My Husband And I Are Tackling A Home Project, And I Don't Know If Our Relationship Will Survive

by Ansley Johnson
Originally Published: 
Husband and wife having an argument while tackling a home project standing in their living room

My husband and I have never taken on a major home project, including having a house built. This seems to be entirely too overwhelming and expensive. Furthermore, neither of us are handy people. We can’t save money by tackling some DIY projects. We would do way more harm than good by trying to tile a floor, refinish some cabinetry, or update the landscaping.

There’s also the issue of our opposite personalities. I’m decisive and organized. My husband is the procrastinator and is detail-oriented, financially-minded. Between our personality differences and our lack of home project skills, I’m very uncertain why we have decided to finish our basement. We desperately crave the space, but will our marriage survive a home project that we are very well ill-equipped to tackle together?

We’ve been together over twenty years. We dated for four years, were engaged for a year, and then got married. We’ve moved three times, but always into places that were move-in ready. We’ve taken on smaller projects here or there, mostly with the help of (far more) qualified people. I have no desire to “get my hands dirty,” especially not tag-teaming DIY jobs with my spouse. I love him, but I’m not sure we were made to become anything remotely like an HGTV couple.

Here’s the thing. My husband and I are opposite in terms of decision making. I make fast decisions and stick with them. If I make the wrong choice, I quickly forgive myself and move on. I don’t overthink many choices, mostly because I have to make so many decisions that I would never get anything accomplished if I pored over every detail. To avoid decision fatigue, I “pick and stick.”

My husband, though? He has to think about everything over days, weeks, months — but usually, years. Even then, his choice is tentative and very much on the “maybe” instead of a definitive yes. I tell him all the time, not making a decision is making a decision—a decision to remain stagnant. He has to know every detail and then some — whatever that means. Even then, he struggles to decide.

Take, for example, our parking style. I pull into a parking lot and choose a spot for my minivan — quickly. I usually park right by a cart corral. One, I don’t want my kids banging into someone else’s car (at least one side is protected). For another, since I’m not a jerk and actually put my cart where it belongs, parking by the corral is convenient. Boom — decision made. If a corral-space isn’t available, I just park where there’s a clear space on either side of me, even if that means walking farther.

My husband will circle the lot at least three times. Even as he’s pulling into a space, he hesitates, scoping out other spaces. What perfect space is he looking for exactly? Nobody knows — not even him. Meanwhile, I’m steaming mad, thinking I could have been halfway through the store already. I eventually blurt out, “Pick a f’ing parking place!”

The same goes for ordering food. I will choose what I want within two minutes. My husband will browse the menu, ask the server six kinds of questions, then ask for a few more minutes to decide. Then he predictably orders the exact same thing he did the last time we were there. Like, why?

When it comes to finishing a basement, we have many, many decisions to make. There’s everything from what color and style of backsplash for the kitchen area, to the type of fireplace insert, to flooring colors. As soon as I knew we were a go on the project, I got on Pinterest, chose what I wanted, and have stuck to the ideas ever since. My husband will talk to a salesperson, get every single brochure (and then some — including expired ones), bring them home, and pore over them.

I have no idea how we will even complete this project when we painstakingly compare the cost differences between two light switch plates. To me, I’m going to pick one with minimal thought. Are the reviews good? Is the price within budget? Do I like the look of it? Done. To me, decisions are as easy as 1, 2, 3.

However, I also recognize that sometimes it pays to take your time. I readily admit, I’ve made some bad purchase decisions in the past. Just two weeks ago, I bought a stencil-brow kit based on a Facebook ad. It looked promising, given how completely unable I am to pencil in my own sparse eyebrows. As soon as I put the brows on, my kids looked at me like I had on clown makeup, and my sweet husband tried not to laugh.

Another issue we face with this home project is that I am a “my way or the highway” type, while my husband is much more patient and kind. I’m not playing. If a person smokes, they aren’t coming in my house. If they don’t text me back in a timely manner, I won’t hire them. I have clear expectations. However, one they start doing their job, I’m hands-off until the project is done. I don’t hover over them or ask them ten thousand questions.

As you guessed, my husband is the opposite. He will ask them twenty-seven questions a day — you know, “just making sure” (of what, I am not certain). He’s also Mr. Nice Guy. He gives other people way more leeway than I ever have or will. If they show up late, no prob. It’s okay. (Yes, I know things happen, but every day? Nope.)

I’m also the budget-schmudget type. I love a good bargain, but I also won’t compromise on what I really, really want. My husband examines every incoming and outgoing nickel and dime. I mean, if I got him a magnifying glass, I think he would legit examine each coin. I do appreciate that he’s financially educated, but sometimes (ahem, often) I don’t want him dashing my Pinterest dreams.

We are only a few weeks into our project, and we’ve had plenty of feisty conversations. A building project isn’t as simple as making a few decisions and paying bills. A project like this brings up marital issues, personal strengths and weaknesses, and a whole lot of pettiness (at times). I really, really want this space to be a place of joy for our family — it’s just that getting there is far easier said than done.

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