Portrait of the Artist as a Romantic: Are Artistic Individuals Better Partners?

Love is weird. We get all romantic and full of mushy feelings, we move in together, and then suddenly all the sex and passion mingle with thoughts like: When was the last time they cleaned the bathtub? How can romance be maintained? Are some partners better at long-term love than others?

Artistic people seem to more easily tap into their emotions. In fact, empathy — the ability to feel and share the emotions and perceptions of others — in a historical context referred to a person’s attitude toward the arts. Did the individual feel the art as “part of the self”? If yes, they were seen as high-empathy and it was found that they were more likely to be “contaminated” by the sentiments conveyed in art. Therefore, it would make a kind of sense that people who are compelled by the arts are more likely to be emotionally insightful in their dealings with others.

Knowing this, though, it got us wondering if artistic people are more emotionally sensitive, do they make better romantic partners?

High-and-Low-Empathy Individuals

Can emotional insight be measured? Empathy is a concept that isn’t just related to listening and understanding, it also means a person can “accurately perceive and take on others’ mental states”. High-empathy people have an easier time of reading facial expressions, eye-contact and vocal cues. Also, high-empathy individuals, when dealing with the distress of someone they love, actually show brain activation in the areas that process pain. They don’t so much understand the pain of others as feel it. That sort of connection is what allows art to affect them — they perceive the emotions behind the work.

Low-empathy also exists on a scale. People with low-empathy are unable to discern the emotions of others and therefore will not act to ease their distress. This also implies that art will be less affecting for them, though they may enjoy it there won’t be the same “contagion”.

“Do You Pursue Your Heart or Your Art?” contrasts the connection between love and creativity, pointing to Helen Fisher’s findings that found that human relationships usually tend toward “(a) passion/sex and (b) love/long-term attachment.” Because sex involves focusing on the present it was easier for people who thought logically whereas, love required couples to think creatively in order to make things work for the long term. On the other hand, artistic people might be less involved in a relationship because their art gives their life a specific purpose — like when you date someone in a band and their music is always #1?

Creativity is also domain-specific — being creative artistically does not necessarily mean a person is creative in their everyday existence. And then it gets really confusing because you can be creative as a traveling hippie musician, but you can also be a creative person in jobs not traditionally viewed as artistic (for instance, fields of medicine or engineering). Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean you are good with a glue gun and some sparkles; so, how can anyone really measure creativity?

It isn’t possible to finitely determine if a creative partner is more advantageous but if creativity helps to elongate the span of a relationship by allowing them to think of fun and fulfilling ways to make a partnership last, then certainly that type of creativity is something to aspire for in your potential love.

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Empathy is what you should be looking for in a partner — regardless of if they are a doctor or a writer. Life is long and can be cruel, and relationships will always struggle under the strain of unpleasant circumstances, so the ability to feel and share your partner’s emotions is important. Can we become more empathetic? Psychology Today suggests the following:

Ability to take another person’s perspective

  • You can see how another person is feeling about a situation. So if you are with a friend as they are having a panic attack, you aren’t rolling your eyes while explaining that their concerns aren’t rational — you are talking out their concerns together and helping them to breathe.

Ability to label how others are feeling

  • This is when you can read what a person isn’t saying to understand their underlying emotions. Are they speaking faster than usual? Has their voice gone up or down more than usual? Often, people who are upset don’t want to say that they are upset for fear of alienating others, but you’ll get it if you know how to read the subtle differences in their behavior.

Connect emotionally with the other person

  • Really let yourself feel what the other person is feeling so that, instead of judging their reaction, you can understand it. Think about a time under similar circumstances when you felt that way, let that guide your behavior. I’m outgoing but I’ve predominantly dated shy people, and I try to understand them by remembering instances where I felt insecure and relating how I wanted someone to relate to me.

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In the end, practicing more empathy is a good thing.

Regardless of whom you are dealing with, be it a partner, friend or the person who messed up your order at a fast food place, being able to understand others is the best way to relate to people. So go hit up a museum and work on unraveling the painter’s perspective, or go to a show and listen to the tonality of the singer’s voice as it represents their story — maybe you’ll find it easier to understand your partner the next time they try to express their point of view.

Rachel Rosenberg

Rachel is a writer and library technician, originally from Montreal. Currently living in Vancouver, BC, she enjoys looking at nature from comfortable inside seating, colourcoding her dresses and traveling away from Vancouver. See her triumphant literary victories at rarosenberg.com.

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