Home » Carolyn Hax: Freelancer’s boyfriend asks not to appear in writing

Carolyn Hax: Freelancer’s boyfriend asks not to appear in writing

by ballyhooglobal.com
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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I’ve written freelance articles for years, drawing mostly on my life experience. My usual tone is ironic/humorous, but with what I like to think is some real poignancy and insight.

My boyfriend of eight months has requested that I not write about him anymore. He was initially okay with it, but he has read the handful of things I’ve published since we started dating and has changed his mind. I never say anything that reflects poorly on him or that I think he would find embarrassing; usually, if anything, I am self-deprecating. Before this relationship, I dated someone else for more than five years and wrote about that relationship freely with his blessing. I actually think part of what my current boyfriend is uncomfortable about is the implied comparison between that relationship and this one.

My writing life will be quite a bit more difficult if I can’t write from life anymore. And he has already said no not just to articles that focus on our relationship, but also to ones that mention him in even a cursory way. It is an understandable request, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s controlling and sabotaging, hopefully unintentionally.

How would you approach this? I really want to keep the boyfriend, but I also do not want to lose my creative outlet, which has been a real lifeline during the past couple of very weird years.

Freelancer: His is a fair request. I wouldn’t want to be written about, either. I have some highly confessional writer friends whose work I love and whose inner circles I wonder about all the time. How do they feel about this?

I also pour out thousands of words here and say very little about my family. You know my dogs better than you know my people. But you know a fair amount about me. So, the line is a walkable one.

All that said: “the feeling that it’s controlling and sabotaging” is serious enough that you can’t wisely discard it. Not without asking yourself where it came from.

Is your imagination getting carried away, as the “unintentionally” might suggest? Then get even more creative and write around it.

Or is there context to support your concerns?

If it’s the latter, then trust your gut.

Re: Private partner: Carolyn implied this, but I want to be more direct. Freelancer has a choice between writing about real life and the people in it, and this boyfriend. It is as simple as that.

Some people are happy sharing everything. Others value their privacy. Some, probably this boyfriend, don’t know exactly where they are on the spectrum until they read about themselves in publicly published material.

If you really like the guy, then you can try shifting the focus of your writing. What you cannot do is ask someone else to be someone they aren’t.

Sorry for whichever loss you are about to experience.

If you are certain you can’t shift your writing, then you owe the boyfriend an honest conversation. Boyfriend could make an effort, but there is little chance of succeeding in the long term if he is a private person at heart. Neither of you should pretend you can live some way that you can’t.

Anonymous: Right, the clearer line is well-drawn, thanks. Pushing private-guy to agree to be written about is not on the menu.

And the menu isn’t on the menu if there’s any, any foundation for the controlling/sabotaging/resents-the-comparison hunch. If there’s one thing, then there’s usually something else.

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