Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Desperate for Balance

As I crossed the NaNo finish line, my husband clued me on on something: he was feeling neglected. Not just a little neglected, but crisis-neglected. I was . . . a bit shocked.

If you've followed my blog at all or if you care to check out the My Hubby tag, you know two things: 1) my husband is about the most supportive man in the world, and 2) we have next to no interests in common. He will never enjoy spending time with me while I'm writing or reading: he doesn't write, he doesn't read, and he doesn't understand why I like it. I will rarely enjoy spending time with him doing the things he loves: I don't ski, fish, hunt, or understand why he likes it.

For over 12.5 years of marriage, we've made it work anyway.

But it--whatever it was--isn't working anymore.

Last month, I thought everything was right with my marriage. Now I know there need to be changes or things will get very, very wrong.

So I need advice, wise readers. I know a lot of you are married and are very happy. Do you have advice for a writer who wants it all? Is it possible to have a day job, happy husband, content children, relaxing reading and STILL have time to write? How do you do it?

If your spouse isn't a writer, what do you do to make sure you spend time with them? How do you involve them in your writing life (if at all)? If you have two hours of free time after the kids are in bed, you haven't written anything all day, and the spouse is watching a show you don't like . . . what do you do?

I've had exactly one idea to fix this: we're going to learn how to play the guitar together. Hubby has expressed interest and I've always thought it would be fun. Might not have been a priority in my life, but if we both enjoy it . . . well, it has a leg up on every other non-bedroom activity in the world. This, naturally, will take even more time away from writing, but it should provide some forced togetherness with the love of my life, and that ain't bad.

I've pondered whether I can give up writing entirely. Hubby assures me he'll never ask it of me--he just wants some balance. I'm not entirely sure I can give it up without being miserable. I can go long stretches without it, but I need a creative outlet, and I love words. (Lovely, lovely words.) I'm relatively certain I can kill that part of me, but . . . then part of me will be dead. And the years I've spent on my writing will have been wasted. And I don't want that. I still want to be a published writer. Preferably one who can afford to buy her husband a ranch.

So help? Ideas? Advice? Wisdom from on high? Thoughts on where to buy a couple of cheap beginner guitars?

2013 Note: Thanks everyone, for your awesome advice. Though it turns out the problem was too big for advice, I really appreciate the help.


  1. Not married, but oh-so-much terrible dating experience. ;) Maybe combine his interests and yours? If he takes a day to go skiing, why don't you take your laptop to the lodge? You guys can meet up for lunch and then when he's done. He gets a ski day (or a camping day, or whatever), you get a mini writing retreat.

    I'd also just suggest, as a fellow lawyer-writer, that you make a "weekend" from writing. Maybe it doesn't have to overlap the "real" weekend, since I know sometimes Saturday is my only day where I don't feel mentally fried. But perhaps if you just took off Sunday and Monday from writing? Then you'd also learn to make the most of the time you have on the other 5 days of the week. Then Sundays would be totally work-free (unless you had a trial to prep for or a deadline coming up, which are understandable exceptions) and your hubster would know that even if he's feeling neglected on Friday, he's coming up on some work-free days with you because you've committed to being free. Then he can power through since there's a consistent light at the end of the tunnel.

    No matter what you end up choosing, I know you can find a good balance :)

    1. Wow, Ru, that is some excellent advice! Planned time off writing? What madness is this? ;) Thanks!

  2. I write and feel a compulsion to write, but honestly, if I had someone in my life that loved me. I'd toss all that out. There's just no reward in writing when no one wants to read your stuff and there's millions upon millions upon millions of people writing books these days that your chance of finding a reader is pretty slim.

    That being said, I may not offer the best advice.

    If I had a husband, and he was feeling neglected, I'd set that right, pronto. I'd rediscover what it was that really got me to wanting to spend time with him and rekindle that old flame and get some great sex out of it.

    It sounds a hell of a lot funner than weeding out adverbs on a weekend. How boring is that?

    1. Well, simple togetherness works just fine for the first few years, but when you tire of just playing house, you need more. You're right, though, that it has to be the most important thing. ABSOLUTELY more important than adverbs. :)

  3. Ah, my hubby and I had a similar conversation this weekend. Although, my hubby and I love doing a lot of things together he is feeling neglected. Finding something in common is a good start like the guitar lessons. And I really liked Ru's idea of going skiing and making it a writer's weekend too. If my hubby is watching a show I don't like then I curl up next to him and read a book. And setting aside time that he knows you will not be writing at all is important. Most of all keeping the communication open about which things bug him and when. Even though people say it all the time. You really DON'T have to write every day. You just need to write when it's important.

