For the last year, this young lady has given me no small amount of trouble. When Tom wasn’t with her, he was mostly thinking about her, and that’s tough in any relationship. I knew about her of course – she was getting ten and twelve hours a day of his time, often seven days a week, I’d have to have been pretty oblivious not to notice her impact on our lives.
It’s the biggest project Tom’s ever had – a 200 page graphic novel for Inklit – a Penguin imprint. He gave it his all, because he always throws everything he has at doing projects anyway, and this being the biggest and highest profile one to date, really focused his attention.
It did not make for an easy year. Tom and I came together through a publishing house, many years ago. We were collaborating on www.hopelessmaine.com long before we were romantically involved, and our creative partnership was for years a defining part of our relationship. Only, last year, he was mostly working with someone else. I occasionally got to help out doing large areas of simple shading, but that was about it for me – I provided domestic support, and what other support I could, but I wasn’t part of the project that had taken over our lives. I found that hard.
It’s also a challenge in any relationship when one party shifts up a gear to become way more successful, and the other party does not. As the person not making huge strides forward, it was hard not to feel peripheral, and left behind at times. I’ve made my peace with that – there was nothing else to do. I’ve watched resentment of success eat other people up, and I don’t want to be like that.
I pick my collaborators carefully. Always did. I’ve probably made more careful and considered choices around investing in co-creators than ever I have in romantic relationships. In matters of the heart, I’ve been swept off my feet into poor choices more than once. I’d assumed that the focus and intensity of a creative collaboration would be too much alongside also living with someone, but apparently not. And, having spent this last year with my marriage stripped largely of its creative collaboration aspect, it is immensely cheering to find that we still get on well and can be happy in each other.
It’s a form of challenge any relationship can face – when the thing that brought you together, or defined you, is no longer part of the mix. For couples defined by their parenting, the growing up of offspring can cause real difficulties. Then you get to find out how many facets your relationship has, and whether there’s enough depth and breadth to survive what’s missing.
This last year, we’ve learned that while working together makes us both very happy, we can survive long stretches of being flat out on working with others. It’s been an interesting experience, and by ‘interesting’ I mostly mean that I hope we won’t do anything quite like that again! At least nothing quite that long and involved.
More about the aforementioned book here.