What Interior Design can teach us about Romantic Relationships Part 1
By Nate Webster, LMHC
My Aunt is an architect in British Columbia. She builds beautiful little cottages on the islands off the west coast around Vancouver Island. I once went on a road trip with her after I graduated high school and spent the whole summer picking her brain about architecture and interior design. A few years later I became a mental health counselor and found myself using architecture and interior design as a metaphor for how romantic relationships work. Interior design and architecture can teach us a lot about our romantic relationships. Let's look at the different things they can teach us.
The TV in the bedroom: TVs in the bedroom are a pretty popular amenity that people design their bedrooms to include. But they also act as a great representation for some of the issues that can arise in a relationship. Bedrooms are a lot like our relationships, in that they tend to be one of the most private and sacred spaces in our lives. We don’t really like other people coming into them, and we keep some of our most personal possessions there. What inevitably happens when you have a TV in your bedroom? It can become really distracting, and really disrupt one or both individual’s ability to feel “rested and safe”. The same thing can happen in our romantic relationships. Many of us are guilty of moving in a proverbial television to what should be one of the safest and most restful spaces of our lives, only to be surprised when we find ourselves struggling to feel rested and connected. So consider this: what metaphorical TV may be in your romantic relationship that is affecting you and your partner’s intimacy?
The Man Cave and Mama’s Kitchen: When people are living together, each person tends to enjoy having one place in the house that they can call theirs. Traditionally we have called them Man Caves and Mama’s kitchen, but they can really be anywhere. So what do Man caves and Mama’s kitchens teach us about romantic relationships? An important factor to successful relationships, that often surprises people, is the need for some kind of life and identity outside the relationship. This may sound unloving, so how is this the case? Terri Orbuch who is a Psychologist at the university of Michigan and researcher on the topic of personal space in relationships puts it beautifully. "When partners have their own set of interests, friends, and time for self, [it] makes them happier and less bored. Time alone also gives partners time to process their thoughts, pursue hobbies and relax without responsibilities to others."
Practically, relationships can’t provide everything that someone needs. In fact, they can sometimes get in the way of some very healthy needs that we have as people, such as reflecting and processing our feelings. A lot of men like having one room in the house that’s full of just their stuff that no one is allowed to touch. And lot of women like having one space in the house that they are totally in control of, where no one can boss them around. The same is very true for healthy relationships. Partners need to have “space” outside the relationship to engage in healthy activities, like relaxing without having to think about others, focusing on issues that are just about them, and as the saying goes, allowing distance to make the heart grow fonder. It's not personal, it's just personal.
I hope this year, your relationships are filled with love and personal space. However, if you think you may have a "TV in your bedroom" or not enough personal space, consider counseling. Counseling is a powerful process that can help you learn, grow and transform the difficult areas in your life.
To schedule an appointment with Nate Webster,
Please call our office at 407-647-7005.