I am an engineer, but I like to do more than that. I have some hobbies that also bring some extra cash. My wife, on the other hand, she doesn't work right now. She is looking for a job, but unsuccessfully so far.

A few weeks ago, while reading some information about one of my hobbies, she read as well and then she asked if I could teach her that. I've explained some things about it to her and then I've asked her if she likes it, because there is no point in doing something if you don't like it. She said that she loves it. I again said that there are plenty of things to read as it is a vast field, and you need to spend much time in order to learn something that could turn profitable later. She said she'll do it. Time passed, she read a bit but it's not even 1% as she should've, considering she wants to make money. I've told her that she really needs to be more disciplined, to read more, practice more and focus more. Every time she said that she'll do it, but... not now.

In the end, I've told her that in this way, she'll never learn it. Obviously, she got mad at me. I've tried to explain that it's not that I'm not supportive, I am, but she really needs to spend more time to learn and practice these things as they are really difficult. I also helped her and explained every time she asked.

My question is: How can I motivate her to study a field more that she said she likes and would like to try?

PS: I accept tag suggestions, since I don't even know where to put the question.


Q: Does she have trouble understanding the subject on a (to her) satisfactory level?

A: There isn't something too difficult that she could not understand. And she hasn't shown signs so far. When she didn't understand something, she asked. I've explained and she moved forward.

Q: Are you confident your wife genuinely wants to pursue the hobby with the same zeal as you?

A: Yes, I haven't forced her, as she had the initiative. I only explained that if she wants to be a pro, she needs to spend more time learning, otherwise it's a waste of time, since she won't know enough. We had a serious talk on this matter, and she said "Yes, I'll do it!" a few times already. Those were the moments when I've told her that she needs to study more in order to get there.

  • 3
    Do you know why she is so slow? In my experience, it's easier to motivate others when I know what's holding them back.
    – Flo
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:48
  • 5
    Yes, I got that much, but this lack of discipline may have some deeper root. Does she have trouble understanding the subject on a (to her) satisfactory level? Is she discouraged by (perceived or real) lack of progress? Is she overwhelmed by the sheer amount of learning required?
    – Flo
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:55
  • 9
    Are you confident your wife genuinely wants to pursue the hobby with the same zeal as you? It is possible to love a hobby yet not invest as much time into it as others.
    – user8671
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:55
  • 4
    @lukuss I see you've talked a few times in the question and your comments about this hobby "turning profitable" and her "being a pro" at it. But it all seems to be in the context of you telling her what she needs to do to make that happen. Has she ever said she wants to "be a pro" and make money from this (rather than nodding along when you talk about it)?
    – Chris H
    Jul 30, 2018 at 11:17
  • 1
    @lukuss Could you please edit your question and include everything that has been precised in the comments so that we can clean-up a little and gather everything in the same place? Thanks in advance :)
    – avazula
    Jul 30, 2018 at 13:20

4 Answers 4


How do I motivate my partner to study a certain field?

Motivation has a tricky psychology to it. It's sometimes easy to kill it even with the best intentions. You have to separate between internal and external motivation. Internal motivation is your own interest in a subject. External are factors like getting paid for it, getting respect for it, etc.

Throughout human history the highest motivational achievements were made through internal motivation. It is the stronger force. The problem is, as it is internal, you can't create it externally.

When you start to apply factors of external motivation, such as creating pressure or rewards, you can actually replace part of the internal motivation by external one. You take out the fun part, so to speak, and make it into a profession, a duty ... a nuisance?

The key to help, without choking motivation, is to only assist where asked to. Let the learner progress at their own pace. Resist the urge to lecture even if you know better - some things one has to discover oneself. Only help when asked to.

Remember when you as the expert come around, after she had some initial successes, and tell her that she didn´t reach even 1% and is altogether insufficient, how disempowering that must feel.

Here is a good Ted-talk about it - The drum-lessons are actually a good analogy for your case. And one little bit more substantial

So my suggestion is that you take a step back and let her find her own way. Let her figure out what she really wants and how to achieve it.

That does not mean you have to put up with her doing nothing. If you feel she is not contributing enough, that's a different conversation. But let her decide how - she can always find a job in a kitchen or scrubbing floors, and I guess she'll find her own motivation quickly if she discovers those are currently her options.

