Anyone who has access to HGTV or Pinterest can likely attest to the home-envy and inspiration that can develop from witnessing the incredible renovations that individuals have accomplished on their homes. If your home is due for a little TLC itself, you and your partner may be feeling like it’s time to put on your DIY pants and get started on the home transformation you’ve dreamed of.
While home renovations can be an awesome opportunity for couples to take on a project together, and in turn learn about each other while hopefully saving a little money, it can also serve as a big stressor in a relationship if they’re not careful. With a project this size, there are a lot of financial, design & emotional logistics that can take a turn for the worst if you jump right in before planning ahead and establishing a communication style that sets expectations. We’ve included three tips for creating the renovation of a lifetime while protecting the wealth of your relationship along the way.
Decide on a Budget Before Starting & Over-Communicate
Before you even set a finger on those paint swatches, you and your partner need to sit down and discuss your vision for the room that you’re renovating, as well as come to an agreement on what the max budget should be. Establishing these parameters and ensuring that you’re on the same page with expectations will create a far smoother process as you get started.
Imagine this: you begin your renovations on your outdated dining room without having that intentional conversation about expectations and budget—walls have been removed, wall-paper has been applied, and you’re trying to figure out what flooring would be best, when mid-project it comes to light that your partner is envisioning the old dining-room to be the new and improved informal living room. Wait, what? Suddenly, you’re knee deep in 10 different types of carpet samples, tired from a long day of renovation work, and you and your partner are escalating into a cut-throat argument on what the real vision for the room should be.
It might be an extreme example, but the point stands: over-communicating never hurt anyone, but under-communicating can be the culprit of a lot of arguments in any relationship. Having these conversations (stating your desires and objections and ultimately coming to a compromise) are easier done when you’re not in the thick of the project and having to re-evaluate what the game plan should be.
In addition to this, there will likely be moments along the journey when unexpected financial costs will present themselves. As they come, sit down and discuss your plan of action with your partner—is there room in the budget to include this? If not, what can you remove to be able to afford this fix? Include each other on the big decision-making processes, as doing so will prevent one partner from feeling out of the loop or undermined.
Compromise, Compromise, Compromise
So, your dream kitchen consists of white cabinets, a farm sink, subway tiles, concrete counter-tops, and maybe some wood beams across the ceiling to give it a rustic feel—that glamorous farmhouse feel that Joanna Gaines has made us all so endeared to. To your annoyance, your partner keeps talking about how much they love the ultra-modern look: glass everything, stainless steel, and keep it minimal. Ugh.
Every couple will run into design snafus that results in a clashing of opinions on what the perfect layout for the room-in-progress should be. Don’t fret if and when you get to this hold-up with your partner, as there are tactics that can help you overcome this hurdle.
For starters: go into the project with the knowledge that compromise is just as essential of a step in the process as picking out the best handles for the kitchen cabinets. Without compromise, one or both partners will likely start to feel like they’re not being heard or that their opinion doesn’t matter, which will inevitably result in relational strife.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, couple’s therapist Peter Pearson, who founded The Couples Institute alongside his wife, recommended dividing up the decision-making process to help avoid potential arguments that can arise.
“What drives people and couples nuts is when each has 50 percent of the vote and one person does most of the work,” Pearson says. “One person comes home, and the other says ‘here are five possible colors’, or ‘here are possible designs for faucets’, and the other goes, ‘No, I don’t like that. Go back and bring home some more.’”
To help prevent this from happening, Pearson recommends dividing responsibility for certain tasks in a 51/49 fashion, meaning one partner has 51% of decision-making rights for a certain project, while the other has 49% rights. What this does, says Pearson, is allow one person to take charge of the project, and while it should be expected that they’ll seek the other partner’s opinion and counsel to find common ground, they ultimately have the right to make the final decision. You can use the 51/49 model for a variety of different projects around the house—for example: one partner is in charge of the lamps, while the other is in charge of the rugs.
One last tactic that can help is to take to Pinterest or other online sites that display a variety of different designs to view. Doing this can help both partners understand the other’s vision. Rather than arguing about how painting the house’s exterior a charcoal color is ridiculous without having even the slightest idea of what it would look like, ask your partner to pull up pictures so that you can visualize what they’re talking about. Seeing a design dream on paper and laid out in a finished form can make ideas seem far more practical when trying to compromise on the best plan of action and layouts.
Create a Game Plan for Living Arrangements
Every person has a different threshold for the level of chaos they can handle in their living space. With renovations underway, you may start to feel like you’re living in conditions that are creating stress in your daily lifestyle, with no end in sight for the next few months. If the bathroom is out of commission and the kitchen renovations are getting underway, you may suddenly feel like your home is more of a jungle-gym of paint rollers and tarps—the stuff of nightmares for some. Living in an environment that induces stress can create added tension in relationships.
If you know that a clean house that functions properly is imperative for your emotional and relational well-being, you’ll want to talk about living arrangement expectations with your partner before getting started on the renovations. If you feel that moving into a hotel or Airbnb for a month while the primary construction is underway, talk through your options with your significant other and make sure you work those costs into the budget.
If Joanna Gaines is your newest spirit animal and you’re busting at the seems to try your hand at your own DIY home renovation, make sure to heed these tips before jumping in head-first. Taking on such a big project can be a great growing experience with a partner, but if communication and compromise are not made your greatest priority, your relationship can suffer amidst the deconstruction. Remember that your partner is on your side, and you should be on there’s—it’s not a competition, but an opportunity to work together to create a rewarding outcome.