how to diy with your spouse

I’ve been with my husband for 14 years; we’ve been married for 10 of those. During that time, we have completed countless DIY projects together, including building our current home. We didn’t hire a contractor and did as much work as possible ourselves. When we first started talking about building a home together, we got a lot of feedback from couples who had gone before us. Almost all of them warned that building a house would be hard on our marriage. “If your marriage can survive building a house together, you can make it through anything,” they would say.

I found it curious that a preference for carpet over hardwood floors could somehow be considered irreconcilable differences. Despite the risk of martial demise, we forged ahead with an open mind and just the right amount of naivety. And honestly, it was fine. I never plotted his death or entertained the idea of divorce, not even once.

So, how’d we do it?

Well, while our home was being built, which took roughly nine months from start to finish, we lived with my parents. (Now, there’s the real test of one’s resilience.) Our daughter was six months old, and both my husband and I worked full-time, outside of the home. My husband spent nearly every evening working on the house, while I cared for our daughter. On weekends, the work became a family affair. I’m not nearly as handy as my husband, so most of the handiwork was left to him. I can paint like nobody’s business, and hold stuff while he screws it into place, but my real contribution to the project was managing the budget and keeping us organized. I called companies, researched building material, got bids, and scheduled contractors for the work we hired out. It turns out this was an important part of keeping our marriage intact: Know your role. Each of us had a very specific role, and we stuck to it.

When we needed help from one another, we asked for it. Nobody was the boss; we genuinely worked as a team. I know, I’m annoyed with myself after that last sentence, but as cliché as it sounds, you have to work together. We updated each other on our progress each night and set goals for the coming days and weeks. That was another important part of the staying married equation: communication. I mean, to be fair, this is solid advice across the board, not just during DIY projects. We listened to each other and talked out our disagreements.

Not only did we talk, we made a plan. I’m type-A, so nothing makes me happier than a well-laid plan. Before we ever picked out a plot of land, we made a wish list. We sat down with pen and paper and wrote down our expectations for our new home. Spoiler alert: We did not want the same things. It turns out he didn’t care about a massive walk-in closet, and I didn’t want a gargantuan TV hanging above my fireplace. So, we compromised. I got a moderately sized walk-in closet, and he got space in the basement to mount his absurdly large television. Compromise keeps couples together, am I right?

Knowing your role, communicating, and compromising are all great, but you will still end up at the courthouse if you don’t have patience with one another. I’m not going to pretend my husband doesn’t irritate me or have terrible taste in home décor because he does… Wait, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, patience. Be respectful of one another, even when you disagree, or have been assembling a piece of IKEA furniture since 2003. It’s all going to be okay, I promise. Life may hand you and your spouse some tough times, but DIY projects shouldn’t be one of them.

Photo: Getty