Managing Your Husband

After 25 years of watching the dynamics of husbands and wives during the remodeling process, there are a few tips that I can offer to wives who think their husbands aren’t going to be very involved.

I often have women who announce to me early in the process that THEY are the one who will be making all the decisions, and I often have men tell me at the initial consultation that their wives will be pretty much running the show.

I think this due to a variety of reasons:

  1. The husbands are completely insecure about their own aesthetic judgements, and don’t want to muck up the result. They are timid because they’ve never done it before, and guys just don’t enjoy displaying ignorance.
  2. They can’t imagine themselves going tile shopping when there’s a game on.
  3. They are quite busy with their career, and don’t feel they have much time or energy to contribute. (Although many wives, frankly, put them to shame with their own schedules.)

But wives, even if your husband tells you point blank that he wants you to “make all the decisions”, take this statement with a huge grain of salt. His “non-existent” opinions, if you don’t get them early on in the process, will surface later when it’s either too late or very costly to change things. I’ve been around when husbands suddenly realized that they didn’t really like green all that much, or vehemently hated a particular tile after it was installed, or thought the kitchen ended up too “frou-frou”. And I’ve had wives find to their astonishment that their husbands suddenly had become intrigued with the variety of cabinet pulls available, or take an inordinate interest in tile patterns and crown molding details. Sometimes husbands get obsessed with the audiovisual wiring and equipment, and manage to block out everything else.

However, even if your husband expresses complete disinterest, if you don’t keep him involved in at least a peripheral way, the result will become “your” remodeling, rather than “our” remodeling. If there is a problem or an unhappy result, you will never hear the end of it. So, here’s how to make sure your husband is smiling at the end.

  1. Ask his opinion along the way, even if he expresses annoyance at being asked. You can show him a couple of possible tile choices, for example, or show him some options for hardware. At least you asked. You may be VERY surprised to learn how opinionated he is about some things.
  2. Keep him informed as to what’s going on with the contractor and the job progress. Don’t try to hide problems from him.
  3. Make sure that HE gets something — just for himself — out of the project. You’re getting a new kitchen, maybe he can get a home work alcove, or a garage organizer, or an entertainment center.
  4. See if you can find something that he can proudly point to and say, “I chose that!”, even if it’s just dividers for his sock drawer.

Remodeling one’s home is probably one of the most primal activities imaginable. Men sometimes don’t like to admit that they have an emotional investment in the outcome, but I think it’s always there, even if in the distant background. Remodeling can be an opportunity to create something that reflects that you are making a home as a couple.

3 Replies to “Managing Your Husband”

  1. Very sage advice, Richard, delivered with humor mixed with reality! I can see how you’d be an asset to anyone’s remodel, as you not only understand the design aspects, but the psychological ones as well.

  2. So true. I learned early on, that even for towels (towels!!), I’d better provide my husband with several choices, so he had a say in what our home looked like.

    I bet you have seen it all.

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