Ready to renovate? Exciting stuff—kind of. Except when it’s not only the walls that are collapsing, but your marriage, too.
Seriously, this can happen. No one thinks about the stress that home renovation can put on even the most solid relationship but it’s actually pretty obvious. Between style differences, unexpected costs causing a project to almost always go over budget and emotions on high, building your dream home can be a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be.
Relationship therapist Michelle Fischler has seen it many times. She says that just like in the midst of any life changing event, you can keep the love alive while turning your home upside down. The key is to make sure your foundation is strong before any sledgehammers start swinging. Good communication, the ability to compromise and making sure you feel connected are all a great start.
What else can you do to guarantee your next renovation isn’t a homewrecker? Here’s your relationship saving checklist.
How to Save Your Relationship During a Home Renovation
Talk it out
You’d be surprised how far some good old fashioned communication can go. Don’t be afraid to ask how the renovation is making your partner feel and make sure both voices are heard throughout the entire process. Renovations tend to magnify issues, rather than repair them, so make sure you leave the lines of communication open to ensure small issues get dealt with before you start the reno.
What to do: If you’re feeling emotionally disconnected, engage in some honest conversation to get to the root of the problem.
Home improvement projects are a huge invasion into your personal space and daily routine, especially if deciding to live in the space while going through one. Power struggles, feeling alone and resentment are just some of ways couples have described feeling during a reno.
What to do: What’s important is recognizing potential triggers and taking the right steps to ensure a smooth process.
Engage in conflict resolution
Some people avoid conflict while others confront it head on. However you choose to manage stress, it’s important that you and your partner have a strategy for handling difficult situations.
What to do: Think about what’s causing stress to identify which methods of dealing with it are effective and which are destructive. That way, you can create a useful conflict resolution plan.
Let’s talk money
Finances are one of the leading causes of stress in a relationship, especially during a renovation. Knowing your budget before starting a project is extremely important.
What to do: Be realistic with what you can afford so you don’t find yourself blaming the other person for overspending half way through the reno.
Have a contingency plan
Whatever your budget, agree to have wiggle room from the start.
What to do: Allocate an extra 15 to 20 per cent to get you through unexpected problems and to eliminate financial worry and stress in your relationship.
Know your DIY limits
If you’re hoping to save money by doing some of the work yourself, make sure you are realistic with what you can tackle. Overestimating your skills and the time you have to devote to a project can lead to unnecessary hassle and stress.
What to do: DIY is great but hire an expert when you need to.
Set up for temporary living
Knowing the scope of the project will help determine whether you stay in your home or go elsewhere. Be honest with yourself in regard to what you can handle: Living through a major renovation is never easy. If you decide to stay, make sure to set up a temporary living space where you and your partner can escape the chaos or schedule regular times out to get away from the clutter.
What to do: Don’t be afraid to leave if you have to.
Know your role
It’s important to identify your roles during the renovation to create some structure in a hectic environment. For instance, one person might be in charge of negotiations, logistics and design while the other can help with the cleaning, heavy lifting and other important asks.
What to do: Whatever you decide, make sure to assign tasks that play to your individual strengths.
Have some vision
You and your partner may have different ideas of what your new space will look like. If you find you just can’t agree, you can seek professional advice or maybe just check out a home show, like the National Home Show, for some inspiration. You can sit down with designer and/or contractors and get free tips and advice right at your fingertips. Don’t forget to bring your plans and samples along with you.
What to do: Check out websites, magazines and home shows for ideas and to home in on what you like and don’t.
Take a break
It’s important to periodically escape the construction site to keep your relationship happy and healthy. Spending quality time away from renovations stressors demonstrates a willingness to keep your relationship a priority number one.
What to do: Go to the movies, grab dinner out or maybe consider a weekend trip away during the process.
Michelle Fischler, MSW RSW has been working in the mental health field since 2003. Her experiences range from working with individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness to providing therapy for individuals and couples experiencing major life changes, coping with loss and/or relationship distress.