#780: My creative partner’s girlfriend might be jealous of our new project.

Dear Captain,

I am a (female) musician just starting out on a new duo project with a fellow (male) musician, and we’re just about heading for our first gigs and things. We’re both really excited — we get on well musically and personally, and we’re enjoying what we do and looking forward to sharing it with people. However, he has a girlfriend, who is (perhaps inevitably) insecure in one way or another about him playing music with “pretty young women” (she’s a fair bit older than us two, hence the inclusion of “young”). They have their own conversations to have about all sorts of things (not my business, of course), but the nub of it is that it makes him uncomfortable having to tell her about this new duo with me. He and I are both on the autistic spectrum, and established in a beautifully blunt moment that neither of us was interested in the other for the sake of getting the conversation out of the way, and he’s since referred to me as a “top bloke”, which to me makes the distinction perfectly clear. While it’s that simple for us, it’s not that simple for her, and I totally see where she’s coming from having been in her position previously.

My question is what can I do to help the situation? He said he will talk to her about the duo at some point soon when he can find a good moment (they live quite far away from each other so it’s not 100% simple), but in the mean time, it means that I can’t get excited in public too much about it because he thinks she shouldn’t find out from me or by seeing a random Facebook post (far from unreasonable). He’s already asked me not to tag him in posts about being excited about making music together for her sake, and while I can see that it’s a small gesture towards keeping things OK from his side (he’s my friend, why the hell shouldn’t I?), I worry that I’m going to do or say something stupid that’s going to cause problems for them or for us. He says it’s not going to get in the way of the duo working and being successful, but I can’t help feeling there’s an inevitable sticking point if his girlfriend is uncomfortable with him hanging around with me at the close quarters necessary to work in such a small ensemble. I haven’t met her yet, though our paths are due to cross in the coming months, but I’m nervous of making some mistake that means that her insecurities come out and cause problems.

In short, I play music with a guy in whom I’m not remotely romantically interested, but I think my being female and apparently not bad looking (who am I to judge?) might cause a problem, and I want to know what I can do to avoid sticking my boot in it. She sounds nice, and they are basically happy, and he and I are very happy with the music we make, and I don’t want it to get any more complex than that.

Over-Optimistic Aspie Musician

Dear Over-Optimistic,

Here’s what you can do to help the situation:

“Duo Partner, please tell your girlfriend about our plans today. I want to start promoting our gigs. Please rip the bandaid off so we can focus on our music. Thanks.”

Something hinky is going on here. Either his girlfriend is manipulative/emotionally abusive, and he is afraid of her in some way (very possible), or he is way overthinking it and overcomplicating it (very possible), or he is using the issue to control & manipulate you and the situation in some way (I hope not, but also very possible). None of these possibilities are your fault or within your control.

Some red flags pointing to him being the problem:

1) You are getting to the point of scheduling gigs but he has not told her. This means he has been lying to her about questions like “how was your day?” and “what’s new?” the whole time you’ve been working together. What. Like, what is his plan? “Surprise, I’ve been in a secret band all this time and our first gig is (date)!Don’t get mad that it’s with (dramatic pause) a GIRL.” That approach is guaranteed to make the girlfriend feel insecure and jealous.

2) I have side-eye for people who constantly complain about their romantic partners, especially to someone who hasn’t even met that person, especially when it’s a man complaining about a woman and her scary feelings. It sets you up in advance to have a weird competitive relationship when honestly the least awkward thing he could do is to say “I’m starting a band with LW, we’re really excited about it” rather than all this cloak and dagger stuff. He’s set you up to be a threat to his relationship and he’s set his girlfriend up to be totally insecure and horrible, which sounds to me like he’s grooming one or both of you for the possibility of him cheating or his girlfriend breaking up your band.

3) The result has been that YOU are worried about YOUR behavior and how YOU can smooth things over to avoid a reaction from his girlfriend when you are the one person in the scenario who literally has nothing to do with their relationship. Gross. The sooner everything is out in the open, the better for everyone.

The specter of his girlfriend’s possible jealousy is not your problem, and I think the way forward is to make it clear that is not your problem. So more scripts for you are:

  • “Huh. So, about the chorus, do you want to come in right on the beat?”
  • “I don’t really feel comfortable talking about your girlfriend when she’s not here, especially since I haven’t met her. Let’s try the bridge again.”
  • “I’m sorry you’re dealing with that, but I don’t think it’s good for me to be your sounding board about it. I hope y’all work it out. Let’s make music.”
  • “I don’t feel comfortable doing anything that you need to keep a secret from your girlfriend, and I’d encourage you to think about why you think it needs to be a secret and work that out with yourself and her. Why don’t we put this on hold for now, and you let me know when you can proceed in the open.”
  • “Your strange behavior around this is really stressing me out and making me wonder if you really want to do this. I’m so excited to work with you, but I am reluctant to invest significant time or money into a venture that could fall apart at any moment because: Your Girlfriend. Let me know when you’ve worked all that out, and then we can get to work.”

Your planned duo sounds like it could be so great and I’m so sorry this is ruining your excitement. You are literally doing nothing wrong, and there is nothing you can do besides holding strong to your creative vision and the fact that you deserve to talk about your creative projects with your networks without drama. Strongly consider getting together with whatever your local version of Lawyers for the Creative Arts might be and putting something in writing about how you’ll handle songwriting credit, ownership of songs, division of labor, and money. It’s better to get it all in writing when everyone is excited and happy so that everyone is protected if things go downhill.

90 thoughts on “#780: My creative partner’s girlfriend might be jealous of our new project.

  1. “You are getting to the point of scheduling gigs but he has not told her.”

    Yeah, when I realized LW was saying the girlfriend *didnt know AT ALL* rather than the expected “she knows and doesn’t like it”, my alarm bells started ringing a million times louder.

    Red flags a go-go.

  2. >> he thinks she shouldn’t find out from me or by seeing a random Facebook post (far from unreasonable).

    Oh hon. 😦

    This is actually, like, the definition of unreasonable? Like, you should not be asked to NOT TALK ABOUT YOUR SHINY THING just because his girlfriend who ought to have been told by now might see. That’s a huge stressful burden on you.

    I would 100% support you saying something like “James, I’m posting about stuff this weekend so heads up,” because seriously that is so unfair to you that he’s asking you to audit your enthusiasm because he is procrastinating on telling his girlfriend.

    1. I so agree with this.
      LW could say “So I’m going to talk about this with other people from Saturday”.
      If he then wants to blame LW for his girlfriend being angry (“You forced me to tell her!”/”She saw that on your Facebook!”) then that is very revealing.
      He is then trying to shift the blame from himself to LW, regarding something he should have been up front with his girlfriend on from the start.

      Regarding relationships Captain sometimes uses the “Where will you be in 5/10 years? Does this work for you until then?” questions. I think they are relevant here too, albeit on a smaller scale.
      Are you – LW – ok with not telling anyone about this for months, a year, two years? Are you, LW, ok with the secrecy (forced upon you by the musical partner) continuing without any end in sight?
      Because if he doesn’t want to tell her now, what says he ever will? It sounds like there’s a real risk of him forcing you to make that decision for him, as in the scenario I mentioned before.

      But LW, that is not your fault. Go make your sweet music. Promote your sweet music. Talk about your sweet music. If his issues with his girlfriend comes in the way of your music, then that is his mess that he made.

    2. Listen to annamardoll. He’s asking you to keep your collaboration a secret, which is super weird and unreasonable and guaranteed to blow up in his face when his girlfriend eventually finds out. In the scenario where she doesn’t find out he’s wasting your time because the only way it stays secret is if you guys never perform. Which I’m guessing would be a major disappointment. But people do sometimes string other people along for whatever reason, and if he’s lying to his girlfriend about this he’s definitely capable of lying to you about what he wants from you.

