First published on 4/24/10, this post remains one of our most popular. Enjoy!
According to the MarriageBuilders website, a healthy marriage is built on the willingness of each spouse to meet the others’ emotional needs, to do “what it takes to make each other happy.” The reason marriages fail is that they “succumb to competing interests. Instead of meeting each other’s emotional needs, they meet the needs of little Sally, or the production manager. Or they decide to buy a new home or car which forces them to work more hours and spend less quality time with each other”. So, before you sign on the dotted line, ask yourself these questions:
What can we afford?
The number one cause of divorce among married couples is financial concerns, and the biggest investment most couples will ever make is a house. So it stands to reason that if you are not in agreement about what you can afford before you start building, the problems will only escalate after you have moved in. Dream house or not, the mortgage payment will come due every month and if that causes additional stress in your marriage, it could eventually lead to irreparable damage. The best way to avoid the scenario is to be clear from the beginning about how much money you are willing to spend and what you can afford. Then the rest will fall into place.
What elements of the home matter most to each of us?
Answer questions such as:
- Do you love to entertain?
- Are you both outdoorsy?
- Do you have pets that are your “other children”?
- Do you have children or are you planning to start a family? How many children would you eventually like to have?
- Will you need to accommodate an elderly parent or are you empty-nesters with children who will be coming back to visit?
Once you have a working list – and it might be different for each of you – try to order the list according to priority for each of you. For instance, if having a guest bedroom and bathroom downstairs so that you can accommodate your elderly mother is near the top of your list but your husband really wants room for a workshop in the garage, then both of these must be worked into the design of the home. In the end, however, it is the willingness on both sides to give and take that makes you able to preserve your marriage and still end up with a home you can both enjoy.
How will we handle the additional responsibilities of building?
There’s no way around it. Building a home means adding a multitude of meetings to your calendar. How will you handle these? Is one of you more interested in the interior design and therefore more willing to take on meetings with the decorator and make the selections? Will you both try to be at all the meetings? What if something comes up? Does one of your jobs allow for more flexibility? These are some questions that will save you from additional stress should you work through them prior to beginning the process.
How will we handle inevitable disagreements? Who will arbitrate our difference of opinion?
Before breaking ground, you may think you and your spouse are like-minded on everything. But no matter how prepared you think you are, there are always going to be disagreements. When these occur, how will you handle it? Talking through this question may help settle the arguments before they occur. For instance, one way to handle this is to agree to let your builder or decorator be the tie breaker. Having quality professionals you can lean on can help take the pressure off of the two of you.
Another way to approach these differences of opinion is to consider resale value. “No matter how much you love the house that you are building, it’s unlikely that it will be the last home you will ever own. Knowing that, you should be mindful of its potential resale value….Ask yourself if the features you’re considering installing are likely going to appeal to others” (source: www.lendingtree.com).
Do we have what it takes to keep our marriage thriving despite the additional demands of building?
The bottom line is to maintain open communication and be willing to put the health of the marriage relationship above your individual desires. And if any of this worries you, take heart! Shan Jenkins of Jenkins Custom Homes says, “Given the right set of circumstances and the right people, [building a home] could actually bring the couple closer together especially once the tough choices are behind them. In all my years in home building, I have never had a couple divorce over the stress from building.”