  • It is true, there are many contrasts. Her enjoying time as your student and asking because she is interested in and/or respectful of yourself, your skill and knowledge, or, enjoying your company, and on the other hand becoming a self-learner. @Daniel would you consider it useful to ask in the case as you understand it for her to 'Would you like to give me a hand?' quite politely?
    – Willtech
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:43
  • @Willtech: Depends on the situation and the relationship. I´d rather state once If want my help, just ask and then let her come. Also, try not to give a hand or show "how it´s done" too much - rather let them explain where they are having problems and what thy tried to solve them - that often enough to lead them to the next discovery.
    – user6109
    Jul 31, 2018 at 7:51

From what I understand, I think I have been in situations similar to your wife's. There were topics I found immensely interesting, yet still didn't have the discipline to invest serious amounts of time and effort into.

The problem in my case essentially boiled down to this: Looking at the topic to learn as a whole gives the impression of a huge pile of work, and can be discouraging. For me, this led to procrastination, which in turn led to either extremely stressful last-minute learning (if the learning was mandatory) or complete abandonment of the topic.

Furthermore, being a perfectionist, I would be dissatisfied if my understanding of the topic was not as good as (I thought) it could be, which led to frustration and, again, procrastination.

What helped me: Setting short-term goals. Since the hobby in question is also your hobby (you having penetrated way deeper into it), this may be something were you can help your wife by agreeing with her (the 'agreeing with her' is important of course) on relatively easy-to-achieve short-term goals.

As an example, when learning a new programming language, I didn't set my goal to writing a complete program. Instead, I made a list of some basic stuff I first wanted to learn and understand, then broke down the program I wanted into small bits and essentially developed little POCs for each single program part, and only in the end pieced it all together.

Additionally, finding ways to apply the newly learned knowledge can help to validate the progress made as well as demonstrate that the achieved level of understanding is indeed sufficient for solving some problems.

Important addendum:

There is of course another possible source of this perceived lack of disicpline: Maybe your wife just isn't as interested in the topic as she said she were. I have witnessed people "love" their significant other's hobby just for the sake of their significant other, in order to have something to share with them, not out of genuine interest for the topic.

If possible, you may want to have a talk to your wife and make sure that her interest in the hobby is genuine. If it isn't genuine, you might as well spare both of you the trouble of trying to motivate her for something she isn't really interested in.


As you have mentioned, learning needs discipline, efforts and most importantly motivation. At some point of life, people tend to lose it for whatever reason; happily settled, content with the present status of life or anything else. Most of the times, motivation factors are different for different persons. And we, personally cannot motivate them. It has to come from them.

In your wife's case, she is eager but not motivated enough. Give her sometime. Let her feel the need to get motivated. And then you can proceed. Else, be prepared that she might never take up that thing.

Also, if possible, to increase one's motivation, introduce them to section of people who are successful in that field. Regular interaction with them or even a glimpse of their achievements could encourage her to be more serious.


One important factor in motivation is immersion in a topic. Having more hobbies and side projects than I can realistically find time for, I've noticed that I tend to gravitate towards those activities that I get exposed to more.

For example, reading about a specific topic on SE or talking about it with a friend (or my wife) usually generates a lot of motivation to continue work on a related project, and if it's something I'm sufficiently familiar with, tends to give me new ideas and approaches to try. Implementing those leads to progress on the project, which not only feels gratifying on its own, but might often spawn further discussion and involvement in the hobby.

Feedback loops like this are also what keeps a lot of people deeply involved in things like social media, online games or even, say, following a specific show on TV. The key difference, however, is that entertainment media is designed to be easily accessible, with an almost immediate payoff, whereas more practical hobbies tend to require a larger investment in time and effort before they become gratifying. The more difficult or arcane a skill is, the harder it might be to pass that initial hurdle.

Without knowing much about your wife or the field in question, I'd recommend that you try and create an environment that makes it easier for her to get more casually involved in the field. This might be as trivial as printing out some reference sheets and hanging them on a wall next to a whiteboard (this worked well for my brother and myself) or starting a small project with some short-term deliverables that you can work on together and discuss in your free time.

From the question, it appears that you check on her progress from time to time, and take the time to explain things when she has questions, which is good, but beyond that she might need peers, or an audience, or a hands-on project to interact with regularly.

One thing that I used to do as a teenager was to take a walk with a friend or family member (e.g. walking the dog or getting groceries) and just talk about our hobbies, even though most of the time we didn't share or even properly understand each other's fields of interest. Just listening to someone who's passionate about a topic has taught me more than sitting in front of a textbook.

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