I’m a VFX Artist and my partner isn’t. I’ve run multiple simulations for our relationship, trying to create the ideal working model. But sometimes I feel like this industry is rigged against us. I was wondering if you could shine some light on how to composite a healthy work-life balance and relationship with my partner.
Dear VFX Artist,
I am not an expert on this topic, but have learned a few things from personal experience and others who are smarter than me. Relationships require a lot of time and effort, if you want to have a strong relationship, and each one is as unique as individuals. It is such an important part of life to consider, and writing to you has made me consider how much I still have to learn.
I found a partner outside of VFX and we got married. She doesn’t completely understand or have much enthusiasm for VFX, and that’s ok. I don’t need that in our relationship. I can discuss VFX with my friends and colleagues. My partner once fell asleep in the theatre while watching a movie that I worked on (it had nothing to do with my work and everything to do with the script and acting). On multiple occasions she waited in her car outside the studio late at night for hours until my shot was approved to drive me home. This is far more meaningful and impressive to me than being able to stay awake during a Vin Diesel film. If you can find someone willing to do that for you, love them and never let go.
Here are some practical tips that have been helpful for me (and could be for you).
1. Ask if your partner wants to watch a movie that you worked on. Nobody likes to be forced to watch something.
2. Ask if your partner minds if you pause or interrupt their viewing experience to point out which shots you worked on. (Kayla & Ray’s Tip: You can squeeze your partner’s hand each time your shot appears on screen if they are ok with that).
3. Try to be home in time for dinner. If you’ll be late, tell your partner as soon as possible. It can be difficult to estimate how long our work takes to complete. When in doubt, overestimate how late you will be.
4. In the gaps between contracts and working overtime, give your partner extra care and attention.
5. Try to do at least one fun or playful activity together every week. It can be different each time or you can pick something you both like and make it part of your routine.
6. Take care of your own health and well-being. If you aren’t sure how, consult experts. Doctors, dentists, therapists, counselors, nutritionists, personal trainers, yoga or Pilates instructors, massage therapists, etc., can help you become a better YOU. A better YOU is a better partner.
7. Balance is key. Throwing all your energy into work can lead to exhaustion. Throwing all of it into pleasing your partner can lead to resentment. Throwing all of it into yourself is the fastest route to loneliness (and unemployment). You’ve already scheduled time for work. Why not schedule time for your partner and time for yourself (self-care, hobbies, time with friends, etc.)?
8. Protect the time you have with your partner. To make it quality time, I recommend putting your phone on vibrate or silent. You can focus on the same thing (i.e., watching a movie together), but your partner would probably appreciate having your attention on them just as often, if not more. Quality time is more important than quantity, though you need to have enough of it that both of you are satisfied. This requires trial and error, shuffling around your schedule, and sometimes compromise.
9. Ask questions. Listen to your partner. Communication is vital. Make sure they feel heard and cared for. Be clear about what you want and need. Double check that you understand their expectations of you. Yes, you are a visual artist, so speaking and listening might not be your top skills. But this is so important and so good for relationships. It’s great in our work to have a problem-solving mindset, but your partner may not want solutions. They might want to be heard and have their feelings validated. They may already know the answer. For example, if you lost one day’s work because you forgot to save, you wouldn’t want your partner to say: “Why didn’t you save your files? Next time you won’t make the same mistake, right?”
10. Find things that make you both laugh. Savor those moments.
I personally believe that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice: to will the health and happiness of another through our words and actions. And it’s a choice we are presented with every day. Choose love!