Whether you own a business or just run a home together, you will inevitably end up working with your spouse on some project or another. The trick is to do so without straining your relationship.
Here are some tips from experts on working with your spouse when it comes to buying or selling your house, renovating your home, or even just living together in that house.
Between working, keeping the house clean, meal prep, yard work, kids, pets, and all the many things that need to be done, it’s easy to start bumping heads with your spouse. Michael Simard, a registered therapeutic counsellor with Soul Silhouette Healing in Victoria, BC, has some advice.
“When couples are bumping heads, I always recommend they wear something soft and protective on their heads. It’s funny but true. They need to wear something “soft” to be gentle when they are doing the bumping, and yet the “protective” to keep themselves safe. Being soft might mean being positive about the intentions of your partner, while protective might mean giving yourself space so that there are no heads to bump into until things clear up.”
He noted that couples need to have a unified approach, and that starts with good communication. Simard suggested that couples sit down and have a conversation about each of their needs, wants, and limitations. “Each person has to make room for flexibility, accountability, and reality.”
This same advice applies to parenting and the difficulties involved with childcare. Simard noted, “Parents should take the puzzle, sit down together and consult about how to make the pieces fit as best they can given their collective resources of time, money, ability and opportunity. Having a backup plan is key to reduce the worry and stress for parents.”
Simard stressed that couples must remember that they are a team and that they should share the responsibilities. If one spouse is overwhelmed, speak up – your partner may not realize it. “Remember, everyone has different capacities, and these capacities can change suddenly based on mood, sleep, bad news, energy level and so on,” he said.
Renovating Your Home
Ann Squires Ferguson is the CEO of Western Interior Designs Group, Ltd. She is also a military spouse with experience renovating her own home with her husband, who is in the Navy. Because of this, she is in a unique position to understand just how difficult renovations can be for military families.
“Having been a serving member myself, and now being a military spouse, I can appreciate the significance that home has to those who serve. They are often in confined spaces for extended periods of time, often under extraordinary amounts of pressure, with companions they did not choose. Home for them needs to be a sanctuary, a refuge, a safe place of calm and predictability. Being in the chaos of renovation is stressful for everyone, and can be even more unsettling for a military member.”
However, there are ways to make it easier. The first is communication. Squires Ferguson noted, “Communication is key… it is important to manage that, to have patterns in place for calm communication, rather than off the cuff or in a rush. To make space for a true transmission of data, so everyone is on the same page.”
From there, doing your research is crucial, but that also includes talking to experts. This may be your first time renovating a bathroom or kitchen, but experts do it regularly.
“The secret is getting them on your side. You will want to find an advocate, someone who knows the industry, who has the right contacts, who has been through a similar project before. They become your eyes and ears on the ground, and always has your best interests at heart. That can make all the difference,” said Squires Ferguson.
She also strongly recommends having a contingency fund of 10 to 25 per cent, which gives you some wiggle room if something goes wrong, or you want to splurge on an item.
Buying and Selling a Home
A realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada in Victoria, BC, Donald St. Germain has been helping families, including military families, find their new homes for a while now. He and his wife have also bought a number of properties, including both personal homes and rental properties.
Common difficulties St. Germain has noticed tend to involve one spouse not being as interested in selling or buying as the other. He has even had both spouses from a couple comment in private to him that they are only agreeing to this to keep their spouse happy. St. Germain noted that good communication is incredibly important.
Another point couples need to consider is their price point for buying or selling. If they are buying a house, they should also consider features, neighbourhoods, etc.
“I always recommend that buyers and sellers do their homework, and determine a number they are comfortable with before moving forward. Unfortunately, emotions often replace logic (and very quickly) when buying or selling so things can get heated. A pre-determined number, whether a purchase or sale price, will help ground both buyers and sellers and keep them on track. Same with the style and age of house, neighbourhood, etc. Make a list, even point form is ok, to keep on track. Having too many variables can make it messy. And it’s a huge financial decision moving forward,” said St. Germain.
At the end of the day, St. Germain recommends taking the time you need to make your decision – not only does it need to be the right time, but it needs to be the right house. He also stresses that it is important to have the right realtor.
“You need to ensure you have a real estate agent that doesn’t rush you and treats your money as if it was their own, and not just in it for the quick paycheque,” explained St. Germain. This is especially true for a military family on their house hunting trip.
Communication tips for a peaceful home life:
Vision – Agree to your unified desired vision of how things can be at home.
Simple – Keep things simple. Simple plans are easier to implement and stick to.
Gradual – Do things gradually. Take a step towards your desired home life. This gives it the best chance of success. After the first steps become routine, take another step in that same direction.
Humour – Keep your sense of humour. Laugh and have fun as much as you can despite the struggle to implement this new vision.
Patience – Stay patient. Change takes time, effort and patience. Be patient with your partner and be patient with yourself.
Flexibility – Visions, plans, and steps will often need tweaking or rethinking along the way. Be prepared to revisit these as a couple and make the necessary changes.
1,2,3’s of Care
1. Take care of #1 first… yourself.
Self-care means taking care of your physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being. It is anything that nourishes you and helps you grow as a person. This allows you more capacity to move to 2.
2. Take care of the two of you in the couple.
A parent might be inclined to put their children before their marriage. This will only cause a strain on the whole family as well as the marriage. When you put your energy into your marriage, the couple is happy and energized, and that creates an excellent foundation for family life as well as a healthy model for the children.
3. Like a bicycle, balance is easy if you are moving ahead in a clear direction without impediments.
However, if the bike stops moving, it’s infinitely harder to find balance. That’s where a third wheel helps so much. That third wheel is a counsellor (who’s the right fit for you). If your marriage is slowing down and at risk of flopping over, take the time to go see a counsellor for yourself, as a couple and as a family… whatever is needed to return to balance and resume your adventure!