      I don’t know what his deal is, but even the most reasonable girlfriend in the world would freak out if she found out about a *secret* collaboration like this. The dude is lying to her. Isn’t it interesting that she gets jealous and weird about collaborations with girls when she has this boyfriend who lies to her about them and keeps them secret… I mean, I would be going out of my mind in her place to.

      And here you are, not talking about your cool new thing, because of his relationship drama. You’ve done nothing wrong LW but I suggest the way out of your dilemma is to either publicly reveal your cool new collaboration or leave it entirely. You can and should refuse to keep this a secret.

      He should have squared this away with her privately without involving you at all, and the way he’s gone about it is super hinky.

    3. I think not wanting his girlfriend to find out from someone else is totally reasonable. So the solution would be for him to tell her as soon as possible. You’ve given him plenty of time to do that and his demands that you police your Facebook for him are really really unreasonable.

      I agree with anamardoll. Give him a heads up that you are going to start posting stuff to Facebook and then go ahead and do what you want. His relationship is his to manage.

  3. It’s not reasonable to expect you to invest your time and creative energy into a musical duo you’re not allowed to promote or talk about.

    It’s not reasonable to expect you to cover for his lies because he’s too scared to tell his girlfriend about something.

    It *is* reasonable to be suspicious of how this person might treat you down the line, given his obvious willingness to lie to people he supposedly cares about to save himself from discomfort.

    A reasonable, mature person would have told his girlfriend about his new venture, assured her that everything was strictly business, and not made any of that process something that you, his musical collaborator, had to worry about at all. This guy might have wicked rhythm and a great talent for improvisation, but he sucks at honesty and maturity in relationships. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but it is something you should keep in mind if you’re going to continue to have a business relationship and a friendship with him.

    I second the Captain’s suggestion to put something in writing re: the terms of your artistic/business collaboration.

    1. I’m starting to think it may not be a good idea to go into creative collaboration with this guy under the current circumstances, which aren’t likely to get better.

  4. Dear LW,
    You are not the problem. Your being female is not the problem. You being attractive is not the problem. Neither is the girlfriend the problem. The problem is your bandmate making the decision to deceive his girlfriend. And make no mistake, if he hasn’t mentioned anything about you or the band to her, by now, when you are ready to perform gigs, then that is what he is doing. He is being a shitty boyfriend and that is the problem.

    Let him know that he needs to tell his girlfriends ASAP and then act as if he has done so and talk or post about your cool music to your heart’s content. He is not entitled to stop you just because he is being shitty.

    1. This. Also, something else to consider. He’s willing to deceive his GF. She’s supposed to be important to him. What happens if something complex comes up in your partnership? Is he going to be honest with you if it means a tough conversation?

      In short, I’d proceed with caution.

      1. Yes this! At *best* this guy is just super afraid of having confrontations and upsetting conversations. Which means eventually one day some weird and upsetting stuff will happen that you really would prefer to know about right away and he won’t tell you, until eventually it blows up in your face.

        You know, for example, he’ll make some other plans for a period you’re supposed to be performing during and then not tell you and you’ll keep practicing and getting ready and then when it finally has to actually happen he’ll suddenly be unavailable only you’ve already put down a venue deposit or something and turned down a different gig with someone else and etc. etc. This is the kind of guy who does that sort of thing.

  5. I have a friend whose wife will bring increasing barriers to being in any band he’s in until he leaves it. Time frame, 1-2 years. (I’ve seen this happen four times now.) If it’s going like this before you’ve even started, just be aware that it may still be great, but it may also be a short-term project.

    He needs to tell his girlfriend, and it sucks that he’s making it your problem. I second the idea of giving him a warning and then announcing it. There are a lot of flags here and it would be better to know sooner rather than later.

    That said, good luck with the music!

    (For the record, while I’m not fond of my friend’s wife, she is a stabilizing influence in a lot of ways for him, and he really needs that. It’s just that he also needs music.)

  6. My former husband was a musician, and any musician who isn’t a solo artist needs to have this sort of thing dealt with. Moreover, any partner of a musician needs to understand that the musician has an intimate relationship with their musical partners that is very much like polyamory, even if no sexytimes are happening.

    In my case, he already had a rule that he wouldn’t get into relationships with women he played music with, which predated me, and helped avoid a lot of the drama that bands can have anyway.

    And I agree, putting this discussion off instead of dealing with it upfront is much more likely to cause problems. If the girlfriend can’t deal with the guy being in a musical partnership with another woman, that’s something he’d better find out upfront, too, so he can decide whether he’s willing to be cut off from half his potential musical partners.

    1. “any partner of a musician needs to understand that the musician has an intimate relationship with their musical partners that is very much like polyamory”
      Hmm, that is surprising to me. Maybe it’s true for some people, but I wouldn’t assume that in general. I love playing music in small ensembles, and I’ve developed close friendships with the people I play with. I love doing team sports and I’ve developed close friendships with the people I play with. But none of those felt remotely like romantic relationships for me. So for me, this situation sounds like it should be no big deal for the girlfriend unless the guy has a history of getting romantically involved with musical partners.

      1. Remember how bandmate has told LW she’s pretty? Combined with the secrecy, I am hoping I am wrong about the “he doesn’t yet realize he’s attracted” vibe I am getting. It does happen, even in the best circles, and you really need a solid relationship in place to survive it— not what bandmate’s behavior is setting things up for…

      2. The “polyamory” thing does make perfect sense to me, the more I think about it. When you collaborate with an artist or a musical partner, you’re almost literally connecting with them on a level that very few spouses do (this may be almost a healthy thing, not being on the same resonant frequency as your partner in ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME). When your brainweasels, or your partner’s trouser weasel, hear it this way, it can very much knock you for a loop. You can either holler “NO S/HE MUST BE MOST CONNECTED TO ME IN ALL THE THINGS EVER BECAUSE THAT IS THE CULTURAL NARRATIVE AND WE ARE A FAILURE AS COUPLE,” or you can can come to some conclusions that are very like the happier parts of polyamory.

    1. Or at least, it’s a huge red flag for something scary lurking just under the surface (which they may be very, VERY good at maintaining).

      I fondly remember me and my friends helping each other sneak around our families (who were abusive at worst and unsupportive at best), and I cherish those friends and family who help me completely avoid any contact with my former abusers (who might consider that “sneaking” for all I know).

      So yeah. It’s not a good sign, even if it’s the best available choice among a set of crappy options.

  7. I’m not at all okay about how his problem has turned into you managing his problem? I say this as someone who had to manage my (male) partner’s jealousy and anger about Those Men Who Are Talking To You when I was in the Army, an overwhelmingly male job. It’s not actually your fault if his girlfriend is a Jealous McJealouspants–you’re doing your job, building your business, and it’s not really your problem that someone you’re collaborating with has a partner who feels threatened by the existence of other humans.

    Serious business, though, he needs to rip off the bandaid. There are only a handful of conversations that require a face-to-face discussion, and they’re serious conversations–my parent is sick so I’m moving back home, I’m breaking up with you, etc. In my book, this is something I would text my partner–“Got a new collab partner, we make a good team, miss you!” I kinda think that by making it a face-to-face conversation, he’s actually drawing more dread into it than he needs to. (Or maybe he’s feeling an appropriate amount of dread, in which case may I say, why are you dating someone who is so jealous that they sabotage your ability to work at your job? There are many nice people in the world who will love you and support your dreams.)

