Home Made

House Hunting and the Complications of Compromise

I. Java Goddess and Garage Man

Renée: With our house-hunting completed, I can now list yet another way in which Jim and I are different.
Those comments I made during our early blissful engaged months about our similarities and compatibilities?

Whatever. I feel like tossing them out the window. Whether that particular window is block glass, facing south, or fuel efficient, I do not care.

A domestic goddess I am not—I care more about the neighborhood than the house itself. My primary requirement for any potential house was that it be within walking distance of a coffee shop, preferably locally-owned and non-chain.

Jim: I don’t drink the java, so what do I care about coffee shops? My primary requirement was a two-car garage, which is far more practical since you can store things in it and avoid scraping frost, snow, and ice off your car on cold winter mornings when you’re already late for work. Fortunately, the coffee shop and garage did not prove to be conflicting requirements, which certainly can’t be said of several other features we each envisioned in an ideal home.

II. Back at the ranch

Jim likes ranch houses since he grew up in one. I, on the other hand, associate ranch houses with old people or couples featured on Ozzie and Harriet or Leave it to Beaver . Ranch houses don’t fit with the yuppie twenty-something Pottery Barn image I’m trying to cultivate for myself.

But guess what? We will be living in a ranch house in a matter of months. It’s okay with me since in the neighborhood there are not one but two coffee shops within walking distance, along with a great public library. We narrowly escaped buying a different house without a dishwasher, which Jim seemed to think was no big deal. I absolutely could not fathom living in a house without a dishwasher.

Jim: So Renée is a hater of ranches because she grew up in a two-story. I don’t share her verve for a dishwasher because my parents never had one. She’s indifferent to garages because she’s accustomed to parking on the street.

Looking back now, I understand how closely our opposing priorities were tied to different past experiences. At the time we first discussed the now famous “house without a dishwasher” though, I did not understand at all. It just took me a while to recall the days of SAT or GRE practice tests and arrive at the dishwasher-is-to-Renée as garage-is-to-me analogy.

III. Reality and compromise

Renée: Everyone tells you that
compromise is absolutely critical to marriage, and we know that. Still, there is no substitute for the actual experience of having one line of reasoning crystal clear in my head while that same line of reasoning is not in Jim’s consciousness at all.

In the grand scheme of life concerns, our home-buying tête-à-tête’s were minor, though they seemed like Camp David material at the time. The whole experience taught me that, in making big decisions with Jim, I shouldn’t assume much at all.

A colleague of mine likes to say, “Assume little. Explain lots,” and I think that is a good approach for our future communication.

I’ll have to keep that in mind while Jim grimaces at the smell of my coffee and I sit in bewilderment as he continues to play with the garage door opener.