Tell Me About It: ‘I am terrified we will waste money on what could be a vanity project’
PROBLEM: Covid has changed our world completely. While it was difficult not seeing friends and family for several months at a time, and distressing to hear stories of people who really suffered, we have managed to change the way we live entirely.
Like many people, both myself and my partner have reverted to working from home and we are both working in the type of businesses that mean we will rarely, if ever, need to return to an office building. I also found out that I was pregnant with our first child four months ago which prompted us to put our city apartment on the market and we are now in the process of closing the sale having made a substantial gain on our initial investment.
We bought a beautiful site in the countryside, have our plans drawn up with enough office space for both of us to work. We just got several quotes for the cost of managing the building project, all of which were much higher than we expected.
My partner is a real all-rounder, he is intelligent, musical, sporty and has a great personality. He just has two faults – he does not lack any self-confidence whatsoever and he is dreadful at DIY. He, however, thinks that he is a building expert having worked on a site laying bricks in Australia during a gap year almost a decade ago. He insists that he will manage the project, while continuing to work in what is a high-pressure business. We have friends who have managed to do something similar, but at least one of them had some semblance of an idea of what they were taking on.
I think that he is secretly delighted that he might get to manage the building. I am terrified that, with a baby due, and having sold our previous home, we are at risk of ending up living in rented accommodation for a long period of time and wasting money on what could turn out to be a vanity project.
While it would be a stretch, we do have some capacity to extend our mortgage and absorb the extra costs. He just won’t listen to me and in all of the time that we have been together this is the only situation that we have been unable to negotiate something that suits us both.
He thinks that I am being unreasonable; I beg to differ.
ADVICE: This is a situation that could easily become a stumbling block in your relationship and so you must approach it with the consideration that it deserves but you should approach it lightly. Everything is going well for both of you, and this is an opportunity for you both to learn how to deal with opposing views.
It is hugely important that you both feel respected and heard in this conversation and this is worth taking time over
Firstly, this conversation needs to be formal and explicit and should not be allowed to become a simmering or continuing underneath-the-surface theme. Ask your partner out somewhere so that you can talk about your plans and tell him that this issue is important for you – this will give him a sense of occasion so your concerns cannot be easily dismissed. Bring a paper and pencil (or use the notes function on your phone) and ask him to list the DIY skills he has evidence that he has and then you list the skills that you think need a higher level of accomplishment. With this as the starting point you can do some proper negotiation. This means that you need to let him take charge of some aspects of the renovation and if he feels your support in this, he may be able to hear your views about buying in expertise for other aspects.
Many couples end up with resentment over a conflict that happened early in their relationship and it keeps turning up in subsequent arguments for decades – you do not want this
What is important is that you do not insist on resolution immediately but both of you seek facts (costs, timing, effort required, etc) and then agree to have another, more informed, conversation at a later date. This will take some of the fixed opinions out of the conversation – yours that he is in over his head and his that you are just being precious – if you both commit to continue talking until you can agree. While there is a real deadline, in that there is a baby coming, it is hugely important that you both feel respected and heard in this conversation and this is worth taking time over, so don’t rush to a solution.
Many couples end up with resentment over a conflict that happened early in their relationship and it keeps turning up in subsequent arguments for decades and you do not want this. Do not lose sight of how lucky you are to have such a great start to your new family and hold this in mind when you are dealing with this issue. This will help ensure that you do not get stuck in the small stuff and it may also help your partner to see that the family’s wellbeing (in terms of finance and security) is the aim and that it is the method of achieving this that is up for discussion.
There is strong evidence that how we conduct difficult conversations is the measure of a relationship so engage with humour, affection and openness and you will be on track for a great future.