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How Painting My Apartment Improved My Marriage

Stephanie and I are getting ready to have our place painted. She is very excited about the idea. Excitement was not my first reaction.

When she first mentioned that she wanted to have our apartment painted, I remember having two thoughts. First, what a pain it will be to get the place painted and second it will probably be expensive. Overall I was feeling like the apartment looked fine. I said something along the lines of, “I am not sure how much longer we will be in this apartment." She said something like, “the place needs to be painted."

A little time passed and it came up again and this time she shared how unhappy it made her feel living in an apartment that needs a paint job. I said, "find out how much it will be to paint the place." Neither of us was really was sure if it was going to be hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars. However, it seems like everything in Brooklyn these days is expensive.

More time passes and she asks me how many square feet is our apartment. Later that day she asks me the dimensions of each room in order to get a quote from different painters. I am not sure why, but these questions give me the sense that the quote was going to be in the thousands and not in the hundreds. When I told Stephanie my impression she became upset because she felt I had encouraged her to get some quotes and now I was complaining before we knew the outcome. She was right, my tone of voice and the emotion behind it was one of complaining. Behind that question was the thought that painting the apartment was going to be expensive and not worth it. So I said, "you are right, find out how much money it is going to be." I also shared my wish that my mother was still living in NYC because she was plugged into the Latino immigrant community and able to get quality work done at reasonable prices. So we tried brainstorming to see if there was anybody we knew who could help, but unfortunately we came up with no ideas. At this point my wife started sharing different color pallets we can paint the place.

We get some quotes back - the cost is in the thousands and not hundreds. You gotta love living in gentrified Brooklyn. My reaction is that it is not worth spending that amount of money for an apartment we are renting and not planning to stay for the long term. Moreover, we would have to repaint the place white when we move out. My wife is heartbroken about it.

I am walking on our block and I see a Latino man painting a fence. I ask him if he paints apartments. He says "yes" and later that afternoon he comes by our apartment and gives us a quote in the thousands of dollars. My wife is despondent about it. We are living in an apartment she does not like. I am thinking what can I do?

I reach out to my landlord and ask him if he is willing to paint the place. He says they painted the place before we moved in and were not planning on repainting the place at this point. However, he is apparently more plugged into the Latino immigrant community than we are and gives us a referral to a man that would give us a good price.

Marco comes over and looks the place over. After some discussion my wife decides she can live with having three rooms painted and keeping the color white so we do not need to repaint the apartment when we leave. Marco is pensive when we ask him for a quote. He stares out the window for 5 minutes. Then he stares out the window for another 5 minutes. My wife asks, "do you want to think about it and get back to us?"

A couple of days pass, no word from Marco. We wonder if he is ever going to get back to us. I suggest to Stephanie that she contact him because Marco seems like a pensive guy and perhaps he is still thinking about it. So she reaches out to him and we have our quote - the price is well under $1000!

So what does painting an apartment have to do with building a happy relationship? Well it turns out that one of the strongest predictors of divorce is not being open to your spouse's influence. It could be about painting the apartment or about anything. If Stephanie and I were not open to each other's influence in this process and if that became a pattern in our relationship this would lead to relationship dissatisfaction. Research conducted by Dr. John Gottman found that if this pattern develops in relationships and couples fail to find solutions that meet both their needs there is an 81% chance of serious damage and destabilization of the relationship. It is for this reason we dedicate an entire module during our workshop on how to accept influence from your partner.

However, the story does not end there. Stephanie also decided that the bathroom needed to be re-grouted and re-caulked. I thought to myself, “Oh, Jesus, not again.” What I said aloud was, "what do you have in mind?" She said she was going to do it herself. I asked, "have you ever done this type of work?" She said, "I can watch some YouTube videos." I was not feeling very confident about the whole idea. I said, "maybe you should wait until your father visits and do it with him since unfortunately I have no idea how to do it myself." She says, "no worries, I can do it." As it turns out I was going to be away for the weekend. So she says, "I will have it done before you come back." So how did it turn out? Stay tuned for Stephanie’s experience on re-caulking and re-grouting the bathroom!


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