David, communication — as you suggest — is key. The colleague and his/her partner could be engaging at a surface level of understanding each other re the writer’s passion and the partner’s resistance to it.
Since I just saw ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ yesterday — again! — this time in a movie theater, let me bring that up as a point of reference. Do you remember that scene where Peter Bailey asks if George would be willing to continue to work at the Savings & Loan. George, just about to head off on a trip, then college, has to confront that inquiry honestly. And that’s difficult because it implies a kind of dismissal of what the father’s life calling has been (at the S&L). But to his credit, George is honest with his father, ending with the line that he’d “bust” if he didn’t pursue his dreams (a line which foretells his eventually near-suicide). And it’s that admission which convinces Peter to give his blessing to George.
So communication is key. Communication based on honesty AND respect.
Finally I’m just reminded of another thing. Back in college, I was a groomsman for a friend’s wedding. And as the guys were waiting to head out for the ceremony, the bride-to-be’s father dropped in to offer the groom (Joe) some advice. He said, “Gentlemen, there are three keys to a successful marriage. First, communication. You have to talk with each other and often. Second, communication. And third, communication.” Must have worked. Joe and LaRee (his wife) have been married over 40 years!