    Either way, I would say to go on Facebook and share your shiny, LW. Talk about it in public. Post about it on Facebook. Promote! You don’t have to tag him, but let’s be real here: you’re not doing anything wrong. There is literally zero reason that you have to act like your music is some kind of weird adulterous affair that must be secret at all costs. When you run into the girlfriend, act like there are no problems–introduce yourself, smile, talk about the music, and act totally oblivious to her jealousy. Don’t smooth any feelings. Think of it like meeting a coworker’s partner: any drama they bring to the table is not actually your problem because it’s not your job to manage anyone’s feelings.

  8. I would like to second the “tell her now” ultimatum. I have been in the “recipient of information” as well as “bystander” role in the excessive delaying game, and from my own personal observations, the actual reason for delay has never had anything to do with the well-being of the listener. There is no “good time” to deliver upsetting news (at most, allow for maybe 15-30 minutes of discussion time plus follow-up discussions if the news is not intended to end the relationship), and the longer it festers, the worse it feels when it finally comes to light (especially if the recipient of the news does in fact find out on their own). On top of that, the “I wanted to spare your feelings” “reasons” that are often delivered with the news just add insult to injury by insinuating that the recipient is incapable of owning their feelings and that the deliverer thinks they have to “manage” (see: manipulate) them.

    Delaying does two things:
    1. Prevents the moment of discomfort for the deliverer from happening RIGHT NOW
    2. Leaves open the possibility of never having to deliver the news because the other person will (OOPS!) find out some other way, at which point the deliverer can blame whatever venue actually delivered the news for the recipient’s feelings

    Now, it’s certainly possible that the recipient in this case responds to uncomfortable feelings by unloading them on boyfriend and trying to make them his responsibility, which is uncool and definitely would make boyfriend dread telling her. But this is not LW’s responsibility to assess or deal with. LW, by all means, announce that you are going to go about your business, and then do so! You have every right.

    1. Delaying also enables possibly avoiding the news at all if the thing doesn’t work out to the point where it has to go public, eg. in this case if exploring making music together didn’t work out then he may have thought he would never have to tell his gf at all. Problem is, once you go down that road, you have to excuse the concealment as well as the potentially problematic thing, and saying “well I didn’t know if it was going to work out so I figured why upset you unnecessarily,” while possibly the actual thoughts, tends not to cut it as an excuse. Because, yes, it is manipulative.

      As it is, he’s stuck with excusing working with a pretty girl, not telling her that he was, and — something key that transcends whether or not the gf is actually prone to jealousy — that he has been working on something important to him but didn’t share it with her.

      1. Holy wow, the last part of your comment just made me smarter. Now I get why this sort of reveal feels so extra-hurtful.

  9. As I was reading, I was asking myself how this would sound if the two of you wrote code together for a software start-up or were 2 chefs in a restaurant, or 2 of pretty much any of the thousands of productive and professional things that men and women work on together. I couldn’t come up with one difference between them and music gigs. Maybe that you’ll be on the road travelling or that some amount of on stage chemistry expected? That’s all I could figure, and it doesn’t amount to much. There would be nothing stopping this guy from telling his girlfriend that the new sales rep he’ll be partnered with is a (exaggerated whisper) GIRL, and there’s nothing stopping this guy from telling his girlfriend that his musical partner doing duos with him is female. The more matter-of-fact he treats it, the easier it will be for him and therefore for her. The more matter-of-fact YOU treat it the easier it will be for him too.

    Let me note that there’s nothing inevitable about a woman being insecure about her boyfriend working with women no matter how much younger and prettier they are than she. I’ve certainly heard of that plot arc, but vast numbers of women see their husbands and boyfriends go off to work with mixed groups of men and women daily without giving it a second thought. You don’t get special cool points for seeing it from her point of view.

    I can think of one thing you could do to make it easier, and that’s to make sure that all your excitement is about the music and the gigs and good reviews you get and none about working with him. The emphasis has got to be “I’m excited to be performing at great music venue” and not “I’m excited to be performing with great talented man”.

  10. It sounds like there are a lot of trust issues going on in their relationship, which is a huge red flag in and of itself. You should be free to tell people about awesome things you’re doing without worrying over some giant drama-bubble popping because someone didn’t tell their SO about it. If he’s honestly afraid of her reaction, then he needs to work on his relationship – and in any case, his relationship should not be affecting YOU. You are not part of that relationship. You have nothing to do with it. It should not affect you and your life, especially not to this degree. If he can’t be professional enough to keep personal drama out of setting gigs and enjoying them (along with advertising them – hi, that’s a big part of revenue and gaining publicity, which will get you more gigs and work!) then I don’t think he’s someone you want to work with, in a professional OR personal setting.

  11. I think I mostly identify with the boyfriend in this story. I tend strongly towards conflict-avoidant (and I am working on not doing that!), and this sounds exactly like what I would be likely to end up doing if I weren’t actively countering my conflict avoidance. In my case, it’s not about anything other than feeling like it’s going to be an awkward conversation because of past history, and thus having a fear-driven avoidance reaction. The “hasn’t been a good moment yet” sounds exactly like how my feelings work there; there’s never a perfect moment, and it’s easy to keep waiting for one to magically appear.

    From that perspective, I’ll strongly agree that the “you need to tell her now” ultimatum would indeed be the right thing. I’d be unhappy about getting it (especially subtracting my hard-won self-awareness from the picture), but the problem would get dealt with and then things would get better.

    1. While this is true, he’s dragging the LW into his conflict-avoidance scenario, which is BS.

      1. Oh, absolutely. It’s a dysfunctional thing in all kinds of ways, definitely including that one.

    2. That’s the best case scenario yes, that he has issues with conflict avoidance. Worst case scenario, he has a history of serial affairs with young women he gets into musical collaborations with to the point where he knows his girlfriend will leave him if he hints at another. And maybe he tells those girls he would never have a thing with them up front (because it’s so disarming) and it’s all about their musical talent! And they’re super flattered and then one day he tries to get in their pants and look maybe lots of them fall for it because he’s this super hot musician guy with great (seeming) intentions and maybe some of them don’t and then he drops them like a hot brick and they realise it wasn’t about their music at all and it’s super horrible and depressing. That’s also a thing that happens. Whatever the case, the answer is to stop hiding this collaboration and refuse to buy into the relationship drama.

      1. I’ve dated that guy. Spoiler: hortifyingly, it wasn’t the affairs he was addicted to, it was the forgiveness cycle. He’s now married to the drop-dead gorgeous woman I realized was his next girl du jour, who was wise enough not to give a shit about the affairs, no matter how over-the-top they go. Me, I would rather be alone, I realize, than put up with that, but I am happy they’re happy.

  12. How does he think LW could keep this a secret even if she wanted to? As soon as they start playing actual gigs in public, it immediately ceases to be a secret and becomes something that hundreds of people know about – everyone who sees them play, everyone who works for the venues they play at (and the people who run those venues are not going to refrain from promoting their gigs on Facebook because someone’s girlfriend might get upset). I just don’t see what the end game is here, unless the musical partner is engaging in a really elaborate form of self-deception that he’s dragged the LW into, and is going to end up backing out and dissolving the duo at the last minute. (I’m the daughter of a father who did that sort of thing often, so it does happen.)

    1. And surely it would be better to tell his GF before hundreds of other people know. To me it sounds like he is hoping to kick this can down the road until their first 1-5 gigs and then present it as fait accompli in the hopes of avoiding the tough conversation. This will make any drama worse because it takes the GF’s agency out of the picture. For your own peace of mind, ask him to have the conversation by date X, after which you can promote your cool new gig. If he has not told GF prior to that it is on him.

