“Help! My Multipotentialite Partner is Stressing Me Out!”

“Help! My Multipotentialite Partner is Stressing Me Out!”

Written by Kristin Wong

Topics: Support

Dear Puttylike,

I wouldn’t describe myself as a multipotentialite–but I’m married to one! My husband is constantly looking for different career paths and opportunities. He has had an assortment of jobs, professions, and degrees. Sometimes he loses interest and moves onto the next thing pretty quickly.

For me, someone who would describe myself as a specialist, it can be overwhelming. I want him to be happy, but it’s hard to get behind his next career path as it means incurring more debt and we’ve just bought a house. It’s also hard to be excited about a new pursuit when I know there’s a good chance that it will change. I’m fully supportive of him being happy at what he does, but I’m struggling to help him achieve it, as his vision seems to constantly change. I hate feeling as though I’m crushing his dreams. How do you help someone identify what are serious interests versus fleeting ones, and are there ways to make sacrifices to keep him happy in a job but not constantly put us further into debt?

Sincerely,

Supportive Specialist

**

Dear Supportive Specialist,

Kudos to you for wanting to support your multipod partner as best you can. I imagine this is a pretty common relationship problem. In fact, it’s an issue that’s popped up in my own relationship recently.

At the end of this past year, I made a drastic decision. After ten years of living in California, I decided to take a new editing job that would move me to New York City. With a husband, a house, a dog, and a cat here in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but feel guilty.

Both editing and moving to New York are things I’ve wanted to pursue for a while. If I were single, the decision would’ve been a no-brainer. But with a spouse who has a job, family, and childhood friends in California, uprooting our entire lives to pursue my goal has been a difficult decision, and a conversation that we’ve had for years. In that time, he’s echoed many of the same sentiments you do.

Like you, my husband is a specialist who craves certainty and stability, and I’m a multipod who wants to pack everything she can into a single lifetime. Like you, he often wonders how to encourage and support me when the things I want are at odds with the things he wants, and vice versa. We’ve both made concessions. And while I’m certainly not a relationship expert, we’ve come to a place where we feel mutually supported and optimistic, and there are some important lessons we’ve learned along the way.

You have to pinpoint your values

Every multipotentialite is different, and that’s okay. Sometimes we know exactly what we want, and sometimes our interests are fleeting. This does make it hard for our partners to know when to take us “seriously.” On the other hand, there’s no right way to be a multipod, and those fleeting interests can be just as valuable, so I would encourage you to take them seriously, too.

That said, there are potential drawbacks to constantly moving on from one hobby to another. Namely, it can be expensive to invest money into a fleeting pursuit—we’ll get to that later. But sometimes our pursuits are fleeting because our heart was never in them to begin with. And that’s where it really helps to have guidance from loved ones.

Many multipods convince themselves a certain path is right for them because it leads to money and traditional markers of success. Then we get on that path and realize, OH WOW THIS IS NOT FOR ME. We soon realize we were just doing the thing we thought we “should” do instead of the thing we really wanted to do. Of course, sometimes you do have to do those things, and sometimes those things can help you with your other pursuits. But this becomes a problem when you invest a bunch of money into a “should” only to give it up later. How many people are paying off student loans for degrees they never wanted in the first place?

As the partner, loved one, or friend of a multipod, you can look out for these patterns and encourage them to do a quick gut-check when new pursuits pop up. When I come up with a new idea, I always run it by a good friend and colleague. She knows me well, and will outrightly tell me if she thinks a pursuit will leave me feeling unfulfilled. When I wanted to write a book about freelancing, for example, she asked, “Is that something you really want to do or is it something you know you could do?” I had to admit it was the latter, and it saved me a lot of time I would have spent figuring it out on my own.

You can do this with your spouse. My husband and I talk regularly about our goals and values so that we know what we’re both working toward. This makes it easy for him to pinpoint projects that I truly care about versus distractions that don’t align with my priorities. When your husband brings up an idea, you can go through that “dream bio” exercise with him (or try some other exercises for pinpointing your values and “whys”).

At first, he might be defensive. It’s easy for multipods to feel defensive about the way we are because we live in such a specialist culture. But if he knows you’re truly there to support his multipotentiality, he’ll see that the exercise is really about making sure he’s doing what’s best for himself. And yes, that means not throwing money and time into something that he’ll give up later.

There is a gentle way to broach the topic, though. Try something like, “I don’t see your many interests and changing passions as a problem, in fact I want to support them and you better– which is why I want to talk about what’s driving these changes and how it’s affecting our money and life together.” Make sure he knows that this conversation isn’t an attack–it’s a way to find a balance so that you can both get what you want. He’ll feel a lot more optimistic this way.

Encourage your partner to test interests before going “all in”

Being a multipod can be expensive. You have so many interests, and those interests might require equipment or certifications or any number of other expenses. Beyond the cost, there’s an added problem: Sometimes you “buy” your way to a new pursuit only to lose interest in it. Sometimes the simple act of consumption is enough to feed your interest, then you get bored.

