Dear Just The Tips,
I’m writing to you because I’m torn.
I’m a musician, and I’m in a band with one other person. He’s a close friend, and we’ve known each other for a long time. I recently moved to a different city so we could make our EP together. It’s been going really well. It’s the kind of artistic collaboration that I’ve always dreamed about, and I think he’s brilliant.
We’ve also been sleeping together. And now that’s become a relationship of sorts. I’m not sure I want it to go on forever. He has issues—drugs, alcoholism, social awkwardness, all that—and I feel like those things could really get in the way. But I’m also super worried that if I break up with him our artistic collaboration will fizzle and die, and the music we’re making together is super important to me.
What do I do?
-With the Band
Dearest With The Band,
Your question is in some ways about not shitting where you eat.
There would be a way to approach this query as a “sex at the workplace” issue, and I’m usually one to come down pretty hard on the “no” side of that. A band is a different story.
There is an undeniable intimacy to artistic collaboration, whether it’s Fleetwood Mac, Jack and Meg White or Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Rock star couple collaboration has a deep romance to it. If you’re spending time with somebody in a tour van, onstage and after hours, something’s usually bound to happen. It might even make for some pretty damn good music.
Also, you get your heart realllllly broken.
One of my favorite artistic icons, Carrie Brownstein, just wrote a book called Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl about her experience touring with her band, Sleater-Kinney. She pulls no punches when it comes to talking about what it means to endure intimate relationships with band mates.
“Sleater-Kinney was my family, the one relationship I had ever been in; it still loved me even when I was terrible to it. It might have been the first unconditional love I’d ever know. And I was about to destroy Sleater-Kinney.”
Buckle up, because we’re in for bumpy van ride…
Three Reasons to Stay With The Guy
YOU MIGHT WRITE THE NEXT ‘RUMOURS’
Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks have one of the most epic relationships of all time. I mean, they haven’t been in a relationship since the 1970s, but even so, when you see them onstage their love for each other is palpable. Their commitment to the music was so strong that they are still on tour together more than 30 years later. When you believe in somebody that much, you stick it out.
HE MIGHT BE THE NEXT DYLAN
You seem like you really believe in this guy’s talent. Sometimes talented people are a real pain in the ass. Look, I’ve been in relationships where I literally locked myself in a room and cried and wrote while the other person made breakfast. I’ve also been the one cooking breakfast while my talented Dylan-esque lover detoxed. Sometimes you’ve just got to hang with another person’s psychosis if you believe in them that hard.
BECAUSE YOU LOVE AND RESPECT HIM
Are you deeply into this dude for who he is? Do you get excited about seeing him? Does he blow your mind in one to twelve different ways not related to music? Then stick with it for a while. You’ll know when the alcoholism and social awkwardness and “warning signs” become more than just that.
Three Reasons To Ditch Him
YOU MIGHT WRITE THE NEXT ‘RUMOURS’
If you feel that your artistic collaboration is the central thing to this relationship and that both you and he can “put the music first” and hang out in a tour bus and watch each other sleep with other people and then write songs about it and make the other person sing them, then yeah, break up with him. Then get together again. Then break up again. Then get another band mate and sleep with him. Then write about it.
YOU MIGHT WRITE THE NEXT ‘DIAMONDS AND RUST’
Do you feel like your talent can stand alone? Do you have an EP in you without him? Is he holding you back with his “drug use” and “social awkwardness?” Has he become more of a distraction to you artistic career than a helpful addition? Are you taking care of business or just taking care of him? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, “go your own way” and start writing that solo breakup album.
BECAUSE YOU DON’T LOVE AND RESPECT HIM
No matter what level of artistic genius or collaboration is at play here, if you’re not in love with this guy, or if you’re not in that state of respectful partnership and affection that usually follows “in love,” then leave. An imaginary rock star life isn’t worth it.
I can’t tell you how it’s going to shake down. I’ve stayed with people too long because they inspired me, and I’ve left people too soon because I was scared of what they might make me do or feel.
Not knowing if you want a thing to “go on forever” is actually a really good spot to be in. It might make you spontaneous and willing to accept what is going on right now. If your artistic collaboration fizzles, it was going to whether or not you broke up with him. In my experience, artistic attraction tends to be connected to sexual attraction but ultimately has a lot more power and longevity.
You can fall in and out of love with a person and always be in love with their art. Take Carrie Brownstein as an example: During that last tour she literally ended up punching herself in the face in an effort to “destroy” herself and the band. She succeeded, at least temporarily…
Now, they’re back on tour.
Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @kathkathcoop.