  13. I’m not sure if he is conflict avoidant or if something is going on behind the curtain, but keeping this from her to the extent that you are doing gigs is not going to read as ‘trustworthy’.
    I trust my partner, but if I found out he had been purposefully hiding something like this from me it would be hard not to wonder why and feel a tad bit insecure about it. The longer he avoids telling her the worse it is going to be. On the other hand, if his partner is controlling and this is his way of slipping the leash then I can sympathize, but a band is a big project. If he starts doing gigs someone is going to innocently mention it somewhere on facebook eventually..

    Either way it is out of your hands. Perhaps sit down with him and give him an end date. You need to be able to talk about your life, projects, and advertise your performances. ie: “I have not mentioned it on facebook because she should hear about this from you, but we need to advertise our gig on X date by Y time. You should tell her before then if you don’t want the cat out of the bag”

    And leave it at that. If you suspect she is controlling him then perhaps send him some relevant CA letters and then try to avoid non musical topics?

    You can support him as a friend, but you can’t manage his relationship choices. It isn’t right of him to make you bend around whatever it is that is going down. I think giving him reasonable notice then carrying on with what you need to do for your music advertising is very reasonable.

  14. LW, all the stuff about how his girlfriend is jealous and her insecurities and their conversations: How do you know all this?

    Because if you’re hearing everything about her from him, or extrapolating from very little contact with her (especially if he ‘explains’ to you what she ‘meant’ by a Facebook post or whatever), then you don’t actually know how she feels or thinks. All you are getting is his version of what’s she’s said and what she feels, which may or may not be accurate, and in any case, is not something he should be appropriately sharing with you.

    Appropriate music dude behavior if his girlfriend is insecure is to deal with the girlfriend in ways that don’t involve you doing anything, and informing you only to the degree it’s necessary to keep you informed of things that impact you. “Sorry I had to take a little longer on break, Girlfriend hasn’t talked to me in a bit and she’s having some anxiety issues right now.”

    Inappropriate music dude behavior ditto is exactly what this guy is doing.

    Also also, while you may not be interested in him, and hopefully he’s just being a dork, dude’s behavior is classic for grooming you to eventually be a romantic partner. My Girlfriend Is So Jealous Because You’re Younger and Prettier, Keep Our Interactions Secret, She Just Doesn’t Understand What You and I Have Together, You Are A Cool Chick, etc. It’s also pretty classic for the guy who enjoys feeling like multiple women are competing for his attention.

    Regardless, as CA and others have said, he needs to deal with his own shit. You need not.

  15. I am a professional musician, and there is absolutely no scenario where having someone prevent you from doing publicity is OK. This most definitely includes “I don’t want to do publicity b/c blah blah personal relationship problems.” WTF? Tell him to put his adulting boots on and don’t sink any more rehearsal time into this project until he does. Also keep in mind that most musicians are in more than one project at a time, so maybe do that too.

    Publicity is a huge part of the job, definitely one of the more difficult parts of the job, and it’s not OK to create any more difficulty around it than there inherently is.

    1. It’s funny that this post came out right around the time I’ve started looking to join a band myself. So far I haven’t told any one about my intent, but that’s because the only thing I’ve done is join a forum with musicians in my country, so far I haven’t met anybody interested yet, so really there’s nothing to tell. Once I actually have a band lined up, I wouldn’t mind telling everybody who will listen that we’re making music, I don’t know about every musician, but at least I do enjoy being loud.
      I don’t want to deviate too much, but if anyone has any pointers on joining a new group, I’d really appreciate it, I’d really like to be in a band that could play live and even record a few songs, but most of all I just wanna play music with people I genuinely find cool and can hang with. I’m not a professional musician, I’m not looking for a gig that will pay (but I wouldn’t mind it) I’m currently on a *sigh* imposed break from studies for reasons totally out of my control, so my main priority is actually having a good time and seeing where things go. So, how do you balance hard work and expectations of the music scene with the emotional connection one has with their art and the people they make it with, or has my love of Josie and the Pussycats and The Libertines’ Pete Doherty/Carl Barat bromance placed my expectations on bandmate teamwork too high?

      And, from one sorta up and coming musician to another, LW I wish you the best of luck, that you get to make your awesome music and play with cool people who bring their best into their work.

    2. I’ve played in lots of bands myself. I definitely second geekgirl’s recommendation to branch out and play music in additional projects. In my experience, bands with a member like this don’t last very long.

      Has he been like this all along or are these excuses coming up now that the band has progressed to playing live shows? Is it possible that he’s just nervous about performing?

    3. THIS!

      Music is a really hard career, and partly depends upon marketing your music, and selling yourself. Public Relations is a key part of success in the Music business. Everyone I know who has even moderate success as a musician is a very eaey going, out-going, friendly person, willing to stop and talk with anyone, willing to play with anyone, almost anytime. If they aren’t as skilled and accomplished as you are, then you get to teach them something. If they are better than you and more accomplished, then you get to learn something.

      You will have to appear on stage as if you are close friends at the very least. Even if you are strictly professional partners playing together because you like each others’ style, you will still need to look like great friends and collaborators on stage.

      I get to go see Mountain Stage (live music performed for Public Radio) most weekends. There are often 2 or 3 duos performing, and they need to look like they work together because they like to work together. My next door neighbor performs a lot, and has been on Mountain Stage, which in the folk/singer/songwriter/Austin City Limits world is pretty successful. Everyone from Ray Wilie Hubbard to Sarah McGlothlin, REM. Taj Mahal…

      If your musical partner wants to keep your musical work together secret, he wants to fail. And he wants you to fail. In order to succeed, there will be pictures of both of you in the newspapers, online web sites, Facebook, etc, etc. You will be smiling and leaning towards each other. You will perform love songs together, murder ballads together, etc, etc. depending upon your genre of music.

      Be warned. This person may not be the successful partner you hope for, if they can’t publicize your work together. The first day you planned to perform together in public someday was the day he needed to tell those who need to know about that. All of them.

  16. The surest way for someone to think that something hinky is going on is for others to act like something hinky is going on. Which this secrecy most definitely does. It’s a classic self-fulfilling prophecy, played out over and over again: Partner X doesn’t tell Partner Y about something because X is sure Y will be upset, when Y finds out zie is upset for not being told previously, and X says some variant of “I knew you’d be upset, that’s why I didn’t tell you earlier.” It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup. None of which is or should be the responsibility of anyone else involved in whatever thing X has decided to be secretive about.

    If this is how he handles things, it’s not surprising his girlfriend tends to be jealous — assuming she is, since that’s only according to him — because he’s treating her in a way that promotes it. People tend to respond to behavioural cues. There’s even the possibility that he is setting this up deliberately as a way of ending the relationship when she finally does find out, though I hope not. Plenty of people put off conflict in the hopes that when the others find out they’ll be able to add “but nothing has happened!” or “look, distracting shiny!”, though even when that seems to work it’s because it’s putting pressure on those who were deceived.

    One option that crossed my mind is that he may have previously given her some assurances that he now has to take back — at least that might explain the need for a face-to-face — but otherwise it looks like regular conflict-avoidance that seldom fails to backfire. He needs to stop with the deception asap. At this point, you need to know that this venture is going to go ahead, and you can’t as long as he’s got a potential time bomb ticking that he’s adding more gelignite to.

    1. And the longer he waits to tell her, the worse/more upsetting a thing he has to tell. “I kept this from you for a couple days waiting to figure out the best way to tell you” vs. “I kept this from you for a couple MONTHS because it ~*wasn’t the perfect moment*~”.

      1. Or, “I kept this diagnosis of 2 STI’s from you for 5 years, lying about what caused this rash that I get every year or so, because I thought you would be upset. Also, I have secretly been assuming you were cheating, and would be nasty to you every time I had an outbreak on that basis, even though I am the only partner you have ever had.”

