How to Survive Being Married to a Musician.

Via Dearbhla Kelly
on Apr 6, 2013
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Hands in the air - in concert (CC)

So you’re married to a musician?

If you’ve made it that far, you probably already know everything you’re about to read here, so it may be a better use of your time to have a nice relaxing bath, practice yoga or whatever rocks your boat.

If you continue to read, please appreciate that this applies equally to girlfriends, lovers, or whatever name represents your partnership.

Disclaimer: I’m a woman writing from a female perspective. I’m fairly sure what’s written here is not gender specific, but to be on the safe side, I’m not making claims to represent the guys.

Here’s the deal: rolling with your hot muso, you will inevitably spend a lot of time traveling to gigs (think long car rides, airplanes, boats and trains sometimes, frantic taxi dashes), waiting around during soundcheck, running out to get your beloved coffee/tea/whatever during soundcheck.

Then, there’s the show itself. By the time the actual performance begins you may be exhausted from the day and you may not have had the chance to eat anything since breakfast (assuming you had breakfast). The band may not have either, but they are getting adrenalin from the high of performing and being the main event. You, on the other hand, are neither a band or audience member; you’re somewhere in between.

This becomes very apparent when, after the show, the band is getting lots of love from fans and you are hanging around trying to smile and be gracious when all you really want to do is go and eat. You may be selling merch’ after the show and here, smiling is very important. You make every effort to remain not just good-humored, but warm and gracious. All the while you are starting to fall apart because you are hungry and strung out.

Oh, and realize that you are being watched.

I’m speaking from experience here. Many times I’ve had people say to me, ‘Oh yeah, I saw you at _____ Festival. So and so pointed you out to me and said that you’re _____’s wife.”

Assume your demeanor and behavior are being noticed, not from an egotistical angle, just because that’s how people are.

Given your status as girlfriend/wife/whatever of the band, fans will be bending your ear about how much they love your honey. And they’re right, your honey is amazing, but right now you’d like a beer and a bite to eat with said honey, but there’s no way that’s going to happen. You’ll be hanging around for a while yet—post gig schmooze, pack up, smoke outside the venue, then food with the band. Learn to love the band!

By the time you do finally go for the post-show hang, you are close to melting down because you haven’t eaten for hours, you’re exhausted, and you really need a few minutes to connect and feel the love with your guy. I know, I know, the band is exhausted and hungry too, and they’ve put out a lot of energy during soundcheck, performance and post show schmooze. But the band is high from the show and the attention of the fans, and they get to share the intimacy of playing a show together with all the attendant highs, lows, sick drum solos, sweet harmonies and eye contact with the crowd.

So what to do? How do you navigate this delicate dance and remain resplendent and smiling in your own skin, support your guy and enjoy yourself?

I’ve been doing this for eight years now and have learned a few things along the way.

1. Take Care of Yourself.

I know that you want to be the devoted wife/girlfriend/main squeeze of your hot musician dude, but here’s the thing, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll end up strung out and depleted as per above. The best way you can support your man is by looking after yourself (at the appropriate time) so that you can be the smiling goddess he wants you to be. The last thing he needs is someone else to take care of. He already has enough to deal with and needs you to just be chill. You can best be that by making sure your own needs are met.

No one else will do this for you because they simply won’t think about the fact that you have needs. It’s not about you—it’s about the band and the show. So do yourself a favor: during soundcheck make sure you take a little time for yourself, have a snack or something more substantial and spend a few minutes resting. This way you will feel relaxed and grounded for the show, but more importantly for afterwards.

2. Have Clear Boundaries.

It’s okay to have boundaries. In fact, it’s a good thing. Knowing what you are willing and not willing to do means you won’t end up feeling resentful. Things like driving band members to and from the airport, running for coffees during soundcheck, packing up after the show while the band are schmoozing (crucial if you want to get out of there faster) can all become sources of resentment if you don’t do them with an open heart and attitude of helpfulness. More often than not, you won’t be thanked for your efforts. So, if for whatever reason, you’re feeling like you can’t do it with good grace, better to refrain and keep your vibe clean.

