Stop Killing Your Partner’s Joy

My wife asked me to write this because in a group she’s in on Facebook she hears many stories about partners (usually long term husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc) getting all bent out of shape about their partner taking the time to work on and enjoy their hobbies. Usually, this manifests as one partner telling the other that they can’t do their hobby or go out without them because they should be spending all their free time with them. This societal trope is everywhere, including in movies and TV, and it’s lauded as “romantic” because apparently, according to what we’re taught about love in TV and movies, you’re supposed to give up those hobbies when you become an adult. And you’re especially supposed to give them up if you get married. The other side of this is that supposedly, when you are in a long term relationship, you’re supposed to only derive joy from your significant other and if you don’t, you’re somehow not in love enough.

I’ve never really understood this and frankly (if I may be blunt): Fuck. That. Noise.

When I was a kid, my parents not only encouraged me to do what interested me when I was growing up, they also encourage each other do to the things they really wanted to do with friends and work on their hobbies. My Mom would never had pitched a fit if my Dad wanted to go hunting or fishing with his buddies. She might have said “Well, money’s tight this week…” and then they would discuss it, but it was never a flat “No”. Same with my Dad. He actively encouraged my Mom to get her Bachelor’s, then her Master’s degree and has always encouraged her to do her art. It normally wasn’t a big deal if either of them decided to go and do something on their own without the other, either.

That attitude rubbed off on me. The way I see it, I’m not there to stand in my wife’s way. I’m there to encourage her to be her very best at everything that she wants to do. I’m not her parent, and she’s not mine. I don’t need to derive all of my joy from her, nor her from me. I am responsible for my own happiness, even though we are a couple. We enjoy our time together, but we also are content in our time apart from each other. We each have our own lives that just happen to be lived together.

I’ve had a couple of relationships in the past where someone was basically willing to give up their whole lives for me, as if their identity and self-worth depended on my very existence. In fact, I ended up breaking up with one person because they were going to give up an opportunity to learn more about the art they loved doing just because they were in a relationship with me and the opportunity was in another state. I said to them, “Don’t you dare give up an opportunity like that just because you want to be with me!” I was so angry because not only were they giving up a really great opportunity for their own happiness and growth, but they were using me as an excuse not to do it. I didn’t want that guilt on my head.

But the reverse is also as bad.

Denying your partner the things that make them happy is not being romantic or funny, it’s controlling. To put it another way: it’s socially acceptable emotional abuse. If you can’t deal with the time your partner puts into their art or hobbies, or even their career in some cases, then you need to evaluate your own jealousy, not stomp on their souls. If you think your partner owes you all their time and attention 24 hours a day, 7 days a week then you might want to rethink why you are with them, or married them, in the first place. Your significant other isn’t a pet. They are not your child (and don’t get me started on the Child Husband trope. Ugh).

If you insist that your partner can only do their hobbies at certain times of day, or that they can’t go out with their friends without you, what are you so afraid of? Are you jealous? Are you dealing with separation issues? Have you had a lover before who cheated on you? These are all on you, not your partner. You might want to ask yourself why you don’t trust your partner to be without you. That type of neediness isn’t healthy for any relationship, and you need to deal with your own issues. Crushing the soul of the person you love just because you have issues leads to resentment, and, if it goes too far, splitting up or divorce.

There’s an old saying: If you love someone, let them go. If they come back, it was meant to be. While this is a bit cliche, there’s a massive truth in it: if you love and trust your partner, then you can lift them up and let them go do the things that make them happy. For me, even if that means I have to let my wife be away from me for awhile, I will not stop her from doing what she needs to do. I will call the taxi, kiss her goodbye and say “Have a good time! See you when you get back!” Then I will go back into the house and figure out what to do with myself while she’s away.

Because watching her fly brings me joy, and I will never stand in the way of seeing that joy.

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