How to Have a Relationship and a Band: Thoughts on how to do it right from someone who did it wrong

My name is Patrick, and I’ve been in the band Ra Ra Rasputin (as well as other groups) for seven years. I’ve also been in some relationships. I’ll admit that I’ve made my share of mistakes in trying to balance my creative endeavors with my personal life. But I’ve certainly learned a lot along the way. I wrote this essay so that you can learn from my experiences….That, or you can have a good chuckle.

Time Management
Between October 2009 and April 2011, I was working a full-time job and playing in three bands. A quick scan of my old calendars reveals a sea of band meetings, event planning, rehearsals, travel, and more. Real talk, I bit off more than I could chew. Furthermore, my relationships during that two-year period suffered because I allowed my personal life to fall by the wayside. I wasn’t arranging enough date nights or cute little surprises. I wasn’t sending enough texts that said, “I’m thinking of you” or “Miss you. Let’s have dinner after rehearsal.” Of course, there were other factors that contributed to the end of these relationships. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the punishing effects of my schedule.

I’ve since learned that if you really want to make things work, you have to make time. If someone is important, then it’s worth stealing a bit of time to see him or her. This might mean re-analyzing your priorities and being more selective in your scheduling (e.g., quitting a side project or turning down some offers). Oh well. As the O.G. Scrooge McDuck once said, “Work smarter, not harder!”

“Gonna Bring That Attitude Home!”
Don’t take your frustrations out on your significant other. A crap rehearsal, a horrible show, someone being hours late for an important meeting or whatever—these are all things that can rub someone the wrong way. You are, within reason, entitled to air your grievances. But don’t go on longer than necessary. Know when to stop ranting.

…Um, what if your band splits up?
You can never predict how you’ll react to something until it actually happens. And if being in a band is like being in a relationship, then the breakup of a band can trigger the same range of emotions.

I have been in bands that’ve fallen apart and emerged mostly unaffected. The demise of my last band The State Department (July 2009 – March 2012) was different. Yea, the band didn’t release much material and hadn’t played live in months. But that band’s split hit me like a 10-ton truck. During the two months that immediately followed, I was a terrible boyfriend whose mind kept wandering back to the band’s demise. I figured that by talking about it with as many parties as possible would help me figure out what went wrong and why I was feeling so bad. In retrospect, ruminating on things was not constructive.

In situations like these, it helps to be self-aware. You have to learn to be conscious of how your actions and your moods can potentially affect others. In other words, be aware of the vibes you’re giving off, maaaan. You don’t have to hide your feelings away, but you can only lean on others to a certain degree. And banging on endlessly about your band’s breakup (or any other significant life trauma) to your significant other can be ruinous to your relationship.

Ultimately, time heals all wounds. But until that time passes, I’ve got a couple more suggestions: 1) Exercise is a great way to take your mind off your problems. 2) Take a vacation. Getting out of your routine is a great way to start moving on.

“That has nothing to do with anything we’re talking about, dear.”
Trainspotting (verb). Definition: The hobby of watching trains and noting their serial numbers, usually for long periods of time; by extension, any hobby or obsession with a trivial pursuit.

If you can’t help but gush about Fender Japan reissues, rare effects units, or deleted singles by small Belgian house labels, then you qualify as a trainspotter. This is not a bad thing. Indeed, it’s wonderful that there’s more to your life than Netflix, happy hour, and pointless scenster gossip over boozy brunches. But your significant other may not share your enthusiasm for the new toy you just won on EBay. At best, you’ll come off as an eccentric. At worst, you’ll be a crashing bore and a useless date to dinner parties, gallery openings, and late night chill sessions.

If you’re a well-rounded individual, don’t try to steer the conversation towards music. The first three Monochrome Set singles have nothing to do with The Crimean War. Stop being so one-dimensional! If you have no interests outside of music, I strongly suggest that you find some. I’d recommend any of the following: gardening, cycling, thrifting/antiquing, and amateur photography

“Stop! In the name of love.”
If your relationship hits a difficult patch and you need some time to sort out business at home, ask your bandmates if you can skip a couple of rehearsals. Your emotional health is paramount. Remember, not everybody can ignore or play their way through the pain. And, quite frankly, nobody wants to be stuck in a room with someone who’s beyond distracted. Assuming that your comrades in amps are reasonable adults, they’ll understand.

Postscript
I highly advise that you read Franklin Schneider’s painfully misogynist, yet occasionally spot-on account of casual dating/lurking in DC, Your Unfinished Basement Or Mine. When you’re done, marinate on this here real talk:

If you’re single, like I am, take advantage of the surplus of free time (something Schneider failed to do during his wild times).
Those demos?
That drafting?
Those collaborations?
That programming?
That woodshedding?
That mixing?
GET TO WORK.

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