Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The State of the Marriage

Even though this blog has been by “David & Virginia”, it’s really been all David.  I (Virginia) thought I would jump in here, take us a step away from all the technical stuff, and warm up this blog with some stories about the effect of this process on our marriage!

When I was in college, my best friend’s parents were building a house, and I remember them saying that it was hands-down the biggest stressor on their marriage they had ever experienced.  I was bracing myself for this storm.  It has been intense, but I think parenting infants was harder.  At least we are able to get good sleep through this process, and sleep goes a long way toward helping one gain perspective.

The challenge lies in the dizzying number of decisions we are having to make every week.  Fortunately, David and I have similar taste; it could be way worse.  Still, for most of these items (paint color, doorknobs, baseboard, soffit, lighting fixtures, wall plates, kitchen appliances, faucets, sinks…) there are infinite possibilities.  What tends to happen is that we zero in pretty quickly on two or three things (any of which would be just fine), but then we do this marital dance where we each dig in our heels and vehemently argue the merits of one choice over the other.  Deep down, we both know that either shade of tan, for example, would be FINE.  It’s as if this heated debate is a necessary mental step in the process of weighing things out and arriving at a comfortable and carefully-considered decision.  It’s just thinking out loud, really.  But the dynamic is such that we are perpetually on opposite sides of this virtual fence, pitted against each other, and this type of interaction dominates our marriage these days because the questions are flying at us fast and furious.  So, that gets old.  And the dance itself is taxing!

The other day, when we were trying to decide if the masonry heater bench should be squared off or angled at the sides, I ran out of steam and said, “Whatever.  You decide.  I can’t do this anymore.”  David called me at work the next morning and said, “You’re going to laugh at me.  I’ve decided your way IS better.”

So, we carry on, trying to keep perspective, trying to laugh at ourselves, hungering for this all to be behind us so we can do a different kind of dance for a change, but all the while feeling very very lucky that we can do this at all.  We WILL emerge from this tunnel with a house that is beautifully tailored to our lifestyle and personal tastes.  Our marriage is solid.  We still love each other.  Madly.  Mostly, this process has been a joy (thanks, largely, to picking the right builder).

Let me close by posing a question to You.  Our latest point of contention is whether or not the kids should have lockable bedroom doors.  Since this particular decision speaks to deeper issues of parenting, privacy, and family life, we are giving it a little extra thought.  I would love it if you all would weigh in!  Did you have a lock on your door growing up?  What would YOU do?


Judy said...

Lovely thoughts, Virginia. Thanks for opening this window into your relationship. As far as all the little decisions (and I suggest this having never been through such a taxing process myself), how about narrowing it down to 2 or 3 choices and then drawing straws or flipping a coin? You could decide ahead of time whether that little game of chance would be the definitive decision or would just move you closer to it.

As for the locks on the kids' door, I'd say definitely not. Not only is it a safety issue (what if you hear horrible noises coming from inside?), but it flies in the face of trust-building within a family. As your kids get older (or even now, for that matter), you can talk about privacy and how it will be honored in your family (do you and David have a lock on your door?), and how you will all trust each other to respect one another's privacy. This will test YOU when you are tempted to read their journals later.

When my kids were teens, I left their bedroom care up to them, with the result that their rooms were a total mess all the time. If it bothered me too much, I closed their doors so I didn't have to look at it. My brother took a different tack, insisting that his kids were living in HIS house and would have to maintain HIS standards of cleanliness. (BTW, both of my kids are very clean and tidy now, moreso than I am!) I'm not sure what that has to do with locks, but it does point to a certain level of ownership (or not) of one's own space.

And FWIW, my parents would have never condoned a lock on my bedroom door. Back then it would have been unheard of. So I just figured out good hiding places for my secret stuff...

Kevin said...

Hm. Good question! We will face this choice eventually too. I think I would do doors without locks, but allow the kids to have a "virtual lock" through some kind of signal that says "do not enter without permission".

I want to respect their privacy, but I worry about the safety of locks for kids & teenagers.

Virginia's Mom said...

Virginia, as you know, your Dad and I went through the same process of designing and helping to build our house. Some parts of our dynamic was similar to what you and David are going through, but we had different issues. Ken did the drawings based on our ideas and we decided that our builder was so creative and experienced that we'd bypass hiring an architect.
Your dad would get frustrated when I didn't get more engaged with issues such as whether the support was better if a certain beam was over or under another. On the good side for me was that he didn't care much about decorative details and so we didn't get into wrangles about them. I'd make choices and he'd go along. Except he worried much more than me about the cost of things, so we sometimes settled on purchasing less expensive things than I would have chosen by myself.

In general, the constant decision making and helping with some of the construction and staining left us tired a lot of the time and that made us both crabby. But, in the end, we shared an incredible adventure that made our relationship stronger. In the past 30 years I have felt joy almost every day by living in a house that we both love.

Anonymous said...

I have great faith in the solidity of your love and respect for each other. If Dad & I made it this far with our marriage you two are a sure thing,rock solid,100% guaranteed ( plus an extra 10% )to come out of this with flying colors. As to locks on the doors " NO WAY " and I am thinking of safety as well as a couple of other issues ( Ha Ha ). A lock on your door is okay... Hee Hee.. Love Barb

Anonymous said...

Hey Virginia, Sarah Raley Bentz here.. I loved your blog piece!! I have been reading here and there, but David loses me sometimes. My inclinations just aren't that technical. Loved hearing the softer side of home building.

We're in the same process, with just a screened in porch addition, and had to make a model out of balsa to see dimensions etc.. Eric's ethereal and 2D plans weren't helping me. Fun little project and has helped significantly.

On the locks...hmmm we have locks on the kids doors, but they open with a paperclip. Solves the safety issue and gives a less virtual clue for those not looking for one... like little sisters and big brothers. I really worry more about the ability for the two of them to respect each other than for us.

Anonymous said...

PS from Sarah:
In their defense, the kids are actually very good and aren't even aware of the potential at this point to lock their door. I only foresee them being used as they get older... and more modest.

Ken Smith said...

Doors yes, locks no. Our daughter (Jennifer) and her husband have a house of their own now and we have a key to it....so we must have done something right :-)
Even now with our son Chris (17), there is a lock on his bedroom door but he does not use it. He tried to lock his door one time years ago but I told him if he locked it again he would come home to a room with no door. He never locked it again and we don't enter without knocking. Worked for us :-)
Great blog....and looking forward to the
rest of the story.

jan said...

I was thinking about the locks.....at first I thought no, they aren't needed. Just knock first. Its the teenagers that would want a lock, right? And, I bet most adults lock the bathroom door, so privacy is an issue. Over the years there will be other people that could accidentally barge into a room without thinking. But, I'll ask my teenagers to weigh in on it...

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