Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I, both in our early 30s, have been dating for eight months. I work as a journalist, and he reads most of my articles but never comments on them. He’s not one to praise something he feels lukewarm about, a quality I usually appreciate, but leads me to believe he thinks my work is substandard. He’s gone so far as to say that he thinks I’d be good at other types of jobs.
I’m not sure if he was trying to be encouraging, or if it was a carefully crafted attempt to tell me my writing (stinks). I do value his opinion, and if my writing does (stink), I should take a long, hard look at my career choice. I’m having a hard time discussing this because I don’t want him to think I’m fishing for compliments. Lots of people adore my writing, but I’d like to think the person I love likes my work, at least occasionally. – Frustrated Writer Chick
You’re not getting out of this without talking to him directly, which means trusting him to be honest, and trusting yourself to handle it.
Is this curiosity about his opinion, or a wholesale questioning of the path you’ve chosen through life? Is this about one opinion, or the essence of who you are? How much weight are you ready to grant the opinion of someone you’ve known for eight months?
One way to sort this out is to ask yourself: Would you still want your career, or this relationship, if he panned your writing?
The first demands a hard look at what you bring to, and take away from, your work. The idea that one guy would have the power to derail you is absurd. But if you’re questioning the value of what you do, and you’re seeing his opinion as one step toward erasing or validating your doubts, then I would suggest making your decision, and making peace with it, before you even ask him.
The second demands a hard look at what you want out of a mate. Can you feel loved, supported, respected, appreciated by someone who’s not impressed with your work?
We all know people who aren’t great at their jobs. Obviously this doesn’t make them unworthy of love. So they make their relationships work somehow, right? We may think they’re bad at their jobs, for example, but others may disagree. Likewise, some may need mates who admire their work.
The same applies to you: This is as much about the way you define yourself as it is about his opinion.
Your conclusions needn’t be final; the point is just to know yourself. Then, “I’ve been wondering, why don’t you ever comment on my work?” becomes just another fair question, something any good journalist asks.
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