        Not sure how my 25 year marriage is going to weather this one. I don’t care about the diagnosis (it’s only a couple of stupid and common viruses,that would have been very easy to avoid transmitting if I had known), but I feel intensely betrayed by the lies over such a long time, lack of honesty and nasty but silent suspicion. I also now don’t know if I can trust his claim not to have cheated and so have caught the viruses, though it is perfectly feasible for both to remain dormant for many years and he had multiple partners before me.

        1. I meant transmitting potentially to me, as I would have taken precautions. I did not transmit anything that I know of.

        2. Oh, my goddess, I am so sorry this happened to you. Jedi move-obstacles-out-of-your-way-whatever-way-you-choose if you want them.

    2. Yep. One of the final things that happened to make me decide to break up with my first boyfriend was finding out (from someone else) (months after the fact) that he had grabbed another girl’s butt during a high school extracurricular weekend trip that I wasn’t part of. Had I found out a day or two after it happened, I would have been annoyed and maybe hurt. But I could have recovered. Nine months later, no such luck. Nine months later, the whole story, and the post-confrontation excuses, had me wondering “if this was no big deal, why did no one ever mention it to me?” (So many of my friends were on that trip.) Which left me seriously wondering if more happened than just an ass-grab. (Especially since, while grabbing said ass, my ex’s words were apparently “what happens in [city] stays in [city]!” Which, yes, total cliché, but also a celebration of infidelity.) It wasn’t the action, it was a combination of the lying, the secret-keeping, he collusion, and the uncertainty on my part as to whether the other girl had consented to this or not.

  17. I just want to Nth what everyone else is saying about this being a gross situation.

    Him trying to police what you do on your wall, absent some kind of NDA that will compromise the success of the band? Not reasonable. If I see something on my wall I don’t like, I can delete it or block it or set up a filter. There’s no reason anyone who’s sick of all the “omgwtf my band so awesome!!” (even people who are actually your friends) can’t do the same. A complete stranger who is only known to you by way of hearsay from a third party? Her feels are not your problem.

  18. Dear LW

    You get to talk about your band.

    You get to write about your band.

    Some guy doesn’t get to tell you that you have to be on the down low about your band.

    His girlfriend issues are not your issues. You get to blithely ignore him on this.

    But you’re nicer than I am, so go with the Captain’s scripts.

    1. This. His circus and his monkeys.

      He needs to reassure girlfriend that this is a band/work thing/gig not a sneaky maybe potential rival girlfriend in the future thing.
      To do that he needs to just show girlfriend he is NOT interested in you romantically, you are a Top Bloke, a Buddy musician.

      And the sooner he does, the sooner you can all just get on with it and make music.

  19. I’m not so much in the “ultimatum now” camp and more in the “give him a warning and then go ahead with it” camp – just because I think being like YOU MUST DO IT NOW might make him defensive, stressed, and more likely to see the LW as unreasonable.

    This is what I would do: give him a warning, then do what you said you’d do, and keep it about business. “I need to start promoting so we can organize some gigs, so on Wednesday I’m going to start posting and telling people about our band”. That at least still gives him a chance to be a fricking adult and break the news to his gf already. Also keeping it strictly business means you can’t get sucked into the swamp of personal problems. “But I neeeeed more tiiiiiime, girlfriend will be upseeeeet!” “Sorry but we can’t delay this any more or we’re wasting valuable promotion time.” Don’t get involved in his relationship crap, just keep re-stating what needs to happen for the band. If he keeps sulking and trying to get you to delay, then he’s shown you just how committed he is to the band’s success (not much), and maybe you don’t want to be in a band with someone like that.

    1. Yes, I agree. Give him a specific time and date that you will start making things public that’s a couple of days out, and then stick to it. That way you give him a bit more wiggle room to talk to her, but you’re still going ahead w/ what you need to do. And don’t let him make it your fault if he doesn’t.

    2. I’m not so much in the “ultimatum now” camp and more in the “give him a warning and then go ahead with it” camp – just because I think being like YOU MUST DO IT NOW might make him defensive, stressed, and more likely to see the LW as unreasonable.

      I think ignoring the whole thing may be the way to go.

      It’s nice to tell him you’ll be reporting on your band starting Thursday (or whatever) but it is unnecessary.

      LW is not part of this guy’s private life. His girl friend’s possible melt down is completely out of LW’s control

      1. Sure, but while the commentariat might not think it wise to stay in a band with this man, LW wants to preserve the partnership. I think that would mean sacrificing some of the F You routes in favor of the Paying Attention To His Feelings routes, as much as it rankles.

  20. What is it with the arts in particular that attracts Significant Others, who immediately what to shut down their partner’s range of expression ? Argh! Alternatively, they’ll grandstand and steal the limelight. LW, you will meet this type many times in your career, and when you’re in doubt of someone, you’ve only to look at the effect of their actions on your art. May you smite their mediocrity with Power Chords and soar!

    1. I think it’s important to remember here that the LW and we the audience have only the guy’s word to go on here about how his partner feels. I don’t know, something about your comment (especially the use of the word “mediocrity,” ew) just felt kind of gross and blame-y toward Band Dude’s girlfriend, who is really, really not the issue being addressed in this letter.

    2. Well we can’t accuse his GF of shutting down anything in this case since he has not told her yet

      1. +1ing this comment, and loving this reframing.

        (Which is not to say that I believe the arts particularly attract people who do this, but I do love that it’s not all “DAMN THAT WOMAN SINCE I HEARD FROM THIS GUY SHE’S AN UNREASONABLE PHILISTINE.”)

        1. I have too many friend in the arts, all of whom have had That Band Member or That Other Actor who relentlessly cheats on their spouse and then complains to all and sundry about how unreasonable and suspicious he or she is. Sorry! Not buying the Suffering Artist And His (or sometimes Her) Hideous Partner. 😀

  21. So music partner’s solution to his girlfriend’s insecurities/jealously about him having a female duet partner is to not tell her he has a female duet partner? This is the definition of self fulfilling prophecy.

    LW, tell your music partner to get off his butt, and tell his girlfriend right now. It was not cool of him to put you in this position to begin with, and it’s preventing you from talking about your project and drumming up interest/publicity. However upset/jealous/insecure she was going to be with him working with a female partner got a 100x worse by him actively hiding it from her, and it’s going to continue to do so the longer he waits to tell her.

    Also depending on how long this has been going on, and if your friend is going to be a 100% honest with his girlfriend about that and your knowledge of the situation, things could be awkward for you when you finally meet her. You could find yourself having to interact with someone who knows you knew they were being mislead for a substantial amount of time or you could end up having to essentially lie to her because your friend decided to downplay how long he been misleading her. Not sure if there’s anything that you could or should do about that, but it is something to think about.

  22. I’m just going to put this out there since everyone seems to be assuming that his girlfriend is being unreasonable but. ..maybe she has a reason to be worried. I’d how much of his relationship’s past you know so maybe I’m wrong, but it’s not exactly impossible that he has cheated before in a similar circumstance and they stayed together despite that.

    However, even if that’s the case the issue is between him and his gf and he shouldn’t be involving you

    1. That is certainly a possibility. Any time I hear a complaint about so-and-so’s wife being “so jealous,” my next question is always, “Does he give her a reason?” At this point, the complainer is usually forced to admit that, gee, now that he thinks about it, maybe it makes sense for her to not trust him completely.

      Which doesn’t say much for their relationship, but that’s for them to work out.

      1. oooh, I should start asking that whenever someone makes that comment to me. It makes me uncomfortable to hear that complaint and that’s a great way of reframing things.