3. Love the Band.

Or at least tolerate them with good humor. I’m lucky in that, for the most part, I do love all of the musicians my husband plays with; they are stellar individuals.

But there will always be folks that you just don’t completely resonate with. In this case, try to keep your mouth shut. Musicians have a very deep bond and share an intimacy that you will never be part of, no matter how much you are around. What happens onstage is profound and complex; it’s a form of communication, the language of which you don’t speak. Additionally, bands spend long hours together on tour buses, airplanes, etc., and endure the hardships of the road which can be deep bonding experiences. You’re not part of that, but it’s better if you can include it in your field of awareness and sensitivity.

4. Develop a Thick Skin.

If your fella is somewhat famous you will need to learn to deal with that and it’s not always easy. You will find yourself in public situations that are quite challenging. Realize that fans are shameless and many of them have no qualms about interrupting you and your dude at anytime—for example, while having a drink together, or just about to start eating a meal that you’ve been served in a restaurant. Fans are very important and hey, they help pay your rent, so you need to be gracious even when you feel like tellling them to piss off, which you frequently will.

Part of what makes this challenging is that while they feel free to cut into whatever is going on with you and your guy, they aren’t actually interested in you. In fact, they don’t actually see you. Being the object of such atttention is of course very flattering, so you’re dude will probably love this. Not so much fun when you’re exhausted, schmoozed out and really just want to hang tight with the dude. More than that, it’s a total bummer.

Learn to accept it and learn to extract yourself, if possible, with a smile. Have somewhere you can go to regroup and recharge, even if it means going back to the hotel and spending some time on your own. Your hubby has earned the fan love and he enjoys it. It’s part of the reward for what he does. Let him have it and don’t make your frustration an issue in your relationship. It comes back to taking care of yourself, then you can remain gracious and good-humored.

5. Have a Solid Sense of Self.

You will inevitably find yourself in social situations with star-fuckers and sycophants, many of whom won’t ask you anything beyond your name and if you go on the road with your guy the whole time.

Breathe into this. Don’t be swayed from the certainty of who you are in your being and the importance of your particular gifts and skills. It’s better to smile mysteriously and remain gracious as you dwell in the inner knowing of your fullness and talent. Don’t waste your energy getting mad, keep it for your creative pursuits, which are essential to having a strong, separate identity. (Of course, if you are in the role of full time mom, or homemaker, that’s great. Breathe into that and know that you are blessing the world by your being.)

6. Be Self Sufficient.

Being in a long term relationship with a musician entails long periods of separation. Get used to it and get involved in your own life.

Unless your guy is a session musician, you will be apart a lot. This can be lonely and difficult and you will be the one holding down the fort at home. On the plus side, you get to have lots of time for yourself to pursue your own creative endeavors. Learn to love the solitude; it contains many gifts, but to get them you have to penetrate the deepest core of loneliness and separation. If you can do this, you may find freedom and ecstatic unboundedness on the other side. Persevere. You will get there.

7. Develop a Strong Support Network.

Life on the road is no picnic. Unexpected situations always arise, group dynamics can be tricky, traveling is exhausting. This means that your guy won’t always be able to be there for you in the ways you’d like. Don’t assume this means he doesn’t love you. Understand there are times when the stresses of the road are too consuming, and dealing with your need for support is more than he can handle.

It’s helpful for you to have some friends that you can turn to at such times. Of course you want that loving connection with your man, particularly in these moments, but try to separate the need for support from the need to touch in and feel the love. It can help to be direct; tell him you need a shot of energetic love and a hug. Then he won’t feel responsible for fixing a situation from a different city or continent. Not that it’s his job to anyway!

8. Skip the Show Sometimes.

You don’t have to go to every gig. I know you probably want to, at least for the first five years! Stay home sometimes and do your own thing.

