Los Angeles, CA

Unhappily Married in a Big House or Happily Divorced in an Apartment? Which Do You Choose?

Elle Silver

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I recently read a story by Honor Jones in The Atlantic called “How I Demolished My Life” and it really hit, well, home. Jones wrote about her desire to renovate her house where she lived with her husband and children only to realize afterward what she actually wanted was a divorce.

This story struck a chord with me because my boyfriend said exactly the same thing about his own divorce. He and his now-ex-wife had decided to remodel their home, pouring thousands of dollars into the project. 

They made the house into an architectural gem. But all the process ended up doing was making him realize how miserable he was in his marriage. 

He’d planned this remodel as a last-ditch effort to save his relationship. Sure, he wanted to create an ideal place for his children to come home to with their families. 

He’d wanted to underline his commitment to his wife — but as soon as the remodel was finished, it dawned on him just how dissatisfied he was. 

He realized he’d rather be camped in a tent outside in the yard than stuck inside that huge, gorgeous house any longer with his wife. And so he left her. 

They divorced and he went to stay with his mother in her tiny apartment where he slept on a ratty sofa. His ex kept the house.

He ultimately moved to a loft in the Historic Toy District of Downtown Los Angeles, otherwise known as Skid Row. The irony was not lost on him. 

He was a now house-less man living in the heart of homeless L.A. Sure, he did actually have a roof over his head. He had the loft to live in. Still, he’d lost his house.

Jones recounts a similar experience in that she toiled at the remodeling of her home only to realize that what she really needed to be renovating was her life. She ended up divorced in an apartment much like my boyfriend did.

That’s the thing—you can work hard to create the perfect home for you and your spouse but no amount of fancy brick and mortar is going to fix your broken relationship.

So which do you choose? Would you rather be unhappily married in a big house, or happily divorced in an apartment?

I also lost my house when I divorced. 

I had my own experience with losing a house when I left my husband. No, my ex and I didn’t carry out a remodel on our house previous to our divorce but we had been living in a four-bedroom home. 

When I decided to split with my husband, we had to downsize. Neither of us could afford to keep living in the house on our own. 

We both had to move out. We each moved into our own apartments. Mine was in a much grittier part of Los Angeles than the pretty suburb where our house had been. 

Our children loved that house. They hate the apartment I moved them to. They’re embarrassed to tell their friends where we live. Their friends all still live in big houses with their parents. 

However, I wouldn’t go back to being miserable with my ex-husband in that four-bedroom home for anything. As much as my children might whine about our small apartment, I actually think they’re happier in our current situation. 

Why? Because I’m happier.

Relationships are what’s important in life.

So many of us are taught growing up in this country that owning a house is the purpose of our American existence. The bigger and more luxurious, the better. The happier we will be.

But will a big house actually make you happy? 

No.

Our relationships are the most important thing we have in this life. If our relationship with our spouse has fallen apart, no luxurious house is going to save that.

In my opinion, it’s better to be divorced and living in a small apartment than unhappy in some mansion.

What do you think? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.

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I'm a relationships expert with a focus on post-divorce dating and family. Everything I've learned about love, I've learned the hard way. You can learn from my mistakes.

Los Angeles, CA
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