  23. I’m terribly suspicious of people who characterise their partners as super jealous. I mean, not actually in general terms – this website is full of people with jealous partners who sound downright controlling or even scary and I’m not suspicious of those people at all. What I’m specifically suspicious of are girlfriends we know are jealous because that’s what their boyfriends told the young lady they’re in a secret relationship of some kind with. The young lady they’re *definitely not* interested in a relationship with. The young talented lady they’re so keen to work with.

    It’s a cliche for a reason. I mean – dudes do work with talented young ladies they don’t want to have sex with! It happens all the time. And dudes can have weird controlling jealous girlfriends. But when you combine all of these and then add the secret collaboration? It all starts to smell off.

    Best case scenario it’s conflict avoidance. Worst case it’s some grooming thing he does over and over again and his older girlfriend is all tied up in this mess of gasslighting where even she has bought into the idea that she’s too jealous. Meanwhile there’s a string of talented young ladies with brand new war stories of the their collaboration with a guy who seemed so so cool until he tried to get into their pants and the collaboration never even happened. 😦

    1. The LW supposedly not being able to talk about the collaboration also plays into the guy being able to repeat this — the supposedly so-jealous GF doesn’t know, and neither do a lot of other people. Worst case scenario there isn’t even an out-of-town older GF, just an excuse he uses for why he wants to keep things quiet.

  24. If this is how he usually behaves in terms of respect and honesty in relationships, I’m not surprised that his girlfriend is a bit insecure. I think all romantic relationships involve making agreements about what both partners are comfortable with in terms of other relationships (whether that’s “never be alone with someone of your preferred gender(s)” or “have as many partners as you like as long as I know about them”), and there’s likely to be some compromise involved, but if one partner asks for a condition that the other is unhappy with, there are three choices:
    (a) end the relationship;
    (b) agree to the condition, and stick to it, for partner’s sake; or
    (c) make it clear that the condition won’t work for you, and allow partner to choose between options (a) and (b).

    What’s going on here is secret option (d): ignore the condition and lie to partner about it. The thing is, it doesn’t matter whether the condition is “fair” or “reasonable” – your musical-partner is having a relationship which he believes his romantic-partner would not be happy with, and is choosing not to tell her about it.

    I know that none of this is under your control (although one option for you would be “no more rehearsals or other band-related activity until he’s told his girlfriend”), but I hope it clarifies how unreasonable it is for him to be putting responsibility on YOU to keep it quiet.

    My other thought, as I read your post: You’ve put quite a lot of emphasis on the fact that you don’t find one another attractive, and while that’s reassuring, I think it’s a bit of a red herring. Feelings can change. People vary and I know that this isn’t a universally shared view, but what I would want to know, in his girlfriend’s position, is: (1) that he loves her and will be loyal to her; (2) that he will always be honest with her; (3) that regardless of any feelings he might have towards anybody else, now or in the future, he will stay within the limits that they have set in their relationship.

    Only at least one of these things is not happening.

    1. Yeah… People with whom I interact when there is really no mutual attraction ( ie almost every single person with whom I interact): somehow we don’t ever have this conversation. LW, if your collaborator initiated this convo with you about how he really wants you to know he is NOT attracted to you guess what. He is.

      1. Yeah. Seconding this. I’m not one of those people who basically doesn’t notice anyone from the neck down while in a relationship, but it would LITERALLY never occur to me to tell anyone, for example, in my office, that I wasn’t attracted to them.

      2. I think this might be a good thread into which to place my observation that this “bloke” business feels hinky. It seems like overcompensation, “you are not a woman in my eyes, nosiree, nope, not feeling your femininity in close proximity and intimate endeavor,” when, yeah, he really is. He may protrst too much. Hopefully he isn’t also using it as a smokescreen with his GF, but I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.

  25. I work in a fairly vanilla education environment and for the same organization for more than a decade. Not anything exciting like music, but I’ve formed two semi-formal individual partnerships with men which have become so close I call them (in my head) ‘work-husbands.’ We work, commiserate, plan, and bitch together. My actual husband has met them both and knows all about them. I’ve met their wives and they know all about me. I found out recently that one wife refers to me as that partner’s ‘work-wife’ because we’re such a team. Here’s two key things, 1)NOTHING IS SECRET. That’s why my husband, who can be a little suspicious of other men, is completely comfortable with me traveling with one of them to conferences and 2) neither one of them talks to me about their relationship with their wives. Partner-shared wife info = health, irritated with the new dog, says congratulations on that thing, can’t wait until Girl Scout cookie season is over. The closest I’ve ever come to hearing anything is that one of the guys recently said that with all the stuff going on in his life lately (elder care, health issues, job problems) he’s going to see a counselor because he doesn’t want it to affect his marriage. No further details on the wife front, but I do know about the search for good nursing homes. We’d probably get together as couples except I really need to get away from work issues when I don’t have to be there.

    My husband has been there from the first day of my relationship with each of these men. He knew when we agreed to work together on a project, and how it turned out, and he knew when the other man and I wrote our first article together. He’s not surprised I’m close to them because I have 9 and 10 year partnerships with them that he was aware of every step of the way. Every. step. of the. way.

  26. As a female musician, I’ve been in this situation twice. The first time ended badly; dude and I stopped playing together, dude married girlfriend who doesn’t like him playing music much – and five years down the line, he no longer plays at all. I’m happy to report that I do, and I’m in a new, much better band. The second time ended well; the difference being that I befriended the girlfriend, made it 100% clear that my interest in her boyfriend was exclusively musical, and now am independently friends with her. The common factor in both these situations, however, was that the dude was handling it badly; the first one was playing ego games, writing songs for me etc, and although the girl was clingy and controlling about him playing music (as proved by the fact that he no longer plays at all) she was also right to be jealous as he was flirting with me and I (I’m not proud to admit) with him. The second time, there really was nothing between me and the dude, but he wasn’t spending enough time with the girlfriend in general, and she was jealous not of me, but of the time our music project took up. I kind of went over his head by befriending her though, and although our music project didn’t last, we’re all still good friends. It’s just a thought – but is this a tactic worth trying? At the very least, you’d get a clear picture of his intentions from his reaction if you were to propose a drink/dinner with his girlfriend. All the best, and hoping your exciting project works out!

    1. THIS! That thing where women are socialized to be suspicious of other women (which has always manifested most prominently for me in my musical relationships)… it took me a long time to realize that it happened, and that I played into it as much as the “jealous” girlfriends of my bandmates. Eye contact and an authentic “Hello [bandmate’s girlfriend or new lady member of our band], how is your day / that project you’re working on / that delicious smell in the kitchen / your adorable dog?” can go a long way to reducing that jealousy and competitiveness. But MORE IMPORTANTLY, band-adjacent people are usually cool fun people who have their own cool fun stuff happening. Once I kicked down my own Walls of Insecurity, all band-adjacent relationships got better.

      (While I agree that LW’s situation is sketchy on account of musical partner being kind of weaselly, smudgelysmythe’s comment really resonated with me and I thought I would chime in for the other musicians who are reading while shouting “That looks familiar!”)

