Renovation Stockholm Syndrome

So, so many of us have been held captive by renovations. Every single person I know starts out optimistic thinking that everything is under control, they won’t have the same bad experience that everyone else had, that they’re on top of it, that their contractor is different. I started out that way too; optimistic the day my contractor came over right on time, had an estimate out to me within 24 hours, and a start date in mind. My optimism wavered when I was sent an incomplete list to shop from, and was downright shaky when I asked for help and opinions on what products to choose and got responses like “Gee whiz! Gosh, I don’t know.” But the day came, and I felt ready. All the materials were chosen and paid for and I was on top of shit. My contractors showed up confident and full of ideas and I was reassured.

Then nothing happened. People would show up mysteriously and stare into the bathroom, nod their heads, introduce themselves to me and disappear. Then randomly all the demolition happened in fits and starts. Then nothing again for days at a time. Weekly reports promising activities were like they came from the Ministry of Truth; they rewrote history and made promises that we knew were false. We were being trained to live in the moment and be grateful that they were coming at all.

Then I got angry at the delays and the uncertainty and had a giant hissy fit and contemplated telling them to fuck off and that I would do it myself. But reality set in and I knew; they have all my materials, all my money, and a plan. I had no plan.

Now, 62 days in, I at a point where nothing they say or do surprises me anymore and I am just so very grateful that I have people upstairs tiling my floor right now that it brings tears to my eyes. In short, I have Renovation Stockholm Syndrome.

Wikipedia says the conditions for Stockholm Syndrome are as follows (I copied these points directly, don’t get on my case):

  • Hostages who develop Stockholm syndrome often view the perpetrator as giving life by simply not taking it. In this sense, the captor becomes the person in control of the captive’s basic needs for survival and the victim’s life itself.

Ok, so this particular point might be a bit hyperbolic. However, our house has no chance of returning to normal ever unless they keep showing up and getting shit done. And one of my very basic needs at this moment in time is normalcy.. I would love me a day or two or normalcy.

  • The hostage endures isolation from other people and has only the captor’s perspective available. Perpetrators routinely keep information about the outside world’s response to their actions from captives to keep them totally dependent.

In the context of renovation I am at the mercy of the weekly report. Vague and undefined time frames; no updates on budget or whether materials have arrived. I know the information I get is heavily filtered so when they don’t show up I can’t complain. A casual “oh, the part didn’t arrive” and I am silenced. I have no leg to stand on. Even the subcontractors who come over refuse to provide opinions and information deferring to the general contractor. It’s classic hostage holding technique. The kicker is that I am paying for this abuse.

  • The hostage taker threatens to kill the victim and gives the perception of having the capability to do so. The captive judges it safer to align with the perpetrator, endure the hardship of captivity, and comply with the captor than to resist and face death.

To be fair my contractor has never threatened to kill me. I do feel as though I might never have functional bathrooms again and I will basically comply to any demand they make in order to one day have said bathrooms. All I want is to have a nice bath and they can and will prevent that.

  • The captive sees the perpetrator as showing some degree of kindness. Kindness serves as the cornerstone of Stockholm syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the captor exhibits it in some form towards the hostage. However, captives often misinterpret a lack of abuse as kindness and may develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence. If the captor is purely evil and abusive, the hostage will respond with hatred. But, if perpetrators show some kindness, victims will submerge the anger they feel in response to the terror and concentrate on the captors’ “good side” to protect themselves.

A couple of weeks ago I was overjoyed when countertops arrived out of the blue and were installed in 30 minutes flat. The long dead hope that the bathrooms would ever be finished was revived. Then silence again for weeks. Then the tiler showed up randomly last Thursday and promised to be here bright and early Sunday morning. I planned a whole day around it, practically giddy with optimism. They never showed and I should have been angry, but today I was flooded with relief when tilers showed up at my house; two days late and late enough in the day that my kids are skipping a nap. I sign all of my e-mails to the contractors with smiley faces and don’t complain when they thinly veil the blame for the delays on me. I am self-deprecating and grateful when they respond to me at whim.

My typical e-mails look like this:

“The bench is built in the shower! It’s the most beautiful perfect bench ever; exactly the right height and width, how clever of you to put foam in there, and that tiling sealant is such a bright red! 😮 I know you forgot to build the shelf that we’ve e-mailed about 17 times now, including the life or death e-mail exchange we had about 3 weeks ago where I was forced to make an overnight decision, but I know how busy you are and how many projects you must have going through your head right now!!!!!! 😉 🙂 😉 🙂 I am sure you’ll get to it at some point, and I am sure if you don’t, it’s probably better that way and I shouldn’t have asked for it in the first place!! 🙂 😉 🙂 😉 .”

And I am being sincere. I am so grateful for my contractors that their random comings and goings don’t bother me anymore. I accept full responsibility for my captivity; after all, if I hadn’t wanted new bathrooms in the first place we wouldn’t be in this position. So, 62 days of no bathrooms is really not that much to endure at all, when you think about it.


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