My advice (I'm sure he has his own too):
- Set Expectations Ahead of Time: Be VERY clear of expectations up front on both costs and division of labor. For instance, if your SO is paying off loans and can't afford to help put in new floors and you knew that before you bought the place, don't make them feel guilty about it. Or, if you knew your SO was training for a big race, don't make them feel guilty that they went to run it on the day you scheduled for demo day. Make sure you are upfront about your expectations and how you can help. If you both move forward with this, you can't give the other person a hard time about something they were very open with ahead of time like finances.
- Give Yourself a Break: Take breaks, go on vacation and long weekends, you deserve breaks as this can take over your life. Have a cocktail, lay by a pool, and breathe. Oh, and TRY not to talk about the house. Also, if there are holidays, take a break from stripping the door and spend the afternoon with family. The door will be there next weekend, promise.
- Not Married or Engaged? Come up with an agreement so both people feel they are part of something. There is a reason people don't spend time and money renovating a rental so don't make your SO feel like a renter. You both want to feel it's your home, not his or her home only. Treat each other like equal partners, not roommates. Maybe rent becomes a % of the ownership of house or something like that. You decide but both should feel comfortable and respected or a lot of resentment can build.
- Give a Little or A Lot: Don't need it your way every single time. Your SO probably has okay taste and you know what, you can always update in a year or two. If you are on really different ends, compromise. There are so many choice out there, you will find something you both like.
- Words of Affirmation: When a project took your SO a long time to complete and he shows you, simply say, "It looks great!!!" even if its a little crooked or you would have done it different. Don't offer advice unless they ask and don't offer too much. Let them enjoy their hard work! What you may think is "constructive criticism" can sometimes just be heard as, "It isn't good enough."
- Accept Mistakes: It doesn't need to be perfect the first time. Okay, yes the bones do need to be solid but if the light you ordered is not perfect but pretty good, go with it, you can always replace it later.
- Appreciate Differences and Unique Skill sets: Appreciate what your partner brings to the table. You might be better at knocking down walls and she might be better at tiling or dealing with contractors but don't compare what you did with what she did. As long as you are both bringing something to the table, appreciate it. Does everyone on the football team play QB? No. Would the team be any good if they were all only good at being QB? No. Everyone is good at something and together you can make it great! If you feel you are doing all the work or your projects are always way harder, instead of nagging or always telling them how much harder you work, re-negotiate and tell them why you need more help and GIVE EXAMPLES of what that is but still remember, she might not be very good at demo no matter how much you tell her. Give each other projects you know they can feel good about, don't set them up for failure or tell them how they are doing it wrong every 5 minutes. You are a team.
- Have other Interests: I don't know how many dinners, drives, holidays and other things we shared where the only thing we talked about was the house. What we had done, what was next to do, how much it would cost... The same things were said over and over and over. It is understandable the house is your focus but make sure you take a break at least for one meal!
- Don't let your life be put on hold: Yes, it takes a ton of money and time to renovate a whole house or just a room. But don't forget life isn't waiting for you. If you want to get married or have a child, work together on a reasonable timeline and maybe the guest room can wait to be finished until next year instead. You are a team so make sure both people feel like their needs and goals are being met or at least respected and heard.
- Hire Help: If and when you can afford it, hire a contractor or a painter or anyone that can help lighten your load. When you are both working full-time, the house can be daunting and doing it all yourself is stressful.
- Keep Disagreements Focused: Don't let a disagreement about whether a light is too big turn into who did more last week or last year. You are BOTH allowed to have opinions, neither person is a bad person for stating theirs. See the above bullets though, know when to let the other have this one. Don't let the disagreement turn into a huge battle where you both feel bad afterwards.
- Pardon Our Appearance: No matter how much you dust and vacuum, most of the time your house will be dusty, un-organized and dirty. Hire a cleaner and do what you can but do not obsess, it will just cause friction. Everyone is doing what they can, it's part of construction. It's stressful for everyone so don't create even more stress by nagging all the time.