In the comment section on my survey, many frustrated writers said they wished their partners would understand them better. Several commented that their partners weren't readers, so they felt even more hopeless about ever reaching a level of understanding.
Addressing Your ExpectationsI'll never forget driving cross-country as a newlywed and reading Liz Curtis Higgs' Lowlands of Scotland series. I was crying my eyes out, turning the pages, and my husband looks over at me and says, "What's wrong with you?" I self-deprecatingly laughed at my "stupidity" and said it was "a sad book."
Those of you who have read this series know that these books aren't just sad. They. Are. Heart. Wrenching. I felt every injustice Leana endured with the very fibers of my heart. I could easily insert myself into the story and feel utter, complete empathy for her plight as the "unloved" sister, reminiscent of Leah in the Bible.
Why do I tell you this story?
Because there are two types of people in the world: those who read and those who don't. As a writer, if you married a non-reader, it's unrealistic to expect them to start picking up books--especially your books--if they never did so before.
It's probably a bad idea to try to read the same book together, even. Inevitably your partner will not take it as seriously as you, or he won't understand how or where you glean the insight from the book that you do. It's not in their genetic make-up.
So expecting someone like this to comprehend how you can lose yourself in story, how you can occupy hours/days/weeks/months with honing your craft, how you wait with bated breath for contest results or for "the call"...this is a T A L L order.
Learn to Speak the Language of Metaphor
To help them get you as a writer, you have to reach your spouse with a metaphor. You might not have to dig all that deep for the right metaphor, but it does have to be tailored to him/her.
What's your partner into? If money were no option, time no obstacle, children no speed bump...what would your partner do? Hopefully your partner's pastime would be something easy to compare to, like photography, fly fishing, gardening, bowling, playing basketball, watching football, sewing, or underwater basket weaving.
The same things they get a thrill out of, a rush from, a feeling of satisfaction from...these can translate well to writing. While the delivery of the endorphin rush is through a very different mechanism, it's still an endorphin rush.
And anything worth doing well is worth spending some time perfecting. Writing isn't easy. It can be heart-breaking. It can be frustrating. It can be tedious. But many hobbies out there also invoke these same feelings.
Stay alert, looking for how you can metaphorically connect your writing passion with that of your partner's. I think you'll be surprised at how metaphors can come together nicely.
For my husband, I used his love of rock climbing to help him understand what it's like for me to write. He has to prepare for each excursion, getting all his tools (carabiners, ropes, etc). Me, I have to have my laptop (justified my MacAir with this metaphor....do you know how expensive climbing gear is?), craft writing books, reference books, etc. Since I'm a seat of the pants writer, I compared his trying to take one path up the mountain and realizing it wasn't going to work to my writing myself into a corner. Oops. You repel back a few chapters and start on a different path. And of course, when he summits, that's when I type "The End." [Quite lovely analogy, really.]
And you know what? He got it.
My only issue now is that I suit up to do this every day...and he only climbs mountains once a month, if that. (More on this later.) So the metaphor breaks down, I suppose, as many metaphors do. But the thrill, the rush, the excitement of starting a new project/mountain, the frustration of not succeeding/rewriting, the investment into tools/laptops...those things remain.