When we tell people that we are building a house together, we often hear the rather dire prediction that many times when couples build homes together they end up divorced. We haven’t, and I hope I have something to share that will prevent others from ending up separated as well, since partners ultimately build with the intention of sharing the space rather than being alone in it.
Most of us have noticed the ways in which we are like our partners and unlike them. All of us see things differently and approach problems in different ways. For all couples, both our similarities and differences bind us and make us successful. Whenever Shawn and I start a build, I try to remember this. To use ourselves as examples, I’ll share that Shawn's building strengths include his being highly technical, very detail oriented and liking things to come out close to perfectly. Being 1/8th of an inch out of square annoys him. He is willing to work very slowly and measure numerous times to achieve precise ends. Measuring is a weak point with me. I am okay with things not being quite perfect and am impatient and like to be busy all the time, which makes me a great cook and gardener but a poor solo carpenter. I love to work very hard and do not mind tedious jobs (e.g. painting, sanding, staining, weeding). So I’d say my primary weakness is an impatience and desire to always be moving ahead that can lead to error (which I why I do not take measurements, am often uncomfortable with cutting things, and have to constantly remind myself to leave Shawn alone to take his measurements). My main strengths are in optimism, endurance, long term vision and willingness to work very hard and lift my half of the lumber. Shawn is rarely impatient with things like measurements, cuts, angle calculations, etc. but finds some parts of the process (like painting) almost unbearable causing him to lose patience and not be cheerful with the work. We balance each other very well in this regard. When it comes to doing the hard work and putting in the hours, we are well matched and that has been a key to our building success as well. We also surprise one another regularly, such as when Shawn will handle a boring painting job without complaint or I catch math/measurement errors and save us mis-cutting a board.
Because we’ve just begun building together again, I’ve been thinking that this really simple example might tell others a lot about how to love the one you’re building with, since you already, presumably, love them for other reasons…Building puts different stressors on the table as things like timing and weather become really important and you begin to spend a lot of time and money on a project. There’s no doubt that stress is a part of the process. But stress can have its empowering moments too, as you achieve goals and learn new things. Prior to starting a build together, regardless of whether you are doing all the work or hiring parts of it out, take time to thoughtfully discuss your strengths and weaknesses and consider where friction might occur and how to resolve that for the better. I have noticed that the last two times we have built, I’ve been very successful in this regard by reminding myself that Shawn works slowly and carefully and that it comes out really well as a result. I remember that I always feel impatient about things like marking and layout, and that helps me to remember that I just have to slow down and relax during that time. There are parts of building that are slow, and parts that are fast. Starting up is often slow as you work to get everything square and plumb and level, framing is often very fast, and then finishing goes slowly as well. I like the slowness of finishing, oddly enough, it’s a time that my patience pays off and I find I do have a strong attention to detail. Realizing where my pet peeves just need to be let go makes the process a lot more pleasurable.
Today, Thursday we finished squaring up our foundation and Monday we are going to begin the process of framing. It seems hard to imagine. I wasn’t always perfectly patient during the beginning stages of this building project, but neither have we had any major difficulties! Now we can begin to be excited about the next stage of the building process, though first we are going to enjoy one last three day weekend for the foreseeable future!
We will update with more pictures now that there will be more exciting things to share in terms of visible progress, we hope that you will join us.