Can Building or Renovating a Home Destroy Your Marriage?

Home renovation causing marital stress?

I used to think it was just superstition that building or remodeling a home often destroys  marriages. But even a cursory search of the Internet suggests otherwise, with headlines like “Our Home Renovation is Wrecking Our Marriage” (from the Ladies’ Home Journal) or “Home Renovations Make 12 Percent of Couples Consider Divorce” (from the Huffington Post).

Ironic, isn’t it? Building or remodeling a home should be about fulfilling dreams and planning for your shared future. This is where you plan to spend the next phase of your life together. So how does it become such an albatross?

The first thing is that as dreamy as it sounds, building or remodeling a home is a lot of stress, from figuring out how to pay for it to handling disagreements about what each partner wants out of their new home. That’s not even to mention the chaos of living through the mess, noise, and general disruption of your lives.

Here are two examples of marital tensions that can crop up during a construction or renovation project—and tips for avoiding them.

  • Financial anxiety. Building and remodeling involve significant investment, and even with the most careful planning, costs often go up unexpectedly. When couples get stressed about money, that’s when the finger pointing often starts. One partner may be accused of making overly extravagant choices, the other of being cheap.

As eager as you may feel to get started, it’s important to spend a lot of time in the planning process to make sure you’re truly on the same page about what each of your wants out of the new house, compromising where necessary, and creating a realistic budget.

That also means taking an open and honest inventory about your financial situation. Is this project going to work with your current income, or would one have to return to work after taking a break to be with the kids to make it possible? If so, is she or he willing to do that?

It doesn’t help that it’s human nature to want at least a little more than you can afford. Builders, designers and even TV shows have upped the ante in what’s considered “normal” rather than luxury.

But a little realism—and a lot of agreement—in the beginning will save countless heartaches in the future.

  • Failing to express expectations. There’s a lot of work involved even when you’ve hired out the job to a general contractor. There are countless decisions to be made, from flooring and paint color to cabinets and faucets. You have to keep on top of the contractor to see that the job is on schedule and done your satisfaction. Costs may have to be renegotiated if unexpected problems come up.

Are you planning to take equal responsibility for these tasks, or is one partner expected to handle the bulk of it? Be clear about that from the start, because it’s easy for one partner to become resentful if they feel they’re doing more than their fair share.

The importance of establishing clear expectations goes triply for do-it-yourself projects. If one partner commits to remodeling the kitchen themselves to save money, it sounds great in theory but they need to be realistic about how much time they have to commit to the project and when they expect to finish. It’s an all-too-common scenario for DIY remodels to stretch out indefinitely because (a) they underestimated the work, (b) they’re too busy with other responsibilities, or (c) they’re less bothered than their partner by the mess and inconvenience of living with a halfway-done project. So be realistic about what’s possible, what you’re willing to live with during the renovation, and for how long.

In short, don’t risk letting what ought to be a positive experience become a marriage liability. If you’re realistic from day one about your budget, responsibilities and expectations, you’re in a much better position to survive the process intact. And when the work is done and you have an awesome new or remodeled home to share, it will all be worth it.

If the pressure of building or remodeling a home is taking it is toll on your relationship, consider couples counseling to work through it.  Let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help.  Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.

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