|■_ Our physical surroundings change who we are, minute to minute.|
|■_ This can have major implications for your romantic relationships.|
|■_ To create a smarter design, start by asking what you both need from the space.|
Every year, American couples collectively spend millions of dollars on counseling and therapy sessions—often for good reason. But therapy isn’t the only way to resolve romantic conflicts. As we’ve found designing learning spaces around the world, having the right environment is essential for relationships to thrive.
Design is a quiet and powerful force. At every moment, the color of the walls, the layout of the furniture, the sounds, the decor, the smells, and many more elements of a space are exerting influence on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. And that’s just for one person. Put two people in the same space, and crafting the right design becomes even more high-stakes.
To improve your relationship through smarter design, it starts with that awareness, but it doesn’t end there. Below are some important first principles to consider when figuring out if a space supports—or undermines—your relationship.
The problem with most homes
It’s been said that a child has three primary influences: their parents, their school teacher, and their surrounding environment. But the influence of our environment doesn’t go away as we get older. If anything, it intensifies as life gets more complex.
Most homes, unfortunately, aren’t designed with this influence in mind. Walls are too thin, so people can’t concentrate if there’s noise in another room; there isn’t enough storage to keep the home tidy; and technology tends to distract more than it supports.
Creating resilient relationships starts with defining what makes life feel meaningful for you and your partner. What kind of balance do you crave? What kinds of activities do you prefer to do alone vs. together? What are your pet peeves? These aren’t just personality traits—they’re also starting points for creating a healthy, well-designed living space.
Turn your boxing ring into a sanctuary
Disagreements are inevitable. However, there are a number of ways to prevent conflict from ever arising, and minimizing it when there are flare ups.
Take a typical bedroom. It includes shelving and storage perfect for collecting dust, translucent shades that let in too much light and disrupt your sleep, and a bed so high you can simply fall in or out of it, no effort required. A smarter design would allow for better airflow, block sunlight when you want to, and require mobility at the knees and hips to use the bed.
You can follow this example for every room, based on your specific needs. And while these tweaks may seem small, collectively they add up to a unique environment that accommodates how you and your partner work and live.
You may be thinking: This is all well and good, but what if I have kids? The process is the same, only you have one more person to include in your design. You may even decide to ask your child (or children) what they want out of your home, which will improve relationships among everybody.
Designing around their needs will inevitably make the space better for you as well, because you won’t be creating conflict between your spaces and theirs.
Doing the ongoing work
It’s true that many disagreements stem from some legitimate deeper issue: insecurity, guilt, unmet expectations—the list goes on. But sometimes even these may be traced back to one or both people not feeling comfortable at home. It’s important not to underestimate the effects bad design can have on us.
But it’s also crucial we don’t underestimate the effects good design can have. Homes that are designed to suit your priorities, goals, and lifestyle will always create stronger partnerships than homes that are haphazardly designed, or just copy the latest interior design trends.
This means both partners (and kiddos!) should want to give input for how their space is designed. Nothing will be an in-the-moment-fix, but over time you can start including design as one element that could improve your relationship for the long haul.