Thursday, January 26, 2012

Relationships: Musicians & Otherwise

Relationships with Musicians, Artists or other-wise:

I've worked with musicians and artists for decades and have observed a troubling problem that most musicians seem to suffer repeatedly in their relationships. Recently a musician friend confessed that his 5-year relationship with a woman he loved had ended over the holidays. Upon considering the reasons, he said that she did not like his lifestyle of being out playing music at night on the weekends (only a couple times a month no less). Did she know he was a musician when they met & became involved? Yes she did. This is the part I do not understand.

If someone becomes involved with a musician (or any lifestyle really) knowing full well what that entails, how can they then end a relationship much later for something they knew what the partner did before becoming involved, or staying involved with a partner so long when one obviously didn't like the lifestyle known about from the start? 

Now I know many people--especially women, who have been socialized to believe these irrational things--believe that they can "change" a person, or that marriage will make their mate "settle down", or their "bachelor/ette ways" will change once in a relationship. However by now, most people know that no one can change another person, nor should they try to do so. Just turn the tables in your mind--how would YOU feel if some major part of your life was accepted in a relationship but then was used against you once the relationship had been established and long term? 

A silly example perhaps, but what if you have red hair, and a person gets involved with you & you both fall in love, move in together, maybe even get married, then your mate says "I want you to dye your hair black for me, forever, or I can't be with you as a redhead anymore"? How would that make you feel? Red hair is an essential part of who you are. Are you willing to become some one or thing else to be loved? I hope not.

So how is it one can get involved with a musician (or artist or fill-in-the-blank), knowing their lifestyle and schedule, pursue the relationship long term, and then turn around & give an ultimatum--quit music, get a "real job", or else!--pressuring your loved one to give up an essential part of themselves? Why would you want to change an integral part of what drew you together, what you apparently liked to begin with, or at least did not have a problem with it overtly?

To me, this is something that should be openly discussed in the beginning before a relationship becomes serious, expressing any concerns & questions about whatever elements of a potential mate's life that may concern one or that may become an issue. One need ask themselves, can I live with this person if they NEVER CHANGE anything about themselves or their lives. Can I accept everything about this person, the good the bad and the ugly, so to speak. 

Are there issues of one's own that will affect the relationship negatively or are causing one to ignore, deny & minimize the unacceptable aspects of a person, especially in the rosy glow of early love & lust? One need know themselves deeply, examine motives, beliefs, past relationship patterns, how much of the problem is YOU and unrealistic expectations, old values & beliefs from your upbringing, media & other influences, which beliefs are yours and which need to be examined for self-sabotaging, harmful effects in your relationships?

I've been there, I used to choose needy people so I could "fix" them, or believed they would change once married, or living together, or once someone loved them. Ha! I've learned what my patterns were, my old values & irrational beliefs, the insane expectations I'd put on a partner, the relationship or myself, much of which came from childhood insecurities & abuses that shaped some of who I was at that time. Only after I ruthlessly examined my relationship patterns, took responsibility for MY PART in the failures, saw how truly crazy my expectations & beliefs were, could I even begin to relate to people and accept them for who they ARE, not who they might become or if only they might be a diamond in the rough that needs a bit of polishing. I sure wouldn't like someone to think of me that way & expect me to become someone else to please them, so why would I automatically expect it of anyone else?

Someday I plan to write more about that process of growth and change within myself, so that I could be a better partner and have successful relationships without harming another or being harmed myself. For now, let's go back to the relationships musicians seem to attract and suffer through. 

A musician (or artist or whatever) needs to examine their own calling, is it something they can give up for someone else, or is it an integral part of who they are? Look at one's lifestyle, will it allow for a healthy relationship? In most cases, yes to both questions. Next, one needs to openly discuss with ANY potential partners the depth of one's commitment to their art, any issues the partner might have, are you able or willing to negotiate on some aspects, meaning both compromise without resentment. 

Are there things either wants the other to change? What about the other can one NOT accept if one had to live with that person for ten years, twenty? An honest & open discussion is necessary in the beginning stages of any type of relationship, as well as at any point these questions may arise before committing to one another for the long term. While life may not be fair, this does not absolve you of being fair to the person you love--and receiving that same respect in return. 

We all change and grow over time, as do our circumstances, relationships usually have a positive effect on those involved. For instance, partners tend to balance each others strengths & weakness. For example, one may be shy while the other is outgoing, and each learn from the other so that the shy one becomes a bit more outgoing and the outgoing one becomes a bit more reserved, naturally. Or one can be good with money & responsibility, where the other is more spontaneous & impulsive. Over time each learns and adopts some of the other's strengths, lessens one another's weaknesses, at least in healthy interactive relationships. 

However, going into a relationship expecting to change the other person or knowing one has a problem with a key part of the other, is unhealthy & unfair. One needs to work on these issues within oneself, seek out the root of these negative patterns & irrational expectations, rather than focusing on changing someone else. Ideally, before getting involved long term with another, but can also be done while in a relationship to its benefit. If one is honest with oneself, and finds any part of another person so unacceptable, then that person or relationship is not for you. Being honest up front will prevent much harm later on, to both involved.

