My partner has known what he wanted to do with his life since he was in sixth grade. He entered college with a very specific career in mind, revolving around the thing he loves most: video games. A few years later he was working in the industry in a very prestigious role.
Although his day job is different now, he is still focused on video games: volunteering at events, freelancing, playing games in his free time and making friends with people who like the same things he does. He has a couple other hobbies, but he has never felt the urge to branch out, or gotten restless at the idea of being pigeonholed.
While that might seem like a pretty reasonable journey, for those of us who have never settled on a single path, the idea of entering and exiting college with one career in mind can be mind-boggling. And to still be singularly focused on the same passion 10 years later? Is that a thing people do?!
It is if you’re a specialist.
Sometimes I envy his singular focus. But mostly, I’ve just been been baffled by my partner’s ability to laser-focus his interest on just one thing for life. Granted, that doesn’t mean he’s boring or that he can’t do anything else. He loves to create videos and write articles and record podcasts—but they’re all happily focused on video games and pop culture.
Meanwhile, I’m over here obsessing over how I’m going to turn my comics into a real career, while also desperately wanting to: learn taxidermy, find a way to get my master’s in education, and build a successful career as a freelance writer. It’s a story that probably sounds more familiar here on Puttylike.
When it comes to actually finding common ground with my partner and enjoying life together, the struggle is all too real. When we fail at it, it feels like we have nothing in common. I’m usually going in five directions at once… and none of them are in the same direction that he’s been moving his entire life.
So we’ve had to work really hard at it. We’ve learned that connecting requires intentionality, compromise, and communication. In the brief windows of time we find between raising our two small kids, we’ve found some ways to have fun together while still celebrating our differences. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Food brings people together
We love to go out together! While it doesn’t happen as often during these early parenthood days that we’re in, it’s always been a special treat that we enjoy. Trying a new restaurant with your specialist partner is a great way to branch out, in a fun setting that feels “safe” for someone who isn’t always gung-ho about novel experiences.
It’s generally easy to find something on a menu that even the most routine-oriented and change-resistant individual will like, and even a bad restaurant experience can bring the two of you closer together with a funny story you can tell for years.
Have a standing agreement to support one another’s interests
This is an important agreement for every partnership, but it’s especially essential in relationships between a specialist and a multipotentialite. I wholeheartedly support my partner’s desire to pursue what gets him excited, and vice versa. We give one another time to get away and spend time on the interests we have that don’t overlap.
So he knows that I won’t complain if he disappears for a Saturday to play DnD with his buddies or attends a couple of weekend conventions throughout the year. I know that in turn, he’ll be enthusiastic for me when I want to go spend an afternoon drawing live bugs in a downtown art studio, or spontaneously spend an entire weekend building a fairy garden in the backyard. This has to be a two-way street in order for both partners to feel supported.
Multipotentialite partners have to be intentional about slowing down (sometimes a Netflix binge is okay)
After a long day in the marketing agency world, my partner likes to chill out and watch YouTube videos. But like so many other multipotentialites, slowing down makes me itchy. There’s too much to do, try, and experience and I generally have multiple projects going at once. Passively taking in media can sometimes make me feel like I’m wasting my time.
But I’ve learned (okay, I’m still learning) that sometimes it’s important to just BE together and not divide our focus. Well, as much as we can with two small kids!
He often bribes me to sit down for a while by enticing me with a back rub, which he knows I am unable to refuse. And between YouTube and Netflix, we can find something we’ll both enjoy. My partner’s tank is filled when we spend time together just chilling out, and I find that a little rest for my mind and body does wonders for my energy levels.
Being partnered to a specialist who doesn’t really “get” your unique way of looking at and experiencing the world can be rough. As in all relationships, all it takes for feelings to get hurt and resentment to start building is poor communication and an unwillingness to compromise. Fortunately, the solution is simply being honest and open with one another, being willing to give more than you take, and maintaining a sense of humor!
If you’re partnered with a specialist and you’ve never had a conversation about what makes the two of you different in terms of how you learn and pursue your passions, perhaps you can start with a link to Emilie’s TED talk and an invitation to go out for dinner to chat about it. With communication and intentionality, your specialist partner can be a supportive and grounding force in your life.
Are you or have you ever been partnered with a specialist? How did you find ways to connect? Share your story and tips in the comments below!