Project Don’ts for Couples

Oct 9, 2013 by

couple with paint

When was the last time you and your spouse did a project together? Today I overheard a conversation between a married couple as they were working on a project. It was a little tense. Some words, and worse yet, the tone of their voices did not help the progress of their project or their relationship.

I was reminded of the many times Jim and I have worked together. Some of our attempts were successful and some not so successful. So after 28 years of marriage, three children, 2 youth groups, 1 church plant, and publishing two books together, I think I have some ideas about how NOT to work on projects together.

Here are some Don’ts:

Don’t spring the project on your spouse at the last minute.

We had been married for 8 months. Christmas had just passed and when I took down the Christmas cards from the wall, little oily marks were left where the hanging putty had been. Now we had the typical poor student, small apartment. The living room was about the size of a small bedroom, and it was painted light blue. I knew we were only living here for 5 more months but couldn’t stand the idea of looking at that polka dot wall any longer. So one Saturday morning, we woke up, and I asked Jim what he thought about painting the living room — not just the walls, but the six-inch-wide floor boards and crown molding.

On that day Jim learned a very important part of my makeup. When I ask him what he thinks about something, I don’t mean I’m ready to think about it or discuss the options. I’ve already been thinking through the details and the pros and cons for 2 weeks. I am now ready to act. Right now!

Even though Jim hates to paint, he was a sweet new husband and agreed to the adventure.

After the exhausting trip to the store to buy all the supplies (Remember, we were newlyweds. We had no supplies.), we set to work.

Twelve hours later we couldn’t stand the sight of each other. My husband came to the realization that he despises painting a room. And I realized I become very cranky when a project never seems to end. It was not a pretty sight. If only I had not sprung the project on him like I did, I think it would have gone much smoother. We could have broken up the job into manageable pieces and maintained much better attitudes.

By the way, the room looked beautiful, and I have learned to give Jim a heads up much earlier in my thought process.

man-and-woman-working-togetherDon’t assume the helper knows the instigator’s expectations.

When we started blogging, we determined that we would both write the blogs, but that I would edit them, post them, and manage the social media. It wasn’t long before I became extremely frustrated because I had to spend so much time editing Jim’s blogs before I could post them. I had done most of the reading on the do’s and don’ts of blog writing, but had failed to communicate the format and plan for the blogs to Jim. It wasn’t his fault. I needed to be clearer on my expectations.

Now that I have communicated my expectations, the process is much smoother. Too often we assume our spouse can read our mind. It just is never going to happen. Use your words and let your expectations be known; be willing to compromise in some areas; respect the other’s wishes and give in on some points.

Don’t show disrespect.

A good rule of thumb when working together on a project is to treat each other as colleagues rather than spouses. Too often we will be more blunt or even disrespectful of our spouse when we are hashing over a project. Our words become sharp, and we don’t take as much care to not hurt their feelings as we would do at work. Familiarity seems to breed an attitude of “I have a right to talk to you this way.” But that’s not true. Both the husband and the wife must maintain respectful attitudes, words, and actions when working together. If you don’t, not only will the project suffer, but feelings will be hurt and trust will be broken down.

No project is worth destroying your relationship – be it painting a room or writing a book together. Doing a project with your spouse can be a blast. Just keep the relationship first and foremost with the project always in second place.

~ Jerolyn


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