How to live with a passionate [read: obsessive, driven, fanatical, and somewhat egotistical] partner

Guest post by Raining Woman
When your partner’s hobby or job is their life, and their life is their hobby or job. (Photo by: little birthCC BY 2.0)

When I say the word “passionate,” I’m not talking about the down on your knees, overly-romantic type fanfare. I am referring to how I describe a person who is passionate about whatever specific interest they hold dear to their heart. Other words such as obsessive, driven, fanatical, and somewhat egotistical also come to mind. What if these tend to describe your partner?

My husband is one of those lucky bastards that loves his work. Like, L-O-V-E-S it. Since he graduated college and became employed, he would go to work for a typical day, come home, and immediately start doing the exact same thing he had just been doing for eight hours. If I could only be that lucky! He is immensely lucky to love his job so much, and it is something I truly admire about him.

Hubs is a Modeler, as in he “sculpts” images in 3D, and most recently has been working on creating an entire video game. He has always had some sort of project he is working on in his spare time (late into the night while I sleep nearby). Regardless of what your passionate partner’s passion is, it is pretty much a moot point. Your partner loves something. Chances are, it’s a symbol of something about your partner that you love, and that drew you together in the first place.

Whether it’s making a video game, rewiring a 1970s boob tube, or writing fantastical stories about neophytes… here are my two cents about how to survive life with a “passionate” partner…

Communicate about time

I still am not entirely sure how my husband functions. I need a good solid 8-9 hours of sleep to feel good about the world. Since I have known him (nearing on 10 years) he has spent most of his nights up for many hours past my bedtime, polishing and creating and thinking and arts-ing.

Now, with young kids, his free time has become much more valuable to me. Knowing that he stayed up the night before to work on his video game, and was most definitely NOT doing the dishes, became much harder to stomach. He became frustrated that sleep became more important, and I felt guilty even asking him to do a chore.

The trick here? Communicate. Knowing when “crunch-time” was upon him made me be a bit more flexible with him. If he had a deadline he would tell me in advance. If I had guests coming over then I would ask him to clean the living room. We also fell into a designated chore schedule. I do the dishes, he does the trash. This way, it was clear when someone had a chore to do: if the trash was full, he had to take it out. It made the cleaning process much more simple.

Give it up

That said, with two toddlers, a full-time worker, a full-time student, and a full-time hobbyist all living under one roof, we had to let the ball drop. Its name was “cleaning.” While we do tidy and up-keep, we actually very rarely mop or dust except when it is excruciatingly obvious or we throw a party. Even then, it is a hack job. I had to let go of some of my idealist expectations of having a clean house. Like, forever. While we aren’t gross people, we are definitely clutter-y people and I just don’t have the time/energy/mental capacity to have one of those sparkling clean homes.

Focus on the pros

Hey, your partner could be off chopping bad people up and stuffing them in barrels (a la Dexter) but instead, they have a hobby. Good for them! In our case, his video game has had some definite perks — he was featured on a gaming reality show and won the prize money, and it finally went on the market. This new moolah means that hopefully it will make a decent down payment to buy a house. Fingers crossed!

Admire it

I have to say, sometimes I have wanted to yell at my husband, “It’s me or [the project], you can’t have both, pick one!” and storm out of the room in a huff of smoke. But while I have definitely been angry with his obvious love of his projects, I know he sees them as a curse too. It is wonderful to have the will to create something as immense as his project has been, but I know it has also caused him considerable despair. We share this love/hate relationship of his fanatical obsession, and it is something we can bond over. It is indeed an admirable trait to be able to stick with it and take on the monster of their affection, whatever it may be.

Comments on How to live with a passionate [read: obsessive, driven, fanatical, and somewhat egotistical] partner

  1. Too funny- I was just googling the differences between obsession (negative connotation) and passion yesterday. I have been accused of having “obsessions” but they are what I enjoy and drive me to create. I think some people are just wired that way. When I’m not mid-project, I tend to be more anxious, definitely more bored, and semi-depressed. Unless I have something fun to noodle on in my off hours, I don’t feel engaged.

    I wonder why some people have that drive and others don’t? Or do we all have it, but not everyone has an outlet? And why it’s perceived as positive when it’s harnessed for hobbies? Just a neat topic- thank you for posting!

  2. I would like to think I have that passion buried in me somewhere, but honestly, I don’t think I do. I get bored easily, and am fascinated with many things… I just can’t choose a single thing I could imagine working on for more than a couple days! I think that’s why I was also so drawn to my husband, he had that passion that I didn’t.

    Interesting, though, I also wonder if its an innate thing we are born with or something we learn.

  3. I should show this to my husband, I think, being a professional musician, I am the obsessive partner. I am also guilty of sometimes taking a break from music to cook or bake, then leaving a pile of dirty dishes in my wake as I rush back to resume my musical studies.

