Divorced, in my 40s and single, I stumbled across Matthew Hussey’s castle analogy and was amazed that, despite its simplicity, I could apply it to every relationship I’d ever had.
He, a well-known dating, relationship, and life coach, was talking on a radio show about the importance of compatibility. He explained that two people coming together and deciding to start a relationship is like a couple finding a beautiful plot of land with the potential to build a magnificent castle there.
“You need two people who are actually willing to construct a castle together. You can’t build a castle on your own.”
As the relationship develops, the couple creates a unique castle with intricate and ornate detail, secret passages, and bespoke features that meet their needs. They must adapt it as their lives change, and carry out maintenance and repairs to protect it from outside forces.
I entered my first relationship at 16 years of age and set to building a castle. Despite having no idea what I was doing, I followed the lead of my slightly older boyfriend. We tried our best to build something lasting but were unable to design a structure that would meet my changing needs as I grew into an adult. After almost five years, I took a sledgehammer and demolished it.
Another relationship I had was time-limited, so we knew there was no need to construct anything permanent. Instead, we had fun for a few months making a sandcastle.
One potential co-builder recognised earlier than I did that we weren’t compatible enough to build anything significant. I tried presenting them with plans, showed them how stunning the structure could be, but they weren’t persuaded. I’m grateful they were honest with me and didn’t let me try to build alone.
A close friend of mine was less fortunate. She dated an unavailable man who repeatedly left her trying to develop a nonexistent relationship. In the interview, Matthew explained how often people find themselves in a situationship like this, where one person wants commitment more than the other. He compared it to someone digging out the foundations or hammering away on the building site alone, whilst the other calls up occasionally to check on progress, without ever actually picking up a tool themselves.
Each build begins by laying the foundations, just as a new couple needs to take the time to get to know each other and establish whether they have a compatible vision of their future together. The castle’s foundations need to be sturdy enough to support the structure that is to be built above. Rush this stage, and the building may become unstable with the forces that it is bound to face.
I feel my ex-husband and I rushed this stage, valuing our connection and falling in love without establishing whether we were truly compatible or questioning whether we would be in the future.
I’ve recently met a wonderful man with whom I have the potential to build a castle. Having learnt from my mistakes, we’re working hard together to ensure the foundations are strong. Building such a grand project requires communication and understanding of each other’s desires, hopes, and intentions.
If you’re already in a well-established castle, maintain it, adapt it, respect it. It takes a long time to build something so special. Lovingly cared for, it can last a lifetime.
If you’re seeking a co-builder, remember, “It takes two people who really want to do it.”