Friday, July 17, 2015

Building = stress = divorce?

This was not something I had heard until we started building our home. While building a home together may not be a leading cause of divorce, apparently a good percentage of couples who build a home together actually do end up divorced.

Bystanders are left to wonder if the couples were having problems before the project, but that is not anyone's business except the couple whose marriage crumbled.

The "safeguards," if you can call them that, we promised each other has spared us from getting angry with our spouse over both stupid stuff and also over important stuff.

Some of the basics we realized:

  • No house is perfect.
  • If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.
  • This house belongs to both of us and we both need to have input.
  • Treat the craftsmen with respect. They are the experts and know their job better than we do.
  • As parents, we've seen children try to get their own way by playing parents against each other. (If Mom says "no" then I'll ask Dad.)
  • Keep the budget in mind when making decisions. Everything doesn't have to be the most expensive to work well in the space. 

Our simple, but workable plan when taking the above basics into consideration:

  • "The edge of that brick might not be square" but that adds to the character of the brick walls.
  • The brick walls were being constructed when we noticed a bulge in the front wall. Looking from the side of the house, the wall obviously leaned out at a certain point. When my husband mentioned it to me, I told the project manager (building superintendent). The foreman of the masonry crew said he saw what I meant, but "It's pretty good."  I said I understood, but that it was going to bother us forever so it needed to be right. (I don't think he was convinced.) THEN, I mentioned I am married to an engineer. The foreman and project manager had a quick pow-wow and the brick wall came down.

    The foreman then dropped plumb lines from each corner so there would be straight vertical lines on the walls. There were never harsh words, just communication.
  • My husband has incredible taste, but I've known that. He knows what he likes and has a pretty good sense of how to put things together. This house hasn't been decorated by a designer or by me. It's been a total team effort between the three of us, along with some expert contributions by the builder and trim carpenters. Had I insisted on having my way, the house wouldn't have a beautiful walnut flooring that we love. If my husband only had his way, we wouldn't have the charming brick floors in the kitchen area. Neither of us insisted on having something regardless of what the other person thought. It's continued to be a team effort.
  • Take breakfast by the house periodically. Drop off a tray of sandwiches for lunch. Try to carry cold water with you on hot days. The workers outside can use a bottle of cold water, even if it's to hold against their skin to cool their skin off for awhile.
    But more important, if you live in the south, use those manners Mom taught us. "Yes, Sir." "Thank you." "Looks great."  (And maybe if you live elsewhere as well.) 
    Learn the workers names. Say "Good Morning, Robert" when you walk in a room. No, I never learned everyone's names. But I did greet the workers and treated them as I wanted to be treated. RESPECT!
  • Our contract had a clause that stated the builder could get permission from one of us and it is binding on both of us.
    Instead of giving our permission, we chose a response of "Let me talk to my husband and let you know what we decide." (My husband would say the same thing in reverse.)  We put our heads together at night, weekends or sometimes over a phone call, and make decisions with the input from both perspectives. It's saved us a great deal of frustration to put our heads together before simply agreeing with something that might not have been the best solution.
  • We've obtained quotes from various subcontractors before making decisions on several items. I love the look of our brick. I had wanted antique brick, but the price was more than our allowance. We didn't want to start the house by being over-budget on that item, so we drove around areas of town we like and found a brick we both thought was pretty. We gave the address to the brick company rep, who had actually supplied the brick for that house and knows the homeowners.
    Some things were worth "splurging" while others could be solved by finding more budget friendly or creative solutions.  
And finally: 
  • While working as a team, take time to have R&R together.
  • Take a weekend away from the project.
  • Take a vacation.
  • Eat meals together without talking about the house.
  • Check in with what is going on with each other that does not involve the house. (Since building is such a time consuming project, you might not even HAVE anything going on besides building.  Sad, but true.)
  • Rent a video and try to stay awake the entire movie. 

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