Years ago my husband and I lived in an old home, then when we moved we built a brand new home. I remember my old home was warm and comfortable, but my husband complained that all his weekends were spent repairing things that were going wrong. In hindsight I now see that it was very labor intensive for him to maintain the safety of such an old home (84yrs old). He was delighted at the prospect of us building a new home and rejected the idea of buying an already constructed home when we moved.
I on the other hand found the building process very stressful. I didn’t have the confidence that my decisions would be right (what kind of cabinets for the kitchen, what color should the carpet be or should we have a wood floor?) There were so many decisions to make; decisions that we would have to live with for a longtime. I was much more comfortable viewing homes already constructed and deciding to modify to suit my aesthetics. We had two different thoughts and viewpoints on the whole situation but our goal was the same, to have a home where we would both be happy to raise our family.
When I see couples in counseling I recognize the same dilemmas. The couple comes to counseling identifying the common goal, to make the relationship work for both of them and perhaps their family. They however may not have the same view on the work that needs to be done to get to that goal.
Sometimes one partner is set on repairing the relationship. They are the one who state that the relationship use to be great and they want to know what to do to make it great again. They want what they liked in the old situation; they minimize the structural defects, or unappealing aspects of the past relationship. The other partner wants a whole new relationship, they want to rebuild. They feel they have been working too hard to salvage something that is no longer appealing to them. They may be the partner who has strayed outside of the relationship and had an affair, or they may be the one who is suggesting a divorce. Their attendance at counseling may be a last ditch effort to help their partner accept the loss of the relationship and they want the counselor to condemn the building and support them in their cry to abandon it and move on. Or in a more hopeful scenario, they want the counselor to help them rebuild with that same partner, but they definitely want a different structure on the same parcel of land.
Understanding the perspective of the couple as well as the individuals that make up the couple is key to helping them design the relationship that will work for both of them. Whether they choose to rebuild or repair will be determined by the degree of damage found, the investment of time, effort and finances each person is willing to put in, and the ability of the parties involved to actually do the work. If there are issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, or mental/physical limits the partner’s willingness may be hampered by their actual ability. But a competent counselor will help them to identify this.
I recommended that before a couple determine which plan is the best, they speak with an expert who can support their common goal and give them the tools and advice that will help them make the best decision for their particular relationship. After all when you are looking to purchase a home, you are thinking a lifetime (or 30+ years). Shouldn’t you be as committed to your relationship?