Guilt and loneliness in home building process

last month
last modified: last month

I know this isn’t a typical topic of discussion here and is much more personal than most discussions. I’m only posting in hopes that someone here has walked through something similar and had some input.

Simply put, most of the people in my life that I care deeply for are what most people would consider poor. I grew up having very little but wanting for nothing. My husband and I are now at a point now that we can afford to build a much larger home that we ever dreamed possible on a much larger piece of property than we ever dreamed possible. We feel grateful and extraordinarily blessed. Our family and friends are genuinely happy for us. We have good relationships with this group of people. But I can’t help but feel some sort of....resentment maybe? since we began this process. I don’t even know the word to describe it.

And so, during the planning and design process of our house, I have felt overwhelming guilt and loneliness regarding the process. I want to share my ideas, my dilemmas, my decision making with the people whose opinions I value most. But I have struggled strike a balance between being giddy about this opportunity and not wanting to rub our circumstances in their faces. So I seek advice and input on Internet forums lol...

I don’t want to come off as out of touch or a “snob” to anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because I want to talk about flooring or faucets. I would love to go tile shopping with a girlfriend. I would love help picking out light fixtures. But the impression I get is disinterest/underlying resentment. Like...”must be nice to be able to go pick out blank”. And I’m not what most would consider wealthy and don’t have the budget for something like an interior designer. Ugh! lt’s such a delicate process and I’m not even sure I accurately described it here.

Comments (37)

  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes

    Kudos to you for being sensitive about the potential issue. I don't have any advice to offer except encouragement that your sensitivity is evidence enough that you'll handle it with the required amount of humility and grace.

    Best wishes for a successful project.

  • vinmarks

    You shouldn't feel guilty for working hard to get where your are. I would hope that loved ones and good friends would be happy for you.

    My brother and SIL are currently building a house. They have a lot more money then we do so can afford to put more expensive items in their house then we could afford to put in ours. I don't feel resentment towards them for it. They worked hard to get where they are. They made sacrifices to have the money they do.

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  • Kate E

    I can relate to how you are feeling to a certain degree. Not the background necessarily, but the desire to share with friends, ask for input, and have fun with it. During our build I was excited to share decision making and photos, etc. with my extended family (my parents, sister, etc.) and while they were happy for us, I didn't get the companionship (not sure that's the right word here) that I was looking for. Of course my husband and I obsessed over everything together! But I also think that to a certain extent, other folks can only care "so much" about our project. I don't mean that in a negative way, please understand. I think there is another layer of complexity in your situation as well. When I got married, my parents kindly reminded me that while this is the biggest/most important day of MY life, to everyone else, it's just another day. I think those of diving into projects like these have to keep that in mind to a certain degree. It's the biggest most exciting/important thing that has happening for US, but to everyone else - we're just building a house. That said, I hope that you can continue to find small ways to get your friends and family interested in your project and maybe you'll find someone who really is excited and can put aside any mild jealousy to be happy with you. If that doesn't work... maybe try to make friends at the design center? (Half kidding there...) Be open to new friends and you never know.... you just might make a new friend while browsing flooring - who is also going through the same thing you!

    At the end of the day; you're being very mindful of your friends and family's perspective which is wonderful, and respecting their point of view. I hope you can find some friends who can be excited for you, and join you in this exciting journey!

  • vaimeta

    I've felt this with friends on several issues. I'm 25, worked right out of highschool, and have managed to get a decent job with a high school degree. My husband works in technology, but when we met we both worked retail, so we've both had to work really hard to get where we're at. My friends are struggling with student debt (most between $60k-100k) and so when I told them about us building a house, I got less then stellar reactions. Which I can understand because buying a house is probably not going to be in their future any time soon with how much debt they have. I think it's a jealous feeling that they aren't necessarily proud of, but it's definitely had them distance themselves from me. The same thing happened when we had kids, they were like "oh, I guess that's cool" and then stopped coming around for a long time.

    Honestly, it's why forums like this are great, you can see other people be excited about similar things and ask for input when you want it.