So, yes many of us find musicians sexy & attractive, fun and cool to be around, especially in the beginning or if one has never been around such an atmosphere or lifestyle before, it can seem very exciting. The energy surrounding music & artists can be addicting and stimulating to say the least, and it's what musicians live for when performing, that energy makes or breaks a show for them. That energy can be very attractive & can be misinterpreted as sexual or personal, when in fact it's part of the show. No one will be, nor can they be, on stage full time, be "on" 24/7. Many comedians complain that people expect them to be funny 100% of the time. Imagine having to work around the clock because people expected it of you? So examine whether it is the person you are drawn to, or the excitement of the performance, are you as drawn to the musician when off stage & living normal every day life?

In the beginning one can be very involved with attending the shows, supporting the partner's work & even being enthusiastic about their success. This is, however, when one must examine whether this is a life one could live indefinitely, look ten years down the road, are you willing to still be there as a full partner? Or do you think things will settle down, change, perhaps when you have a child? Are you as interested in music as your partner & in your partner's kind of music? Are there any parts of the partner, or the job, or the lifestyle that you are uncomfortable with? Do you believe the problems will just go away with time? Are you willing to compromise and negotiate without giving ultimatums or pressuring the other to give up a large part of their self to keep your love? Be rigorously honest with yourself and your partner, you both deserve to know the answers before becoming so involved you tear each other apart due to such issues never being examined.

One thing I truly despise is when a person lives with a musician for years, maybe even get married, and boom, tells the partner to quit or else. This is the height of unfairness, dirty pool so to speak. That person knew all along what the partner did for a living & if one waits that long to bring such a problem to light, then I truly doubt love is involved at all. Loving someone means accepting WHO they ARE, good and bad, it does not mean loving their potential, who they may become, nor who one wants them to be. 

There's nothing worse, to me anyway, than to see a truly talented musical group break up because one band member gets married or gets an ultimatum from a supposed lover to give up the band or music for the relationship, and always years into being together, when it is NOT the musician's responsibility to give up anything for a partner--the time for such problems to come up & be resolved is long past! Those who have given up their work for someone, end up resenting and even hating that person later on. Do you want to live with that, either one of you?

I urge musicians (and artists & fill-in-the-blank) to stick it out when an issue like this comes up, because it is really a selfish and harmful demand by a person who does NOT love you, certainly not for who you ARE, it's possible they may not know you at all and have some fantasy image in their head that will never measure up to reality. Do NOT give up your self or your work or any essential part of your being, for the sake of ANY one else. Pay attention and discuss openly any objections you or your partner may have, from the start. Don't ignore your partner's hints at future change, or supposed "joking" that they are jealous, envious, "tired" of going out on weekends, and numerous other manipulative behaviors to try & change YOU, rather than them doing the necessary work on themselves. 

We are each worthy of love AS WE ARE RIGHT NOW, we do not need to change who we are for ANY ONE. If there are things we dislike about our self, then we pursue growth in that area for one's self, not for some one else. To sacrifice any valued part of one's self for another will never lead to love or successful relationships, no matter how promising it may seem it's never a healthy loving desire when one tries to change another--it is a sickness within that person & they need to take responsibility for & get help with their own self-destructive & other-destructive beliefs & behaviors. 

If left unresolved, these nit-picking, unhealthy partnership behaviors will sow self-doubt in the musician (or love object), cause harm to one's self-confidence, and perhaps lead one to stop believing in oneself or one's talent and calling. A musician may start to wonder if the partner is right and they should "just quit and get a real job". These niggling criticisms & nasty manipulations cause harm as great as if one has been struck again and again in the face, only more insidious because this happens subtly & over time, mostly unseen. 

If a musician does decide to pack it in and pursue another career, be sure not to use the partner as the blame for it later on. This is why it is of utmost importance that you examine your motives thoroughly before making such life changing decisions, and never because of someone else's preferences. 

Obviously if one is unfaithful, abusive, criminal, etc., those are one's own issues that need to be resolved, not accepted and ignored when others are being harmed overtly as a result. One is still worthy of love, but this should be done to heal oneself, to better oneself, for personal growth as well as future relationship success. Although the same is true in these cases, a partner needs to be honest in whether they can live with and accept such behavior, in nearly all cases the answer should be no. One can't give back in a relationship until one has dealt with such character flaws that will block any fruitful unions until there can be mutual respect and personal safety.

I wrote this in hopes of reaching the people who need to hear and understand this most. I've been there, both sides of this coin, and passed through to the other side. I know it can be done, I know how freeing the results can be, how illuminating the root of a problem discovered and resolved has been for me. I'm also heart sick at seeing musicians I care about deeply, being harmed in such undeserved ways. In exchange for taking a chance and giving their love, instead they are hurt again & again for who they have always been, none of it their fault because they are who they are--it is the partner's responsibility to deal with these issues early on, before harming someone because of avoidance & self-ignorance. Please, be kind & love one another people.

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