How to Negotiate Home Improvement Decisions With Your Partner, According to a Therapist
Learn a few strategies for finding common ground when you can’t agree on decorating and renovation plans.
Q: Since buying our home 2 years ago, my partner and I have wanted to update the kitchen. But every time we start talking about the details of a renovation, an argument ensues. We can’t seem to agree on a style, materials, colors—anything! What can we do to come to a consensus and finally get this reno rolling?
Negotiating design decisions with your partner can certainly seem impossible. In fact, a study conducted by the furniture company Article found that couples engaged in arguments about home renovation and decoration decisions about 72 times a year.
As you probably know, there is no “right” way to decorate your home. Much of it comes down to personal preference, and when those preferences vary significantly between partners, things can get ugly. Often the inability to negotiate differences will result in a lack of action, leaving both parties feeling frustrated. Other times, one person makes all the decisions, and the other is left feeling dissatisfied or resentful that the space doesn’t reflect their taste.
Finding a way to please both of you can be tricky, but there are some strategies that can help. As with any other dispute between couples, good communication is the key.
Schedule a meeting and come prepared.
The first step for tackling design decisions entails stating your case. Carve out time to sit down with your partner for a meeting. This will give you both the opportunity to bring your ideas to the table. It’s also a good time to discuss the budget to ensure you’re on the same page.
Put your designer hat on and come prepared. Don’t simply state your wish list, but bring photos and specific suggestions that will help your significant other visualize what your ideas could look like in your space.
Take time to listen.
One of the keys to a good partnership is active listening. Be open to what your partner has to say, really listening to the reasoning behind their preferences. There may actually be an emotional need behind your significant other’s request that isn’t obvious at first. For instance, maybe your partner prefers a minimalist design because they grew up feeling suffocated in a house with too much clutter. This understanding can build compassion and allow you to prioritize the outcome that will be most important to your future together.
Consider individual strengths.
Don’t disregard individual strengths when negotiating differences. Perhaps one of you has an eye for paint colors and small touches like hardware and lighting, while the other has a knack for planning a layout that works best for your family. Consider divvying up design choices based on these strengths for a result that reflects your assets as a couple.
Avoid quid pro quo.
Design decisions don’t have to be a one-to-one tally. In a particular project, one person might end up having more of their initial ideas reflected, while for the next project, it may be the opposite. Don’t get too caught up in making sure everything is perfectly even, or you will find yourself fighting for things that aren’t really that important to you. Being generous with your partner will benefit the relationship tremendously. And while the point isn’t to expect something in return, they’ll often be more willing to give the next time around.
Divvy up rooms.
If you find yourself getting caught up in too many small decisions for each space in your home, consider dividing up decorating decisions by room. One person gets to design the kitchen, while the other comes up with a plan for the living space. Decide which rooms are most important to each of you, and then split them up with that in mind. It’s still important to listen to your partner’s preferences and consider your home’s overall design aesthetic, but you get to call the final shots for that space.
Related: How to Decorate a Living Room
Institute veto power.
If you’re worried that you’ll resent your partner every time you walk past the giant leather recliner in the middle of your living room, you might want to consider instituting veto power. Each person gets one or two vetoes per room that they can use when vehemently opposed to a design decision. And remember, you haven’t lost if your veto is left on the table. In fact, that’s a win for both of you.
Bring in a designer.
If you’ve tried all of the above and are still at a stalemate, it may be time to bring in outside help. Consider enlisting a designer who will listen to your preferences to create a space that reflects both of your tastes.
Sometimes, when two people attempt to combine ideas, they are left with a final result that doesn’t express a clear design aesthetic. Professionals are trained to consider conflicting concepts and meld them together for one cohesive look.