

I deserved that.

Remember earlier where I said the onus lies with us to help our loved ones understand our passion projects?

I’d done a horrible job of it, and I missed the warning signs until she bravely and rightfully challenged me.

Since, I’ve helped her understand what PTP means to me and could one day mean to our family so far as an income, and she’s helped me to better schedule my time so my writing takes as little away from our family as possible.

Now, the encouragement is mutual, and I’m free both emotionally and creatively to give you guys my best work with every post.

Give yourself, and your loved ones, grace in this transitionary period as you move into the roles of working artist and business owner.

Be patient, and share your vision, your passion, with compassion.

Show that your marriage or friendship is stable, safe, important, and wanted, and that in fact your pursuing your passion will only bring more verve and life to your relationship.

NEXT STEPS

  • Set up a coffee or quiet date with the loved on you’re struggling with. Have a sit down, as we say in Texas. Visit with them about your dream, about your vision for your art and business. And listen with new ears, hear their words with new understanding, and help them recognize that what you’re working toward is no threat, but instead a blessing, for your relationship.
  • Brainstorm session: get out your pen and paper. What fears do you hold close to your heart about going pro? What fears do you think your loved one may have about you going pro? How do you think they could feel threatened? What would you say to them to reassure them that your passion project will never reduce or replace them? File this away in your Brainstorms folder.
  • My writing at PartTimePhoto.com exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to subscribe to my e-mail newsletter at the top of any page of this site.
  • What’s the biggest struggle holding you back right now? E-mail me your answer (yes, right now!), and let’s make a breakthrough today.
  • If anything in this post has spoken to and inspired you, please comment below, drop me an e-mail, or call or text me at 830-688-1564 and let me know. I’d love to hear how you use these ideas to better your part time photography business!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Roberto Ricca October 5, 2014 at 6:50 am

I’m in the middle of becoming a professional photographer. I have 1 kid and another one is coming at the end of October. I’m in the “minority”: my wife is warmly supporting my passion and dream. Right yesterday we spoke about photography and about the next steps in the following months: I’ll have to take brave decisions and I definitely prefere to get my wife in my side!
Compliments for the site, is truly inspiring!

Reply

Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor October 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Thank you for your comment and kind words Roberto!

It’s awesome that your wife is enthusiastic about supporting your work! I am thankful for the same in my relationship and friendships. Especially my Live Your Legend Local crew, who have been a true game-changer in my making real progress toward my goals.

Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

Reply

Steve October 6, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Powerful post, James!

Great advice on including your significant other in your dream. And maybe, when they see us going for our dreams, they’ll be inspired to pursue their own? How cool would that be – for each of us to be not only the catalyst for changing our own lives for the better, but also the inspiration for our spouse, or our kids, or family, or friends to do the same?

Reply

Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor October 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Thank you my friend!

On a recent Art of Charm podcast, I heard one author talk about life not as a straight line but as a flowing river – and as with all movements in life, others can get picked up and pulled along by the current.

When we pursue our dreams, while this may challenge those around us and disturb their sense of well being as they question their own choices in life, our living a more passionate life doubtless gives both permission and inspiration to those who witness our fulfillment.

Not sure if I’ve told you this story in person, but there was another James I knew back in high school, he a freshman during my senior year. He was as awkward as you’d expect a freshman to be, with big hair and all-black wardrobe and a geeky sense of humor. We always got along well, I drove him home after school many days, and just tried to be a good friend.

Come nearly a decade later, he contacted me via Facebook to tell me the kindness I showed him in high school changed his course in life. He was now married, working hard at life, and expecting his first child – whom he asked my blessing to give the name James Michael to in my honor. He said he would never be where he is today without the friendship I shared with him so long ago.

You never know who will be caught up in your current, or how far your choices (big and small) will carry them.

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Terry Jones October 16, 2014 at 2:59 am

James, this is a great post! You have an uncanny knack for hitting the nail on the head! I know you get a lot of responses to go through, and I will try to keep this brief. I’m not the youngest chicken on the farm anymore and with some physical constraints, I realize my wife just doesn’t get it “all the time”, but she does her best when I’m doing my best to express what is often an illusive dream. She’ll say I can’t do weddings anymore, find something easier. Granted, the way we express ourselves has a lot to do with the results, but that works two ways too. Some times, unfortunately, I may get defensive, which makes things worse and I have to go back and smooth the waters, BE HONEST, and tell her I don’t really get it myself sometimes. Then WE can get back to the business of doing what we both want to do. Love each other, work together, and continue building a life together even now. Patience, patience patience! Gradually the waters calm and we both get back into the same boat. I love what you are doing to keep guys like me on track and cognizant of these important things. I can be such a dufus some times, but it is survivable. Keep up the good work James!

Reply

Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor October 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words and comment Terry!

You and your wife obviously have a strong marriage, and that doesn’t come about by accident. Communication is hard to keep open, especially when we’re so naturally inclined to get comfortable and let our focus drift elsewhere. Once that band is on her hand, sometimes we feel we can stop trying – same goes for wives with their husbands.

I am deeply thankful for the real and honest talks I am able to have with my wife, a two-way street that couldn’t happen without her true investment in our marriage.

Patience is powerful, and its effect multiplied by commitment and compassion. Oftentimes we fall into a transational relationship mindset as the honeymoon phase ebbs (however many months or years that may last) – and that can quickly lead to both sides feeling shorted, or putting in more than the other.

I’m so glad to hear of the blessings in your relationship Terry, thank you again for your kind words and readership! Please do keep me posted on your successes and adventures!

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