  4. This was a fun post to read, thank you for sharing.

    My husband is less of a fanatic and more of a “serial hobbyist” – he becomes engrossed in a hobby for a stretch of time, and then something new catches his eye and he’s on to the next thing. It’s something I love about him, that he’s a curious, interested person and loves trying new things. I admire you for respecting and making room for your partner’s passions. I also try to respect my husbands hobbies, even when our communication skills are put to the test because video games or MTG are taking precedent over dishes and sleep.

    • EXACTLY what I was just going to say! We joke in my family that my husband is always becoming a master of something random. This includes everything from organic gardening to card tricks to carpentry to home brewing award-winning beer (all this in addition to his 3 main passions of programming/coding, music and meditation/yoga). Anything he’s interested in (which is a lot) becomes his latest project and he completely immerses himself in it, reading books, online articles, watching documentaries, & hands-on learning whatever it is. He’s not happy until he not only knows all about it but feels like he’s “conquered” the mystery of it and knows how to do it–and does it well.

      This insatiable curiosity and passion for life is one of the things that I love about him, but I’ve recently discovered it’s also a source of a bit of sensitivity to him. He thinks we make fun of him for saying things like “what’s the latest thing you’re doing now, nuclear physics?” But I’ve had to explain that it’s all good-natured and we all admire his many varied interests & the way he dives into things, which is definitely true.

      One thing that I’ve noticed causes issues between us (besides housework that’s already been mentioned) is that I love to read fiction & novels, & he doesn’t understand why anyone would read anything that’s “not real”. We watch some series together but he always wants to watch documentaries & I’m only sometimes in the mood for that kind of stuff. We have to compromise & find things we enjoy watching/doing together.

  5. THIS!!! Yes! I can totally relate to this. My husband is an artist. A tattoo artist by trade, but an artist of everything. He draws, he paints, he sculpts. He makes lightscreens and textile blocks for home decor. If he’s not in the middle of a project he’s miserable. His supplies have taken over our house and it will never be clean again. This has been a hard one for me to swallow as an obsessive neat freak purger. I’m just finally almost not embarassed when people come over after 4 years of living together and sorting stuff out.
    The truth is, though, that this is exactly what I love about him. His passion and creativity are so inspiring. It’s not limited to just his art- he’s so passionate about life. He is a great balance to my sometimes over-practical self. All the mess is more than worth it.

  6. I was excited to read this but I guess I hoped/thought it would be more about your emotions or the effect of this on your relationship or romantic life.

  7. You just described my husband to a T! He is also a 3D modeler for video games. He works all day for his company and then comes home to work on his own personal projects. I just wish I was as passionate about something but then I guess we’d never see each other, haha.

  8. Ok this is slightly aside from the topic of this post, but in splitting up chores around the house, how did dishes become equal to taking out the trash? One chore takes two minutes maybe three if you have a lot of different trash cans in your house and then there are dishes, which can take a very long time. I wish I could work that deal with my husband, “Here babe you do the dishes for the rest of our married life and I will take out the trash each week.”
    As for the subject of the article, yes I hear you. I am married to a computer tech and he relaxes after work in his office on the computer. We can both be a little obsessive about our interests but we don’t have kids so time is not so much an issue for us.

    • I can’t speak for the author, but I would be totally happy to do the dishes if I never had to take out the trash! I realize it’s a quick job, but for some reason, it’s my least favourite. I’ll put it off forever. In fact, I’ve often told my boyfriend that when we live together, I’ll clean the bathroom if he takes out the garbage and recycling. So maybe those two chores are equivalent in some sort of mental or enjoyment sense?

      • I hate dishes more than any other chore, I will put them off forever. When we finally got a small (tiny really) dishwasher, I told my husband every day for weeks how much I love having a dishwasher, I don’t mind loading and unloading it. Now I try to negotiate that he washes the pots and pans and I will do the other chores.

    • I loathe the trash too, I totally think its a fair trade! But that’s not the only chores we do. Worse then trash for me is folding laundry, and my hubs does that most of the time. I can wash it, I just hate folding and putting it away. So its give and take, but he also makes the moolah so I am home for more chores than him. I do hate cleaning though. Like, kill it with a butterknife type hate.

    • Nah, I’m right behind this one, because the bin store attached to our flats creeps me out. I would do nearly anything to avoid taking the bins out.

  9. I was a little dissatisfied by this. My soon to be husband is a serious workaholic. He owns his own business. While I understand it’s his passion and our livelihood, I still get very upset we don’t have any us time. Or that I don’t get any importance. I guess I was looking for more coping methods. He does take the trash out most of the time. But that’s about it.

  10. As for Coping, Emotions and Relationship stuff, I am not sure how good I’ll be for advice but I’ll tell you what worked for me.