    1. I've also found that communication doesn't work so well if you assume it's a passing feeling. Feeling neglected doesn't pass without change. Apparently.

      And, yeah, writing doesn't have to be every day. Really good to remember that.

  4. My husband and I are currently dealing with balance issues. It's definitely a factor to evaluate every few years (it's been 8 for us, and things have been out of balance for awhile). I probably hadn't realized how "bad" things had gotten (bad is so relative, but we did get to a breaking point) because when he was gone doing other things, I used that time to write. Win win! Right? No... all that time spent apart means adjusting. We'd previously scheduled time together, but it FELT scheduled. We have our time slot and then he's on to the next thing. I think finding mutual interests is really important. Guitar playing--great idea! Compromising on what you already like may help--can he pick out a book that interests him and you both read it and then discuss? If not a book, then a magazine, or something that you can both discuss and relate to? Maybe you could try some interest of his. With kids in the mix, maybe you do more things as a family.

    Only you can know whether you should take time away from writing for your family. One thing I see consistently among my friends and family, is the women always sacrifice their needs for kids and husband. Make sure you are able to do what your passions are--with balance--and that it's not just you giving up something you love.

    1. Sadly, hubby isn't a reader. At all. But we can absolutely make more time for the family. I'm definitely getting the idea that I need to take at least one day and dedicate it to family each week, with an extra night just for hubby. Maybe alternating Saturdays and Sundays....

      Strange how many of us had similar conversations recently. I love having friends who relate!

  5. I listened to a writer on Real Sister's Talk Radio talk about how she balances work,family and writing. She writes during her lunch break primarily. Scheduled writing time for me doesn't work. I am more spontaneous and find that night time is where my creative juices start to take shape. This has worked for me so far. I would say if scheduling writing time works for you that would be my advice...

  6. I have a writer friend who gets up earlier than everyone in her family and uses that time to write. Others do it after everyone goes to bed.

    When I get home from work, I try and have dinner with hubby and then we play a game or something (we're into StarCraft2). Then I leave him to what he's doing and can write. Also, since he goes to bed earlier than I do usually (he has health issues), I can write once he's in bed.

    Good luck, Robin, finding what works for the two of you.

  7. I will never forget an author I met at the RWA conference in 2010. She was a BIG author, but I won't name names. She came in late like me and happened to sit at the table in the back next to me. We struck up a convo and I'll never forget her tears when she gave me some wise council about balancing family and writing. You see, she had lost her family in here dedication to writing. She told me: What good does it do a man (woman) to gain the whole world but lose his own family? She told me to major on the major things in life. Break myself away from the minor things I think are major but really aren't. When I got back from the conference I sat down with hubby and reconfirmed the direction of our lives. We both listed 5 things that are truly positive aspects in our lives and 5 that didn't seem to be getting where we wanted to go. We spent some time on the negatives to find new direction in these areas. We set a date on the calendar 3 months from that day to review our progress. We agreed that the goals weren't set in stone and could be changed. One major thing for me was to not bring school stuff home (I am a teacher). We both agreed to 9 hour work days, unless something was truly an emergency. We made up a family schedule and posted it so it guaranteed quality time together, even if it wasn't quantity. Things like setting the timer for 10 mintues before bedtime and playing Hide and Seek with the kids was something they truly looked forward to. Also, I was the one with all the activities, so now I limit myself to only 3 outside of my familY: teaching school, writing at night after the kids are in bed (hubby doesn't mind if I don't watch the shows . . . I'm on the couch next to him while I type on the laptop and give him a few minutes of attention here and there when he wants to comment on something), and volunteering with the church youth group every Wednesday. That's it. I took the "I can't say no" sticker off my forehead. I don't know if you're a spiritual person, but praying together as a family really helps us. Every Sunday night after family dinner we sit in the living room and go over our highs and lows for the week and pray about the lows and anything else we want to add to the list. I will keep your marriage in my prayers:-)Hope this advice helps!

  8. I know this isn't the answer for everyone, and I might be being a little too blunt for a blog, but making sure to keep our love life alive REALLY works for me. I've been married twenty-five years. My husband isn't into writing and doesn't read.

    When he's watching a movie/show I don't like, I'll curl up next to him with a book or my laptop, but make sure to hold his hand, rub his back etc...Letting him know I'm there.

