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23 Writers Tell Us How Important It Is That A Spouse Or Romantic Partner Reads Their Work

Posted: February 10, 2020

Are you a writer? Does your spouse/romantic partner read your work? How much of a difference does it make to you?

While it is always great to have a spouse/partner who reads your work, most writers seem to agree that when that doesn’t happen, it is not the end of the world, or the relationship. What matters is that the support and encouragement they offer, and reading is just one way to do that.

Are you a writer? Does your spouse/romantic partner read your work? How much of a difference does it make to you?

As a writer myself, these were questions that I hadn’t asked myself, until I came across this tweet by NYT bestselling author and senior editor at Zora magazine and Medium, Morgan Jerkins.

At first glance, the tweet makes sense. After all, wouldn’t someone who values you also value your work?

A partner who reads

Many people expressed their agreement with the tweet, including author Catherynne Valente.

Many others also responded to the tweet, sharing their own stories of feeling ignored and devalued by their romantic partners, especially when they themselves had been extremely supportive of their work.

There certainly is something to be said for a spouse/romantic partner who is willing to engage with one’s work. It can be a real boost to one’s confidence and can be the sign of a mutually loving and respectful relationship.

Writers Piyusha Vir and Apeksha Harsh who responded to my Facebook post about the same, certainly felt that having a spouse/romantic partner who reads one’s writing can be a huge plus.

“I never had it in mind as a criterion but on reflecting, I would find it tough if he wasn’t interested in the genre I write, or was dismissive of it. He is the one who constantly pushes me even when I don’t want to write. It also helps that we read very different things and this makes our approaches to books, my writing and issues in life more layered. So not a prerequisite but I’m lucky to have someone who reads everything I write,” says Apeksha. “I wouldn’t want someone who loves my writing but not me,” she adds.

Piyusha too, strongly agrees with the tweet, saying, “I’ve always thought I’d like a partner who reads.”

Love can be displayed in a thousand ways

Others however disagree. Reading, they say, is just one way of showing support. Nebula and Hugo award winning author Mary Robinette Kowal, for instance, tweeted that while her husband hasn’t read her work at all, it hasn’t hurt her career or her marriage.

Writers that I know largely agreed with this view.

“Love can be displayed in a thousand ways, and reading your work and engaging with it may or may not be one of them,” wrote Women’s Web founder, Aparna Vedapuri Singh.

Award winning author, Founder of Beyond the Box and Rex Karamveer Chakra awardee, Anupama Dalmia said that her husband often doesn’t find the time to read her work, but “he is extremely supportive towards my writing in many ways. He even discusses the topics I contemplate writing about to give me different perspectives. He also helps me identify my own strengths as a writer and gives me space to write.”

Mira Saraf, writer and Director at Netaquila Solutions Pvt Ltd, pointed out that even friends don’t sometimes read one’s work, and if we can live with that, then that should be extended to a romantic relationship as well. “I don’t think it is any measure of how he feels about me or how much he respects me, both areas in which I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. Similarly I have many friends that care for me but simply aren’t readers. It’s okay.”

According to writer Er Shine, there are already many arbitrary “rules” about finding a partner, and no one needs this extra pressure. For her it is all about celebrating the differences.

Demanding this could be a recipe for disaster

Many writers emphasized that such demands from a relationship, were too self-centered and a sure shot recipe for disaster. After all, it just encourages sycophancy and dishonesty, if not a complete breakdown of the relationship. “To have this expectation of a partner/ spouse can be a nightmare (for the partner/ spouse) if a person has a very high opinion of themselves, is an introvert who won’t make friends who can satisfy this need, and it isn’t met,” wrote Sandhya Renukamba, Senior Editor and Community Manager at Women’s Web.

Writer Pavi Raman wondered, “Sounds like the original poster (tweeter?) wants a bunch of yes men and fanboys.” Architect-Partner at Finishing Lines Design Studio and Writer, Sucharita Hazra, wrote, “to place such a big responsibility to be a choosing criterion for your other half doesn’t make sense, unless your life is unidimensional, and frankly narcissistic at best.”

