Remodeling is challenging under the best of circumstances — but what do you do when you and your partner seem to disagree every step of the way? If planning for your project has hit a rocky patch, consider this your intervention. Ten steps to help couples negotiate remodeling decisions with a minimum of stress are ahead.
1. Look at the Big Picture First
It’s important to start from a positive, we’re-in-this-together place, and a good way to do that is by sitting down to share your grandest goals. Think of this as several levels up from talking about paint colors and decor styles — this is the foundation of your project, and something you can return to when you disagree. Here are a few questions to spark conversation. How do you want our new space to make you feel when spending time there?What activities do you envision happening there?How do you see us using this space now? What about in five years?
2. Name Your Top Priorities
When you get into the messy middle of your project, it’s easy to start viewing every decision as carrying equal importance, from the number of square feet to the wood finish on the floors. But giving everything equal weight is a recipe for conflict. A good way to begin with an open mind is to create your own personal list of top priorities. Each person’s list should contain no more than three to five priorities, with just one item starred as the No. 1 priority. This allows you to take a bigger-picture view of the project, recognizing that, although certain things are very important to you, there are certainly plenty of other areas where you might find more wiggle room.
3. Do a List Swap
Once you have your lists of top priorities, begin fleshing them out with more ideas and wishes for your project. With these longer lists in hand, try a list swap. This exercise, developed by couples therapist and clinical sexologist Dawn Michael and shared in a previous Houzz story, can help partners find more places to compromise and agree. Michael, who used to teach classes to couples on how to navigate a remodeling project, suggests that significant others exchange lists — then each person circles things that are similar, checks items they can compromise on and crosses out ideas they completely disagree on.
When you’re done, have a conversation with an attitude of curiosity: Really seek to understand why your partner prioritizes certain items. Learning more about the whybehind our preferences can help build empathy and ultimately lead to a more rewarding and successful remodeling experience.
4. Get on the Same Page About Budget
Arguments around money are some of the most common sources of conflict in relationships — which makes it all the more important to get on the same page about your budget early on. Get all the facts, research financing options and aim to have an honest and thoughtful conversation about what you feel is appropriate to spend on this project. It’s better to get to the bottom of conflicts that crop up around the budget before you are in too deep in the project, so don’t shy away from this topic or put off the conversation.
5. Embrace Partial Solutions
Instead of going into the process thinking that each of you is going to get exactlywhat you want 100 percent of the time, it’s important to understand that there are instances when it makes more sense to come to a compromise. Decisions that equally affect both parties — the exterior color of your home, for example — are good places to practice the fine art of the partial solution. It may not be perfectly aligned with what either of you had on your wish list, but with a bit of creativity (and perhaps the help of a good pro), you can aim to find a choice that has something to offer both of you.
6. But Don’t Compromise on Everything
If some compromise is good, isn’t compromising on everything even better? Not so fast. While some compromise is essential if you’re going to maintain a healthy relationship while remodeling, when both parties feel they have compromised on everything, no one gets what they really want. To avoid that, circle back to those lists of priorities in step 2: Can each of you find at least one (preferably more!) items on the other’s top priority list that you’re willing to “give” to your partner? When the project is done, it’s fantastic if both people have something they really love and can point to a few places of compromise.
7. Discuss the Timeline and Life During the Remodel
As you get a few steps closer to actually getting your project rolling, it’s a good idea to talk about how long the project will realistically take and what you’ll be doing while the work is happening. Look ahead on the family calendar and notice if there are any major events on the horizon that would make it especially stressful to be taking on a remodel. Also discuss how you want to handle living arrangements while the work is happening: Do you want to stay in your home to save money, move into a temporary rental, travel or some combination thereof? If you have pets or children, don’t forget to consider their needs in your planning.
8. Consider What You Want From a Pro
Design sensibility, good references, personality, ability to stay on schedule and under budget — when it comes to choosing a remodeling pro, there’s a lot to consider. Talk about what’s important to each of you in a pro. As in your discussion about priorities, try to come at this conversation with an attitude of curiosity: Find out why certain factors are more (or less) important to your partner, and share the reasons behind your own pro wish list as well.
9. Start a Remodeling Relationship Rewards Program
There are likely thousands of decisions, both small and large, that you’ll have to make before your remodel is done, and it’s easy to let things go without celebrating your small wins along the way. To build positivity into the process, consider brainstorming a list of fun little treats you can enjoy together — think dates, day trips, good chocolate — and give yourselves little gifts as you hit mini milestones.
10. Call in a Pro
Good home design professionals can’t solve all your problems, but they can bring their expertise and creative problem-solving abilities to bear on your project, including the areas where you and your partner are having trouble reaching agreement.
**post shared courtesy of HOUZZ