Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Marriage & Intimacy Problems

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Piano playing dilemma underscores much deeper issues


Q. I’m in my 50s and started playing piano three years ago. I’ve since completed the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Grade 5 requirements. I love playing and I practice two to three hours a day. The problem is my husband is becoming increasingly intolerant of it. The only time I can practice is after work or on weekends. The sound carries in our condo, so I looked at digital options so I could use headphones, but I’m very unhappy with the sound quality and the feeling of it. The practice pedal on my piano cuts down the sound by 40 per cent, but he’s still unhappy. We tried to negotiate a limited playing time but that’s not going to work since I need to practice even more going into the Grade 6 exam. Our relationship is tense. I think he’s unsupportive of my newfound passion. He thinks I’m inconsiderate letting the sound take over his space. What shall I do?
Heidi, Toronto

A. You have two choices: you can either ditch the piano or you can ditch your husband. Okay, maybe you have a third option. The thing is, this isn’t so much about piano playing as it is symptomatic of a much deeper and more personal issue. That’s where you’re likely to find a solution, according to Joe Rich, a Toronto-based social worker who specializes in family and relationship issues. He thinks you and your husband have each become so entrenched in your respective positions that you’re now polarized in opposing corners. Joe says what’s missing from this picture is the key. That’s feelings.

“We all get the story here, but the piano issue isn’t going to be resolved until there’s an intimate conversation about feelings.” Hypothesizing how you might be feeling, Joe wonders if maybe you feel proud of your accomplishments, but unappreciated. Maybe learning the piano makes you feel young again and perhaps your husband’s response makes you feel diminished, unimportant, or put down.

And what about your husband? Maybe he’s feeling neglected, betrayed or left out. Perhaps he feels tricked (he didn’t think he was marrying a piano player, after all) or maybe he’s disappointed you don’t spend more time together, just the two of you. These are simply guesses.

Only you and your husband really know how you each feel and that’s where a resolution needs to take root. “Talking about feelings changes your position. And it begins a much different conversation,” says Joe. “It’s never really about the piano playing or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. That’s not why you’re fighting. It’s always about the feelings. And the only thing worse than having these feelings is having them and not telling your partner.”

“Otherwise why wouldn’t I encourage my lovely wife to excel and get to the next level? There’s no reason not to,” he says. “And why wouldn’t I accommodate my husband somehow?”  Get into the feelings beneath all this and you’re one giant step closer to a resolution.


Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst, Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.