Renovate Your Way To A Better Marriage


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

Perhaps he spent years paying off credit-card debt and is committed to staying debt-free. Or perhaps he'll realize that $500 for a nicer bathroom really isn't a big deal and they should go ahead with it. Once the communication opens up, the couple will be in a better position to negotiate—and maybe they’ll decide together that they'd rather put the $500 toward a vacation.

Zack Schulte and Julia Sullivan say the restoration of their home in a historic Los Angeles neighborhood has taught them a lot about each other. "It has all the combinations of things that drive you crazy—you don't have a secure home life, and you're spending way more money than you're comfortable with," says Schulte. "You find that you're not living for the moment, but for something that's not quite there. Never underestimate the power of an unlivable space," he cautions.

Sullivan says she knew things had gotten bad when she started looking forward to going to work so she could relax.

"It's easy to get caught in the classic, 'I'll be happy when …' We remind ourselves to make the best of the current state of things and try to enjoy it despite the difficulty."

"Even our pets feel displaced," laments Schulte.

That said, the two agree that they've gotten to know each other on a deeper level, and they work hard to make sure they stay on the same team. "I have to be careful of playing the blame game," he says. "During the darker days, I often find myself turning to her and saying, 'This was your idea, you wanted to take this on,' but I'm working on it."