Shout Out: ‘How a DIY Home Improvement Project Almost Destroyed My Marriage’

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Do-it-yourself projects taken on by couples can save money and be wonderful bonding experiences. Then again, such projects can also wind up costing more than hiring a pro and causing humungous arguments, especially when the Ys in DIY don’t see eye to eye or don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

Redbook columnist Aaron Traister discusses how he and his wife have bickered and battled it out through home improvement projects big and small, from tiling a bathroom floor to installing ceiling fans to the “simple” act of picking a paint color for a room. After living in an old, TLC-constantly-needed home for five years—and after what seems like decades of squabbling over home improvement projects—Traister and his wife still haven’t figured out how to work together, but they have reached an uneasy accord:

Our solution, arrived at by mutual silent agreement: Go it alone. When it comes to the house, we simply don’t work together anymore. We don’t try to communicate, we don’t try to negotiate, and we don’t ask each other’s opinion. If Karel wants to install a ceiling fan in the living room, she does it. If I want to build bookcases into the wall of the dining room, I do it. We don’t tell the other person before we do it; we just go ahead and get to it. If she needs some help with something heavy, she’ll ask for assistance. If I need someone to hold a flashlight, I’ll give her a shout. That’s the extent of our discussions about our projects. These days, the rule of thumb in our ramshackle house is this: Whatever the other person just did, it was probably better than what was there before.

Sometimes—probably most of the time—DIY home improvement is best undertaken with just one Y, or at least one clear project leader.