9. Accept That You Come Second.

Relationship with a musician (possibly with any other artist) means that you come after the music. Make peace with this. You’ll be happier and thus have a better relationship. Again, don’t make this mean that your dude doesn’t love you; it’s different than that. If he’s a successful musician, he is driven by his art and his drive to share that passion and he needs public recognition of his talent and hard work.


Don’t get in the way of his creative flow. The more you can support it, the more juice you’ll get back. And remember, part of what made you fall in love with him was exactly that passion and creative spark that needs to be nurtured by his artistic expression. If he were willing to give up his art for you, he’d no longer be the man you fell in love with. Cherish his creativity, support his dreams. You’ll both be happier and you’ll grow as a person; sacrificing your immediate desires can be immensely rewarding in the long term.

Being with a musician requires a lot. And nobody gives you a how-to manual. That’s why I’m writing this article. No one gave me the guide. I’ve had to figure it out myself along the way. I’ve made some horrible messes and behaved in ways I’m not proud of. I particularly haven’t always been able to remain gracious and smiling at times when it would have been optimal.

But the rewards of sharing your life with a musician are huge. First of all, there’s the music itself. Obviously you love music, otherwise you’d never have connected with the muso. Music is part of what makes living. It infuses our lives with joy, beauty, nuance and depth. To get to be that closely connected to a channel for musicality is a blessing.

You’ll meet other interesting, talented people. The ‘musician hang’ can be fantastic, so relish it. You will probably be the recipient of wonderful hospitality and generosity and get to travel to places and have experiences that otherwise would not be available to you. It’s a beautiful, complicated, at times crazy, path. It’s not for everyone, but for those who stick around, it’s a tapestry of wonder, expansion and delight.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Dearbhla Kelly

Born and raised in Ireland, Dearbhla Kelly M.A. is a Los Angeles-based yoga teacher, writer and neurophilosopher. She began her academic training in Amsterdam and received degrees in philosophy in Dublin and Chicago. She is particularly skillful at marrying the more esoteric teachings of yoga with modern scientific insights and the practicalities of everyday life. Her writing has been published in the Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine. A dedicated ashtanga practitioner, she teaches yoga and neuroscience workshops worldwide. Her lilting Irish accent and Dublin wit make her classes uniquely enjoyable.


28 Responses to “How to Survive Being Married to a Musician.”

  1. Montino Bourbon says:

    Very well said and very well written… and true.

  2. Dearbhla says:

    Thanks Montino. I'm sure Rita could write the manual!

  3. Helray says:

    Amen, I'm totally with you on this. I might add NEVER get involved in band issues, do NOT express a public opinion on anything to do with their music / performance / behaviour and after 5 years or so you will be happy to stay at home and let them get on with it, whilst savouring some "me time!"

  4. Denny Noggle says:

    Hey Dearblha!

    Being a musician…I need to keep my "chops" up for gigs. So I need to go to the practice room each day. This is another form of loneliness for my wife. She has been through the being there at all of the early club dates. Now, she stays home…no need to be there, since she has been there, done that. Your comments are spot on advice for the new lover of a working musician.

    And she totally supports my practice and gigs.

  5. Dollie says:

    Thanks for this. My husband is on his first tour and I am feeling lonely. We have never been apart over a day so two weeks is killing me. Went on Google looking for support and found this. It is sooooo very true, 100%.

  6. Dearbhla says:

    Thanks Denny!

  7. Dearbhla says:

    Oh honey, glad you found some solace in this. It's a lonely path for sure!
    love to you,

  8. Dearbhla says:


  9. AmyLove says:

    This was very helpful when I was looking for support. Thank you!

  10. Concertina says:

    That is wonderful! It gives me encourage because my boyfriend (we are 3 and half months together) is leaving at the 9th of the month the country for a 3 months contract in another country.. So it will be little hard for me to get used to it. It is a big challenge! But this gives me power to not give up and get pissed of. I will go to see him and he will come to meet me as well but this will happen a few times as I work full time with one day off… Thanks for that beautiful article!!! 🙂

  11. Nicole says:

    I am engaged to a drummer and his band is starting out, but flourishing. This article helped a lot and i have already run across these situations and so far have done well, Thank you for posting and it helps to know that we are not alone in this world of musician's girls. 🙂

  12. Nicole says:

    I noticed that you didnt mention anything about groupies or girls that may flock to our men…what are your thoughts on that? I know the relationship with our guy has to have trust…but how do you deal with the thought of girls being around the band and your guy?

