Is Sharing Online Real Estate Listings the New Couple’s Therapy?

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Bethany Nauert)

Craftsman style bungalows, that’s how it all started for me and my husband. He’s more of a Greek Revivalist, and I’m more of a Queen Anne Victorian, but early on in our relationship we realized that the Arts & Crafts movement was our sweet spot. A common ground for daydreaming about the future and visualizing what style of roots we might put down together.

From the very early days of our now 15-year relationship, we would email (and now text) each other real estate listings (and, yes, Apartment Therapy House Tours, even before I was a contributor) — sometimes as a way to reconnect in solidarity after a nasty bout of bickering, sometimes as a way to cheer the other up during a particularly crappy week, sometimes just as a way to get a reaction one way or the other about a Big Question without actually having to go there.

As Meaghan O’Connell writes in The Time-Wasting Magic of Online Real Estate Listings for The Cut, fantasizing about a more aspirational reality is a favorite form of escapism for modern couples — perhaps even a form of DIY couples therapy. A shorthand, if you will, similar to the way that children of the ’80s often use movie quotes to communicate deep emotions — or maybe just a self-inflicted, secular Pre-Cana survey.

Or, as O’Connell so perfectly put it:

“It was easier to page through pictures of other people’s houses than to talk about our actual career goals, or our big fears, or what we wanted from each other. Talking about houses was a way into that other stuff, too, though — a way to dream up what we wanted in a home, and in a family. What we could afford, or ever afford, was a way to talk about what we valued, or what we were willing to do without.”

Even though we’re now homeowners ourselves, sharing listings for what might be our next move after Starter Home — or a validating peek at How the Neighbors Actually Live — is still just as thrilling, and works just as well (or maybe even better) to bring us closer back together.

It’s the next best pick-me-up to the voyeuristic high of actually attending real estate open houses — something we started doing nearly every weekend, long before we we could even hope of being pre-qualified. Perhaps it’s the analog, early-aughts version of watching House Hunters together: finding solidarity in swooning over this kitchen or mocking that bathroom; finally discussing exactly which renovations or restorations you’d actually be willing to take on or live through.

However you slice it, O’Connell hits the nail on the head: despite the fact that “Redfin is Tinder for married people,” the act of sharing house listings with your partner on the regular may just secretly be the best post-modern tool we have for keeping the romance alive, while simultaneously being one of our best weapons in the battle to maintain a realistic world view.

Read the inspirational essay in the writer’s own words over at The Cut. As for us, we did get that Craftsman style bungalow, by the way — but no, I won’t share the Redfin listing. Cheeky.