Thursday, February 22 , 2018, 9:11 am | Fair 43º


Gut Your House, Not Your Relationship


How to keep your marriage from cracking under the strains of a major home improvement project.


Like so many things in life, you never think it will happen to you. You and your spouse will handle the stress just fine; in fact, it will be a joy to pick out the right shade of hydrangea-blue for the bathroom and brushed nickel hardware for the cabinets. You smile at the couple you observe at the hardware store, the husband with an angry muscle twitch in his forehead arguing with his red-faced wife over the style of doors.

Sure, there will be daily tensions in your life like never before, such as the intermittent scream of power saws, sweaty men bantering in your kitchen, the thundering of hammers, the never-ending layer of dust encroaching on everything. Not to mention the cost that will probably soar like an albatross suffering from delusions of grandeur.

Oh, and those decisions you’re looking forward to making together? Just don’t laugh at the couple at the hardware store until after you’ve finished the remodel. But with sound planning, communication and compromise, you and your partner may, for the most part, live through it with your marriage as grounded as ever.

Choosing a contractor with whom you and your spouse both feel comfortable can help decrease stress. Santa Barbara contractor Russ Cobb, of Cobb Construction, says clients should feel that their contractor understands and respects their needs. Cobb actually takes notes of everyone’s requests and makes sure to read it back to them before the job even starts. This type of clear communication not only decreases misunderstandings with the contractor, but also between spouses.

Eve Leeds, a local homeowner who has lived through remodels with her husband, Craig, adds that it helps for couples to agree on the contractor to avoid future arguments because one person could find faults with him or her if they didn’t want to work with the contractor in the first place.

Leeds points out that during a remodel "the low-level malfunction of daily lives causes stress in your marriage." She suggests keeping one area where you store all the important stuff of daily life such as bills, calendars and phones. Kids need their own cubby space as well for their school supplies.

Cobb strongly recommends that if you can, don’t even live in your home during the remodel. And for his clients who don’t have an alternative, he will put up a temporary drywall with a separate entry.

If a couple finds itself in a power struggle, Leeds advises that they divide their decisions to certain rooms. Cobb also suggests that whomever made the decisions should let the other "sign off" their OK before it is finalized. In fact, Lisa Cobb, Russ’ wife, loves how her own kitchen remodel turned out through this process. She appreciates it just as much as Russ. And because he is so pleased with his choices, Russ is doing much more cooking and cleaning than before.{mosimage}

If couples find themselves at an impasse, it can be very practical to ask your contractor for help. For instance, Cobb helped a retired couple find a perfect solution when the husband insisted on an open floor plan consisting of no door on the bedroom and the wife wanted the door for privacy when they had guests. Cobb told them a pocket-door would be a perfect solution — which made them both happy.

Local therapist Stephanie Patterson MFT feels that a remodel may even help make a marriage stronger.

"A home remodel is a fresh opportunity for individuals and couples to practice alone and together spiritual principals; surrender, letting go, acceptance, listening to intuition, and setting intentions," she said.

You may, for instance, have to let go of your ideal cabinet if your partner absolutely detests it. After all it’s important to remember that the whole marriage takes precedence over details of the house.

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