"Our Home Renovation Is Wrecking Our Marriage"

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Her Turn, continued

"I was only 16 when I met John at the grocery store where we both had part-time jobs. He was 20, a college sophomore, and I developed a huge crush on him. Not only was he adorably cute -- with sandy blond hair, intense blue eyes, and dimples -- but I also liked his friendliness, sense of humor, and strong work ethic. I kept waiting for him to make a move; finally, I invited him to my homecoming dance and he accepted. John was the perfect boyfriend for a teenage girl: He made me feel special, didn't push me sexually, and was polite, dependable, and honest. We dated for five years and got married after I graduated from college.

"As newlyweds we were busy and happy. I loved being a nurse; John enjoyed his job as a software developer, but we both hoped to move into management. So we enrolled in graduate school part-time. I eventually earned a master's in nursing administration, and John got a higher degree, too. We spent our free time remodeling our house -- a 1,200-square-foot fixer-upper that we restored to mint condition. John did most of the work, though I helped. He thrived on the challenge, and in fact even built the garage.

"I got pregnant after the renovations were done. Although I planned to return to nursing after my maternity leave, I unexpectedly conceived Amanda when Samantha was just 6 months old. Crunching the numbers, we realized it made more sense for me to stay home for a while rather than work and pay for childcare. William came along three years later. That's when we began looking for a bigger house. Unfortunately our plans were postponed when John got laid off that fall. I wasn't able to find a staff nursing job quickly, so I started working part-time. Ten months later, after we'd depleted most of our savings, he landed a new job and we resumed house hunting.

"John worked on the kids' bedrooms for two months before we moved in. We'd barely unpacked when he started tearing up the foyer and living room. John puts in 65-hour workweeks and travels for business, so it's preposterous for him to think he can be Mr. Fix-It. Plus, the cost of materials is so high that we can't get things done as quickly as we'd like. In the meantime, we still need a new kitchen, family room, master suite, and powder room -- an 800-square-foot addition that will cost about $160,000, according to one contractor we consulted. We're both nervous about taking out such a large home-equity loan and we can't agree on how to proceed: John is willing to bring in a contractor to pour the foundation and install the addition's basic frame, but he wants to handle the interior stuff himself, including the plumbing, carpentry, and electrical work, to save money. I'd rather let contractors do the entire job -- even if it means being saddled with a loan. But at this point the best solution is probably to sell the house and buy a newer one, after paying someone to finish what John started on the first floor, since it can't go on the market in its current condition. But John told me, 'If we leave now, I'll consider it a personal defeat and regret it forever.'

"I love my husband, but this renovation is destroying our marriage. Because we both avoid conflict, we can't resolve our differences. The longer this impasse drags on, the more our family life suffers. 'I appreciate how much you want to make this our dream house,' I told him, 'but I don't want a dream house if the cost is living for years in chaos. Our children need a more attentive father, I need a more involved husband, and we need counseling to get our marriage back on track.'"

Continued on page 3:  His Turn


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