Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…
Dear GWBW — My partner and I are remodeling our house. It’s a wreck and I’m seeing how it’s showing the cracks in our relationships too. We started out with the same ideas and now when the contractors are around, there seems to be a power struggle. The most recent one cost us $3000 more than budgeted. Help us! He doesn’t know I’m writing you so don’t publish my name. — Seeking One Roof
Dear Seeking One Roof,
I hope we answer you in time, but remodels never finish on schedule (and, in fact, feel endless), so I’m sure your issues are still standing…!
What a great non-question question. To push your building metaphor, you hit the nail on the head by pointing out your power struggle as the issue. Oh, and money is such an underscore. Privately (not in front of contractors or other workers, most of whom already need aligned management) set some boundaries by mutually assigning tasks to each other’s strengths: design, color, budgeting, architectural details, and managing contractor relationships, to name a very few. No need for redundancy on single projects (or rooms). But if you both feel your strengths are too similar to split up tasks/responsibilities, then do as I said and split “ownership” by rooms. Each of you should be accountable to meet the budgets for your assigned task or room. Also, a weekly progress and accountability meeting will be highly productive to keep you on track and “honest” with each other, as well as yourselves.
Just because this is about your home and personal finances, there’s no reason not to treat this like any other business project and handle items accordingly. If anything, it sounds to me like your personal business will benefit from some professionalism.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” — J.K. Rowling
Dear Seeking One Roof,
Who’s causing the power struggle over budget? What I mean is, is your contractor playing you two off each other, pushing buttons for more line items on the job? Or are you two not on the same page about what you actually want the house to look like (read represent) after this remodel?
It sounds like you two need to sit down with an art pad and list of house fixes and go through one by one describing your blue-sky, no limits visions. Allow each one to take it to the farthest reaches of imagination. Write these descriptions out side by side, and then compare. Are you two trying for the same end vision? Now, realize, blue sky is not reality. It is just a chance to see where each of you would be headed if there were no limits, restrictions or financial obstacles.
Now, if you want to create an ode to travel that inspires the urge to pack and explore, while your partner is creating the ultimate lounge spot that inspires burrowing and all the creature comforts that mean you almost never need to leave the house, well, you can see how the visions for the house and the relationship are no longer on the same page. Find out if your big visions are compatible.
If they are compatible, figure out how to express your needs and your partner’s needs in the real 3-D, boundary-driven world we live in. For instance if your partner wants more built in shelving to store sports equipment and you want those same built in shelves to store your bottle collection, see if you can either have two sets of shelves or devise a new way to store sports equipment or a new cabinet for your bottles. Maybe the shelves are split in half between your needs and his.
What I’m saying is, don’t let unbridled growth in what may be two separate directions cause you to split the house in half. Check in with each other on big vision goals and dreams. Realign that vision. Then work out compromises so everybody’s needs are met. When and if the power struggle starts, remind your partner that you are on each other’s team. That you are willing to support you partners dreams, but your must be supported as well. Smooch. Remember why you love each other. Then work it out.
If that doesn’t work, it may be time for couples counseling. Power struggles can led to the end of your relationship if you let it. But remember, it takes two to tango. Doesn’t mean you should just roll over and obey, but it does mean if you refuse to participate your partner will be left to work with you or have a tantrum.
Mantra: A power struggle requires to people pulling in opposite directions. I choose to work with my partner to find solutions. We are one the same team.
Look for the middle way,
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