Love & Life Midlife Strategies

How a Couple’s Home-building Journey Became an Apt Metaphor for Their Marriage

When Kay and her husband first bought a run-down farmhouse in Spain, their friends thought they were mad. But over the years, as they decorated, renovated and expanded it, the process became symbolic of their marriage.

By Kay Newton

We were young and in love, newly married and the world was an exciting place. I was originally from the UK and hubby from South Africa, yet we chose to make Mallorca, Spain, our home. Our firstborn was learning to crawl and his parents were about to embark on a mammoth project – to restore an old farmhouse (a Finca in Inca).

We had invited our closest friends to come and visit our recently bought treasure, to enjoy an inaugural Sunday BBQ to celebrate with us and savour the future possibilities this home would offer. It was the quietest and quickest BBQ we were ever to hold in our married life.

Our friends and family thought we were totally mad. How could we possibly turn this wreck into a family home? Could we not see it was a folly, a mistake something we would live to regret? Our friends dispersed shaking their heads and many were never seen again.

Kay Newton Can Jaume 1983My grandmother used to say, “A problem shared is a problem halved,” and I have never forgotten. Both my grandparents and my parents had long-term relationships and I am no different, 26 years married so far!

There is something special about sharing your life with another person, understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and then how you function as a team. Working as a team can really help you take actions you may not have considered if you were single.
Our relationship is very much like the house we reformed.

The home we saw in our vision would require an exchange of energy from each other to keep us motivated through the years of hard work to follow. I knew nothing about building; luckily that was my husband’s profession. Yet, I had confidence and trust that he could deliver and I understood what we could achieve.

Many a night we sat with the plans of the house and small cut-outs representing the bigger items of furniture. How could we change the layout of the building in order to get three bedrooms upstairs? What if we put the kitchen in this way and swimming pool that way?

Kay Newton Second bedroomRestoring the house helped us learn to communicate and respect each other’s ideas, vital skills to keep a relationship healthy. It also taught us a lot about hard work, commitment, and patience. We also learned how to dare and support each other to achieve and succeed in anything we set our minds to. When you are confident in your relationship, the world is yours to conquer.

Some of the house-building decisions were made for us, for example, the situation of the entrance. This was decided for us when a drunk neighbour passed one night and demolished part of the old wall.

Life includes compromises, and sometimes sacrifices; we could be angry over the hole in the wall or use it as the gift it was and create a new entrance to the land. It is the way we deal with the situation that defines who we really are.

Kay Newton PoolOther decisions were born from basic necessity, for example, leaving hubby to cope with the removal and replacement of the roof whilst I travelled to the UK and my parents’ home of safety, with both our children, one just a few weeks old.

We learned pretty early on in our relationship that time apart is just as important as time together. Maintaining healthy boundaries and some autonomy avoids an unhealthy co-dependence. A good relationship is a lot like two lengths of elastic: you are tied to each other and yet you need to have space to go off in your own directions, to come back, regroup and then expand some more.

When you have confidence in each other, you can help each other grow. If necessary, you can pull the other along for a time until they find their feet again. There is a constant exchange of energy and lots and lots of love.

Kay Newton Fourth bedroomThere is another fundamental step many people fail to follow when taking new actions. When a goal is achieved, you must celebrate, simple. We certainly celebrated the final building of our home with a large BBQ and pool party.

One friend said, “I thought you were totally mad 10 years ago when you bought this house, yet now I can see the vision you had, it was huge and beyond my comprehension. Congratulations for going on even when others didn’t believe in you.” This is a great lesson for everything we do in life.

Just last month we’ve sold our family home and are ready to move on to new pastures, to re-use our skills learned so many years ago and build again. What are you going to make possible?

Kay Newton is a personal development coach, author, confidante and Tai Chi instructor. Follow her on

First published in the July 2018 issue of eShe magazine.

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