Build a House or Build a Marriage… Same Thing?

sc03e247f1A friend and I were talking the other night about relationships— marriage, and how we advise/ nurture/support our daughters and young women we love, as they navigate waters that we entered a long, long time ago. While most of this applies to our sons as well, as women we were talking about how to advise our daughters, given how we felt at their ages, and how we feel now. As women who have lived and loved for a lot of years now; we appreciate that each of us has our own journeys, but there are some lessons that should be shared.  Daughters (and Sons):

#1: Don’t ever think that you know better than someone else, what they need.  You don’t. And even if you do, they need to figure it out before they can be in a relationship with you.           Don’t sacrifice your needs and desires to win the love of anyone. You will resent it, and so will they.            Speak your truth; don’t speak to win approval or appease.           Nurture goals that you both can support and will grow in, however that looks.        Don’t rush into anything; give yourself time.        Work as a team.          Let a lot more go, than you imagine you will need to. There will be so many things to negotiate, and it’s a lot easier if you’re willing to let some of it go.         Marriage is hard work; it really is. You’ll figure it out, as you go. But the work, the challenges, the losses as well as the rewards will make you a stronger person.        Breath first, answer second.

Am I good at all of those things? No. That is one of the reasons I can pass them along. Live and learn, baby.

This year Smart Guy and I had our 26th wedding anniversary. I’ve now been married for more than half of my life; I was one year older than my daughter is now, when I got married. That is stunning, on so many levels. Has it all been easy? No. Has it all been fun? No. Is it work, as I was told marriage would be? You bet your sweet booty! Would I do it again… hard to say, but probably yes. Don’t judge; that question is loaded. There is so much I wouldn’t trade, and so much I wish I’d really known and understood back when I took that “plunge.”  I appreciate the really long marriages, so much more than I once did, knowing what I know now. I understand the ones that end, late in life… when kids leave and couples realize they don’t know each other.  There is so much that goes into making it all work, and each year that goes by, I am increasingly humbled by that. The grass is often greener, but greener grass has to be mowed more often. As my friend and I talked, I said:  getting married young, is like buying your first house- you fall in love with it, but there’s a lot that goes into living in a house for the long run—just like there’s a lot that goes into making a marriage last for a long time.

Often, your first house doesn’t necessarily meet all your needs. When you’re young, your marriage meets all of your needs, when you start. Having started as a kid, and I do believe 24 is still a kid (not to mention that we got together when I was 21), you have no idea how you will change over time. You may be headed in one direction but veer off in dozens of other directions. Who you are at 21, 24, in your twenties, is rarely who you are in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. If we are growing (and few of us don’t), we are most likely changing as well. Add to that equation, that two of you are changing, and it all gets that much muddier.  The years pass and we are challenged and tested by so many things:  health; education; careers; the people we’re surrounded by; our own personal journeys; spiritual growth; children (if you have them) are an enormous game changer; travel; geography; family; there are so many things that impact who we become over time. Within a marriage, you may be experiencing many or all of the same challenges as your partner, but how you integrate those things, the spin you put on it all, is a huge factor in who you each become on that path.

Same with that house. When you buy a house, you often don’t get every thing you want, unless you are fortunate enough to build your “dream house.” The family room is perfect; the kitchen needs updating. You like the bedroom, but it needs fresh paint. Over time, you need more storage space… In any house, there are things you love, and things you might like to change. Short of that perfect house, you start out in your home and over time:  you have children (more people in the house); you realize that like to cook; you enjoy entertaining;  you have lots of guests; you like to garden; your tastes change; (insert many other possible outcomes) and your house may or may not fit those needs. You can renovate: you can paint rooms, you can try to add on;  you move furniture and make adjustments to make that house work; but, basically you try to grow with your house.   You try to make it work, but it isn’t always perfect.