    Congratulations on being at a point where you can build a home! I'm sure you've worked very hard for it, and it's really a great thing to do!

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    I can relate to this issue. I've never known a client to share the design process with friends without causing trouble. I recommend hiring an architect and perhaps an interior designer and keeping the experience in-house.

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    Then you may be a great client who cares about the people you work with.

  • Rower 76

    M R I can totally relate to what you are going through right now. My husband and I are building our house and agonizing over every little decision. Probably more so since we are the GC's and doing *most* of the building ourselves, so we don't have a builder to work with picking out every design element. People are definitely excited for us, but I try and remember that not everyone gives a shi*t about what lights or plumbing fixtures I'm choosing. I do post a lot of our build progress in a private album on Facebook that only certain close friends and family are a part of. Additionally, I have made an Instagram account that follows the build process (house_on_hogarty_hill) It was an open invite for whomever to follow that was truly interested in the progress. I love discussing my design ideas with people that are into it, and I've also asked advice from co-workers that have a good eye for detail....but again I try and not monopolize the conversation because I've come to realize that some people are jealous of what we are able to do. I can tell you that everyone I talk to is definitely excited about the house warming party LOL!

    If you need someone to be excited over little things like tile and what door knobs you're picking out...hit me up, I'll be excited with you!

  • cpartist

    I think Kate E hit the nail on the head mostly. As mentioned while this is HUGE for us, for those who are on the periphery, it's just another thing you're doing. My kids and family got tired of me asking their opinion so I stopped.

  • worthy

    Don't feed!

  • A S

    100% agree with your post and felt very similarly. I ended up meeting a few local moms also mid build and we became fast friends over our projects and we could vent and discuss openly with one another. It was and is awesome to have people in real life who get this journey.

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    @RES, architect "I've never known a client to share the design process with *Houzz* without causing trouble. "

    I fixed it.

  • PRO
  • ILoveRed

    Nope...keep it to yourself or your Houzz/GW buddies. use the forum for support and advice. It’s human nature that there might be some resentment among friends and family. Frankly, building this house was the last thing I wanted to talk about with family and friends. It was a three yr project and I got so, so tired of the endless question re: when are you going to be in your house. The less you say ..the less info you provide to have tongues a wagging....as my mother used to say.

  • M R

    Glad to see I’m not alone in this and to hear these different persectives. What I wouldn’t give to have a “real life” buddy building a house now! Thanks for the input.

  • chispa

    MR, what general area are you building in? There might be someone here who is close to your area ...

  • zippity1

    bro and sil have a home approximately 3 times larger than the next largest home on either side of their families..and after 15 years i don't know a single family member who has an issue with their home, share your ideas, it will make the family feel more "included" in your life which is the most important issue

  • PRO
    RES, architect

    Guilt and loneliness is better than the fear and loathing we see here every day.

    I'm serious about getting professional assistance. Find someone who knows how to make the design and construction process fun.

  • A S

    As fun as it is to be on the journey parts of it will always have stress and be hard. It’s okay to say that and nothing is wrong with being open about it. It doesn’t mean you need new people to work with.

  • worthy

    In the real world, the less said, the better.

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    I remember my niece describing our 2,400 sf home as "A mansion!" to other family members. lol.

  • M R

    We are in a very rural area of Virginia.

    we haven‘t even started on our home yet (hope to break ground in May), but I’ve been having a LOT of fun with the design and planning process. I tend to share a lot of the happenings of my life with those around me and it’s just different with this. My natural inclination is to share, ask for input, etc because that’s what I do in other areas of my life. This process just hasn’t been received with as much ”companionship“ as I expected. Someone used that word and I think that’s perfect to describe what I feel is lacking! It’s. a huge undertaking to do by oneself. Designers to help are just not in the budget. But realizing that this process just isnt as important to others as it is to me makes sense and I guess is contributing to these reactions.

