11 Ways Home Improvement Tests Your Marriage (And Why It’s Worth It In the End)

Now I know why I didn’t become a plumber.

Of course if I was a plumber, I would a) be getting paid to deal with this BS and b) it wouldn’t be my kitchen going on four days without water.

Beautiful new counters underneath a pile of not-the-right-size plumbing parts.

I’m convinced that plumbing is the most contemptible of all of the home improvement projects. It’s not complicated – connect this to that in such a way that fluid flows freely and leaks are eliminated. The problem comes when apparent malevolent spirits installed the original pipework (glued PVC connector on the drain pipe? Really?) and plumbing manufactures seem to find glee in both creating an infinite number of connector styles and failing to design (or, in the case of the big boxes, stock) products that meet customer’s needs.

I’ve only given in once and hired a plumber. And that was after 5 hours in the freezing dark with my then-husband trying to attach a new water line to the house after the blue poly finally gave up the ghost in the dead of winter. It’s such a difficult expense to justify when the elusive part is always promised at the next trip to the hardware store.

Which always seems to result in one more item then needing to be returned.

As well as one more test for your marriage.

Any decently-sized home improvement project has the ability to challenge your marriage in the following ways. Even if you break down and hire a plumber.

1 – Money, Money, Money Down the Drain (Assuming You Have One Installed!)

I think we’ve managed to spend $100 a day at Home Depot over the past week. And that’s just on the little bits and pieces that make the big-ticket stuff work. Add to that the increased cost of prepared foods or eating out and of course, the cost of the cabinet refacing and counter top and it gets scary. Hey, maybe I can turn my kitchen into a haunted house and charge entry – it may not scare the kids, but I bet the parents will be petrified 🙂

Spending money while stretching a budget can be stressful. And that can become even more difficult when you have one partner with champagne tastes while the other is carefully watching the wine cooler budget.

But even, as in our case, when you agree on the decisions, watching the money wash away is stressful. It’s important to communicate fully about your fears and work together to decide how far the budget can be stretched. It’s a lot easier to tolerate the expense when you’re working as a team.

2 – Managing Frustration Without Biting Off Your Spouse’s Head

Home improvement projects are always a roller coaster. They begin with hope and the tantalizing freebies of sample swatches and Pintrest pictures. Then comes the first reality check when you begin to associate a budget and a timeline with your desires.

And then there are the inevitable and numerous setbacks. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times Brock has had to say, “I have bad news” over the last week.

And the project is still in its early stages.

It’s impossible to not be affected by the bad news, but it is so important to work to manage that frustration without gearing up for a fight with your partner. The fact that the bolt they’re trying to attach doesn’t fit is not a personal failing. Don’t treat it as one.

And the best way to deal with frustration? Humor.

A hint of kitchen past once hidden behind a phone jack. We joked about removing all the paint and restoring the wallpaper to its old glory:)

3 – Flexibility Demands Even Greater Than Those Required by Yoga

It’s funny how you much you can learn about someone by watching how they handle disorder. Once I emptied the bottom cabinets, I declared the kitchen pretty much closed until the implements were returned.

Brock, on the other hand, simply dug through the kitchen items in the other rooms, found what he needed and set to making spaghetti.

Proof positive that he is the more flexible one when it comes to home environment.

I’m still learning:)

4 – Coping With Change and a Dearth Of Coffee

I’m used to moving through my early morning routine driven by pure muscle memory and habit. I can make the coffee and my breakfast with no thought and little attention.

But now all of that has changed. Making coffee now requires a trip to the bathroom and a small cup to use as an intermediary to fill the pot. In order to dispose of the old grounds, I have to first find the small compost bucket, which seems to enjoy playing hide and seek with the other items we are constantly looking for. And for now, the used mugs are sitting unwashed while we work on getting the water running again.


Change is hard. And change in your home with your spouse is harder still. Be patient with each other as you’re working through new patterns and new habits. It will smooth out. Eventually.

5 – Lack of Personal Space or Please Get Your Elbow Out of My Ear

Our home is not small but the available footprint has decidedly shrunk now that the kitchen cupboards have vomited their contents into the dining and living rooms. And the kitchen itself? It’s like playing hopscotch on a moving ship.

And it’s not only the intrusion of stuff where it doesn’t belong that lends to a sense of claustrophobia. It’s also the close – very close – proximity you have to be in with your spouse while engaged in exasperating or tedious labor that seems to strive to reach Twister proportions.

I’m pretty sure my elbow did end up in my husband’s ear last night as we were both crammed under the kitchen sink. Tiger sat nearby, looking upset that he wasn’t invited to what he saw as a cuddle party.

Anytime space is at a premium, tempers can more easily flare. Douse them with good music, good laughter and a favorite home improvement beverage.

