Monday, May 18, 2009

Smaller House, Happier Marriage?

[We] are paying for increased affluence with a substantial decrease
in the quality and quantity of social relations.
[S]ince 1960 in the U.S., the divorce rate has doubled...
THE PARADOX OF CHOICE, Why More is Less, Barry Schwartz

Endless research exists to back up claims that smaller houses are greener and cheaper than their larger counterparts. Smaller houses have also been shown to foster a sense of worth and responsibility in children and teens and forge close family ties, 'Small Houses are Healthier for Teens and Children'.

But it occurred to me, what about marriage? Does small home living help or hurt married couples? Since I couldn't unearth any scientific studies on this topic, I conducted my own unofficial research and put together a list of ten reasons living in a smaller house might be good for a marriage. A note of caution to readers. This list is completely subjective and based solely on my 20+ plus years of marriage and the over 100+ years of combined marriage and divorce experience held by four couples who are dear friends.

Ten Reasons a Smaller House is Good For a Marriage
  1. Couples have to talk to each other. There is nowhere to hide and sulk.
  2. Negotiation and compromise are learned quickly. Especially if there is only one bathroom to share.
  3. A partner's moods are easily deciphered since they can be heard cussing or complaining from any room in the house.
  4. There are fewer chores which frees up time to argue about other things.
  5. The bedroom is typically too small for a king bed, so there are more opportunities for togetherness.
  6. The heavy financial burden of a larger house is absent, eliminating a significant source of stress in most marriages.
  7. There is more frequent contact and interaction between spouses because the smaller living area fosters closeness.
  8. Children observe how parents respect each other in spite of their differences.
  9. Partners are less likely to feel isolated or 'estranged' from each other because the physical presence of their spouse is more frequently seen and heard.
  10. There is more opportunity to enjoy each other's company because the demands of the house are manageable.
I can't close without commenting on a quote from an anonymous author who said, "In marriage, as in war, it is permitted to take every advantage of the enemy." During an argument, my husband is most certainly the enemy and a small house gives me the advantage of knowing his whereabouts to prevent an ambush. Just a little something to think about.

Until next time!



  1. Good morning Genevieve :)

    I agree on all counts! A woman that lives across the street from my aunt built a 10,000 square foot house and while it was being built they lived in a 2000 sq ft house. She was complaining to my aunt the other day that she never sees her husband or her kids anymore and that they got along much better while they lived in the small one.

    Bigger just isn't better in my eyes and I wish people would stop building those McMansions.


  2. I am so glad I found you! My husband and I live in a 1500 (poorly desinged)townhome and we are bursting at the seams. I am definitely going to be taking your advice. I found this post particularly intriguing. I agree with you. But, what do you do about noise? I really miss the silence that a larger home affords. I will never like a McMansion, but I would like to get away from the television noise.

  3. I have been living in Italy fro six months with my two teenagers in a small flat...all open. It has been an amazing bonding experience because there are no rooms to hide in...I often think that this is how we should be living...more conducive to family bonding...I am not looking forward to returning to our (what now seems huge) home in the Napa Valley. Great blog!

  4. I am absolutely embracing my smaller home! It's all about repurposing and multiuse rooms. Once I moved my bookcases into my dining room to create a "salon", I had another room to hang out in when the hubby has on a ballgame. A sweet blog with a great message!

  5. Rue, Suzanne, Peggy and Loretta,

    Thank you so much for your comments! Since this post was little 'out there', I wasn't sure what I would hear back. So it was nice to get some positive insight.

    And Suzanne, thanks for your question about noise. In many ways that is the biggest challenge in a smaller house. Earphones are a great way to cope with that. Especially with teenagers, make them wear headsets while listening to music or playing video games. I also like to see French doors between rooms. Since they are see through, the visual flow is not destroyed, but when closed, 95% of the noise is blocked out.

    Love you guys for taking the time to comment!


  6. Oh I completely agree! I also think that King size beds are bad for marriages; we spent the first 30 years of our marriage in a double bed, not even a queen size! As my Mom used to say, "all the fun stuff that happens in bed doesn't take up all that much room!" Enforced closeness? it's a good thing!

    I think that very small houses are tough -- my husband grew up in an 800 S.F. house; I don't know how his mother did it! (And noise was a problem! poor acoustics). We moved from 1700 to 3000 S.F. last year -- still all end up in the same room at the same time! (Housekeeping is easier, though).

    Great post! thanks ... Cass

  7. We figured that out a long time ago -- you don't need ALL that extra room -- Linderhof is perfect for the two of us, expandable when we have large crowds and we use all the rooms (except the guest room) every day.

  8. Genevieve--just visited and enjoyed this post. Somehow it became fashionable to believe "bigger is better" and new home sizes just grew and grew. As you point out so well, there are advantages to sharing space with loved ones.

    Nice blog. Will be back. Joanie

  9. Your second commenter mentioned television noise. Okay, I hate the TV. When my husband is home the damned thing never goes off. And I swear he needs his hearing checked. So we have adjoining living room spaces. I recently had mine better insulated. (Reducing the chance for noise assault.) Another trick to employ: get yourself a very noisy water fountain. Then, to be sure you get it from all angles, get a noisy air purifier. Most people can stand that better than a TV. Come one, some irritants can't be eradicated with intimacy. I would end up in the loony bin, which is where my husband works!

  10. I love this! We live in a 500 sq ft apartment and we work together from home! It's wonderful. I would miss him if we had a huge house. :)

  11. I found this post through Suzanne Henry's blog. I have to agree. I had a 7,000 square foot home. We divorced. The home isn't the reason, of course, but your points are terribly valid. I live in a much-smaller home with my new husband and kids (half the time) and love it!