In my post about Wendy's PhD ending and what it means for me I talked about supporting her doing a PhD. I also expressed the fact that I personally don't care at all about the PhD. Her happiness is very important to me but the piece of paper she has decided to pursue is not. I had a few people comment on this, saying that my version of 'support' wasn't really cutting it. I think most people would expect me to be a cheerleader, to talk about how wonderful the PhD is, how much sense it makes, and what a good idea it was. In my position I suspect most people would publicly support the endeavour while cursing it in private.
I don't roll that way. I am very willing to let my partner go and do the things that are important to them and I am willing to provide logistical, financial, and emotional support. What I won't do is lie about the way I feel about their projects and that extends to both public and private discussions. I also expect the same thing in return when I do silly things like spend years tweaking a board game, playing WOW obsessively, or writing an RPG. Those things aren't earning money, they aren't supporting us, and yet I fully expect my partner to let me do them and assist me when I need a bit of help. What I don't expect is for them to tell me that these projects are super important and worthy if they don't believe that and I certainly don't expect them to tell anyone else that either.
A lot of people need to convince themselves that their side projects are practical and defensible from a pure economic advantage standpoint. They desperately want that justification for their passions. I don't feel that need, nor do I particularly understand it. The only justification I need for the things I do for fun is that they are fun. I make games because I want to, because they challenge me, and because they bring me joy. Nothing else is required. The same logic applies to my partner's projects, including the PhD. I don't need to claim that it is a good idea economically, or that it is the right thing to do, or that the decision is sensible.
What I do claim is that I love Wendy and I will support the things she does even when the cost is tremendous, even when I don't see the point myself. I don't need to think of them as the right thing to do to accept that it is the thing she wants to do. I can and will support it even if I don't get it, even if I disagree, because my support is not contingent on me believing in a project, it is contingent on me believing in my partner. I don't want a sycophant for a partner and I refuse to be one. It is infinitely more powerful for my partner to back me *despite* not understanding why I do what I do than it is for them to back me by pretending that my stuff is all objectively justifiable somehow.
I won't say "You are doing the right thing honey!" if I don't believe it. I will say "I am here to help, regardless of whether or not I think it is the right thing." I get that most relationships and most people don't work like this which is why I am so glad I have the partner I do.
(If you think that the PhD is somehow economically justifiable and therefore exempt from this argument then allow me to assure you that I have done the research and the math and that is not the case. Don't bother with that argument. The PhD was done, just like my games, out of passion and desire.)