K DuPree
Steps to Navigating a Remodel With Your Partner

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. Helpful tips to help couples negotiate remodeling decisions with a minimum of stress are ahead.

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?

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.

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 why behind our preferences can help build empathy and ultimately lead to a more rewarding and successful remodeling experience.

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.

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.

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