    My hubs being passionate was one of the things I really loved about him, as I had previously dated others who were rather lackluster in this department. So knowing that this is one of his unique traits that can be immensely positive (if funneled correctly) is a big help for me when I want to choke him for not doing any laundry last night like he said he would (for example). We do definitely fight, but communicating with him about when I need him helps. Telling him I have people coming over so I need help cleaning the living room goes a lot further than just grousing at him.

    Making sure that he knows how his obsessions can make you feel is big too. If hubs is being extra crazy for a few days I’d let him know about how neglected wives are more likely to slowly poison their husbands (or something sweet, ya know). Since he finished Spate (his video game) he has given me a month of cuddles as he secretly is working on his new game while trying not to make it seem he has a new pet project. I’ll let him continue being sneaky for now as I reap the rewards.

    Also, for him, involving me was probably one of his best ideas because it gave me a sense of ownership in his project. Offer to help with whatever you are good at, and maybe it’ll change how you feel. But don’t get me wrong, his project has definitely had some moments of wreaking havoc on our relationship. These are just ideas that I have done on my end that has made the process a bit better…

    Any other suggestions out there?

    • I am the type to clean up and area and start a load of laundry before diving into one of my “projects.” The hubs dives right in. We literally write down a list for what we want to accomplish over the weekend, both chore-related, hobby-related, and, well, sometimes sex, too. Sometimes the list gets too long, so we prioritize. For some reason knowing each other’s plan and creating a mutual plan prevents any neglected needs.

      • I am a *huge* fan of putting sexy time on the to-do list! It may not seem romantic, but sex can get lost if we’ve over-scheduled our weekends in other areas. If we don’t think to include sex on the list, sometimes by the time we get to the end of jam-packed Saturday, neither of us has the energy to initiate it. PLUS it’s the most fun thing on the to-do list, and it makes for an unending source of bad “to do” puns.

  11. I am the obsessive one in my relationship and not just in my romantic relationship, but in my friendships. My husband and I recently had a impromptu sit down at the steak N shake after a Roller Derby scrimmage for the team I started helping to manage recently. At this sit down he told me that I am too passionate that I give 110% in everything I do (which is true, I latch onto something and want it to do well, really well) It’s been a HUGE struggle for me being this passionate about everything I care about. I extreme garden, extreme dance, extreme rhinestone my costumes. Manage the websites for the dance studio I teach out of but don’t own, our burlesque troupe or Dr. Sketchy’s branch, my middle eastern dance stuff and my personal burlesque page. On top of all of this I try very hard to find time to have family time, dinners (I am an excellent cook) often go to the way side because as soon as I walk in from my full time job, I have to hit photoshop to get new promos completed and emailed out for approval and post new photos change layouts stir the social media pot and sew. On the weekends I throw on my eyelashes and head to the nearest event to pass out flyers and do street team work to be seen and to get people to our events and let them know we are even there. It’s hard for my family sometimes to take all of this, and that doesn’t even start with the derby added on. It’s extremely hard for me to be so involved and have everyone I do this for want to see it do really well, but then have them not put in even a fraction of the effort or care that I do. My passion doesn’t wax and wane like the moon, it is constant, I am willing to work and work hard for the things I love, including family and friends. And it’s often difficult for me to understand why everyone else is okay with just doing something on their spare time and not really seeing it get better. I deal with a lot of guilt about the time I spend away from my family and having to arrange their lives to fit my own schedule in some cases. While my husband is slightly more understanding of this, my sister (whom we have custody of) isn’t and is. Being a teenager, she has told me she wants me home, but then resents the fact that I am home when I am there. She even accused me of cheating on my husband one day for the mere fact that I had been hitting up local concerts a lot lately to pass out flyers. She understands my need to express myself and have my hobbies and she knows that I do really, REALLY well at them, but it can be a lot for her, and for him I know. And that guilt gets to me day in and day out.

  12. My partner and I kind of traded places. As I burnt out from being a work-a-holic, he found his passion and dove in. We’ve had a lot of head butting about this, because I really don’t want him to do what I just (barely) survived, and he doesn’t want me to project onto him. What has ultimately been most effective is for me to get in touch with my needs and feelings and own them, communicate them and communicate them some more. At first, it seemed irreconcilable, but we want to be together forever, so in the end, we both modified our behaviors (aka grew). After a pretty contentious time, we actually decided to change our shared life path (move out of the city, buy land, build a house). If I had just given in to his passion’s path, I would be stuck in the city for “the next 10 years or so” while his business got off the ground, or I would have resented it so much we might have fallen apart. It is important to support your partner’s passion, but you share a life, so you have to also advocate for yourself. It is most important to find a path that works for both of you. (Also–he’s much happier with this new plan, too! He was a little stuck in the nose-to-the-grindstone, and so ultimately, it is a win-win! You might help your partner by insisting on balance.)