  13. Dearbhla says:

    Hi Nicole,
    apologies for the late reply, I'm just seeing this now. Girls are fans. Fans are important. Your guy isn't on tour looking for skirt, he wants to do his thing as a musician. Trust him. You love each other and you're engaged, so you're committed. Keep doing what makes you happy and know that your dude chose YOU.

  14. Aviva says:

    Slightly different take on this. I'm in my late 30's…I'm married to a musician who is incredibly talented but he makes very, very little money. I make lots of money, pay all the bills, and have purchased pretty much everything we own. I go to his gigs sometimes but I have my own busy life, so it's not my top priority. We are still close but our attraction for each other has suffered. In the past 12 months, his lack of prospects has become a real problem and he has not fulfilled on the promises he made when we fell in love to explore a secondary career. Now that we have started talking about having a child, I realize I must be crazy to stay in the marriage. I'm going to have to work full time, be a mom, and support my husband? No thanks. I think there are lots of men who choose the life I have because they are natural providers. But I would like to and deserve to be with an equal partner and I realize I've sold out on this by marrying this lovely, charming man of music and leisure. My advice to women in relationships with musicians is to think about the long term impact to your sanity, family, and your own career, after your 20s and 30s. It's simply not a lucrative career and if you think you deserve better, then you do. Don't settle unless you really are in for the long haul. It feels so true that these guys are married to music and you do come second. If that's cool with you, carry on…

  15. Nicolina says:

    Thanks for writing this. I have been with my boyfriend for almost two years, we recently moved in together, and he left for a three month tour about two weeks ago (he has been on tour before, but for slightly shorter periods of time). So far, it's been incredibly challenging, and we have been fighting a lot. While I am aware of certain things you mentioned here that I need to do to get through this time, I have been consumed with doubt and resentment, and I feel unable to be at peace with the situation. Due to his responsibilities as both a drummer and tour manager, he seldom has any time to call and talk to me. Some conversations last a mere five minutes, during which he fills me in on whatever difficulties he's faced that day, leaving no time for me to even talk about what I've been up to, who I've been spending time with, or any exceptional experiences or thoughts I've had. I have a very full life, I am social, and I do have healthy habits of taking care of myself by practicing yoga, running, and surfing. Even with all of these distractions, I find it incredibly frustrating that I can't talk to him when I want to, or have any say in how long the conversations last. When I feel positively, I can't share myself with him, which leads me into negativity. I've been facing some emotional problems in other areas of my life, and I can't talk to him about them either because there is simply no time. I found it interesting that you mentioned our partners are not responsible for supporting us emotionally, and I do see some truth in that. However, my boyfriend often needs emotional support from me, and I feel it is unfair for him to expect me to deal with my feelings on my own, while helping him work through his. This has resulted in a series of arguments, and limited time to work through them. I want to change the situation, but I don't feel ready or capable of turning it around. What I find myself wanting is to be left alone, to not have contact when time is limited, and to work through my problems by shutting him out. I have tried to make that clear to him, but he's hurt by the idea of me choosing not to talk to him. Your advise would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Ana says:

