Marriage and Musicians - Should We Even Try?
Get a group of musicians into a room and start talking about the things they hate dealing with on an everyday basis and at some point the conversation is going to turn towards getting bitched at in their relationship.
That’s not a “don’t put your feet on the coffee table” bitched at - its way bigger than that. And it’s pervasive. So pervasive, that in reality, when becoming a musician, the lifestyle begs the question “Should musicians really even TRY to marry or maintain a relationship?”
It seems that if there is one thing that goes along with the territory as a musician, it’s an inevitable misunderstanding by others - mostly those that might mistakenly fall in love, fall in infatuation, or any otherwisely “fall in” a situation with us - about what we do, how much time it takes, and where we should be focusing our energies.
Unlike doctors, dentists, lawyers or politicians who, because of their wealth, get a free ride about how much time they actually spend maintaining their careers, musicians are supposed to be able to split their energies and their attention perfectly between all of the demands of their projects, home life and work schedules.
In fact - ironically - by virtue of being paid badly for our work, we are expected to do extra penance for it - by proving everyday that we are superhuman. We lose sleep. We work long hours. We give up all our free time to get the work done. We haul our own equipment. And now under the new model we are also expected to give away our work for free.
And yet, we are always still being questioned about where our real devotions lie. Even if you find the most perfect mate - you WILL DEAL WITH THIS in every relationship you have. It’s just a package deal.
What truly doesn’t help is that the average non-musician partner tends to idealize their existence with a musician during the honeymoon phase of a relationship so much that they transport themselves onto a totally different planet. In the beginning it is all very cool to be with the rebellious rockstar that everyone fawns over once you amble offstage. For a lot of people, it fulfills a need they never fulfilled for themselves - becoming a person that others admire.
What most people never seem to grasp in that phase is that becoming someone others admire actually takes work. And time. Lots of it. Endless hours of sometimes meaningless total drudgery to get to an eventual place of awesomeness that might actually remotely in some brief moment of drunken transcendence maybe minutely impress someone who lives in our routinely media soaked jaded system.
If you don’t believe me - go ahead and try to find a musician who has met even one person who has absolutely no criticism of their work. Not many people are actually working musicians, but EVERYONE’S a music critic. And this is what makes our lives and work so difficult when trying to find time for you - our immediate loved ones who want so desperately to spend more time with us, pay more attention, or keep us at home when duty calls.
We are essentially in a semi-losing battle - not just with our spouses - but with our audiences. Find one person that thinks you’re great, and you’ll also find five who believe you should do it all together differently - and they’ll be happy to tell you all about how they would do it. So get back to work, there, bucko. I know - you’re a musician and you actually play that instrument and probably think you know what you’re doing, but Jimmy, who’s going on year eight as a barrista (read: coffee attendant) at Starbucks and who plays a little guitar on his weekends has got some really good ideas about how you should be managing your career.
I know what you’re thinking - what does all that have to do with relationships? I was just about to get to that.
The reality is our love interests and spouses are often not that much different than our audiences. They are somehow conditioned to believe that musicians are lazy. That we waste a lot of time and don’t know how to make money, and essentially are actually very bad at what we do. They don’t think of our work as “work” (because God forbid you actually enjoy your work) and they tend to undervalue the fact that we are a batch of very few people on the planet not only brave enough to pursue our real calling, but to regularly try to tap into our creativity and take the risks that we do to explore and shape it. And we usually do all this while working other jobs.
They sometimes resent us. They often belittle the time spent. Or the money made. More importantly - they have trouble understanding why perfecting small things is important to us - probably because they have never in their lives been naked onstage singing or playing their hearts out to people doing something they love but they know will also be heavily scrutinized.
Basically, they lack life experience. Which is why, in our best moments, we should take their shit and really try to help them reach the point of transcendence that we have. And maybe even experience it for themselves. That is likely why they are in our lives. Though (let’s all get this straight) they definitely won’t see it that way. (So, you know, don’t go telling them that. There are some things that need to be kept between us.)
It is no small effort to bare your soul to others everyday - particularly when it involves creation. I mean - if you really think about it, nobody gets away from the scrutiny. If there is a creator out there in the universe who has not only built this amazing world but the human body and spirit, he/she/it never gets away from it either. In every room, there’s a critic god: someone who knows better, someone who “could do it better if they put their mind to it” (one of my favorite effin’ sayings ever), and someone who is more than willing to tell you mostly how you are supposed to spend your life to make THEIRS worthwhile.
This is all occurring more than ever right now because in our current society, most people are cogs doing the bidding of their employer slaveholders. And cogs don’t usually express themselves very well. Although they should. They would be a lot happier if they did.
But you shouldn’t cave into the bitching. We do this for a reason. And it's important that others get it. Even if it does result in breakups and divorces and the occasional throwing of angry words.
Which means the question about musicians and marriage is still totally up for grabs. Because ultimately, it doesn’t rely on musicians at all. It relies on the people who love us. And whether they decide that their magical journey of creation in life is just as important as ours.
If they do, I would expect to see them doing a lot less bitching. After all, when you are busy doing what you love, it’s rare that you feel ignored.
Because there really just isn’t enough time in the day to be naked and risky.
(This blog was begrudgingly approved by my partner, who no longer does much bitching, but admits that everything I’ve said is entirely true.)
Andrea Bensmiller is a vocalist, guitarist and bass player currently working in Vegas. Find out more at www.dreadvox.com