For example, maybe you love the idea of being a photographer, so you buy an $800 DSLR camera, carry it around, then realize you liked the idea of “playing” photographer more than you do actually taking pictures. I’m not judging—I know this happens because I’ve been there. And it can be frustrating for our loved ones, who are affected by our spending habits.

One way multipods can get around this problem is to test out a hobby or interest first. You can support a multipod spouse or partner by helping them find ways to do this. Brainstorm free or low-cost ways to experiment with a new interest. For example, if he’s interested in photography, he could rent a camera for the weekend before spending $800 on a new one. If he wants to go back to college to get a psychology degree, he could try taking a class or two at his local community college first.

It may also be worth interviewing someone in his chosen field. If your husband is interested in getting a specific degree, it makes sense to interview some people who have already earned that degree and can give him a sense of what day-to-day life looks like for someone in that field. He might decide early on that it’s not for him, in which case, you’ve saved a boat load of money. It’s one way to explore a curiosity before going all in.

You can even come up with a monthly “multipod budget” together. Set aside a couple of hundred bucks a month to spend on (or save up for) various interests. Set guidelines together so that your partner can indulge their multipotentiality, while you still get the stability you need and crave.

Money isn’t everything, but it matters.

For a lot of multipods—and people in general—money is just a thing that gets in the way of doing what you want to do with your life. This is why a lot of us just avoid dealing with money altogether. Money feels like an obstacle, a hindrance. Of course, avoiding our finances only makes things worse. And oftentimes when we argue about money with a partner, it becomes an either/or situation. Either you give up your interests, or we go broke. It doesn’t have to be that way, though—it can be helpful to instead think of money as a tool to help you do more of what you love.

For example, I have a friend who spends a great deal of time acting and doing comedy. He doesn’t make any money with it, but that’s not the point—it’s his passion, and he supports this work with a day job. He’s very good at saving money so he can take long hiatuses to work on his hobbies. He’s a money whiz, and not because he loves money—he’s good with money so that he can afford to spend more time doing the thing he’s passionate about. I wish we could all see money this way: as a means to an end. Of course, this is much easier said than done, especially with something like money, which often seems like a thing you have little to no control over.

And that’s where debt comes in. Debt seems like no big deal at first, but it quickly takes over and steals from every other area in your life. It gets heavier and heavier until it limits your choices and backs you into a corner, making it difficult for us multipods to do all of those fun things we want to do. Money isn’t everything, but it matters.

You and your spouse probably need to have an open conversation about money in which you put everything out on the table. Getting on the same page about money is an entirely different post (and one that I’ve written about in more detail here). The gist of it is, you have to figure out how both of you deal with money, talk about your goals and how you’ll use money to help you reach them, then find a solid middle ground where you’re both financially comfortable. It’s much easier said than done, but that’s the case with anything money-related.

Relationships are a two-way street

The onus is not on you alone to figure this out. Multipotentiality isn’t an ailment, it’s simply another way of being. It’s up to everyone in the relationship to figure out how to coexist and make the most of their differences. So while it’s honorable that you want to support your husband, and are willing to make sacrifices for his happiness, the efforts should be mutual. By finding a way to compromise and coexist, you’re not crushing his dreams, and he’s not crushing your stability. You’re just finding a way to get on the same page, despite your different approaches to your pursuits.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying my spouse and I have it figured out. Our differences can make for some difficult situations. Sometimes I even wish I was more of a specialist. It might make life easier. But it would also make life extremely lackluster. All the obstacles that arise for multipods are worth it because we can’t imagine living any other way. We are intent on pursuing all of the things that make us feel alive, as difficult as they may be.

It sounds like you want to encourage your partner’s multipotentiality, and in this case, I think that’s the most important thing. A good partner encourages you to maximize your potential and be the best version of yourself. If you have that nailed down, the rest will fall into place—even if it does take some time, compromise, and yes, the occasional argument.

Your turn

Multipods, how do you coexist with a specialist? What are some of your best strategies and techniques for finding ways to compromise when you approach things differently? How does your partner support your multipotentiality?

neil_2017_2Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, NBC News, and Glamour magazine. She’s the author of Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford. Kristin is a writer, but she’s also an amateur photographer, speaker, podcaster, and recovering workaholic. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram @thewildwong.

16 Comments

  1. Camelia says:

    I am a multipotentialite, a big job hooper and I just left my job to pursue a career in freelancing.

    Though I am still seeing here the multipotentialite partner as being the one iresponsabile. I am feeling more by the side of the specialist.

    I am seeing here a problem of financial behavior and the multipotentality is serving here just as a conscious or unconscious excuse to spend money and get in debt.

    I am not sure what is the solution to this, but I guess psychological counseling would help.

    I was lucky to see a healthy financial behavior in my family and I just imitate it unconsciously and effortless. Although my life path seems sometimes chaotic, I always took controlled risks that led me to a better life situation. I never got in debt and I gave no reason to my partner to be stressed about my multipotentiality, because no decision affected him.

