It’s hard to overstate the impact artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo have had on Mexico City. Their legacy is all over the place here in CDMX. Some sites connected to them are world-famous. The Blue House and the National Palace receive millions of visitors each year.
But there are also smaller, lesser-known places tied to them as well. Like the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo in southern Mexico City. This museum is their former home and art studio. And like Frida and Diego’s relationship, the place is quite unconventional…
It’s a small property, maybe half an acre. But it’s got three separate houses/art studios on site. The Irish-Mexican architect Juan O’ Gorman, who was a friend of the couple, designed all three. There’s one casa for Diego, one for Frida, and one for Juan.
Now O’Gorman’s place is separate from the other two. It’s sitting on it’s own towards the back of the property. But Frida and Diego’s homes are right next to each other. They’re so close they’re actually connected by a narrow catwalk on the rooftop.
And the layout of their houses, the physical relationship between them, offers us insight into the mindset of Diego and Frida. And that provides us with some interesting lessons on how to handle long-term relationships.
Because if you’ve seen the movie ‘Frida’ or know anything about their history? You know they were passionate but volatile – they got married and divorced multiple times.
Diego caused much of this due to frequent philandering. He was a very ugly man. But he was also rich, charismatic, creative, and world-famous in his time. So he had plenty of opportunity with beautiful women. For example he famously had sex with Frida’s sister, along with many other affairs.
And Frida wasn’t innocent either. She slept with men and women, including her infamous tryst with the Soviet dissident Leon Trotsky. It’s even rumored that Diego and Frida cheated with the same woman – Mrs. Natasha Gelman. Then they both used her as a model for their art!
Anyway at some point, after all this sexual chaos, the couple realized they simply couldn’t live together. They’d tried that, at the Blue House in Coyoacan, but it didn’t work. So they came up with a novel solution. They commissioned their friend Juan O’Gorman to create the two separate homes for them on the same property.
When I visited the museum, the practicality and forward-thinking impressed me. Remember, they built these homes in 1932! So I think they were ahead of their time. Here’s why having two separate places close by is a great way to have healthy long-term relationships:
1) Personal Space
Many problems that develop in romantic relationships result from lack of personal space. Like they say, familiarity breeds contempt. And so this side-by-side living is a perfect solution. It gives each person breathing room to do their own thing – without someone looking over their shoulder. And while I think this applies to anyone, it’s especially important for introverted men like me: men who love women but who also treasure their alone time.
It’s natural for a man to take on a lover on occasion, even if he’s got a wife or girlfriend he adores. So besides personal space for alone time, privacy is sometimes needed for sexual liaisons. And with a second place a man can bring someone home if he wants to. I do think that living so close, the way Frida and Diego did, could still cause problems. Especially if your main woman is jealous, nosy, and likes peeking out windows. You’d need discretion when bringing new girls home.
Personal space and privacy are important for healthy relationships. But proximity is also vital. It’s obviously important to spend time together as a couple! So you gotta live close if you’re gonna keep it strong – long distances aren’t gonna cut it. And of course if you have kids, that’s even more true. So it’s best to live close by. And you can’t get much closer than right next door, in two houses connected by a walkway!
Now I know that having two houses custom-built side-by-side is not a realistic option for most people. Frida and Diego were very rich and they could easily afford it. But even if most people can’t do exactly what they did, we can still take valuable lessons from their setup.
Because you can re-create what they did by keeping two separate residences: a main place along with an apartment.
I tried that for a month last year here in Mexico City. I had my main apartment where I stayed with my girlfriend, and I also kept a second apartment close by. I’d go to the second place when I wanted to bang a new girl or needed some alone time. And my girlfriend even used it too! She stayed there a few times to hook up with girls she’d met on Tinder.
So it worked out pretty well. The downside, obviously, is that it basically doubles your rent. But if you’re able to take on the extra cost and keep two places like Diego and Frida? Then two homes is a great way to maintain a tranquil, but unconventional, long-term relationship.
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