‘How can I tell my husband that the novel he has written is terrible?’

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But maybe we should be doing things for the doing, for the joy, for fulfilment. What sort of monster says to their children, ‘If you don’t come top of the class, I will love you less’? Or that attempting anything is pointless unless they are the best at it? Instead we, hopefully, say, ‘All I want is for you to try your best and be happy.’ Also, he may not be a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer this week, but he could… get good. We’ve seen it happen.

He’s travelling hopefully, Frustrated, and you can either walk alongside him, or block his path. Everybody needs a hobby, an outlet, a thing, that is theirs. 

Perel calls it a ‘secret garden’. How would you feel if he wanted to spend your hard-earned savings on a motorbike? Isn’t a novel a kinder thing? He’s making a thing to enrich himself. And who knows, it may enrich you in the end.

Here’s what you do. First tell him the bits you like and also say, ‘I am not qualified to properly look at this, why don’t we ask so-and-so to read it?’ There’s also a fair and logical discussion to have about the money for a course. 

This could go something like, ‘I am so happy that you want to do this for yourself, but this money was meant to be for a rainy day. Is there another way? A different, cheaper course? Perhaps online to start with?’

You sound impatient with him, exasperated even. We think you need to reframe it: the point lies in the love of the thing, not in the dream of JK Rowling-level success. 

More importantly, as Perel puts it, ‘The grand illusion of committed love is that we think our partners are ours. In truth, their separateness is unassailable, and their mystery is forever ungraspable.’ Let him have his secret garden, Frustrated. And have a look for yours.


More from the Midults: 

What readers advised in response to last week’s problem: ‘My husband is refusing to cut off his man bun. How can I make him see that it’s ridiculous?’

@BabBoom: ‘Of course he looks silly with a man bun. If his hair’s long enough to do that then he should wear it in a pony tail as I do (loose is for special occasions or else it gets in the way). Advise him to keep it trimmed once it reaches the bottom of his deltoids.’

@BenArnulfssen: ‘It’s always a mistake for women to tell a man in his 40s that he looks ridiculous, or is acting in a foolish manner. It never ends well. However, it is also a mistake to dismiss it as a “passing phase”. Let him get on with it, keep an eye on bank and credit card statements and see what transpires.’

@JonAnon: ‘Excellent article and one uncomfortably close to my own experience. After many years of corporate life, short hair, suits and shiny shoes, I took early retirement. Grew my hair over my shoulders (good hair even at this age!) and joined a rock band. The latter she could live with, even promote but the hair, oh no. In the end the arguments and sulking got too much so I relented for the sake of matrimonial harmony – cowardly I know.’

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