    Hi Aviva, I just read your answer to this article and I kinda agree with this. My boyfriend has a business degree but his passion is music. We've been together for 5 years and we are in our mid-20's so we are supposed to be in the beginning of our careers. I started working a few months ago (I studied business and now I've been doing internships so I can then get a good job that brings me some stability). While I have been doing this, he has just been dedicating his time to music only. He had a band and now he has a new band that I thing has a lot of potential. I think it's nice that he follows his passion but I really don't think I will keep dating him even though I love him. Our case is quite complicated. The thing is, I come from southern western Europe and although he is also from the south of Europe he has always lived in Belgium, where I met him. I came here a few years ago because my family was working in the european institutions for 3 years. I stayed here to finish my studies and now I am here for him. I have never adapted to this country and even though I am so outgoing I have never made real friends here- so basically I am alone here with him, which makes it even harder to deal with. Moreover, as I love adventure I also want to try and work in other places and meet new things (I lived in different places before like Barcelona, Lisbon, California, Norway and now Belgium). So basically we have a double problem: even though, we love each other, on the one hand I don't want to stay in this country and he does and has to since he has his band here and on the other hand, since he is only doing music he still depends on his parents (they pay him everything and they have money to do so – he was quite spoiled from his italian mother). I am not like that. I want exactly the opposite, to be independent from my parents. This affects us because I want to see my relationship evolving (5 years and we are still in the same stable situation- nothing has evolved). As a woman, I want to start having my house with him etc. but we can't because his parents bought an apartment for him and his sister and basically I am always there. At least, if he earned his own money we could rent a house together etc. I am so sick of this situation. What I feel is that music is TOO important to him and I just can't understand this. I really think now after this time together that we will just follow our different paths even though we love each other because I don't want to stay in this country and at the same time I want a stable life for me and for my partner and most of all that we evolve together ( which does not happen in this relationship). Moreover, he works a lot with his band and taken into account that he is the only person I know here and reason why I am here, I believe that if I stay and the absences start- which is normal in a musician's life (I can't go with him because I have a normal job)- it will be even harder for me. So, lately I have been a mess and trying to find an answer for this somewhere…

  17. Beenthere says:

    Women need to understand – musicians are immature, that's why you feel left out, alone, distrustful, neglected. They value their music over you. They want the benifits of a relationship, but not the responsibility. They are also attention junkies.

  18. Karen says:

    I’m glad I found this. My husband and I have 3 kids, 4 year old boy, 2 year old girl and a one month old. Last year he started pursuing his dreams of being in a band and it’s been hard bc he is away practicing a lot and I was pregnant and couldn’t go to the smoke filled bars so we didn’t spend much time together and it hurt our relationship a lot. Now I want to be supportive of his dreams but at the same time I’m angry bc when we married that’s wasn’t the plan. We were having kids, planning to buy a house, etc. I don’t want a husband that is always gone. But I love him and if that is what he wants then I will support him. I trust him to be faithful and all but I’m not ok with him putting music first and that’s what I struggle with. How do you maintain a good marriage with a musician when kids are involved? How do you make sure the kids still have a father in their life?

  19. love thyself says:

    unreal. seriously. playing music past 35 yrs of age with a wife and family (unless you are making big bucks and can travel in comfort, ect) is the most narcissistic profession on the planet. unless you are single and have money to support your music pursuit, and can afford to live a life that is all about you. i am a woman and a better musician than most of the 30 plus men who still feel the need to "gig" (often for no money.) being that pursuit of MY music would mean hours away from my husband and daughter (mostly nights), no pay, nothing in it really except for accolades from fans and fellow band members… is something i never even considered. there comes a time when you grow up. unless you become Bono, or you wish to remain single all your life, or your significant other is also in and into said band — being a musician and asking your wife or family to support this idea is the highest position of narcissism – supportive of HIS dreams which are self-serving in nature and based in your sacrifice? now how can that be right when you are a couple?

