Compulsion/Perfectionism WRT Home Improvement Projects

Has anyone had any experience with a person (or maybe you are that person) who compulsively works on home improvement projects demanding of himself an obsessive level of perfection…and the projects go from one to the other with no end?

This is hard to research on the internet because the sites I’ve found either treat this compulsion as a virtue or else take it humorously. And people who can’t get their partners to complete even one item on their “honey-do” list may be envious of a woman who’s married to someone who treats the painting of the dining room with the same level of perfectionism (and devotes as much time to it) as the restorers of Michelangelo’s* Last Judgment *on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

But if you live with someone who disappears for weeks at a time mentally, emotionally, and physically into a project like a kitchen remodel doing more in the way of prep, dust management, sanding, measuring, (not to mention cash), etc., than is even remotely justifiable… it can drive you to hand-wringing misery and helplessness.

I would appreciate replies directing me to web sites, books, or other sources where my friend can find help with her fixit guy. When the fixit guy was single, he could spend all his at-home time sanding and painting to the level that satisfied him. Now that he’s married, when he gets deeply into one of these projects (and they never really end, but are strung together) he doesn’t come up for air. Not to mention all of the unnecessary money that he spends for no reason except to satisfy his own compulsion. A $10,000 project can wind up costing two or three times that in dollars and take weeks longer than necessary.

Please refrain from telling me to tell my friend to “count her blessings” and tell how the project your partner started in 1986 still isn’t finished and looks like crap. She’s in real distress and can’t find a source to help her know what to do. She pretty much understands that you cannot change the behavior of an addict (and this is an addiction), but she’s having a hard time even finding someone who understands that this can BE a problem. There appears to be some similarity to compulsive cleaning or compulsive working out. But not quite.

So, of course, I came to the Dope, crowd-source of all wisdom and answers. Thank you.

No one knows anyone like this?

I don’t, but this really sounds like a job for a therapist. I can’t hazard a guess as to what the underlying problem is – why this guy would disappear into his hobby in such a damaging way – but yeah, this sounds like a problem that should very much be taken seriously. Your friend doesn’t deserve to live with someone who is emotionally (and it sounds like physically) absent, wasting a bunch of money, and it sounds like never getting anything finally done.

In an ideal world, it sounds like the guy or the couple should see someone. But I’m guessing that isn’t realistic, so provided that the wife has actually confronted the husband about her extreme distress (that has been done, right?), the best thing she can do is find a therapist or local support group. Personally, I think that’s a better move than reading a self-help book because it’s clear that this is a very big problem in their relationship.

The reason I came here is because the wife can’t find anyone with knowledge/experience with this specific form of compulsion. She is going to a therapist. The guy sort of admits he has a problem, but when he gets into the project, it swallows him up. She’s not trying to “fix” him (because you can’t fix an addict), and I’m not looking for suggestions about how to fix this problem. I’m not looking for a self-help book INSTEAD of therapy.

My question here is simply “do you know of people with this problem, or a book, or a support group, or a web site where she can connect with others in this boat?” My friend can’t find anyone who really gets it. Most people just tell her to count her blessings, it could be worse, and blow her off. She just wants to connect with others who understand what she is going through. Did I mention that she is in therapy and she knows better than to overtly change/fix her husband?

I guess I’m confused. Why isn’t any therapist with knowledge of compulsion or addictive avoidance behavior not good enough? The behavior is the same whether you get sucked into video games or sanding your floors to the level where you shirk your responsibilities.

How about al-anon? It’s for families of addicts.

Yeah, sounds like an OCD/anxiety issue. It can still make parts of your house unusable, and result in an anger response if you prod about when it will be done or want to call in a professional. It’s basically like having a hoarder but with a little better living conditions.

I doubt there are any/many “How I lived with a compulsive remodeler” books out there. She needs to accept that he is only a special case in the manifestation of his issues, and that it needs to be treated in a garden-variety way - either therapy (for both of them - separately and together, ideally) or a divorce lawyer.

I didn’t say therapy “wasn’t good enough.” Where did you get that??? I said three times that she’s in therapy. She would like to connect with people who face this particular compulsion, if possible. She’s looking into alanon.

I’m asking specifically if anyone has experience with this particular compulsion.

My husband is sort of like this, but not quite to the degree described in the OP. We see a therapist together and have discussed his perfectionism when it comes to things like this and have both agreed on mechanisms to cope with it.

You say she is in therapy. Is he? Are they as a couple? I guess if he isn’t willing to work on it, and she’s willing to continue to deal with it, alanon is her best bet.

First off, it’s probably an unusual manifestation, so you’re not likely to find support groups,self-help groups, etc specifically geared to those who live with compulsive/perfectionist remodelers.

But secondly (and more importantly), would your friend really be any happier if instead of living with someone who

into a project like a kitchen remodel , he instead spent the same amount of time and money perfecting his golf game ,building dollhouse furniture ,expanding his model train collection, gambling, shopping, attending sporting events , restoring old cars,knitting etc ? My guess is that she would not- what makes her miserable is most likely some combination of

1 He is not emotionally,mentally or physically available to her
2 He is spending all of the available cash on what is important to him, leaving nothing for what is important to her.

Dealing with those issues is not going to be any different if he’s spending the time/ money on home improvement or if he is spending it on model trains.You said people tell your friend to “count her blessings”? Are these her friends and relatives, or are these people in a support group for those living with people who exhibit OCD or addictive behavior? Because I’m pretty sure those people will understand how your friend feels and won’t tell her to count her blessings. It doesn’t much matter if you can’t go on vacation because your spouse spends all his time and money remodeling a house, or because he simply won’t leave the house for fear that something bad will happen- either way, you’re not going on vacation because of something the spouse doesn’t even see as a problem. Because if he thought it was a problem, he would be in therapy.

Thank you for addressing my question. I don’t know if he is willing to go to therapy. I’m only researching one thing, not trying to fix him or the situation.

Also not trying to fix her by telling her it could be worse. Like she doesn’t know that. Of course it could be worse.

Well I’m glad for that! I’ve been told that before as well (in relation to our fertility issues) and it just makes me angry.

Here is a link to Perfectly Awful’s links page. There are a few links for online support groups for spouses of those with OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Perfectionism Disorder).

Thanks for that link, EmAnJ.