For for many couples, packing up for a larger pad — a place where they don't have to share a bathroom or bicker over who has more space in their one-and-only closet — is a dream. Having a house adds space and privacy, and acts as an investment that a couple can love while they live in it. But while there are many advantages to buying a home, experts warn the house-hunting process could actually hurt your relationship.
"Buying a home together could be stressful, especially if your core values differ," explains Debbie Mandel, stress management expert and author of Addicted to Stress. You may be a spend-thrift willing to shave square feet while he's willing to drop major moolah for a dedicated movie room. Or perhaps he envisions an expansive but quiet suburban retreat while you crave the hustle-and-bustle of a small home in a big city. "When stress accumulates, irritability sets in, which in turn can lead to angry words, name-calling, and a frigid bedroom," says Mandel.
If you're feeling stressed as you search online listings, Mandel suggests asking yourselves these question long before you talk closing costs: "Are we buying a property to keep up with the Jones, or does it really suit our immediate needs while planning for future growth?" she asks. "Will we be isolated from family, or are we too close to meddling family members? Can we handle the stress of ownership, which could mean miscellaneous repairs?"
Jane Greer, Ph.D, relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, warns the expense of buying a home can also take its toll on couples. "It places an added financial responsibility on the couple that can feel burdensome, and they may need to make financial sacrifices that may lead to disagreement or resentment," she points out.
With enough planning, this "problem" can be surmounted too, Mandel says. "Making a list of debits and credits in black-and-white can help bridge fantasy with reality," explains Mandel. "Couples need to be honest with each other. Sometimes both people pretend to be on board with buying a property, when one is actually playing along while nixing every purchase. This can become corrosive and destabilizing as one is yearning and the other is against it. Being upfront about purchasing a place needs to be the first step."