home sweet home vs. greener pastures
June 9, 2017 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Help me reconcile two different versions of happiness (rooted homebody vs. grass-is-greener seeker) through quotes, proverbs, literary passages, columns, stories, TED talks or other short videos, etc. I am hoping to gather positive perspectives on both.

Picture two people who live together in a committed relationship in which next steps are being considered. One of the two is content where they are, feels connected to the home, enjoys puttering, working on home-based projects, could happily fill a month of Sundays with purposeful work without leaving the house, is non-materialistic and enjoys washing the dishes by hand. This person enjoys riding their bike because they love being out and about in the city and on local trails. This person loves the neighborhood and sees stories in every room of the house and does not want to move.

The other of the two is not content where they are, feels no connection to the home or to previous homes, would prefer to pay a contractor to get things done in a day instead of DIY, could happily fill a month of Sundays on roadtrips and not be home at all,* is a gear-nerd who loves buying new racks and bins and specialized gloves and is always looking at new trucks and houses, and would prefer to load the dishwasher and be done with it. This person enjoys tracking their speed and distance and cumulative miles while riding their bike. This person finds the rooms too small and hates the lack of storage and wants to build a house nearby.

These two people want to understand each other's perspectives better so that they can give each other the space/support/encouragement/energy they both need, and also so that they can make decisions that work for both of them in the long run. Ex.: Is person one's attachment to the house holding them back? Or will person two not be any more satisfied in the next house either?

The first person's approach could be seen in a positive light as rooted, stable, nurturing, etc. and in a negative light as lazy, boring, unchallenging. Google shows me many more positive quotes about this than negative (Dorothy in Wizard of Oz: If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.)

The second person's approach could be seen positively as driven, dynamic, enterprising, etc. and in a negative light as striving, disconnected, envious. Google shows me many more negative quotes about this than positive (Socrates: He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.)

So, tl/dr, I'd love positive stories and quotes and readings about both perspectives; feel free to share cautionary tales about either too, if they are particularly well-written. Note that this isn't about materialism per se, or money vs. happiness. I'm hoping something in this thread helps to distill what it is.

*but wants person one with them - they are in sync with the time-spent-together part of the relationship
posted by headnsouth to Human Relations (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The obvious solution here is compromise. Can you hire a contractor (Person 2's preference) to build an expansion onto the current house (Person 1's preference)? Can you look for a larger house that still has character? Presumably right now you've already found a compromise between staying home every Sunday and going on roadtrips every Sunday. So apply that principle to the rest of your lives where preferences are in conflict. Maybe one Sunday a month, Person 1 can work on their own home-based DIY projects while Person 2 goes on a super long bike ride with friends. If Person 1 likes washing dishes by hand, well, just assign dishwashing duties to Person 1 (or compromise that dishes will be washed by hand when it's Person 1's turn and in the machine when it's Person 2's turn).

It's valuable to think about the contrast of both perspectives, but I believe you're better served by just accepting each other as individual people with individual preferences, and focusing on practical compromises that improve your life together.

If you'd like a personal anecdote: my SO and I are similar in some ways (both introverts content to stay at home on Sundays) and different in others (I'm sentimental about material objects; plus, I'd like to go out on Saturday if I'm staying home on Sunday, whereas he would be content never leaving the house except for food). We solve this problem by having me go out and do the things that I want to do that my SO has no interest in, while he stays at home and does his home-based hobbies. And of course we do other things together as well, in other times.

I suppose I'm closer to Person 2 in your description, but I think their approach is better described as "optimizer" vs. Person 1 as "satisfiser." Being a gear-nerd is often more about getting exactly the right things than about constantly striving for more; similarly, being a person inclined to DIY crafty projects probably means that you are accumulating a bunch of currently-useless craft materials and limited-purpose tools (I say this as the crafty person in my relationship; stashing is materialistic!).
posted by serelliya at 12:10 PM on June 9, 2017

To clarify: I am not asking for advice on what these two people should do regarding houses or projects or dishes or bike rides. I am asking for insight into their differing perspectives re: happiness, and I would like that insight to come through quotes, proverbs, literary passages, columns, stories, TED talks or other short videos, etc.
posted by headnsouth at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The title piece of G.K. Chesterton's Tremendous Trifles is about this. Chesterton (and I, although that's not saying much because my worldview is heavily influenced by Chesterton) lean toward person 1's viewpoint.

(Unrelated side note: while you're reading Tremendous Trifles, be sure to check out the tenth piece, "On Lying in Bed", which is delightful.)

Front Porch Republic is a blog from the perspective of localist conservatives, and there is much there to support the person 1 perspective.

If you don't mind a longer perspective, "The Little Way of Ruthie Leming" by Rod Dreher is about how his small hometown came to the aid of his sister when she was diagnosed with cancer, and subsequently how his cosmopolitan lifestyle came to seem less fulfilling to him, leading him ultimately to move back to his hometown. He has a blog that touches on issues about this pretty frequently, but it's a political blog by nature, so you might have to wade through other stuff to find it.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:30 PM on June 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I was young, my parents would get a gaggle of christmas cards that would be hung up on strings after the fridge was full.

Every year, there was a married couple, probably in their 50's who sent separate christmas cards that each had a photo of them together... and the rest of the card / letter was filled with photos and stories of their personal adventures and experiences. It was awesome, they loved different things so they did different stuff. They were interviewed by several media outlets.

a classic quote:

"The truth is we love each other a lot, but we love each other even more when we get back."


At 10, my mind was blown. At 20, I still thought it was weird, (I'm from the midwest, we bloom late). At 30, in California, I thought hmm, it totally makes sense! At 40, it became my religion...

At 50, I am in an amazing solid and cool relationship with someone very different than me. It works because we give each other a lot of space.

This isn't a popular or majority opinion, but every relationship I have admired and looked up to... consisted of people that were discernable as individuals. IMHO American society over-romanticizes this weird "we became one" or "you have one soulmate" thing.

Google couples who take separate vacations.


Many of the stories will deliver a lot of the thing you are seeking, individuals within couples having their aha! moment and finding a way to weave their separate threads back into their awesome relationship.

I think a lot of the real stories were about older people who wanted to chase their passion and bring that joy back to the relationship as an evolution of what had come before that.

i.e. let's die together covered in blankets on the davenport watching Johnny Carson. Insert your own regional cultural references for more hilarity.

anyhoo, there is new-ish research about the kinds of happiness
posted by bobdow at 3:35 PM on June 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Long: Homer's The Odyssey

Short: 16th century French poet Joachim du Bellay's poem: Heureux Qui Comme Ulysse (link to translation)
posted by Kwadeng at 1:03 AM on June 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you kevinbelt and Kwadeng for answering the question asked.
posted by headnsouth at 5:24 AM on June 14, 2017

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