Home projects: the marriage test

This week my husband is on “vacation” from work.  I put “vacation” in quotations, because he is definitely not relaxing.  We started Saturday with working on various home projects that have been needing done for a while, and we haven’t stopped.  We paused to go to church Sunday morning and an extended family dinner Monday evening, but that’s it.  We thought a couple of years ago that we were moving, but God had other plans.  However, we ended up with packed boxes in our garage, spare bedroom and a few in my office.  We are sorting all of those things and more this week.

We are working at least 12 hours a day with few breaks in between.  We are also keeping up with a toddler for the most part.  She’s had two trips to spend time with grandparents, but she’s been here quite a bit.  Needless to say, we’re both exhausted and a bit achy.  The first couple of days, we were also hot as we worked in the garage.

These aren’t the best of conditions or situations.  Nobody feels at their best.  I’ve told my husband a few times this week that this is the stuff that tests marriages.  Sure, everyone thinks of major life challenges as being marriage tests (and they are, too), but home improvement projects need to make the list, too.  In the past, we’ve had a few clashes doing projects such as these.  However, I feel like we’ve figured out how to best make it work 12 years in (our anniversary is Sunday!).

First, there needs to be a chief.  I know.  Everyone wants control.  But, things really do go smoother if one person is in charge and has the vision.  My husband is that person.  Here’s the thing.  I know myself.  I know that looking at these projects I get overwhelmed and start shutting down.  I also have trouble visualizing how a room can be set up or figuring out how to best organize things physically.  My husband excels in all of those areas.  After fighting him the first couple of times we did this, I learned to just let go and let him tell me what to do.  It works out.

I can hear the women’s liberation screeching this is wrong, but it’s not.  It works.  He’s not bossy, arrogant and mean.  He’s not lording over me like a tyrant.  He asks for my feedback.  He listens to what I say.  He tells me what needs to be done to accomplish our communal goal.  And it works very well.

Second, we keep a team mentality.  In everything we do, in every challenge we face, we are Team Shannon.  We even high-five.  We maintain that attitude with home projects.  We don’t keep track of who does what or how hard we’re working compared to the other person.  We each are working hard, and we each are tired.  And we each are working to the same goal.  We’re on the same team at all times.

Third, we have some compassion and empathy for one another.  I know the days are long right now.  He knows they are, too.  I know I’m tired and so is he.  He knows the same.  We remember that in dealing with one another.  We treat each other that way.  I have times I bite my tongue from being grumpy or snippy because I know the problem is that I’m just tired and over working on this.  I’m sure he does the same.  Snipping at one another isn’t going to help achieve or goal or keep us happy with one another.  It’s detrimental.

Finally, we motivate each other.  Fortunately we tend to have a pattern in our relationship where when one person is feeling down and discouraged about something, the other isn’t.  And that switches around, back and forth.  Though I know that I tend to get overwhelmed easily when looking at these big projects, my husband has had some of those moments as well.  So, I encourage him.  He does the same for me.  We remind each other of how nice it will be when we are finished.  We remind each other that we’re working late to get it done so we can have time off later this week and go to Gen Con Indy and celebrate our anniversary.  We use music to keep us moving sometimes.  And we use jokes.  Sometimes we are a bit slap-happy when it’s 9:30 p.m. and we’re building bookcases and organizing movies, but that’s OK.

In the end, we’re organizing our living space to be better.  And we’re strengthening our marriage.  At the end of this project, we’ll have bonded even more somehow.  We’ll be able to look back and see what we did together through teamwork.  We’ll be proud.  I’m proud of my husband already for all that he’s done.  We’ll see each other’s individual strengths, and we’ll see our strengths as a couple.  We’ll have a memory together.  “Remember that time we worked like crazy people, turned our house upside down and totally reorganized?”  “Remember when I thought the stuff falling out of the cabinet was going to kill you, so I shouted ‘Watch out!’ at the top of my lungs and almost gave you a heart attack?”  “Remember when we had so many trash bags we had to figure out a plan B to get rid of them?”  “Remember when our garage was full of boxes waiting for that big rummage sale?”

To the average eye, we are doing home projects this week.  Looking deeper, we are also working on and strengthening our marriage.  Nice!  Now, I’d better stop writing and get going on what needs to be done today!

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