Looking for a little couples therapy? Find out why sacrificing everything to do what you love is key to healthy relationships.
Leave your job, drop everything and move to the country. Start a farm. Build a house from recycled materials. Travel the world. Decide to become a winemaker. These days, there are tons of stories about people dropping out of the rat race and pursuing things that they really love. Simplifying their lives in the name of passion, and avoiding couples therapy in the process.
Photographer Nick Olson and designer Lilah Horwitz, who left their jobs to build a house made of windows in the countryside of West Virginia, is one such story that comes to mind. On their first date they went on a walk. They watched a sunset. They joked about what it would be like to live in a house where an entire wall was made of windows so as not to block the sunset. The idea turned into a dream, and instead of tucking it away they pursued it, quitting their jobs to build their beautiful reclaimed love nest.
Just hear the story and you’re drawn in. Watch the video about them and you’re drooling. They’re in love and they’re living a beautiful life. They’re artists and creators. They have a cabin in the woods from which they can watch the sunset every single day. No couples therapy needed here. “I want to do something like that,” you’re saying to yourself.
This and many other stories raise the question: does doing what we love improve our relationships? The short answer is yes. Pursuing your passions, particularly together, is good for your relationship. According to Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and research professor at Rutgers University, pursuing passions together triggers the brain’s dopamine system, which in turn can sustain feelings of love and romance. In other words: find someone like you and adventure together.
The longer answer is still yes, but don’t lose sight of reality.
All this talk of pursuing our passions is sexy. Who doesn’t want to drop everything and do what they love? It leads to a beautiful story. But often the storytelling leaves out the less sexy parts; every dream has its reality. Often it requires a big reduction in not only paycheck, but amenities and possessions as well. Living minimally really does mean minimizing.
There’s a lot of talk these days about doing what you love (as well as ignoring that advice). But first things first: doing what you love isn’t always easy. There is often a lot of sacrifice in pursuing your dreams. You may have to opt out on some of the things society has told you that you need and/or want. And maybe that is where doing this together provides a space for a stronger relationship: living a life that’s out of the ordinary takes strength and commitment, commitment to each other and a commitment to really seeing your dreams through.
Let’s not over-romanticize; we all need to eat, pay rent and function in modern society. That whole money thing sends just as many of us to couples therapy as all the other trials and tribulations. Don’t assume that just because you have committed to doing what you love with the person that you love that you’ll be exempt from all of above. So while going after what we love is good for us, so is maintaining a certain level of sanity. No matter who you are and what you do, there’s a routine, and as a couple you have to find happiness in that routine. Appreciate the simple beauties of the everyday.
You don’t have to drop everything and become an urban farmer to have healthy relationships, you just have to find the projects that get you excited about living and do them together. Build something, be it a garden, a shelf or a family. Be present in life and with each other.
Work hard, play harder, and do it together.
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Image: Dr. Wendy Longo