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My Married Life: Jack's DIY Diary

For the past week, Holly and I have been going crazy renovating our house upstate. It's been awesome, which reminds me of all the times that it has not been so awesome. Bottom line: It's easy to get snippy with each other when you’re knee-deep in plaster dust with no end in sight. But this week, we've been working really well as a team. I'm sure that more than a few couples plan to tackle a DIY project or two over the holidays -- so here are a few tips I came up with that have helped Holly and me maintain harmony on the job site.

1. Repeat to self (constantly): My marriage is more important than... The house, my pride, any crazy deadlines I might have made up, and whether I prefer an eggshell or satin finish.

2. Relinquish control at least half the time. In each project, one person will be the foreman and one the assistant. That means I'll let Holly be the boss when it comes to furniture placement and (most) decorating. I'll happily stand there holding a heavy painting while she says, "A little to the left, no, back, now a little to the left again." This might sound obvious, but I'm a set dresser -- so I have an opinion or two of my own when it comes to this stuff. I'm not the stereotypical design-clueless dude. It's not that I don't voice my opinion, it's just that I gladly defer to Holly. I do this knowing that there are way fewer glamorous duties coming down the pike that I'll need her help on (drywall, anyone?). On those, she'll be the one taking direction and steadying a board for me so I can make a crucial cut.

3. Be nice. I know this sounds like a rehash of the other tips, but it's really the most basic, crucial tip I can give. A guy I really respect told me to wake up each day and know that the most important thing I can do all day is be nice to my wife. I try to remember this even when Holly starts into a panicky rant about how long a project is taking.

4. If it's something she can have fun with, let it be fun for her. I'm such a planner that I can make any project feel like work. So I try to stifle that side of me that wants to sketch out the entire room on graph paper before we hang a mirror. It doesn't always work, but when I manage to do it, she's really appreciative.

We know lots of other couples DIY together -- Holly and I would love to hear your tips for keeping it squabble-free. Care to share?

-- Jack

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