real life

KATE: The marriage gap...when your standards are dramatically different.

What happens when a slack-arse marries a perfectionist?






Nothing illuminates personality differences like a flooded rumpus room.

It happened to us last weekend when most Brisbane families faced some kind of storm damage.

All over the city, couples were rifling through drawers, looking for torches and shouting, ‘You KNEW those batteries were NOT to be used for the Wii controllers!’

Thousands spent the evenings playing Scrabble by the light of scented candles purchased at school mother’s day stalls.

My husband Jim always knows where the torches are. He keeps a stash of batteries in a locked, but readily accessible box. Sensory overload from lavender candles was the least of our problems.

At about 3pm on Sunday, our rumpus room began taking water. This wasn’t a complete surprise – when we bought the house  last year, a building inspector told us the lower level was ‘ineffectively waterproofed.’ That was fine, we were able to negotiate a little on the price.

Anyway, it’s a good old-fashioned rumpus room – unfashionable terracotta tiles, a ping pong table,  a cupboard packed with dress-ups, sleeping bags and Barbie dolls in various states of undress. Nothing of value, nothing that can’t be moved upstairs in a matter of minutes.

Kate with her husband, Jim

There had been regular rain and a couple of decent storms before last weekend. Not a drop had threatened the rumpus room. Perhaps the building inspector had been over-cautious?


But last weekend, it was a scene from Titanic. Water seeped in from all directions, and within an hour we were sloshing about in ankle deep water, forming a human chain to move the sleeping bags and Barbies to higher ground.

My sister selfishly ignored our pleas to borrow her wet/dry vacuum, saying her rumpus room was even dodgier than ours, but thankfully our friend Luke came to the rescue. Luke thrives in a crisis, and he even has hi-vis clothing and owns an enormous wet/dry vac he is more than happy to share. Together with Jim they did clever things with silicone and aluminium foil (craft?) and stemmed the inflow.

Once the water was gone, Jim and I had to decide what to do. And never had it been clearer how different we are as people.

Jim was glum, figuring it would cost thousands to properly waterproof our place. There would be trenching and drainage and something called reticulation. We would need to consult a plumber, a builder and very possibly a hydraulic engineer.

‘Why?’ I asked, thinking of all sorts of things I would prefer to spend thousands on, ‘Will the house fall down if we do … you know … nothing?’

‘Well no,’ said Jim, ‘But I don’t know if I can sleep just knowing there’s  … crappy workmanship downstairs.’

I get this. Jim’s dad spent 25 years in the army then re-trained as an electrician. Pa raised his family on sayings like, ‘You plan your work and work your plan; measure twice and cut once’; they lived by the 6 P’s – Perfect Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.


We were a bit more of the ‘wing-it’ school.

Bite off more than you can chew and chew like hell.

Better to ask forgiveness than permission.

“One job is finished before he begins another.”

Jim does things properly. He’s a list-man. One job is finished before he begins another.

I envy his focus, and I’m glad someone in our family has it,  but could never live like that.

I bounce from one half-done project to another. On the upside, I have a lot of things on the go so the odds are some of them will work out and the others can just be … forgotten.

I’m quite happy living with poor workmanship. Our previous house was a designed and crafted to within an inch of its life and the stress of keeping it looking schmick made me say ‘never again’.

If the rumpus room at this house flooded every time it rained, I’d feel differently, but last weekend’s rain was freakish.I’m comfortable taking the gamble that it won’t happen again for a bit. And if it does, we’ll evacuate the barbies and give Luke a call and see if his wet/dry vac is busy.

Hell, we could even buy our own wet/dry vac. It has to be cheaper than reticulation.

Are you a slack-arse or a perfectionist? Do you (or could you) live with someone who’s the opposite to the way you are?