    My husband is of course my sounding board for all these decisions but for the most part he just doesn’t care. He’s not interested in the planning or design aspects. So it’s me and Houzz and Pinterest with occasional contributions from our builder.

    This sounds so whoa is me.....I do realize there are much bigger problems than this.

  • jmm1837

    I think the reality is that most people aren't very interested in the minutiae of other people's house builds. I'm interested in the fact that friends are building, buying or renovating homes, but not to the extent of wanting to help them pick tiles or decide between bathtub models. It's not about envy and certainly shouldn't be about guilt; it's just that it's their project, not mine, and I don't have the same level of emotional involvement that they obviously do.

  • M R

    Yes, totally agree. Maybe my expectations have been inappropriate.

  • worthy

    our 2,400 sf home as "A mansion!" to other family members....

    Bigger on the inside than the outside.

  • A S

    MR the thing I found hard was that when things weren’t going smoothly I couldn’t vent or lament our struggle to many as no one was sympathetic to the woman building a custom home. That hurt.

  • PRO
    The Cook's Kitchen

    I hate to cast designers as “buy a friend” type thing, but one of the keys to finding a good one, is finding one who listens to what you are saying, and gets behind the words. What I’m hearing you say is that you are excited to be able to do this, and you mostly trust your taste, but are just so overwhelmed with the sheer scale of decisions, that you’d appreciate having someone to bounce things off of, in order to reaffirm your choices. And you’d appreciate some pushback if someone had some experience with issues with your choices.

    Well, that’s mostly what designers do. Plus, they create documents that put all that together for you and the contractors to reference. And they are your advocate with those contractors when things go a bit awry. Plus, they make suggestions for things that you may never have thought about.

    Using a Designer makes the process go smoother, and cuts down on mistakes. That saves you money and gets you a better end result. It doesn’t cost you as much as you think it does! Especially if you do a lot of the initial legwork yourself, and bring them in for scheduled meetings once a week or so for help with product selections.

    Many of my clients have ended up as friends after projects. It’s a stressful, and intimate process. Getting through it bonds you.

  • A S

    While we ultimately didn’t get along with our designer she still helped us through a ton and without her guidance there is no way our house could have come together. She has excellent taste but zero accountability for budget. Her costs for us to use her were less than I anticipated

  • PRO

    Your experience is not unusual. Ask anyone who has every won a lottery if there was not deep resentment from others who didn’t have such luck. And when it comes to being able to do it due to hard work, often there is even more (“Hey,I work hard,too! Why are they able and I”m not!“).

    Hiring a designer is not necessarily an expensive thing to do. You do need a sounding board. Heck, I’m a designer and when I did my own kitchen, I hired someone to do that for me - easy to do for others, hard for oneself!

    Some families handle the success of other family members with grace; many do not. Students from poor families who get into top colleges often have the same problems and resentment. There is a reason that one of the Ten Commandments prohibits “coveting”!

    We’re here to share your joy and help if we can.

  • worthy

    I've never met a trade who thought my design ideas were less than great!

  • whaas_5a

    My spouse and I were in a similar situation. We basically leaned on each other, consulted with professionals, bounced things off this forum and shared with a few very close family and friends that would engage in the conversation.

    My spouse always reminds me that we need to be grateful and proud of what we accomplished. In that moment I think about the days my single mother sent me a mile down the road with food stamps to get food for our family. Any guilt or even arrogance quickly melts away.

    Congrats and be proud!

  • Sammy

    We feel grateful and extraordinarily blessed.

    If you’re expressing this to your friends either on social media or in person, then that might be part of the problem.

  • my db

    I keep an instagram account of our progress, but otherwise I don't really bring up our house build at family or friend functions. I've actually been very surprised by how often friends and family bring it up themselves. We've also had many people go to the site themselves to check it out, and tell us about it afterwards (although I'm sure there are many more that we don't know about!). Our house is a modest size (about 1,800 square feet on one level, with a full walk basement), and the comments we've received have been very positive. We live in a rural area with mostly modest homes. I think that if we were building an elaborate mansion, the feedback would likely not be as positive.

