Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

October 24, 2010

Dovetail Joints, Dating and Marriage

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 1:30 am
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An optional upgrade in some cabinets we were ordering prompted a call to my Dad . . . what are dovetail joints and do I need or want them?  My father’s answer was simple.  Hold your hands up in front of you, palms facing you, he instructed.  Mesh the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left, that’s a dovetail joint.  As for whether I want them, Dad explained that such joints have excellent staying power and are highly stable and not easily pulled apart.   It wasn’t until my Dad described how he learned to make such joints while studying to become an Industrial Arts teacher that their applicability to dating and marriage became apparent.

Nowadays, computerized machines are used to make dovetail joints.  But when Dad was in college it was seen as a critical skill to be able to plan, measure, cut and assemble a dovetail drawer manually.  He and a partner were sent to opposite sides of the shop with their measurements, made their cuts independently and then came together hoping their joint would perfectly interlock.  It took much back and forth, large and small adjustments and multiple attempts before the corner was effectively joined. 

How many young men and women are hoping to find the partner that will be their perfect compliment: that will make them complete in the way one end of a dovetail drawer completes the corner of the other end?  Some seem to enter the dating process excited to contribute their personality, goals, expectations, and personal likes to the process, hoping for a partner who will fit just perfectly into what they have to offer.  With that approach, many potential matches will be quickly rejected.  Others seem focused on presenting a smooth exterior, forgetting that, as with a dovetail joint, it is the jagged in’s and out’s that allow connection. With these approaches dating may be possible, but lasting relationships are unlikely. 

Dovetail joints last.  Examples of them have been found in furniture entombed with Egyptian mummies and Chinese emperors, making them almost as old as marriage.  For relationships and marriages to achieve longevity, it is both the process and product of making dovetail joints that holds the key.  Just as my father and his shop-mate, when their separate pieces wouldn’t interlock, repeatedly had to adjust, change, and accommodate, so life-mates need a commitment to endless do-overs and lifelong negotiation, compromise and accommodation.  The product of a finely made dovetail joint includes each side having fingers or pins that protrude into the joint.  This design also creates, on each side, a series of voids or spaces into which the pins from the other side fit perfectly.  Marriages last when partners insert the best of themselves into the relationship, but are careful to leave room for what their mate brings as well.

As parents, when our teens and young adults begin looking for partners, we can hope we have modeled what it takes to craft a relationship.  We can remind them to bring their true selves to any relationship of import, but also to open themselves to what others offer.  And we can hope . . . that they will embrace the challenge as my Dad and his shop partner did, even though it took great effort and left plenty of scraps, sawdust and failed attempts on the floor.  And we can pray . . . that they find partners who will love them as we have, who will dove-tail with them, who will strengthen them through the joining and share a lasting, happy and healthy life.

*Note:  My Dad may have learned about dovetail joints in his college shop class, but his on-the-job training in relationships came from another wonderful teacher, his wife of over 54 years.  Together, they have weathered life’s storms and danced at its celebrations.  A wonderful example of what commitment and on-going adjustment can bring, here’s hoping their union continues for many years to come.



  1. How lucky for you to have seen the on-the-job training of both of your parents towards a strong relationship! May you have the joy of seeing it for many years to come. You speak about your father so lovingly! I love reading your posts!
    All the best,

    Comment by sara — December 3, 2010 @ 2:53 am |Reply

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