I’ve worked with creative and performing artists for thirty-five years as a family therapist, couples’ counselor, and creativity coach. Over the course of that time I’ve acquired a good feel for why relationships in the arts prove so difficult. What do these challenges sound like in the real lives of creatives? Here are three characteristic complaints.

John, a sculptor, lamented: “Being married to an art director is tough. My wife is very outspoken and sometimes hurts my feelings with her comments or criticisms, thereby dulling my creative spirit. How do I get her to stop telling me what’s wrong with my artwork—and to start creating her own artworks once again? She is a very good artist in her own right but she seems to need to control my creative efforts. I wonder if this need to control and criticize flows from her high-pressure career in the advertising industry?”

Marjorie, a mystery writer, explained, “I was engaged to a nice man once but I couldn’t go through with it. Why? He was unable or unwilling to give me any time alone to read, write, or engage in other artistic pursuits. I knew marriage wouldn’t help matters. The man I marry doesn’t have to be an artist but he must appreciate my bohemian side enough to leave me alone for a set amount of time to do what I need to do. I will be glad to make it up to him afterwards!”

Suzanne, a painter, described what happened when she was forced to work at home: “There was a fire in my studio and with a lot of angst I set up a home studio. That month was MISERABLE!!! My new husband had no idea how to leave me alone. I hadn’t realized how important my space was to me. I couldn’t deal with him coming into my studio and asking, ‘What are you doing?’ I finally had to put post-it notes on my door: ‘No Interruptions, Please. Thank you.’ All this has made me wonder if I made a big mistake marrying!”

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