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(Photo: Boogich, Getty)
Tough Love

My Husband and I Are Building a Cabin, but It’s Taking Longer than Expected

I want to add a storage unit, but he says it will sully the view

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Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Small Game and Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at toughlove@outsideinc.com.


My husband and I bought forested land a few years ago to live on with our family. We currently have one young daughter, but we hope to have more kids in the future. We are all pretty comfortable living with the bare essentials, but the plan was that eventually my husband would build a cabin. In the meantime, we moved an RV onto the land. Unfortunately, my husband has to travel for work to support us and is often on the road, so he hasn’t made progress on the cabin. My daughter and I love it here and we both are doing well, but we’re usually alone.

I don’t mind living in the RV, and right now it works well for us, although I know that as my daughter gets older she’ll need more space. Right now, my more immediate concern is storage. We have a number of tools and machinery that I use to maintain the land, including a lawn mower, snow blower, and chainsaw. Also shovels and saws and other tools, and our bicycles. We have no garage or place to store them so that they will be protected and remain well-maintained. 

I want to buy a container and have it put on the land so we can use it to store equipment. This would be affordable for us and would also allow me to move some things out of the RV (like aseasonal clothing) so that we’d have more space. However, my husband is extremely against this idea, because he says that a container would “sully the landscape” and ruin its natural beauty. The look of a container doesn’t bother me but even if it did, it would be worth it for the storage. Also there’s the risk that our equipment will break if it’s not protected. If our snowblower breaks, who’s going to be shoveling by hand? Me. 

This has become a real sticking point for us. I think he feels guilty about not having a cabin yet. He doesn’t like traveling and is frustrated that he can’t be here building the cabin. I have tried to explain to him that I’m not upset with him; I just really need the storage. How do we reconcile this?

I think you can be sensitive to your husband’s frustration, and to the sacrifice he makes by having to work so much, without conceding your quality of life to protect his ego. The simple answer is that you should add a container to the land right now, but remove it once you have a cabin with more space. After all, that’s the beauty of containers: they’re easy to move (and move again). This compromise fits everyone’s needs, and anyway, the storage and flexibility offered by the container would probably make the cabin-building process easier in the first place. Although your husband might grumble, I hope he would agree to this solution.

However, this doesn’t solve your deeper problems, which are both practical and emotional. The practical problem is that you don’t have a cabin and will need one soon. The emotional problem is that your husband feels anxious and guilty about falling short on a dream. In this case, the emotional problem is blocking your ability to talk openly about the practical problem, because your husband feels too bad about it all to look at the situation objectively.

There’s a cynical quality in readers of advice columns to assume the worst of a letter-writer’s significant other, and I suspect that some readers here will jump to the conclusion that your husband is choosing to be away or has decided not to prioritize your living situation. If you sense that to be the case, I’d encourage you to trust your instincts and take steps accordingly. However, for these purposes, I’m going to assume that your husband is doing what he can to be home as much as possible while also supporting his family—which must be incredibly frustrating and discouraging for him.

It’s hard for someone to admit that they’re falling short of a goal or dream, particularly when that dream involves caring for their loved ones. For your husband to admit that you aren’t about to have a cabin any second now would mean acknowledging that despite all of his efforts and sacrifices, his dream—building a cabin where you can all live together—is taking much longer than he expected, and is still probably farther off than he wants to admit. I suspect that that’s his real objection to the container. It’s not that seeing the container would bother him because it sullies the landscape. It’s that seeing the container would bother him because it’s a huge visual reminder that his plans haven’t worked out as he first wanted, even though he’s doing everything he can to achieve them.

Of course, just because a goal takes longer to achieve doesn’t mean it’s not happening—and that you won’t someday look back on this time, as you sit together in your cozy cabin, and feel like it’s all very distant indeed. But it’s important that you and your husband are able to talk together and figure out where you are in this process, so that you can make appropriate plans. Look at your finances, your supplies, your time commitments, and your plans—including what your daughter needs now, what she’ll need in the imminent future, and what any other kids will need, too, plus what you’ll need if and when you’re pregnant again. Realistically, how does the time frame and expense of building a cabin fit into all this? Are there other reasonable options, like buying a movable cabin, trailer, or mini-barn and personalizing it yourselves? If you both want your husband to be home more, then he could consider other options for work, too, if he hasn’t already. Overall, you need to make sure that your dreams don’t just work for your future selves, but for you now, too—and though there are plenty of ways to get there, I think getting a container, in the meantime, could be a stepping stone along the way.

Lead Photo: Boogich, Getty

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