How NOT to Wreck Your Relationship Over Real Estate
“It’s a lot easier to move into a new place together than for one person to move into another’s space whether marrying before living together or living together with the intention of marrying,” says marriage expert Patty Newbold.
Patty’s blog, Assume Love, is one of the top 10 marriage blogs on the web because she takes a very non-conventional approach to relationships and the things that affect them — like buying or renting a house or apartment. She believes and explains how ensuring that both partners get what they want beats the old “let’s compromise” approach every time.
List Your Expectations Before House Hunting
“List your crazy, can’t-shake-’em expectations before you shop for a house, especially the ones you disagree on. If one of you needs neatness and order to stay calm and the other needs convenience, make sure the first floor has lots of places for easily stashing the stuff shed by the convenience partner,” she says. It’s the little things, not the major lifestyles differences that will slowly drive you crazy or to a divorce or split-up.
“If one of you goes nuts at slamming doors or open drawers, choose a place with (or hold back enough of your budget to add) soft-closing cabinets and doors and self-closing drawers in the kitchen and bathroom. Does tracked-in dirt make your head explode? Choose a place with obvious traffic patterns you can cover with washable throw rugs, not double French doors into the middle of a great room. Need fresh air to sleep? Check for nighttime traffic noise, trains, nearby fire sirens before you make an offer. Does one of you enjoy throwing gatherings for your family or friends a lot more than the other does? Check for an easy to locate address, ease of parking, a kitchen with good party flow, easy to clean floors, a dishwasher, maybe even a great storage place under the stairs for the spare chairs or room for a second refrigerator for drinks, all to minimize the demands on the less social partner. Now’s your best chance to reduce the fights and resentments that erode a marriage,” she says.
The Secret for Finding a Dream Home With Your Partner
The secret to finding a dream home for a dream marriage is shopping for lifestyle, not the number of rooms or square footage. Sure, curb appeal, low maintenance and a house in “move-in” condition are great things to add to your shopping list. “But focus on seeing the house as a space for your hobbies and your dreams, as both are important to your happiness and to the quality of your marriage,” Newbold says.
Don’t Be Shy About Expressing Your Needs
House shopping, and especially house buying, isn’t the time to be shy about what you want. That marriage ceremony thing where the minister says, “Speak now or forever hold your peace,” is really about fully expressing your needs and wants.
“Be upfront about which space you’re envisioning as yours before you buy the place. Is that your sewing room? Her sound studio? Is this where you’ll put the TV or the reading chair? Will there be room to build a canoe in the garage, or will it be filled with lawn furniture or a prize car or motorcycle getting slowly renovated?” Newbold said.
Look Into The Hood, But Don’t Forget The Spice
The house is important, but so is the community around it. After all, it’s where you’re going to be spending the majority of your time when you’re not home!
“Of course if you have kids you’ll be paying attention to school districts and how safe it is to walk and ride a bike in the neighborhood and where the kids will play inside and outside the house. But remember that one of the most important things you can do for your children is to love their other parent at least as much as they do. So look at each house with an eye toward keeping your love and your sex life alive. Be a married couple first and parents second, and you’ll be better parents.”
Love It, Hate It, Meh…
None of us always love, or even like or understand what our partners cherish. People are different. It’s what makes life interesting — until it gets on your nerves so much you want to scream. The fact is, you’re going to love something your partner hates and vice versa. So talk about your different likes and dislikes as you shop, not after you’re locked into a 30-year mortgage. Newbold teaches her clients about a concept called “Third Alternatives,” a practice she says can save a marriage. For example, if one of you instantly dislikes a place because the laundry is in the basement, which feels creepy to you, don’t let your partner talk you out of your feelings by arguing that “the basement is just fine.” It’s not. It taints the way the whole place feels.
“Instead of arguing about who’s right, or about how something feels, ask instead what would make it feel more like a good place for the laundry,” Newbold said. “In our case, the rest of the house was close to perfect, but there was no other place in it for a laundry room. So we split the basement and built a hallway, with beautiful oak floors and painted walls adorned with artwork, and a laundry room even bigger than he was used to seeing off a kitchen or among the bedrooms where he grew up.” Focusing on a solution, and an alternative ensures both partners get what they need to feel comfortable in a house.
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