We are renovating. And anyone who (re)built a house will know that it entails a whole catalogue of discussions. We are mentally & physically exhausted but this Portuguese project needs to triumph. So does our marriage.
“That fucking door goes out!”
“Ah, so I can’t decide about it with you?”
“I already ordered the new one!”
“You agreed on this two weeks ago.”
“Me?! I don’t think so.”
“And you agreed about the windows as well. The wooden door in the kitchen becomes a window that opens swings open. so does the one in the living room.”
“No, the door in the kitchen becomes a big window. Closed. With black aluminium. I showed you on Instagram the other day.”
“Aluminium? No way there will be used aluminium in this house. There’s no more polluting product than aluminium.”
“Aah, of course. In the end, you are always right. Or it’s too expensive, or it’s not sustainable, or not possible.”
“Goddamn you! If it’s not possible, it’s not possible!”
99 problems and a household
For a moment I thought we could escape these ‘renovation tensions’: “ You’ll do everything that involves techniques and take the constructional decisions. I’ll handle the decoration. That’s the safest.”
Until Davy lowered the ceiling with 10 centimetres and I wanted to cut out the yellow tiles in the kitchen.
The farm we bought was abandoned & robbed for ten years. The space, with all its mouldy barns and useless backrooms, is quite large and the whole project needs a serious makeover. As if that isn’t enough, we have to collaborate with Portuguese craftsmen, who talk a terrible patois and keep a confusing accounting. Plus, we don’t know the market prices, and all the brands & products we need are slightly different than we are used to.
Now, you have to know that Davy and I don’t believe in compromising. A compromise means that the both of us walk away, equally displeased. I believe that in the long run one regrets all that substituting. It also creates expectations that put the other under pressure: “If I let him surf, I can ask him to help me paint the walls.” Or: “If I help her with her plastic garbage, I’ll have sex tonight. Well, guess what; Davy doesn’t like to paint so he doesn’t, and to have sex, he will have to accomplish more than just cruising around.
I also believe that you will alienate from each other and as a consequence to that, you’ll search your hidden desires somewhere else (by divorce or cheating).
This vision came to me by trial & error and most probably it doesn’t work for every couple. But I started this blog to figure it all out for myself so I’ll continue on the subject.
This ‘not giving in’ only works when we are completely honest with yourself, about your fears, uncertainties, secret longings (not simple as well!!)… And also, you have to be able to argue correctly: “Convince me why that swing door needs to be replaced by a huge, rustic, wooden door ( to carry in big baskets of vegetables & material). Why the ceiling needs to be lowered so I can’t hang my Moroccan chandelier (ceiling heating). Why you want to create a wave pool in the garden (euh…). Or in Davy’s case: “ Why does your Indian decoration get priority to my African (less kitsch)? Why do you want so little furniture in the rooms ( visual peace)? Why can’t I have a toilet in the room (Duh!).
And you have to be able to listen of course. If not it just becomes an ordinary fight. These days, so many alternatives are on the market that it is possible to find something that gets both our approval for a hundred percent. When it comes to construction & decoration I mean. When it comes down to sex, the alternatives are little. But with the right argument, he can get me into the bedroom.
Having no expectations on this level creates a kind of freedom between us. We can be ourselves. Which doesn’t mean we occasionally can’t rip each other’s throat because one cannot convince the other of his own rightness. This marriage isn’t a path full of rose petals and angel piss (the horror). It’s life itself.
But if it does work, it’s amazing. A compromise never feels like a victory ( seems to me, a good argument for an artist creating his masterpiece). If one can convince the other, than the one that ‘gives in’ will feel euphoric as well because he learned something or is able to see things from a fresh perspective. Confirming this euphoria with a scanty wink is empowering for a couple.
And this Portuguese house is something we are proud of. After countless choices, sacrifices, risks and two years of discussing we finally have a home that is hundred percent ours: from the floor to the ceiling and from the technical space to the decoration.
And you can say the same about our relationship. This running process enabled us to push each other forward, to move abroad, to buy this cooky construction site that everybody discouraged us, and it means that we can get through each other as well as discover. Even though I suspect that- now that we are almost forty, age brings a certain amenity that makes ‘life itself’ quite amicable. Taking things less serious, you know. But staying silent for the sake of being at ease? Not in our house.