What it’s really like renovating with your other half

I have never wanted someone to suffer endless and insurmountable amounts of pain until I began renovating flats with my boyfriend.

A lot of people exclaim in moments of rage that they want to “kill”, not so in my case; I want to inflict irreparable damages that he has to live with for 60 years, such is the depth of rage that renovating as a couple ignites. I want him to remember my wrath every time he has to limp somewhere. I suppose the reason I don’t actually want him to die is because, despite it all, a small, ever-shrinking part of me that is being squeezed out by DIY demons, loves him and would like him around for a good while longer but, you know, suffering to some degree.

If you’re considering renovating I urge you to proceed with caution, even if you’re one of those imaginary couples who have never had a fight. Jules and I don’t hate each other, well, we didn’t, but as soon as you wet that first paint brush, line up that first nail or peal back that first piece of wallpaper, something happens that is deadly to any good feelings you once had for each other.

So, let me demonstrate to you how things might go if you too decide to enter into a renovation project with your significant other.

Half hourly you’ll rotate roles as being the unreasonable one, oftentimes this manifests itself as someone claiming they’ve done such-and-such and so-and-so and the recipient of this grossly unfair comparison of efforts will say, sanctimoniously, “it’s not a competition”. It’s not but when you’re the one who ends up cleaning the paintbrushes you can’t help but start listing all the f*cking jobs you’ve done that f*cking day and that, yes, you got all the sh*tty ones. And then the rage builds and let me tell you, decorating makes you particularly creative with your anger.

Invariably one of you will be be so angry with the other that the sound of them breathing makes claws grow from your fingernails that will rip their face off. At this point some of you might be calling the police and screaming there’s a crazed woman living somewhere in that inexplicably named ‘Penge’. Fear not, we made it through one renovation without inflicting any lasting damage, that you can see.

One instance that stands out to me was whilst we were doing some work on our flat when it no longer had a toilet we had an argument that went something like this:

Me: “I really need to pee”.

Him: “Just pee in a bucket.”

Me: “I’m not peeing in a bucket.”

Him,:”I just want to get everything finished, just pee in a f*cking bucket.”

Me: “I’m not peeing in a f*cking bucket. I’m going to sainos to pee.”


I still consider this argument our greatest one to date. I will treasure it always.

*I did not pee in a bucket.

Every time we’re about to start a job we now look at each other with anxious longing, trying to remember the face that we love. We turn, we pick up tools and suddenly there is tension in our shoulders and a low hiss comes rattling out of our clenched teeth. Then, one of the following comments sparks the fuse that is lying in wait:

  • “Where have you put the bl**dy masking tape this time?”
  • “I think you should do it this way…”
  • “You’re not doing it properly.”
  • “Are you checking my work?”
  • “Are you just going to stand there?”
  • “Why isn’t this f*cking drill working?”
  • “Only half of the shed been delivered and we’ve started building it!”
  • “Only half our kitchen has arrived!”
  • “Why can’t our builder fit a dishwasher door?”
  • “I’ve trodden on the dishwasher door again.”
  • “The dishwasher door is in the way!”
  • “We should have used the template on the dishwasher door!”
  • “Dishwasher door.”
  • “You look attractive right now.”
  • “Are you sure you did it properly?”
  • “Why was I the one who was supposed to place the order?”
  • “Did you just tighten the screw I put in?”
  • “Can you pass me the sandpaper?”
  • “Would you mind just giving me a hand?”
  • “Don’t touch me.”
  • “Good morning.”

And so on.

But the thing that really gets me, the thing that makes me want to lace his coffee with laxatives (which I’ve decided is a bad idea as I’m the one who cleans the toilet) is this: when we’re working on our flat I look beyond awful – my hair turns frizzy, my clothes are repulsive, the frown line between my eyebrows turns into a crevice. I am the image of the Thing that lurks in dank corners. But Julian, oh Julian looks handsome still, all mussed up and covered in paint. How the hell am I supposed to live with someone who looks attractive in these situations when I look at my absolute worst? Do you know how tiring it is? I mean, I don’t actually care what I look like but the unfairness of it! The injustice!


Part of the reason things have been so very prickly at home is that everything that could have gone wrong with this renovation did go wrong. To name a few: – our kitchen delivery was a disaster, the kitchen installation was a shambles, the build was ridiculously slow, wrong glass delivered for windows, pieces missing for half built shed, power cuts, having to finish our floor varnish ourselves because the builder didn’t get what we wanted and so on. We are finally seeing the finish line of what seemed to be the renovation that wouldn’t end. Our shed is built but we have some strong words for Waltons. We still have a lot to do but finally being able to see our living room floor and to have most of our cr*p in the shed has loosened one knot in my neck. We’re now just very, very tired. We miss weekends. We miss lie-ins. Because we both have our own ambitions, we miss being able to work on them, to dedicate our time to our goals. And, I think we miss each other too because the people who are living together now are mere shades of who we are.

Like I said, we’ve done this before and we survived. Last night we were monetarily nice to each other — corner turned.

However, take my advice, never renovate with a boyfriend, rent somewhere and have a builder do absolutely everything. Your relationship deserves it.

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