Lessons From Home

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Your House.”

The challenge in this one was that the idea of my house is very much tied up in the idea of home, which I already tackled in a post a while back after watching Up In the Air. So, thoughts on my house, without getting into the idea of home, or getting too literal about the physical structure. (“Eh.”)

A year ago, Susanna and I were figuring out where we were going to live when we got married. We each went into it believing that we should live initially in the house where we each currently lived. Eventually, she acquiesed, and we decided to live in my house. What I never realized was the extent to which she was unable to be truly happy in that decision. It ended up not mattering, obviously, since we never reached that point. In talking about it later, after she called off the engagement, she finally shared more about her dissatisfaction with the decision.

Three major lessons came out of that for me:

One, you have to decide what’s important to you. I would not have chosen my house over Susanna, really. And the house was not the factor that drove us apart. But it was far more divisive than it was unifying. And it wasn’t worth putting another wedge between us. And the truth is, there were any number of things like that, things that put small wedges between us that really weren’t worth it, things on both sides that we weren’t willing to let go of. Things that I never really understood or considered the cost of until it was too late. So, yeah, lesson one is, what’s really important? Always look at the cost.

Two, some things can’t be measured. There were a lot of good reasons for us to live in my house. Spacewise, it would accomodate our combined stuff far better than hers. Financially, it would be easier on our budget, letting us tackle some debt more quickly. Locationwise, it was far more convenient to both of our offices, among other things. I weighed all the facts, and the answer was obvious. But here’s what didn’t show up on the spreadsheet. She loved her house. She was emotionally attached to it. Neither of us loved my house. And, ultimately, that outweighed anything on my list of facts. Lesson two — Consider the facts, but don’t forget the intangibles, and don’t assume they weigh less because you can’t weigh them.

Three, you don’t know everything. I meant well. I really did. I wasn’t trying to be selfish; I wasn’t trying to put my desires ahead of hers. I was trying to act in her best interest. There was probably some “being a man” aspect to it. I wanted to provide — Look, I’ve given you so much room for us to live in. See what we can do with this space? Look at how good this is for us financially! See how this alleviates your fears and burdens about money? Here’s the problem with that. Those were my beliefs on what was in her best interest. Theoretically, the person who should have been making the call about what was in her best interest was her. And that’s so easy to do. It’s easy to do in a relationship, and it’s easy to do in general — to decide what you think is best for someone else, and do it, without ever really bothering to find out whether it really is best for them or not. So, lesson three — Don’t assume. Ask. And believe.