      1. Yes indeed, women are socialised to be suspicious of/competitive with each other, and it’s such a shame. The other night I went to a gig and met a male friend’s girlfriend for the first time; the minute I started talking to them she stuck her nose in the air and walked off. He, of course, followed. Little did she know that I was there alone, braving a night out for the first time since a horrible breakup, and felt ten times lonelier and singler after she did that. But on my way home I wondered how many times I’d done that to other women…and vowed to make sure I never do it again! It’s so lame when single women just get labelled a threat and avoided or excluded, when I think it’s a very small minority who actually are out to steal another woman’s boyfriend. Usually you can spot them a mile off anyway. In my case, I was hoping she’d be nice, and for a dinner invite to their new flat as promised by the male friend, but I won’t be holding my breath! Ah well. Maybe it’s karma for being jealous of the pretty young musicians who jung around my ex (also a musician)

  27. Like everyone else, massive side-eye for this dude not having told his girlfriend about your collaboration. But in case you do pursue this project, or end up in other duos/groups where you are concerned about potential jealousy from partners perhaps some of these tips might help:

    1) If you end up all hanging out together try to keep a distinction between band/rehearsal mode and hang out mode. So if partners are present at a time that is not Designated Rehearsal Time then try not to just talk to your collaborator or just talk about your project – switch the conversation to stuff everyone can talk about and include the partners. This can be really low key stuff like directing some simple small talk to the partners: ‘Hey, how was your day/got any plans for the weekend?’. If band talk is inevitable, then maybe keep it to topics that the partners would be able to participate in, like ‘Has anyone been to such and such venue before?’ rather than ‘What are we doing about specific musical thing that would be inappropriate for anyone not in the band to comment on’ so you are not excluding them from the conversation.

    2) Always acknowledge the partner/s. If they come to a gig, say hi and thank them for coming; if they share your event on facebook, thank them for the support; if they collect your collaborator after a rehearsal, say hi. Even if you dislike the partner, these things are just basic politeness and their absence, even if accidental, can feel like a real pointed snub.

    3) Once you know them, perhaps even enlist their support (or ask collabs to do this). Even something as simple as being asked to take flyers to pass on to their friends or to share a facebook event could make the partner feel more involved rather than excluded by the project and turn that relationship into one of support rather than fear/jealousy.

  28. “I haven’t met her.”

    I honestly think it would help if you did.

    My husband is still good friends with his ex-fiancee, which is something I would be uncomfortable with if I hadn’t met her. When I did meet her and watched them interact, I could tell that they knew each other very well, and they were very comfortable with each other, but there was no sexual tension there. It was actually very sweet!

    So I think there’s a possibility that if she sees your relationship and sees how you two interact, it might help put her mind at ease.

    Yes, I know that this is his problem and he needs to grow a spine and tell her and that you are not responsible for fixing his problems. All of this is true, but sometimes there is a disconnect between the academically perfect solution and what actually works in the real world. I think this might be one of those times.

    Good luck!

  29. I’m not seeing much discussion about this yet, possibly because commenters might not have much to add about it. (I know we’re not supposed to diagnose people over the Internet, Capt, but since the LW told us that she and he are both autistic, I think it’s okay to weigh in on that? Apologies if that’s still too close to “diagnosing over the internet.”)

    I’m an autistic woman myself and just want to point out that, while I am very much not happy with how he’s handling this, it is VERY POSSIBLE that he could just be handling this poorly.

    A lot of being autistic can be trying to mimic social scripts and, have you seen movies? Social scripts for how to handle this are TERRIBLE. It’s possible that he’s flailing and extremely unsure how to handle this and is mimicing the social scripts set forth by society, most of which emphasize tiptoeing around the girlfriend.

    While that still makes it HIS responsibility to fix, I just want to point out that it wouldn’t be too far out to guess that he just doesn’t know how to handle this rather than any kind of manipulation with ulterior motives.

    That being said, just because he’s autistic doesn’t mean he’s incapable of being a creepy. I just felt it was important to point out that it’s not unrealistic to think he’s maybe just making mistakes. They’re still mistakes and he’s still responsible for them, but there’s a decent chance there’s no ulterior motive on his part, especially with our lack of extra info to suss out if he’s being manipulative, if he’s just messing up, or if the girlfriend is being manipulative.

    All that being said, LW, this still isn’t your problem to solve. I wanted to point that out so that there’s still a possibility of this just being him messing up rather than it HAVING to be him being manipulative. But it’s still not YOUR PROBLEM. LW, I really like the last two bullet points the Capt gave as scripts for this. They make it very clear what your boundaries are and make it clear that he needs to tell her.

    I know a lot of us autistics prefer direct communication like that, so if it really is just him not knowing what to do, making it clear that he needs to tell her and that the responsibility is his might be what’s needed to fix it. I’d be careful if he keeps being reticent to tell her anyways. That to me would indicate that either there’s some shadiness going on (either on his part or his girlfriend’s) or that he might be having some sort of subconscious misgivings or something, like a self-sabotage thing.

    I think it would be very fair and reasonable to use those last 2 scripts that Capt gave and possibly say that you’re going to start promoting the gig on X date, to sort of give him a deadline.

    1. thebearpelt, I also wondered how much his autism might be playing into the situation, although I’m not autistic, so it was really no more than a guess on my part. I also wondered if his autism makes even a small amount displeasure on the GF’s part seem larger?

      Regardless, it’s still not the LW’s job to manage that, and I especially like the section of CA’s script that says “either we do this in the open or not at all.”

      1. I’m autistic myself, altho I should mention that I’m not like an expert or anything. But based on what I know, that could definitely be a thing that can happen. Especially if he views his girlfriend’s displeasure as a social error HE’S made that HE has to fix, rather than just feelings that his girlfriend needs to process.

        And again, yes, it’s still not LW’s responsibility, regardless. It can help LW to understand what’s causing the issue, possibly, as far as how to approach it goes, but it’s still definitely not LW’s responsibility.

    2. I’m not autistic, and I don’t want to veer into neurotypical-splaining, but I’d like to submit that this is just a thing people handle badly in general?

      Everyone can get caught in (what I playfully call) the First Circle of Hell: you haven’t done anything really bad, but you dreading telling Partner about it, thus putting it off, knowing that the delay itself will upset Partner (possibly more than the original thing), therefore continuing to put it off, repeat ad nauseum. It takes a lot of courage to stop putting it off and face the music, and I think everyone is kind of bad at it. Once you’ve missed that first opportunity to loop your partner in at the very beginning, there is no social script for recovering from that misstep. It’s going to be awkward no matter what.

      You’ve got a good point that it’s reinforced by all the terrible scripts in the media that emphasize tiptoeing around the girlfriend and managing other people’s feelings for them. The interesting thing is that I can’t think of a time in the media that the conflict-avoidance strategy EVER turns out well, yet we keep acting out that script. What it’s created is the expectation that these things always blow up and there’s nothing you can do, so might as well avoid conflict for as long as possible.

      The only thing I have to add is that in my anecdotal experience, having a deadline might help him break out of the First Circle (“I am going to tell Partner no later than [date]. So may it be written, so may it be done.”). But remember, as the Captain and others have said, the deadline is more about you looking out for yourself and not about managing his relationship or his partner’s feelings.

      1. I appreciate your caution about not wanting to NT-splain. Your point, as far as helping LW out, can be helpful. (Tbh I hate when NT people tell me “oh I do that too!” but it’s more of a really bad pet peeve for me. But I’m taking your comment in good faith.)

        The one thing I wanna point out in regards to that is that, while NT folks can definitely experience something similar, the degree can be very different. For me, when that happens, it’s such a severe anxiety that I can’t even explain it. And learning to overcome it (if possible) can be far, far more difficult for an autistic person than for a NT person. Especially when, as an autistic person, you can spend a lot of time second-guessing your perceptions and understanding of the social world. However, knowing that NT people struggle with this too could be comforting for the LW. (This is not a tactic that I find comforting, personally, but that’s me.)

        Your point about the scripts from media reinforcing the idea of “avoid conflict forever” is very astute, I think. I ended up analyzing a lot of these scripts as knowing what NOT to do and that worked out well for me in that regard, but not all autistic people will naturally approach them that way.