Obviously, a marriage is a much bigger investment— emotionally, than a house. Both are a big leap of faith, and an enormous dose of sweat and commitment. You have to learn when to let something go. The dining room would look better with a new color or a new dining room set, but finances don’t allow it. You’d like to feel as special and new in your relationship, as you did at the start, but that’s rare. You hope you’ll both change over the years, in ways that compliment and support each other, but that’s hard too. You look for the places that your needs intersect, and work on accepting some places they don’t.

sc0495e2fdI am so not the person that married Smart Guy 26 years ago, and he is not the person that married me. We work hard at this. Some days that is exhausting and feels frustrating. Some days I realize that the work I invest builds one of the deepest relationships of my life, and some days I loose sight of that. But, it’s work. When you hear that, at the start, it’s impossible to really foresee what that work will look like. In my youth, I had no idea what kids would mean; how I’d feel watching myself age in the mirror; how I might feel figuring out whether I’d be working or staying home; what makes me feel fulfilled then and now— there was so much I didn’t understand. I know that for each of the things I’ve struggled with, Smart Guy has had his own struggles as well. We’ve shared plenty of them, but we each have our own things to work out. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health… it’s the journey of all journeys.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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25 Responses to Build a House or Build a Marriage… Same Thing?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful post! I have always felt that “it’s the beginning of a great adventure!” sums up a life with children…your comment “it’s the journey of all journeys” is a epitome of married life. Thank you for sharing the journey!


  2. Elia says:

    Wonderful post! I have always felt that “it’s the beginning of a great adventure!” sums up a life with children…your comment “it’s the journey of all journeys” is a epitome of married life. Thank you for sharing the journey!


  3. Cathy Ulrich says:

    So much wisdom in this post, Dawn. Yes, marriage is hard at times, It’s not perfect, but it is worth it. So glad we found our respective Smart Guys!


  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    With the amount of changing people do in a lifetime, it’s amazing all marriages don’t collapse. I think that’s why it’s important to pick a mate who shares your broad goals and values, because these elements don’t change as much as the small ones. I, too have been married more than half my life. It’s weird to think about, but we’ve created such a history together at this point, that I can’t imagine life any other way. Nor do I want to.

    Nice post, as always. 🙂


  5. Well said and Happy Anniversary! It is stunning in this era to be in a long marriage. I don’t think there’s any one formula for survival. Can’t imagine living any other way. So fortunate.


  6. I love the house as a marriage metaphor. It works for me every time. Dawn, you always seem to perfectly inject your mood into your writing so that it takes on just the right tone. This is a delicate balance, bittersweet, some highs, some lows and it’s all wrapped up in a ribbon of self- understanding and life lesson. You manage to say so much coming from such a loving and humble place. Is it too much, to corny for me to say, I feel this post? 🙂


  7. Le Clown says:

    Que c’est beau! A few years back, on a forum somewhere, I had written something to the fact that marriage is work. And I was hit with a few responses letting me know that if my marriage was work, then it must be a bad one, as marriage should flow, just like love… You know?

    Marriage is work, but it is work you want to do, with your partner. Thank you for this one, Dawn.
    Le Clown


    • Quels idiots! I firmly believe that all marriages (the good, the bad and the ugly) require work. It’s when the work becomes totally defeating that you need to know when to quit, but I believe in working until the writing is big and bold on the wall. And does love always “flow?” We are just ahed of the crowd Sir Clown.


  8. Amen, My Lady! Mr. Weebles and I will be celebrating our 7-year anniversary on Monday, and so far we’ve been mostly growing in the same general direction, which is as lucky as a person can get, but I know that won’t always be the case. We’ve weathered a lot in a relatively short time and come out better on the other side. And like you said, you have to pick your battles and figure out what’s not worth the fight. A lot of times our relationship feels super easy and shockingly simple, but sometimes it’s work—anything worthwhile is.


  9. Permiso! I am still catching up. Having the experience from a 30 year relationship before remarrying has certainly paid off. I gained much of that patience and tolerance you so aptly described, and that has made all the difference.
    Remember the movie, Love Story, with Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal? It had that famous line, ‘Love means you never have to say you’re sorry.’ That may have been the biggest load of crap ever put in a script. I think I had to say “I’m sorry” at least four times yesterday just to live to see today. And I had to mean it, too! I think I would add ‘sincerity’ to the list of survival skills for relationships, especially for men. – Mike


    • I SO agree! That single movie line, really threw me off for years. Yes, apologies are key, and knowing how to do it with sincerity, honesty and humility. NOT easy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mike. Could not agree with you more. 🙂



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