• Ashten Johnson

How a marriage survives building (or renovating) a home


They say nothing will test a marriage like building (or renovating) a home. After all, it combines decision-making, financial stress, opinions/taste, deadlines, and a sense of general uncertainty until the work is complete. And yet, Dustin and I absolutely, 100% want to build a house together again someday. Certainly it helps that we largely share the same design-taste, but more than that, we were able to work as a team throughout the process. I chatted with him about why we worked so well together and here are the recommendations we came up with: 


1. Find out early what is important to your partner.


Before we sat down to map out design features, we talked through what each of us wanted to have in a family home. We agreed on an open-concept layout. I wanted the house to be pet-friendly, with a place for Trip and a big backyard. Dustin wanted a space for a work-bench and tools. We both wanted a fireplace and back patio where we could host friends for college-football Saturdays. I wanted a soaker tub. Dustin wanted a room where he could play XBox.


Knowing what the other person wanted in a home gave us a road map for what to look for when we each analyzed floor plans and available lots. It sped decision-making when choosing certain features, design elements, or room layouts. We both felt valued, knowing that our needs and wants were a priority to the other. 


2. Pick your battles.

While it was helpful to have an understanding early on as to what features were important for each of us, we learned pretty quickly that you can't think of everything in advance, and sometimes that results in a need to pick what you fight for. Thankfully Dustin and I have a similar design aesthetic, so we didn't disagree on much, but there were a few opinions we didn't share. Guys you should have seen us picking chandeliers. We also weren't on the same page when it came to some of the brighter patterns I wanted to use in our décor. In those instances, we both decided to give a little - I was flexible on the lights, and Dustin indulged me the awesome chevron pattern I wanted for the pillows on our couch. Where the decision is small (or eventually changeable), don't make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be.


Not every decision is quite that small. For example, Dustin fought hard for the (pricey) TV and sound system set-up he wanted. I chose battles that were more about prioritizing certain upgrades or features. There are certain additions to the house - an outdoor kitchen, an accent wall or ceiling - that we still want to do (and that Dustin wanted to include early in the process). But in the building phase, I chose to fight for the financial priority of certain features over those. Where it was important, we each stood firm. 


When you pick your battles wisely then it is easier for your partner to recognize when something is truly important to you. Because Dustin was flexible on most decisions, I respected when he fought for the entertainment set-up he wanted. Because I was flexible on some of the upgrades Dustin wanted during the building process, he respected when I suggested we forego a certain feature to focus on something else important to me. Remember - you're on the same team. Don't let friendly fire ruin the experience of building something together. 


3. Look beyond the project.

Perspective is a game changer. When you're frustrated at the bank for messing up the appraisal date and want to take it out on your partner, or maybe when you're frustrated with your partner, remember the end-goal. In those moments when things didn't go as planned and we were stressed to our limits, we thought about why the house was important to us. We saw ourselves growing together, hosting friends and family, eventually raising children in our home.

Keep your eyes on the prize. And stay focused with your spouse. Talk about your dreams for the space you're designing, imagine together the memories you're going to make in that space. Let the stresses fade away as you enjoy the idea of all that is to come. 


For more lessons from our home-building experience, click here.​

©2020 by This Constant Hope.

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