Is her apathy malicious or a gesture to spare my feelings?
I love my wife for many things. She's kind, considerate and loving. She's a great mother to our kids (we have four between us - two from her first marriage and two from mine). She shares similar family values to me. She's fun. I find her attractive.
My big problem is that she is not what you'd call supportive. Not very supportive at all in fact.
I'd like to thank...
If you've ever watched an awards ceremony like the Oscars, I'm sure you've witnessed flustered and tearful celebrities reeling off a long list of the people who've played a part in their success. Top of the list will usually be their husband or wife, followed closely by their parents and other mentors. But the spouse usually comes first.
If I'm ever giving such a speech (not that there's an award ceremony for aspiring writers), I'd struggle to put my hand on my heart and attribute any of my successes to my wife. It's not so much that she's unsupportive - she doesn't block me from doing anything I want. But it's about how she reacts to the very idea of me as a writer.
I can say with certainty that she hasn't read anything I've written in over a year, other than birthday and anniversary cards I've given her. I sincerely doubt she could name the platforms I write on. In even the most charitable assessment, she doesn't take any interest in what I write.
What does it mean to be a supportive partner?
As far as I can recall, there's nothing in the standard wedding vows that says you have to support your partner in their career and hobbies. I think that most of us try and be supportive to our partners anyway. This can manifest in many different ways:
- Supporting them finanically so they can pursue their dream
- Providing kindly words of encouragement, particularly when they're doing something they're passionate about
- Taking an interest in their day, their work, their hopes and their dreams
- Listening to them and communicating effectively
- Being courteous, considerate and loving in how we treat them
- Giving them a high-five (literally or metaphorically) when they do something that they should be proud of
All of the above may be done selflessly or in the hope that they treat us as we've treated them. What's clear though is that just as each feels good when it's forthcoming, it feels painful and may be harmful to the relationship when they aren't forthcoming.
When I've written something that gets a lot of interest, it'd be nice to have her recognise it - it'd be even better if she found out herself and I didn't have to tell her and seem like a needy kid trying to get some praise by sharing my successes.
Support - an essential element of solid relationships
Most of us want to believe we have a supportive partner and to feel supported and valued in our relationship. It's part of what makes us believe that our relationship is essentially 'good'.
However, there is more science behind it. A long-term study was carried out to try and identify the key contributors to long-term prosperity.
The Grant Study began in 1921 and followed 237 male participants for the next 68 years. Periodic interviews were carried out to establish how their individual lives unfolded. The study found two key factors in predicting long-term prosperity:
1) Having a Happy Childhood
2) Enjoying Supportive Relationships
It's not just about having others support us in life though. The study also found that it increased participants' happiness and extended their lifespan if they were recognised to be in a position of being supportive to others.
For such a long-term and thorough study to conclude that supportive relationships are one of only two significant predictors of long-term prosperity, is significant. It shows the importance of support as part of a healthy relationship. It makes me more inclined to try and figure out then why my wife is the way she is when it comes to her supporting me (or not supporting me) as a writer.
Why is she unsupportive? What's behind it? What does it matter?
As you can imagine, I've found myself thinking about this a lot - it puzzles me enough that I'm sat here now, writing this piece even. Maybe I'm emboldened for knowing that there's little chance of her ever reading it (unless it pops up on her Facebook feed!)
I've wondered if it's down to her being afraid to find out that my writing is terrible - that somehow if she reads anything I've written, she might discover an uncomfortable truth and would lose respect for me? I don't think it's that though.
Is it because she doesn't have the time or isn't interested in reading for leisure? That crossed my mind but she spends a lot of time web-browsing on her phone, playing online games and watching TV so it's not a lack of time that's the issue either.
I might have convinced myself that she didn't like reading online until she started following a blog written by a friend of a friend. That really annoyed me, especially when she wanted me to read it too as in her words, "it was so good".
Whatever's behind it, I guess that in the bigger picture I can live without the support of my writing, but I'd still like to understand why it is that she keeps so distant from my work.
Jealousy is a factor
I've noticed that in other aspects of life she seems jealous of me, and quite without grounds for feeling so.
We are both a little 'boom or bust' when it comes to our health and fitness. In the summer months we can become almost fanatical about exercise and we workout daily. But it doesn't take much for such programs to fall apart when we lose motivation, particularly in winter.
Of the two of us though, I have far greater willpower. I will force myself out for a run when it's pouring with rain - just because I've said I would go. She's far more likely to bail.
I'll complete something out of fear of quitting and of letting myself or others down. Once she reaches her limit (or tells herself that she has), she's quick to throw in the towel.
I know that she envies my willpower. I wonder if it annoys her that I've been committed to growing as a writer for many years now, alongside my day-job. Does it rile her that I remain motivated to do this in spite of the time it's taken to make significant progress? Maybe?
Does she resent the time that I spend writing which comes at the expense of time when she and I could be doing things together? Perhaps?
Is it that she thinks I'm wasting my time in writing and she doesn't want to be seen to be endorsing that by taking an interest in it? Who can say?
What I keep coming back to is that if she were pursuing any kind of creative hobby and pouring her heart and soul into it as I am, I'm pretty certain that I'd be reading everything that she produced out of solidarity alone. As such, I don't think I'm applying a double standard here.
There is little I can do to force support from her, nor do I really want to. I've tried confronting the issue with her and there's no explanation forthcoming.
It seems kind of like it's become a thing - a side of my life that she knows about and chooses not to be involved with. On some level I guess I kind of like that there's this side of my life that she isn't part of. It's like an affair (I'd imagine) but without the risk or prospect of hurt if she were suddenly to learn about it.
I wonder sometimes if anything could ever happen that might change whether she were interested in supporting me or not? What if I were suddenly to become well known, or if one of her friends were to start following my writing would it persuade her to take an interest? If I were to suddenly become successful, rich or famous, would that convince her to read my work?
For now, I'm going to carry on regardless. I'm doing what I'm doing as it's something I'm interested in and driven to succeed with. If she chooses to take an interest and support me in it then I'll welcome her to do so, but I'm not going to let it weaken my resolve or self-belief in the meantime.
And for the record, I don't love her any less. I just won't be thanking her for the support in my acceptance speech!