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When Building a House Results in a Relationship Breakdown

Time to read: 8 min.

When Building a House Results in a Relationship Breakdown

The relationship all started out perfectly. You met, you fell in love, and then one day you decided you wanted to move in together.
For a while, life was good. You threw extravagant dinner parties, you went away for dirty weekends, and you didn’t care if he left the toilet seat up, or left biscuit crumbs all over the couch.

As things got more serious, one of you came up with the brilliant idea of building your own house, so you could have a big space to raise kids and live happily ever after. At least, that’s what you thought anyway….

It is not uncommon for the building or renovation of a house to lead to the collapse of a relationship. This can happen for a number of reasons – emotions run high, budgets can blow out, timelines can be delayed, and sometimes, it is lots of small things, which would otherwise seem insignificant, that cause the relationship to fall apart.
Before you know it, you’re sleeping in separate rooms, cooking your own meals, and silently wishing you had never embarked on this project (or met your partner) in the first place.

Building a house is time-consuming and demanding, and it is quite normal to find your partner irritating and annoying during such a stressful time. If you can survive this, there’s a good chance, your relationship will withstand most things.
There are a few things you can do to reduce the potential of relationship drama – this includes making sure that both of you are specific from the very beginning about what you want with regards to the house plan, budget, location etc. Be open and honest with communication, and make sure that all major decisions are made together.

Have a clear and detailed plan about what you are doing with each room. You don’t want to find out that the shed you had hoped to turn into a gym ends up being a man cave for him to hang out with his mates all day long and drink beer. Or, that the spare bedroom that you considered making your sewing room or office, is now his storage room for piles of junk. Be clear from the beginning so that there are no unexpected surprises. If only one person’s opinions count, it could lead to feelings of resentment later on.

Designing a new home brings with it lots of choices, which can lead to confusion and petty arguments along the way. Mixing personal styles within the same room can sometimes cause major clashes – not just with the colour scheme, but personality clashes too. Make sure you compromise, rather than expect everything to go your own way.
A good way for both of you to get your own way with the interior design or layout of the home is to each be allocated a separate room to decorate and style individually. Having an equal say in the creative process will have a better overall outcome, than if there’s a power struggle. Remember to pick your battles. Some things are just not worth fighting about.

Have a budget and stick to it. Financial woes and budget blow outs are a major source of arguments, and place enormous stress on a relationship in normal circumstances, let alone when you’re building a house. The financial commitment that goes into building your own home is huge, and it is important that you are honest with each other about how much money you can contribute, and how much more you are willing to spend for touch ups or last minute changes.

Stay organised and make sure you write down important time lines in a calendar. Talk to tradesmen and ensure that you obtain clear start and completion dates. Also, be clear about your role in the decision making process. You don’t want anyone making decisions on your behalf, and it resulting in conflict later on.

Before you call your divorce lawyers and start divvying up your assets, just remember that building or renovating a house is highly stressful for anyone. Even a Zen monk would struggle to keep his calm amidst all the chaos and confusion. There will no doubt be stressful and frustrating moments during the build, but the end result is well worth the wait and dedication. However, if your relationship is not strong enough to cope with the stress of a home building project, do not be ashamed or embarrassed. The stresses of building were only likely to have aggravated pre-existing relationship problems, which would likely have raised their ugly head at some other moment in time.