There is a facet of the human psyche which manifests itself at a later point in life; which is peculiar to the married state and a symptom of a deeper malady that, if diagnosed early, can save considerable damage.
The facet whereof I speak is, of course, HIM
Home Improvement Mania.
HIM attacks most partnerships early in their relationship under the guise of nest building, but only after the matured progeny have been allowed to make their final escape and the ceremony of the Changing of the Locks has taken place does the full symptomatic array erupt. That is when, unless the condition is shared equally by both partners, serious disruption is likely to occur, and arguments developed at this stage can be terminal.
The symptoms take many forms. For some, a tendency to watch TV programs such as ‘Grand Designs’, or ‘A Home in the Country’ incessantly, (even the repeats), or noticeable growth in calls from salesmen offering triple glazing, solar panels etc., normally brought on by clandestine visits to websites. For others, there may be sudden irrational statements. Look out for ‘what this garden needs is an orangery’; or ‘why haven’t we got double doors like those?’
Then there are embarrassing theatrical displays when encountering marble worktops. In advanced cases this may involve sufferers prostrating themselves upon the cold stone whilst possibly salivating. Be sure to carry tissues. Finally, sketched plans will start appearing, scattered about the house. During latter stages these are found on everything, including toilet paper.
Treatment for the condition is never easy. Early diagnosis might avoid extreme measures, such as Architectural Therapy, an intrusive procedure that affects a cure by the complete removal of Money. It will normally work hand in hand with a second therapy which we will call Structural Alteration. S.A. is administered by a Builder. The key factor to both treatments is something called an Estimate. It is this last – kill or cure – that will provide the shock which may instantly dispel symptoms, but can equally open the trapdoors to the mania’s darkest phase, Himus Gravis.
As Carer during the progress of this condition, you will need infinite patience and independent counseling. You can, at least, rest reassured that your relationship is secure whilst your partner is undergoing treatment. In his or her own interest, your partner will never suggest ‘things are just not working out’, if only because of the financial mess this would create. Nor will intimacy be an issue: you will not cease sleeping together, for example, because there will only be one habitable bedroom.
The danger period for the relationship is in the last days of recovery. Be prepared for the Final Account, in which the Builder is allowed to give his imagination free reign. Avoid looking at the Estimate and the Final Account at the same time. Remember Estimates are only ever two-thirds true, and accept that your partner’s decision to remove those two extra walls will have had a financial impact. Arguing is fruitless and will only cause distress.
If you are able to raise enough Money and have successfully returned to work, all you have to survive is the DIY test. Your partner, buoyant and revitalized, will explain the reasons for this – old furniture and fittings no longer ‘work’ in their new environment. Structural Alteration has made them dirty, or damaged them in some indescribable way. You have to Remodel.
You will be introduced to Furniture Stockades, in which you are forced to walk around in circles looking at remodeling suggestions until you find the one closest to your needs. These places rarely provide bathrooms. Do not make the mistake of using the ones on display.
Choice of furniture will almost always be your partner’s. Your advice will not be needed, although your plastic should always be available. However, Remodeling does place you in the position of an assembly expert, and here your skills, or the lack of them, will be required. Building from cardboard carton’d MDF (sometimes humorously referred to as ‘flat pack’) into a three dimensional piece of hideousness will require patience on a level never hitherto experienced. The ‘instructions’ make helpful suggestions:
‘The leg in front of the back when inverted is so screwed’
‘Pieces A may be disassembled when aligned with piece X using fixing e’,
These are rarely of material use. As long as you build something from the bits with no more than two pieces left over you will have achieved all that can reasonably be expected of you.
Lastly, of course, there is lighting. In vain you may protest that a single fluorescent bulb in a pretty shade is pain enough, that a gloriously over-chromed array of little glowing orbs is an unnecessary expense. In the end you will lose.
There is a factory somewhere which assembles light units such as the one you have so expensively purchased. It is manned entirely by pixies. It is managed by a psychopath. No-one human could produce electrical terminals so minute they cannot be seen other than through a microscope, and no-one sane could ask you to connect those terminals single handed whilst supporting the full quarter-hundredweight of the unit in the other hand, on top of a ladder. And then fix it to the ceiling using two bolts provided by Fairyland Inc., whilst your partner reads out to you: “Pieces A may be disassembled when aligned with piece X using fixing e.”
It is then, at that precise moment, that the future of your relationship will be at its greatest jeopardy.
Early diagnosis of HIM is difficult. References may be subtle, inferences heavily disguised. If you are so observant that you notice a slight alteration of pace as you walk past a DIY store together, or the glazing over of the eyes at the sight of a house with grossly exaggerated windows, you may be able to step in quickly enough.
Insist upon taking up a new hobby. Fishing is good. It can get you out of the house in all weathers, and keep you out all day. The rods may cost a little money, but be sure not to forget a set of good waterproofs: so when you take the check book and your credit cards with you, you can keep them dry.
What about you? Do you know or are you close to a poor, tragic sufferer from HIM? Do you have any ideas for treatment?