  20. Malynn says:

    I can relate to this as I just got out of a two year relationship with a man who wants to be (and is working towards this goal) a professional musician. He wants to teach lessons but only after he has achieved a moderate amount of fame with his band, who is very small and relatively unknown now, but will probably get bigger as time goes on. While I want him to pursue his dreams and hope he is able to live them, I was always plagued by thoughts that I was a bad girlfriend because I have a steady job, work 40 hours a week to support myself, and as such was often unable to attend shows. I was extremely supportive of him, but there was always a nagging in the back of my head that he might NEVER want to ascend beyond a life of living with band-mates, not working (or just working sporadically) only able to support himself and his dreams. I knew that eventually, down the line, there would come a point when we might move in together and I would be stuck supporting both of us because of his refusal to work or do anything besides play guitar for 7+ hours a day. It was extremely tough because while I knew that he loved me, I also knew he loved music and his dream more. I would think about having kids with this man and then realize that if we DID have kids and move in together, I would effectively be stuck as the sole breadwinner (because he wouldn't have a steady income) a single mom for months at a time, all while working and juggling being alone. I knew I would eventually grow to resent him strongly for this. Love can only carry you so far, and I do think that it's unfair to the woman in this scenario who would have to essentially sacrifice her entire life to her husbands passion. And if a child DID somehow become involved, how would that be fair to the child to grow up only seeing their father for a few times a month?
    I was sad (and still am extremely upset) on breaking up with this man because I really do love him with all my heart, but until he matures (if he ever does) and wants to live an equal life with a partner, I don't ever see him or us having a complete and fulfilling relationship. Extremely hard thing to come to terms with.

  21. Alex says:

    Do you think that musicians can happily marry people that don’t travel a lot on their job?

  22. Liza says:

    amen sister! And thank you! My Musical husband divorced me and is on to his latest groupie. Do you think it is a coincidence that she is overweight and unattractive? A friend bumped into him early in their dating and he said to her “she likes the music”. How long can that possibly last??

  23. Cris says:

    My husband and I got married and he is aside from being a musician an excellent well known music producer. We have 2 children and our youngest passed away 11 months ago. He promised to work as a producer to be here for our family. Our daughter is just 4 and she is going through a lot with the loss of her brother, I am heart broken, my husband won’t even be here for what would have been our sons b day or for his 1st year in heaven anniversary. I believe family comes 1st… Don’t accept to be second if you have a family because nothing comes before family…. I think a lot of the things said on this article are not family oriented… It makes no sense to me that my family would be second, my child would be second. That’s just absurd.

  24. Guest says:

    Of course your husband will be gone most of the time to pay the bills for those 3 children.
    What were you thinking having THREE of the danged things? If you still have any looks left after those 3 kids you should go snare a rich orthodontist or medical expert and go there. Trust me, the poor musician might mean well but you have made a huge mistake thinking musician + kids + family will =
    hubby at home. Nope because the nature of the music biz is for people to travel TO gigs.

  25. Eta says:

    Married to a musician for the past 10 years and 2 years dating so total of 12. 12 years and I have chosen to understand his psyche. Interesting day by day. Allows me to see the world differently. Good exposure for our 8 year old daughter who is trying keyboard from his drummer/guitarist dad. Money wise, we are are eating daily but life is more than comfort. We have to be happy. I think he is and I am. Cheers

  26. Eva says:

    Great to hear that it is possible to be happy and in a family with a musician. A lot of the comments here seem to be more on the negative side. I have been in 2 long term relationships with musicians and I was dating another one recently until we clashed talking about touring and dedication to music. I love music deeply, which no wonder made me attract and be attracted by musicians but I am struggling now with the thought that it might not be possible to have a normal relationship and maybe a family with a musician. This is making me so sad because I can't believe that one needs to choose between the two. I do agree that for musicians music comes first. They don't accept to have their passion for music and their dedication to make it a career to be compared to any other job and do have some kind of arrogance in that. I felt like they ask for unconditioned love, attention and support but are a bit too self absorbed to realize when the other person needs that too.
    Almost as if they have a call to fulfill, while your is just a 'normal' life. Really bringing me down as I've been through this several times now and in the end it just feels like you are not valued/appreciated even thou you try and be there for him as much as possible and believe in him too. I know that I have a strong personality too and I don' like to be the 'musician's girlfriend' but want to be as a whole person. Any advice would be very appreciated 🙂

  27. Nora says:

    I just want to say that I relate to what you're going through. I'm currently trying to decide if it's worth it to remain in a relationship with a musician. How have things turned out since you wrote this?

  28. Nora says: