Keeping Up With the Joneses

Q: For the past four months, my wife and I have been house hunting. We started back in April looking at houses that were comfortably in our budget. Around this same time, my wife's friends also began buying their homes. The houses my wife's friends were purchasing were much higher priced and in "fancier" neighborhoods. As a result, I noticed that our own house hunting seemed to switch gears and we too are now looking at more expensive homes. We could afford it, I suppose, but it would put unnecessary strain on our finances, especially considering we originally wanted a modest home—one that we could afford and would not cause us unnecessary stress. I don't want to upset my wife, but is there a nice way for me to tell her to stop trying to "Keep up with the Joneses"? Ted- 38

Dr. Pamela: This issue isn't about keeping up with the Joneses it's about keeping up the communication with your wife. Home buying is a stressful process, but when the two of you are on separate pages, it can be agonizing. Your belief that your wife is trying to "Keep up with the Joneses" tells me the seeds of resentment are planted and ready to sprout. It's time to sit down together with open minds and non-judgmental hearts to revisit your goals and financial situation. Your best shot at a compromise is to find out what you and your spouse have in common. First, each of you should list separately those things that the new house must have. Then you each trim your list down to your top 10 must-haves and the top ten wish-to-haves. Compare the lists to identify features that are important to both of you. These agreed-upon features will serve as the beginning for a genuine discussion about buying a home. Conducting the search from this common ground will make it easier to find a compromise later down the road. Remember that finding a home isn't worth straining your marriage. Compromise means finding something that meets both of your needs. So if you and your spouse can't agree, take a breather. Make a pact that you will not discuss locations, square footage, price, and so on for at least a couple of weeks. Then come back to the discussion with a fresh perspective and outlook. Rule one is: If the hunt is straining your relationship, take break.

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