Here’s a comment I get a lot since Kenton and I moved into our tiny house:
“I could never live so close to my spouse – do you guys fight all the time?”
Pretty valid question. In a traditional house, we are used to having our own bedrooms, recreation rooms, multiple living spaces, separate kitchens, etc… So, how much therapy do I need now?
I think partly I can count myself lucky that Kenton and I really won the lottery marrying each other. For some unbelievable reason, we are simply compatible people. But there are a few considerations when moving even the most lovebird-y couple into a tiny space with no escape in the middle of the –36C polar vortex that is Alberta winters.
Time apart is important in any relationship. It just so happens that we naturally have some of that. With Kenton’s work teaching workshops he travels a lot around Canada. This means that typically he is gone for a week or two during the month. This is my time to leave my socks on top of my shoes at the front door and eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinners for a couple nights in a row. For him, I’m finishing my Masters at the University of Alberta. So, I have a few nights a week when my classes go until late at night. So he has the afternoons and a few evenings a week to pick up my socks from around the house, or whatever he does when I’m away.
Negotiation of storage space can be tricky – we each have things we want to put away that the other leaves out. Just yesterday I was standing in the middle of the house holding a pair of goggles and thinking, “Where the hell does this go??”
You learn to carve out and respect spaces for the other person, too. It’s about honoring each others needs and being flexible and creative. I have more clothes than Kenton does, and he quickly relinquished the majority of the clothes storage we built in upstairs. We planned for the amount we had, but as I’ve been moving into a more “professional” role, I’ve needed to expand. And I expanded right into his space. Instead of getting upset about it though, he came up with a creative solution and rolled up some of his clothes behind the towel rack and now he has heated underwear and can get dressed actually standing up. Win-win.
It’s old advice but it sticks around for a reason: “communication is key”. We have definitely prioritized talking about what’s important to us, how we like to have our spaces, what our pet peeves are, etc. This isn’t something that came really easily to me since I have struggled with accepting constructive criticism. Sometimes, you don’t do things the way that makes everyone happy and it’s OK. Just keep talking until you figure it out. We have found that communicating right away when something is wrong and trying to be understanding of the other person really helps us murder conflicts quickly as a team. Remember: It’s not me vs. you, it’s us vs. the problem (which 9/10 times is just a miscommunication anyways).
There’s probably a lot more that helps us out (like Disney level true love) but we learned a lot about each other when we build this house and we put those lessons to work everyday to build ourselves a strong marriage. If you can build a house together, you can live together in it, as long as you THROW OUT YOUR USED TEA BAGS, KENTON.
(Melissa Zerbin is a totally normal person who has lived with her husband in her tiny house since 2016. She loves cats, food, and other humans, and is currently completing her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy.)