  30. “However, he has a girlfriend, who is (perhaps inevitably) insecure in one way or another about him playing music with “pretty young women” (she’s a fair bit older than us two, hence the inclusion of “young”)”

    There is something about this whole passage that really makes me nervous. If he’s the one you’re quoting here, then he seems to be telling you you’re a pretty young thing, emphasising her being older in a way that makes it sound like THAT’S the problem (he could so easily NOT have brought her age up, or implied her jealousy was natural), and in that way setting you up to be competitors. By painting her as a jealous not-pretty-young-thing, he sets himself up as the victim.

    I have never met a person who told me unflattering things about their partner who didn’t progress into “My mean jealous older girlfriend makes me sad, can I have hugs from you? Oh boy, it’s hot in here, mind if I take off my shirt?”. Etc.

    I don’t see Gf as the problem here. Maybe she is jealous, but by involving you in her feelings, he is creating a cheating-type dynamic between you two, and very possibly living out a fantasy that she is jealous because he could TOTALLY SCORE with you if he wanted.

    OK, he’s your friend and co-worker, but please be wary of getting in too deep to this guy’s relationship. Like the Capt says, deflect his attempts to drag you into this further. You and his girlfriend don’t have a problem, you don’t know each other, the problem is a tension that he is creating.

  31. Ugh. I picked up a friendship with an old ex (like, it’s been more than ten years since we had that relationship), and knowing eachother well, we also picked up something of our old intimacy (not the relationship, though). He then met someone and said we had to dial down the intimacy, which was fine for me, until it turned out I wasn’t even allowed to give him a greeting hug “because wife is jealous”. And since then, it’s turned out that he mostly talks with me “in secret” to “spare his wife’s feelings”, and when I tell him I am not OK with that and tells him that if she asks what we’re up to, I will tell her, he says that would be a very mean thing to do… When we’re just talking on the phone maybe once a month… And I see him maybe once a year…

    My friend’s got a serious case of trying to manage someone elses behaviour by deceiving them, and then hiding it (hopefully ? even from himself) by saying it’s for her peace of mind. Ugh. I hate that BS reasoning, because hiding the truth from someone means taking away their freedom in a way. Not having a reliable idea of what is going on means you’re choosing your actions on false information, and if someone else is making sure you have false information just so that they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their actions… Ugh. Even the idea makes me cold-burn-angry.

    And my friend is making his wife a disservice by thinking she won’t get unsettled by the things he doesn’t say… She’s smart enough to know he’s unreliable, and it’s not that surprising she’s not happy about it, and not trusting him. I don’t even know why they stay together, but then, I’ve noticed that it’s usually hard to see what a relationship is like from the outside. He says it’s for the kids, but at this point, I don’t trust him either, our earliest history of reliable trust be damned.

    I have yet to make up my mind whether to challenge him to be again as sincere as he used to be (this far, it’s just been a recurring theme of discussion, and me letting him know I will not lie for him) or to just stop having anything to do with him. It’d been an easy answer if I didn’t care for him and didn’t have such a longstanding friendship with him. In the end, which would be fairly soon, I’ll probably do both. Challenge him and then if he won’t change things send him the African Violets of “I won’t be friends with an unreliable bag of BS, and you wouldn’t stop, so…”.

    LW, hiding things from an SO is not for “their sake”. “Sparing someones feelings” or “not upsetting them” by keeping from them important and relevant stuff that they would want to know about is a form of betrayal. I don’t think you should participate in that, and best case scenario, your musician friend does not understand it is a betrayal and would stop trying to delay the unavoidable conflict with his GF if he did understand.

    Please tell him he’s not allowed to manage his GF’s feelings or actions by hiding important and relevant things from her, and that you will at date X stop participating in the stealth thing. He can be scared all he want of the possible fallout from telling her what’s going on, but he still needs to do the decent thing. If he is unable to realise or admit that telling her is indeed the decent and loving thing to do, you need to decide whether or not you’re up for being in a musical project with a person who puts his own comfort over others’ need for reliable information to base important choices on. Because in that case, he’s not trying to spare her, but himself.

    However, if it turns out it is a case of him being scared of being emotionally abused because of doing things his GF doesn’t like… I unfortunately don’t know what to tell you. She is not allowed to take her insecurities out on him or to control his behaviours, but emotional abusers are pretty good at convincing people that that’s exactly what it’s reasonable and just to do.

    You might tell him that if he needs to hide his actions from her to be safe, something is wrong. (Anyone got any counter-suggestions, or better ideas?)

  32. Captain is right.

    This is side-eye behaviour.

    My creative partner and I linked up over a decade ago. Writing, producing and mounting a production that turns into a sustainable continued cultural vehicle is a phenomenon. Like a new tribal language being formed, a trust and bond occurs.

    But the bond is sincere to withstand *any* doubts an SO might have about our relationship and what brings us together. We have a theatre company to point to… But in the early days, when speculative ambition was our only fuel, it was no surprise to be asked by my SO if I secretly loved my creative partner.

    And I would have lied had I said there were no ambiguities at first. My partner is a *luvvie* and very touchy and emphatic in her praise and would talk me up when introducing me so much that I had to wonder if this might be weird to hear if an SO could hear, but I had no SO when we first collaborated and I had to navigate solo, until we had a conversation about her effusiveness, that I usually expect from a romantic interest, so clarity was needed.
    My mistake. It’s just the way some people are in theatre. Phew!
    But I had to ask her to cut down on telling me she loved me so often. However, knowing where it was *coming* from, keeps me a close and we are friends for life.

    I think this guy is dodgy.


    He has feelings for LW he cannot disguise to his own girlfriend so opts to hide, yet has feelings about his girlfriend he doesn’t disguise or hide from LW. Not a trusting bond manoeuvre.

    He is the guy in the Marilyn Monroe flick with the married upstairs neighbour sneaking about afraid his wife discovers her.

    OK, delay certain details before a launch or other restraints not to jinx a vibe, but to not tell your own girlfriend makes it too strange. Like not telling your parents you smoke.

    Attractive Women in the Arts and the Dilemmas they cause! Such a minefield! For people in it for totally the wrong reasons, I’d say.

  33. “Duo Partner, please tell your girlfriend about our plans today. I want to start promoting our gigs. Please rip the bandaid off so we can focus on our music. Thanks.”

    I think that’s the main thing. This musical duo – presumably you want to have gigs? Possibly make money? Videos? You could be the greatest duo ever and it would fall apart if you didn’t promote it. If he doesn’t want to promote your duo, then you have to write this off as something that will ever have any sort of recognition. I have major side-eye for both of them, ‘success’ is 98% promotion. If he’s unwilling to promote your duo, he’s basically saying he’s not interested in success.

    My prediction: their relationship isn’t going to last (long distance? she’s insecure about him having female friends? he’s either the sort of codependent person who just goes along with it, or he’s trying to build her up to you as unreasonable, sounds like kind of a dick), and your duo isn’t going to last. You can’t even promote a gig with this guy. You might have great musical chemistry, but this is business.

  34. LW: this dude is taking something that is not your problem and making it your problem, and that is Not Cool.

  35. As the spouse of a musician, I’m putting in with the resounding chorus of “this is weird!”

    My spouse has band, but also does side projects. Sometimes those projects involve attractive people of sexual compatibility. These projects *always* involve a lot of time spent rehearsing and sometimes recording. It’s even a thing where when musicians work really hard, sometimes they go out for fun outings to blow of steam and bond. This is all cool with me. I don’t need to live up Spouse’s butthole. I trust Spouse.

    I would immediately stop trusting Spouse if I learned about some sort of secret project that was hidden from me on purpose. I would find that really fucking strange. I would question *why* it was kept secret and if the answer wasn’t “We are planning a surprise party for you!” I’d be angry and suspicious.

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