  13. Both my husband and I are like this, but me far more so. Largely, this is because of my job. Like I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a public interest lawyer. My work focuses on people who are marginalized, discriminated against, disenfranchised, etc. Basically, I see a lot of injustice being done fairly regularly, and part of my job is to try to counter that. I don’t really burn out because I am so thouroughly convinced of how RIGHT and how NEEDED my job is. Where else, other than my employer, will most of these people go? I like the job because the payoff is so fundamentally great when we actually manage to win and rectify some major wrongs and people have their lives bettered (or in the extreme cases, actually saved).

    At one point, after having our daughter, I actually asked my husband if I worked too much or if it was impacting our relationship. He explained his answer of “no” by saying that if I wasn’t as passionate as I was about the job, he wouldn’t like me as much. He said passion – especially passion in pursuit of a cause a person truly believes in – can be a really noble and attractive thing. He also brought up something interesting – that the world, on some level, relies on passionate people to push envelopes, come up with new ideas, confront old ideas, etc. He always brings up Steve Jobs as an example – someone who was notoriously hard to get along with. My husband argues that sometimes, passionate people just need to be left to pursue what matters to them.

    On the other hand, I get that it can be unfair. Who does most of the childcare in my marriage? Him. We do our best to split chores, but that gets tough sometimes. We’re debating hiring somebody to do the cleaning. We do all the food prep on weekends (mostly food assembly) so almost no cooking happens during the week. Honestly, it was hard for me to mostly stop working weekends (at least in the actual office). But overall, home seems to be fine.

    The biggest issue in relationships I’ve had, as one of those “fanatics” are the relationships with others. Frankly, I know I have a reputation as a B-word among people we know. Part of it is that people often don’t recognize differing attitudes. What one person values in the highest way might not be as valuable to someone else. One of my less than-noble moments involved a woman I encountered at a play-group for babies. We had started talking about our work lives, and she was fairly taken aback by how much I professed to love it. She made a comment along the lines of “it’s just a job, your baby is more important.” And that sort of provoked a response from me that wound up with me dressing her down loudly and meanly enough to get her to cry in front of the group. It actually took me a while to realize why it was so improper for me to react that way. Sure, she was in the wrong for such a statement, since she tried to impose her values as well, but I should have kept my passions in check. It’s a struggle that I am still at odds with. Passion is a wonderful thing, but it can also cloud objectiveness and when it’s loosed in a less than controlled way, it can turn quick and be hurtful. That is the trick with me. My husband and I have reached a place where we can disagree without setting off a major fight. He knows that impugning the value of my work will result in nothing but war, and I know what things are dear to him, and I leave those be. Sometimes the point you have to make might just not be worth the fight that will result. We figured out real quick that you need to set parameters for fights. Otherwise, it can be hell to disagree. I’ve realized that I might not be able to get rid of my passions, but I can certainly control how I express them to others, and that’s most of the battle right there.

  14. I must say this post deeply saddens me. You have just described my father.

    All his kids have been affected on different levels by his self- absorbed whatever-else-is-more-important-than-you attitude. A lot of resentment built up and my mom slaved away working and trying to keep it all together by herself while excusing his behaviour, just like you are doing.

    As an adult, I see how wrong the family dynamic.

    As an adult, you can convince yourself you are still important to him. As a child, not so much. Be Very very very wary of how a selfish father impacts your kids…

  15. Myself and my husband are both “obsessive” types. We try to live by the rule that we can only sleep at work/school one night a week. Any more than that feels like we’re somehow shirking our responsibilities for marriage by not being there for our partner.

  16. You know, both my husband and I have things we are really passionate about – I LOVE my job and he is intensely committed to his woodworking and music hobbies. But we also recognise that part of being an adult is sharing the responsibilities of the household, even if we’d rather sometimes be doing something else. I feel like “passion” can often be used as an excuse for just being self-absorbed. No one can do what they want 100% of the time!

  17. I TOTALLY get this – in our case, BOTH of us are the passionate ones and I have a hectically obsessive personality. I am a photographer/illustrator and boyfriend is a graphic designer/3D modeller and on top of that, we both play a variety of musical instruments. We devote HOURS, WEEKS, MONTHS to our craft at a time so the clean house thing is also something I’ve given up on very, very quickly. We spend so much time working and arting and creating and thinking (just as you’ve described) that I have to put a reminder on my phone that I have to do the laundry! :/
    Sure, our house won’t look like it came out of a catalogue, but will it be pretty? Yes! Will it be comfortable? HELL yes!

    I’ve never had an overwhelming desire to have a Pinterest-swoonworthy house but our hectic work schedules just reinforces that it’s not in the cards for us, and that’s okay. We would much rather be drinking beer and eating pizza with friends in our spare time than waste it cleaning and polishing a house to impress our mothers! 🙂

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