Renovate Your Way To A Better Marriage


How a fixer-upper first home became one couple's labor of love.

Also, as part of my job, I spend a lot of time in Rejuvenation's Portland store, a 38,000-square-foot showroom in a historic building with beautiful stained-glass windows. It's filled with classic light fixtures (antique originals and reproductions), hardware, Stickley furniture and rugs, and an entire department of architectural salvage.

For better or worse, my coworkers enabled my growing obsession with home renovation. They don't think it's weird to spend an entire lunch break talking about the best light fixture to hang in a Colonial Revival entryway with ten-foot ceilings, and nearly all of them have their own renovation war stories to tell.

When one commented to me that the financial burdens were taking a toll on her marriage and that all the hard work was superseding a sex life, I felt like hugging her. I wasn't proud of my schadenfreude, but I was so relieved to know it wasn't just us.

Another coworker and old-house owner, Monica Burke, Rejuvenation's retail-marketing manager, recalls that when she first started at the company as a salesperson, she frequently found herself in uncomfortable situations with couples. "Often, I'd be explaining an option, and one person would say, 'Oh, that sounds great, let's do that!,'" she says, "while the other person would be standing there rolling their eyes and saying, 'How exactly do you plan to pay for that? We have no money left.'"

Stephanie Badillo, interior designer at The Home Depot in New York, also finds herself playing mediator. "Often couples have different ideas and expectations that they may not have worked out or discussed prior to visiting the store," she says.

Couples frequently exaggerate the differences, Klein explains, and end up moving further apart. "For example, one person says, 'What's wrong with you that you don't want a nice bathroom?', while the other says, 'What's the matter with you that you don't care about our finances and you want me to work until I die?'" By taking a step back, asking questions, and truly listening to each other, couples often can draw out the underlying meaning of whatever has caused the conflict. A question like "What does it really mean to you if we spend that $500 on improving the bathroom?" helps the other person get to the bottom of his own feelings.