How to Deal with your Partner’s (Ridiculous) Design Ideas

couple in front of a fireplaceOne of my favorite couples had differing ideas for the fireplace in their new home. With her childhood memories of the family gathering around the hearth during the holidays, wood burning was her first choice: the crackling wood filled the air with an earthy fragrance that just can’t be beat. He, on the other hand, had memories of cutting down trees and splitting wood, backaches lasting for days, and the chore of cleaning the fireplace. Needless to say, he was dreaming of a gas fireplace—beauty and warmth at the flip of a switch.

Each person’s sensibilities, styles, needs, and wants are unique. No matter how similar a couple’s individual ideas are, previously unidentified differences are bound to surface. This is where communication and compromise become vital. Vying for the victory of one’s own perspective can bring the design process to a gridlock or end in a painful lose-lose scenario. Effectively voicing concerns and listening can turn this situation around; often the resolution is simple and finding it is relationship-strengthening.

In the instance of the fireplace couple, he revealed that he was worried about being able to maintain a wood-burning fireplace as they aged, since the plan was to retire in this home. She understood this, having experienced a back injury before, and agreed that the gas fireplace would better fit the lifestyle they envisioned for themselves.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re in a design disagreement:

Take some time to cool off.

Sometimes when we’re passionate about a point, heated discussion can draw us further into our own corner and escalate the disagreement. Revisit the issues when your blood pressure has returned to normal. If a design disagreement comes up in the presence of your designer or architect, don’t feel pressured to come to a consensus immediately. Make decisions when you have the privacy to talk about everything that may concern you.

Remember what’s truly important.

Arguments frequently occur over trivial matters when people feel like no one is listening. Listening is a two way street; if you want to be heard, listen to your partner. Keep strengthening your relationship at the top of your design priorities and you’ll have no problem working out differences.

List out each option’s pros and cons in writing.

Grab some sticky notes. Write one point on each sticky note. But don’t pen your own ideas; transcribe your partner’s thoughts. While one of you dictates, the other should write. There is something very tangible about seeing your partner write down your points; you’ll both feel recognized and maybe even understand an issue you’d been missing before. Sticky notes are small and limit the point to a few words (rather than a rant). After listing, you can move them around and prioritize them.

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