    I would advise that person to encourage the multipotentiality, but to not tolerate getting in debt. And to not accept any excuse for this.

    • Kristin says:

      That is an interesting point, and I’m inclined to agree with you — how much of what we do is motivated by a desire to spend? Spending money is often the default solution to something because it feels good and easy. It’s definitely worth considering.

  2. Morgan C Siem says:

    What a great post. Thanks for your thoughtful response. I’m also a multipod who lives with a specialist. For the most part, he really supports my interests because he loves to see me thrive. However, there have been times when I’ve felt really drawn toward big pursuits and have heard him (and his parents) tell me that I should realize that I change my mind too frequently to take on such a big vision. It hurts to hear that – and it seemed to snap my own resolve that had been so strong up until that point. My belief in myself that I can follow through on things is already fragile, so when someone close to me also doesn’t believe I can do it, it’s often enough to bring the whole thing tumbling down – I end up tossing the idea aside – and not because I’m not still interested, but because I’ve lost faith that I can manage it.

    In hindsight, I do realize that he was often right. He could come to a conclusion much sooner than I could and spare me a lot of time and wasted effort.

    But, we have learned a more supportive way to have that conversation. Now, instead of saying that he doesn’t think I’ll stick with it, he asks things like this:

    How can we design this in a way that will continue to feel interesting to you over time?
    What parts of this excite you the most and what parts do you think will bore you over time?
    Do you think this will give you more freedom or stifle your freedom to try new things?

    These questions are so helpful because I can come to my own conclusions without getting defensive. Also, they help me clarify what parts of a project I might still like to pursue, and which parts I’d rather hand off to a specialist for the sake of my sanity. Sometimes I think that in order to make something happen, I have to take on ALL of it. Turns out… the best way for me is often to take on just a piece of it and enlist others to do the rest.

    One more thing to note is about finances. It’s so important for us to respect one another’s financial needs and requests. I often try out new interests by volunteering or by chatting with people who are involved in that kind of thing or by reading a bunch of books on the topic. That way, I give my interest time to either blossom or fizzle out before I invest a bunch of money.

    If I am feeling ready to invest and dive in… my partner and I touch base about our shared vision for our future and what that will require of us financially. For instance, we want to buy land. To that end, we both make decisions that support that goal. He has refrained from certain purchases just as I have. And, conversely, we’ve both supported purchases that we know are an investment and part of a bigger picture. (And sometimes, the exuberance of a new interest IS the bigger picture).

    I hope this helps. I want to affirm that it IS totally possible for a multipod and specialist to have a great relationship :)

  3. Pawan Rochwani says:

    Wow, I cant thank you enough for writing this down, I am going to share this with my partner definitely because this is something that we go through.

  4. Keena says:

    Great article! I found it really helpful because I am the multipotentialite and my husband is the specialist. He doesn’t seem to get that frustrated with me because I tend to go back to similar constellations of interests. That being said I do often get “great ideas” and need to ask myself, “Is that something you really want to do or is it something you know you could do?”. This question is one I will carry in my back pocket and ask myself every time I get a great new idea :)

    Thanks so much, Kristin!

  5. Lisa says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I was not just only shallow advices but true and deep sharing. Thanks a lot! I’m not married yet but I guess this is the kind of situation I could face with my husband, as a multipod. Even two multipods could struggle, maybe even more!

  6. Jose says:

    Kristin, your post hit very close to home as I’m sure it did many others in the putty tribe.

    I think there needs to be a whole new support group. We should call it the “Spouses/Partners of Multipods Support Group” – How to cope with your Renaissance Partner/Spouse. :D

  7. Shaz says:

    Thanks for this article. I’m the multipod and my husband the specialist who is doing what he always wanted to do (software). We talk everything through, including finances. I have an English Lit degree. I’ve wanted to be a fitness instructor (did the training), a nutritionist (started working towards this but the degree is too expensive and impossible to do alongside a job). Now I run my own micro craft biz alongside doing an HR day job 4 days a week, am studying for an HR qualification, I have been learning to tap dance for 5 years and write a blog about that… And I recently completed a ukulele beginners course, continuing to learn at home. I just had to accept one day that I enjoy the buzz of different projects and interests. I’d be bored doing one thing. Thankfully I meet similar people in the crafting and small biz world. As long as it’s not blowing the Bank or your relationship or making you stressed, embrace it!

  8. Karlyn De Guzman says:

    What a great and helpful article! I just want to thank you for sharing with us, multipods your thoughtful response. I’m still single but in my case, its my family who’s getting a hard time dealing with my many interests and rapid changing career paths. And I felt so alone, that no one understands me. Also my friends are in the specialist area. They’re at the peak of success in their chosen field while Im still struggling with my many interests. I thought that there’s really something wrong about me anymore but I just can’t help thinking, doing and pursuing my passions.Once again, Thank you sooo much for this article. God bless you !

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