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Dear Little Bobby,
My significant other and I have been in a band together for a few years, but we’ve been having problems lately with band “issues” becoming relationship “issues” and vice versa. For instance, if we have a dispute about a show or practice, far too often we find ourselves still arguing about it at home later on. How can we keep these things separate and be happy in both situations?
—Wants To Make Up/Make Music
Dear Make Up/Make Music,
I remember the first time I really starting thinking about bands that had couples in them. I would see local bands or touring bands where two members were dating, or even just a duet consisting of a couple, and I would think about what that might be like to drive around the country, just me and my partner…driving, playing, loving, driving, eating, playing, fucking…maybe sleeping at some point. I was single at the time and very envious. In all seriousness, I just wanted someone with whom I could travel, make music and make love.
Whatever the issues might be, communication and love, are the answer.
Years later, I briefly dated a band member. It was possibly the most disastrous relationship of my life. She and I also worked together, so when things went bad, they went BAD. I lost my job and her friendship. It nearly ruined the band and me. Fortunately, I was able to learn lessons from that experience, lessons about how to work with a romantic partner, and much more importantly, I learned a lot about how to be a better person. Much later, I found myself in a situation where I asked my current girlfriend to join the band, as opposed to asking a band member to be my girlfriend. Either way, if the people involved are not ready, the potential for disaster is there.
The important difference this time around is her, and of course, me. Hopefully I am different because of those lessons learned. If you and your partner want this to work, play music AND be together, then this arrangement can be like a dream come true. If not, it can be a nightmare. As always, communication is paramount. You must be honest with yourselves and with each other. This should already be the foundation of every successful romantic relationship. And any productive band is made of people that work together, whether they are friends or not.
There are many examples of couples that were once together, staying in bands together after a split. Depending on their specifics, they can continue making music. I mention this to illustrate that when people are actually friends, relationships works better, whether a marriage, a band, a work environment or any combination. Keeping the two situations separate might also help, but I do not really recommend trying that as a blanket policy. Is that even possible?
Yes, it is a good idea to have band time, and to have couple time that are separate. But I do not think it is possible, nor wise, to always bring band stuff to a halt when practice is over. Nor should you stop your relationship when practice starts. Much like a marriage, those of us in bands know that it often feels like a ’round the clock endeavor.
Aside from clear, open communication, you should investigate both of your situations to see what REALLY needs to be addressed. What are the band issues? Music? Practice? Shows? Money? Address THOSE. What are your relationship issues? Anger? Jealousy? Lifestyle? Money? Address THOSE. Whatever the issues might be, communication and love, are the answer. Love for each other, love for the music. If those key ingredients are missing, then why bother with either situation?
—Little Bobby Tucker
“If I could, Baby I’d give you my world.” —Fleetwood Mac, “You Can Go Your Own Way” 1976