    Like others have alluded to, I've made new friends in the industry - everyone from my general contractor, architect, interior designers, to lighting experts, kitchen builder, flooring experts, and so on. Those are the people that I really open up to and share my ideas, vision, and joy with. Although I am doing business with them, I can honestly say they have all been wonderful, smart, warm people and they are a huge part of the reason this has been such an enjoyable process for my husband and me.

  • One Devoted Dame

    MR, what general area are you building in? There might be someone here who is close to your area ...

    This is a great idea.

    As some folks here on GardenWeb know, I have a tendency to talk a bit too much, and I've dropped a few posts here and there of my general location, and I eventually received a private message from someone nearby (-ish) who is building in this area. She doesn't post much on the forums, but she should, because her house is awesome. :-D We now email at least once a month, usually several times a month, and I love hearing about her progress and asking her questions!

    Even though I'm still struggling to find land -- found my architect, though! -- it's still really cool to talk with folks about their houses. Building a home, for me, is like talking with people about their weddings and children... I could do it all day long.

    If you don't want to share your location, but would still like someone to share your project with, send me a message. :-) Despite my extrovertedness, I'm a good listener. ;-)

  • littlebug zone 5 Missouri

    I can relate. No, we haven't built a new home, but we bought a nice home. Much much nicer than either DH and I grew up in. I grew up very, very poor (as in homeless-poor) and we feel extremely blessed to be where we are now. We worked very hard for many years, and I finished my bachelor's degree at night (while working all day) to earn promotions. We were lucky in our careers and now are semi-retired.

    My siblings and friends have been by to see our home, but I downplay it as much as possible to avoid the sour/hard/indifferent feelings that you describe. I show our home - when asked outright - but I don't volunteer.

  • B DC

    Vaimeta, not much older than you but having kidS with an S by 25 is simply different stages in life, certainly not jealousy. I really hope that is not what you were suggesting there- because the closer a good bit of us get to 30, a significant portion of my friend group and I don’t feel anymore compelled to have the feeling children are a goal or accomplishment.

    I do remember being 23 however and finishing up college, excited about entering professional school and dreaming about starting my career. At that point I had some friends who were getting married and/or having children and of course that is all that they discussed. (Rightfully so, major life moments). We were just at completely different life stages and interests at that point. I still felt like I had a lot of growing and exploring to do at that age both personally and professionally.

  • MM

    Oh I can so relate! We’ve spent the last 10 years in a house under 1k sf while I’ve stayed at home with our kids. But now my husband got a promotion, I’m planning on going back to work, my family sold some property and we’re building in one of the nicest neighborhoods in town. My BIL’s company has been laying off people left and right and we feel super guilty because it’s not like we’ve done anything to “deserve” this.

  • Junk*Salvation

    I understand. It is one of the reasons I opened an Instagram account that was strictly about the house. I posted one time about it (in my stories) on my personal account and told people if they'd like to follow, then click on the post, & no worries if they didn't want to. Some followed, some didn't. &, I was okay with that! I didn't want to post progress on my personal account and feel like I was either boring them all to death, OR to make them feel like I was rubbing it in their faces (so to speak). It's a hard road to walk because you're not exactly sure what is, and isn't, too much when talking about the house. I rarely bring it up to anyone at all, except for with my parents. Sometimes with my sister-in-law, but they are wealthier than us so I know that part isn't ever the issue, but I still don't want to bore her with details she likely doesn't care about. If someone brings it up to me, I'll discuss it, but I limit the details I give. I'm a very private person in general so this hasn't bothered me as much as maybe it does to some.

    I usually just discuss it with my husband as needed (specifically when I need to vent about someone not showing up to do their job! lol) or when something isn't working out in my head like I planned for it. However, I'm the "detail geek" in our house, and even he doesn't always care, as long as it gets done & looks nice. lol! Maybe that's a guy for you in some cases. Who knows. I just know that I'm sooo looking forward to being done & in the house! I remind myself daily to have patience.

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