Can Doing a Couples Home Improvement Project Lead to Divorce?

Marriages end in divorce for many different reasons. Illness, financial strain, and parenting are all common stressors that can either make or break a relationship. A recent survey revealed another activity that may well lead seem promising but sometimes leads to divorce.

Based on a recent study, it seems home improvement projects can be a major source of contention for married or cohabitating couples. This discussion explores the reasons and offers tips to avoid a major relationship meltdown when fixing up your home.

Partnered Homeowners Might Want to Rethink Do-It-Yourself Projects

The home improvement network website HomeAdvisor polled 975 homeowners who had recently undertaken a major home improvement project with their significant other. They found 70 percent of participants found home renovation a great relationship test. Nearly 40 percent of respondents regretted tackling a home improvement project with their partner, and 17 percent separated from or divorced their partner over a household project.

Why Do Home Improvement Projects Lead to Relationship Problems?

If the HomeAdvisor study is indicative of a larger pattern among married or cohabitating couples, it begs the question, Why are home improvement projects so stressful?

Budget. Money issues were the clear and common denominator among couples who found home renovating problematic. A staggering 80 percent of participants said they had trouble agreeing and sticking to a budget for their project.

Differing visions. Another big issue for couples tackling home renovation projects was a difference in style and taste. When someone invests time, money, and physical effort into a major home improvement project, they probably have a clear idea of the final vision. If their partner or spouse has a totally different aesthetic in mind, and neither is willing to budge, it is easy to see how a supposedly fun project can become stressful quickly. Based on the survey, 40 percent of couples fought over differing visions of their project.

Minor details. You might think it makes sense for couples to be a bit stressed out over major renovations such as removing a wall or redoing a kitchen. In the poll, 31 percent of couples did admit to clashing with a partner over a big project.

However, the little details caused even more conflict. Nearly half of respondents said they fought with their partner over something as minor as picking out a paint color or choosing a tile for a do-it-yourself project.

Projects are often a bandage for bigger problems. Couples also use major renovations as a distraction for the problems happening in a marriage. They think if they make these massive changes to the home, maybe their relationship will improve as well.

A home project can act as a sort of bandage for deeper issues that cannot be healed with paint, drywall, and new furniture. Instead of making everything better, the stress of home improvements actually causes underlying marital issues to rise to the surface.

Tips for Preventing a Home Renovation-Related Breakup

Ideally, home renovation should be a fun way to spend time together while updating and adding value to one’s living space. If you are considering doing a home improvement project with your partner, here are some tips to keep things going smoothly.

Have a project plan. Before you ever swing that sledgehammer, be sure you and your partner have done all the research and planning for your home improvement project. You can do this as early as six to 12 months out.

Create a plan that clearly states your goal. Take time to find design inspiration, and outline all of the steps that are part of the larger project.

Your project plan should include:

  • A list of wants and needs for the project
  • Sketches or blueprints of the finished project
  • Project steps divided by what you can do yourself, and the steps you need a pro to handle

Doing this planning early on not only gives partners a realistic idea of what a project involves and how long it may take, but also opens the lines of communication so everyone can get on the same page before the project even begins.

Decide on a budget. Once you have a project plan, you can create a realistic budget based on the tools, materials, and labor involved.

With that said, always know there is a possibility of going over budget. In fact, experts suggest setting aside at least 10 percent of your overall budget for unexpected expenses. Once you start renovating, there is the possibility of uncovering hidden plumbing, structural, or electric problems of which you were not aware.

Review the project budget together and discuss any sticking points before you begin. One partner’s necessity might seem like an unnecessary splurge to the other. If your estimates exceed your budget, work together to decide where to cut costs.

Take all the time you need to discuss conflicts about money, and do not move forward until you have settled on a budget you both believe is fair and reasonable. Your budget should be in place at least three to six months before starting the project.

Assign tasks. Some couples argue during home renovations because they cannot agree on who should do what. Micromanaging or critiquing a partner’s contributions is only going to cause tension. These disputes tap into deep-seated power struggles that can spell doom for a marriage.

Prevent those fights by assigning specific tasks to each person, based on what each partner enjoys and does well. If one spouse enjoys painting, give them that job. If the other enjoys working with contractors, make them the main point of contact for outside workers.

If you each have a defined role, you are less likely to veer into the other’s lane and cause the kind of anger and resentment that can lead to a split.

Walk away when things get heated. Renovations are stressful. There is a lot of money, time, and sweat involved. The process can can be messy and disruptive to the household. Sometimes, things just get the better of us. Rather than snap at a spouse and say or do something you cannot take back, take a break, walk away, and regroup before coming back with a clearer head.

Know when to call in the pros. Couples can also fight when they get in a project over their heads. Without the skills and experience, a simple do-it-yourself home improvement project can go very wrong. At that point, it is probably time to call a professional to take over the job. Yes, it is going to cost you more in the end, but your peace of mind, and your marriage, is certainly worth it.

If you take time to prepare for a home renovation and discuss your expectations, goals, and budget ahead of time, you are more likely to come out on the other side with your relationship intact. For some spouses, it is better to stick to minor tasks around the home and leave the major remodeling to the pros. Only you know what is best for your relationship.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Advocate for Clients Going through Divorce

Whatever the reason, once your marriage is irretrievably broken, it becomes important to seek skilled legal counsel to represent your interests and protect your rights. The Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., will be there every step of the way to help you navigate the divorce process. With our experienced team behind you, you are never alone. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.