HOME: Why do Men and Women look at Home Improvement Differently?

There is something I have observed over the years of being married and having many married friends-and that is the avid involvement of husbands in making decorating and renovating decisions. It seems I hear the same frustrations from many fellow wives when it comes to home renovating and decorating. I would not say that these observations are with the older generations, but with couples that are in their mid 30's and 40's. Older couples like my parents had more delineated roles and expectations. Women had the household, Men worked. So if women wanted to put up curtains or paint a wall a certain color, she just needed to stay within budget and she did what she felt needed to be done to make her house a home. Husbands just came home and dealt with it, eventually growing to like or live with whatever their wives did. Nowadays, Men are much more involved in their families, from being in the delivery room when their child is born to being at parent/teacher conferences. I think this interest has also permeated into "nesting". Add popular DIY shows for the masses, and they feel it is socially acceptable to add their feedback in paint colors and curtains.

So where is the rub, you ask? My frustration is in the differences in the list of house priorities that men put together v.s women. Men look at very un-cosmetic choices first, women want to paint and decorate. If you have limited funds, often making a home pretty gets put to the wayside to "wait" until you put a new window in or maintain the furnace. Men can live with unfinished rooms and peeling wallpaper. As long as the house is solid and providing it's purpose, they are fine. After doing some reading, it seems the root of the issue is how men and women look at money. This great article on Bankrate.com quickly illustrated for me the differences with how men and women look at money, and with that, decisions on what money goes to what house project.

Some of this is hardwired into the sexes from the beginning of time. According to a Bankrate.com article I came across, women and men historically have been very different with how they view house budgets.

Women, trained to nurture and seek acceptance, view money as a means to create a lifestyle. Women spend on things that enhance day-to-day living. Theirs is a now-money orientation.

Men, trained to fix and provide, view money as a means to capture and accumulate value. Men don't spend, they invest. Men don't want something, they need it. Theirs is a future-money orientation.

My friend Kathleen and I were laughing as we imagined the first caveman coming into his cave with his kill for dinner while his wife is busy putting up curtains to "spruce the place up!" Ruth Hayden, a financial counselor and author
of For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples, put it best; "Women have been taught to invest in lifestyle and children. Men have been taught to invest in things that hold value -- a house, retirement. The way that translates into spending is that women spend more money on the stuff that makes the day work. The problem with that is, most of that stuff has no asset value, no visible value."

But aren't paint, light fixtures and window treatments part of adding some value to a home? Maybe not as much as a working furnace-but a little. And what I say is hell, I could die tomorrow! I want to enjoy my home now! We work hard to have it, I want to feel good and proud while I am in it! Beyond the investment value of renovation decisions, there is also the emotional benefits as well. We all know the emotional part is better handled by women than men. So what are we women to do?

It's a challenge, no doubt. There needs to be lots of talk and compromise on the list of priorities during home renovations season. And even when you get down to decorating decisions, both sides need to work together so that everyone feels good about their decisions moving forward. It won't be easy, and evidently, Ruth Hayden agrees.
"Where people are struggling is they still have the old socialization, but they're living their lives differently. We have two people putting in eight- and 10-hour days, we have much higher standards for partnership and intimacy than our parents did, we have much higher standards for child-raising, for ourselves and our homes. Our standards have changed entirely, our roles have changed, and yet we still have this socialization model that is archaic. What couples are trying to do is to figure out new models. It's wonderful, but it's very hard."

Well, here's to forging new "socialization models!" I am off to discuss next steps in my home office remodeling project with hubby! Wish me luck!

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