“This is almost in line with ‘maa ke haath ka khaana,’ phew!” quipped author and translator Pooja Priyamvada.

“I write because it makes me feel free – to express what I need to share – like a story or a feeling that would explode if not shared with a much larger world. But to tie it into a relationship goal is ridiculous!” shared writer Archana Natraj.

Other kinds of support just as important

For other writers, whose husbands did read their work, it was the other support that they provided that was more important. Writer Saumya Srivastava said, “the biggest help he provides is when he cleans, cooks and fathers our child, while I get my time, to write, to breathe, to grasp on thoughts and life ahead. Because at that end what you breathe is what you write.” Writer Parvadavardini Dilip and Educator and Writer, Manmeet Narang agree.

Kalpana Manivannan, Organic Farmer, Social Entrepreneur, Teacher and Writer, feels the same, “My husband is a non-reader. He doesn’t read anything except for the newspaper and sports columns. But having said that he reads my articles and I always go to him to beta read. He was the one who encouraged me to start a blog which lead to everything else. He is my first editor and critic and greatest supporter. He has been such a great support, positive influence and a rock in my journey as whatever I pursued so far. Anything and everything. Great help in everyday cooking, cleaning, managing household, being with kids, helping them in studies, plays games with them. So I am absolutely of the view that your spouse need not be a reader/writer to support you.”

Doesn’t make my work any less special

For writer Tarannum Nazma Shaikh, it was a non-issue, “Whether or not he reads it, doesn’t make my work any less special. Why impose validation of something that isn’t important at the first place?”

Writer (and more importantly, reader!) Anushree Kulkarni noted that writer-couples haven’t always been a good match, “As if writer/reader couples made great spouses. Some of them were disastrous together. Re: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Zelda and F Scott Fitzgerald; Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.”

Award winning author Sonia Chatterjee, pointed out that she hadn’t expected her husband to be involved with her work when she was a banker. Now that she has shifted careers, to expect him to be involved suddenly doesn’t make sense. “My husband is a doctor. When we got married, I was a Banking Branch Head. We came from diverse backgrounds and didn’t understand each other’s profession much. With time, we worked it out. But it was never mandatory for him to attend my Banking events just as it wasn’t a necessity for me to attend his medical conferences. I have changed my career to taking up writing as a full-time job. Why should the dynamics change now?”  “Whenever relationships, irrespective of whatever profession the spouses belong to, have a clause to abide by, it is nothing but forced togetherness that will snap the moment one fails to keep the commitment going,” she added.

Pratyusha Mandal, a microbiologist and instructor at Emory University, pointed out that if one is writing scientific papers, then to expect spouses/romantic partners who are not from the same field to engage with it, is not fair or realistic.

What about the men writers?

I had to wonder however, are these responses just a reflection of female conditioning to adjust and be accepting. Would male writers too say that they are grateful for whatever support they get from their spouse/romantic partner, even if they don’t read their work?

Much to my delight, I found that male writers too are okay with having spouses who don’t read their work.

On my own post, Senior Resident at Safdarjung hospital and writer Rahul Vishnoi joked, that by these standards, he should have had a breakup long ago. His partner just doesn’t enjoy reading thrillers, which is one of the genres that he writes in!

Homemaker and former public affairs professional and journalist Mishty Varma, shared that while she does critique her partner’s work, the genre is just not her cup of tea either.

Love works in mysterious ways…

As a young woman, I nurtured fantasies of having a husband who would also be a writer and a reader, and how we would critique each other’s work and make each other better writers. Now that I have been married for nearly a decade, I know that both people and relationships are far more complex.

My husband reads every single article I write and he does engage with me on them. The fact that he is not a reader otherwise just makes it even more special. At the same time, he also supports me in a thousand other ways –from not disturbing me when I’m writing, to taking charge of the housework when necessary, and it is these things that make it possible for me to write in the first place. This support, and the pride he expresses in my little successes –these mean far more to me and if I had to choose between him reading my work or his support in other ways, I would choose the latter in a pinch.

As writer Shivani Salil, who has a similar equation with her spouse puts it, “I’ll find better beta readers than him, but not a better person to spend the rest of my life with.”

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