6 – Learning Your Partner’s “Home Improvement” Language

Love language, smudge language. We all know what is really important in a marriage is learning your partner’s home improvement language.

“Can you hand me that wrench thingie over there?”

I glance over there and see a total of five wrench thingies, none of which seem appropriate for the task at hand.

“The one that looks kind of like the old channel locks but newer.”

Turning my gaze, I spotted the needed implement at a different over there.

Part of learning you partner’s home improvement language is learning their vocabulary.

But that’s only the beginning.

In order to be fluent, you also have to know their strengths and weaknesses. Their skills and when it is best to pretend that the power tools aren’t working.

It’s pretty cool that on this project, Brock and I were able to divvy up tasks by strengths with little conversation. We both know that he is going to be the one to deal with the contractors and make sure that stuff gets done even when there are hiccups and I’ll be the one to paint the ceilings and find the new storage items. You know, the ones that go over there.

7 – Admittance of Wrongdoing and Acceptance That Watching HGTV Does Not Make You An Expert

“I need help with this one. I just can’t seem to get these screws in,” I said, passing the pieces of the new bar stool over to Brock. He managed to line them up and tighten them down, only to look up from his work and realize that I had attached the seat on upside down.


When undertaking a project of any magnitude and tackling projects with a skill set that doesn’t get exercised enough to go pro, mistakes will happen. I have quite a bit of knowledge about home repair (more thanks to my ex than television, but I do have to admit to some HGTV viewing), but I have been the assistant more than the surgeon on these operations. So sometimes often my results leave something to be desired.

And it turns out the screws went in much easier once the seat was turned around the right way. Who knew?

8 – Biting of the Tongue And the Avoidance of “I Told You So”

Brock never made me feel stupid or inept because of my bar stool debacle. And I happily returned the favor a couple days later. When working on the home, you and your spouse are a team. And tearing one member down only serves to lower the performance of the entire team.

It can be tempting to call out mistakes, especially when they compound frustration by adding to the time or money needed for a project, but it is a temptation best avoided.

Because once the scolding begins, it rarely stops.

9 – Compromise And Learning to Love (or at least tolerate) Your Partner’s Taste

I wanted to simply swap out existing trashcans and relocate the kitchen one to a corner by the fridge. Brock balked, expressing a distaste for my chosen location.

And once I realized that his desire to not have the can there was greater than my desire to use the spot, I spent a couple hours locating a new can that can fit in a location that we can both live with.

Home improvement is one of those times when you have to let go of always getting your way. Stand up for what is important and compromise or even give in on the rest.

At the end of the day, your spouse’s happiness is way more important than where you choose to throw away your trash.

10 – Getting It On (When All You Want to Do Is Go to Bed)

These are the kind of sexy texts we’re sending to each other right now. Don’t be afraid to scroll down; it’s entirely SFW:)

Is this the one we need?

Unless you’ve always harbored a fantasy about carpenters or electricians, there’s really nothing about home repair that will get your engines revving. In fact, it can easily have the opposite effect when you’re both tired, grumpy, sweaty and probably covered in some sort of very unsexy goo.

The truth is that sometimes you have to wash the plumber’s putty out of your hair (or scrub the adhesive off your hands!) and take a bedroom break. The kitchen sink will wait (and Home Depot is open late).

11 – Dealing With the Unexpected Without a Breakdown

When the trip to Home Depot on Saturday was a dud and we discovered the needed part couldn’t be delivered until Tuesday (why can Amazon ship me shoes on the same day but shank extenders for my faucet take four days????), I almost lost it. This means we’re not only looking at several more days of a waterless kitchen, but it also means that we may have another date night under the kitchen sink on a work day. I prefer my cupboard snuggles on the weekend.

And then we looked at each other, shared looks of despair, frustration and finally resolve.

We’ll get through this. Together.

And Why It’s Worth It –

There is nothing like the celebration of reaching a shared vision through joint effort and teamwork.

Assuming you’re still on speaking terms, of course.

Thank you for sharing!

3 thoughts on “11 Ways Home Improvement Tests Your Marriage (And Why It’s Worth It In the End)

  1. I feel ya, but as a former plumbing apprentice, I enjoyed the work. It was exciting to see first hand a building being built from the ground up. And yes home improvements can stress a relationship, but when you see the finished project, it’s a wow moment. I remember fixing my septic, I was in the pit replacing the drain pip and my now ex sitting on the ground just watching me work. Guess that should of woke me up that not only was the septic failing but also my marriage. I used to proudly tell people I was a plumber and he was embarrassed by it.

  2. livebysurprise – Liv is the pseudonym reformed divorcee and single mom - now married, coparenting and working mother of three. She's been featured on ScaryMommy, HuffPost Divorce, The Mid and DivorcedMoms.com. More at http://www.livebysurprise.com.
    livebysurprise says:

    This is perfect – home improvement as an analogy for a good marriage.

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