House Hunting Your Way to Divorce

I was recently watching an episode of House Hunters. It’s not one of my must-watch programs, but sometimes, there really is nothing else on television that I feel like getting in to. And other times, I just want to be as far away from anything that comes close to making me mad (the news) or making me think (most movies) or getting involved in a series where I either don’t know, or don’t care enough about the characters to give an hour or more of my time. So HGTV is my fall back, and that evening’s time slot was House Hunters International, to be more exact.

I think you can tell a lot about many people on these type of shows by what they say when they have their one-on-one private camera time. It’s as if they forget that while they may be alone in the room with the producer and the camera person, what they say will be aired and viewed by the person they’re talking about, and hundreds of thousands or more other viewers. So as I was watching this particular night’s show, it took me less than five minutes to think, they’re house hunting their way to divorce.

Why would I say that, as a passive viewer on the other side of a TV set?

Because what a person says, or fails to say, actually speaks volumes in a relationship. According to a recent study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, other than infidelity, communication problems were the number one reason for divorce in America.

It’s not surprising that many of the couples who go house hunting — with or without a camera crew following them — often times have different ideas of what they’re wanting to buy. Is it a cottage with an English garden out back; or a three-story townhome with a postage-size yard? Do you want to live in the city, close to restaurants and clubs, or in the suburbs near shopping malls and the school system of choice? People ponder many things when making a decision to spend, or rather invest, thousands of dollars into their first home, last home, or even vacation homes.

Will it be a Colonial or a Victorian? Move-in Ready or a Fixer Upper? On the ocean or in the mountains? A single-family home or a condo?

But unless you’re single, purchasing your own home, at the end of the day, you have to compromise — for a spouse; for children; for in-laws who may be moving with you.

Then there are the finances!

Money is right up there with communication issues in factors leading to divorce. How to make money? Who makes the money? How you’re going to spend the money? Are you in agreement with how to save that money? Perhaps that’s one of there reasons most good pre-marital counseling sessions include discussions about finances and how each person views it. Some people even go through financial counseling before getting married.

It was obvious to me in this evening’s episode that the husband believed in having a budget, and the wife believed in getting what she wanted. It wasn’t just my observations, but it was what she actually said during her on-camera part. 

The husband didn’t want to go over $1,800/month; the wife said money wasn’t an issue. The husband said he wanted to be close to his job. The stay-at-a-home wife insisted they move to what amounted to being a 30 minute one-way drive for him. The couple only had two small kids, so the husband thought a three bedroom house was plenty. The wife insisted on a five bedroom house, citing needing room for all her clothes.

Did I mention that she was a shopaholic?

In spite of them being in the hunt for a house. In spite of them needing to watch their money, according to the husband. In spite of the fact that her closets were already filled with more clothes than most women could wear in a year; even if they changed outfits at least once per day. She bought more. And it was obvious that this spending habit bothered him. But he said nothing that wasn’t couched in a joke; at least not to the camera. But his face told a different story.

The biggest thing that stuck out to me was that the husband wanted to please his wife; admitting that “she usually gets her way.”  And the wife didn’t really care anything about the things that the husband wanted, saying “I don’t believe in compromise.”  She went on to say that she wants what she wants, but was in agreement with him on at least one thing — that she always gets her way!

I’m not sure why people think that’s a good thing; to brag about always getting your way. In families. In the workforce. In life, there are always compromises.

Money is no different.

At the end of the episode, they’d rented a 5-bedroom house, flipping one of them to her wardrobe closet. The house was a half-hour drive from his job, and it was hundreds of dollars over their planned monthly budget. And she was shopping again!

I shook my head as I watched the outcome. It wasn’t just that she got everything she wanted. But it was because to me, her actions displayed how much she didn’t care about what he wanted. She didn’t seem to show any regard for the true meaning of a healthy relationship, and certainly didn’t seem to care that she was stretching them financially with her shopping habits and insistence upon living in a place that was above their means. Whether those means were put in place because he wanted to save money, or because that truly was all they could comfortably afford, doesn’t really matter. If you set a budget that to most people seems to be a reasonable budget, then why would you knowingly go above that — adding to the stress of living abroad, and being married, with children, to begin with.

Loving someone doesn’t mean you have to give in to everything they want. A marriage without compromise is a marriage on the verge of divorce. And one of the things that can  drive people to an early divorce is financial challenges and money disagreements.

At the end of the show, he said, “as long as she is happy.”

I had to wonder if he was just saying that for the camera. Notably, she never shared the same sentiments for him.

 

 

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