    I also make sure to "spend time" with him at least every couple of nights. I really try not to let more than two nights pass where we just sleep. haha. Honestly, I think that rule of thumb has done more for my marriage than anything else.

    It's not just about the physical aspect of things. It's just that most guys are more physical and, to them, that's the ultimate expression of love.

    I also read out loud with my family whenever I can. sometimes we'll go months in between finding a book everyone can enjoy, but it's always something we come back to. My husband might not be a reader, but everyone likes a good story. We've listened to all the Harry Potter books on audio and loved them. We're all huge fans of Cassandra Clare. It's been a really great thing that's really brought my family together.

    I also think it's really important to do small things for each other. My husband always makes me coffee/brings me food. That means SO much to me, cause it's just such a sweet thing to do. Things like that can go a really long way. Also, just being aware of the stuff the other one does. If he does something nice, even if it's something small, be aware of it. Give him an extra long hug. Offer to rub his feet at night. Make sure to ask about his day and then listen when he answers. All basic common sense stuff that can easily get lost in the day to day routines of life.

    I think your guitar idea is a good one as well. Good luck with this. Everyone hits bumpy spots. Just the fact that you're actively looking for a solution is a huge step in the right direction.

    Keep us posted on how it goes!!

  9. I have the same balancing problem. Writing takes tons of time and my wife and I don't like to do the same things. Dont give up.
    You may want to look into the game Rocksmith. And, if your husband hasn't ever tried audiobooks, you may want to give him one, something exciting and short. I got my wife hooked on audiobooks and now we can at least read the same stuff and talk about it. She didn't read much before that.

  10. I have the same balancing problem. Writing takes tons of time and my wife and I don't like to do the same things. Dont give up.
    You may want to look into the game Rocksmith. And, if your husband hasn't ever tried audiobooks, you may want to give him one, something exciting and short. I got my wife hooked on audiobooks and now we can at least read the same stuff and talk about it. She didn't read much before that.

  11. I'm married but don't have kids, so I know that adds a whole new level of hard. But for 1, I do think Tamara's advice is good and I'm not the poster child for this in the slightest but it IS a very important aspect to marriage.

    That being said I think the biggest thing is to make an effort to get into things with him (like the guitar thing, but also taking interest in things he already likes and vice versa).

    I'm a writer and he's a worker-- aka workaholic. He works around 75 hours a week (doing various things, 50 hours at his normal job, he deals poker three nights a week, he has a lawn mowing buisness and he works on houses a lot) So we have a lot that isn't in common but we still have a lot that is. The biggest is football, I love football. We got season tickets to the Bengals this year even though it's 4 hours away o_0 If your husband likes football let me suggest something-- do fantasy football (they also have fantasy in other sports if he likes something else). It's really fun, even for someone who doesn't know a lot about it (and it will help you learn more). All you do is pick players at the beginning of the season and they are your "team" and they score points based on how they do in thier own games. Makes you interested in many games, and its fun in a very simple way, all you do it watch how it turns out. (if you decide to try this and need help, let me know, I'm an expert ;-)

    Another is snowbaording, I'm not great but I'm learning. He has to slow down a ton for me, but were together.

    Things like this do wonders. You have things to talk about,discuss, strategize, joke about. It can be anything, guitar is a great start. But I'd suggest BOTH of you try to get into something the other person likes. Learn about it so you can talk about it, you know in a way that you both can understand (no body likes to talk about something the other person doesn't get)

    Obvicously a lot depends on what you guys are like, what your relationship is like. Creating something new to do together is good, but might not last and could still feel like a chore after a while (or it could end up being something that you both love. depends). But at least taking an interest in their interests is a great way to strengthen the bond as well.

  12. I'm the last person to give advice on the subject, since I pick the bad apple in a barrel full of yummy, delicious apples every time - and the result is I'm alone again with traumatized kids. (But boy is being alone a heck of a lot better than being with someone like my ex!)

    One thing I do feel strongly about is that neither of you should have to give up the things you love to make the other person happy. Those things that your husband likes, but you can't understand, and vice versa, are what make you individuals, and what keep you alive. If you take up something to do together that you both like, like playing guitar, or even just set aside time to only spend with each other really doing nothing in particular but making time for your relationship, that's much better than letting it stagnate.

    If he's watching a show you don't like, then that's time you could spend writing. And you can spend it with him if you have a laptop and just sit with him writing while he's watching TV. You say he wants balance, and that's a very fair request to make. I hope you guys can work it out. :)