Here’s to marriage, that happy estate that resembles a pair of scissors: So joined that they cannot be separated, often moving in opposite directions, yet punishing anyone who comes between them. Sydney Smith
How would a real estate agent describe your marriage? Rare find! Ideal! Outstanding and sharp! Beautiful and elegant! Mint condition! Fabulous! Most marriages would get a more realistic description: Remodeled charmer. Solid foundation but needs some TLC. Great curb appeal but interior needs a major remodel. Good neighborhood — a cozy fixer-upper!
The television listings are filled with home-improvement shows, including Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Merge, and While You Were Out, just to name a few. The long list of fix-it shows includes This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Designing for the Sexes. These shows demonstrate effective techniques and strategies for making any dwelling a better place to call home. In the same way, your marriage needs a strategy for staying in good shape.
Just as the walls don’t paint themselves, the grass won’t mow itself, and the dishes won’t wash themselves, a marriage doesn’t magically become strong and beautiful on its own. Creating a beautiful home requires a good set of plans, a competent contractor, able craftsmen, and gifted decorators.
Everything worthwhile is worth investing in. Homes that receive consistent tender loving care are appraised at a higher value. In the same way, every marriage given consistent love and attention will become a work of art, a sanctuary of love, and a haven of hope.
Think of this book as a set of plans for building a long-lasting love. Your first step is to decide to build a love that lasts. Decide that you want to discover what makes love last for a lifetime. Decide to look for a good set of plans for building a love and a life. We want to take a humorous and practical look at marriage and provide everyday tools for the couple who wants to do a little work around the house and create a home you both want to come home to — a home built with love.
Lessons from the Contractor
As of the writing of this book, we have been the proud owners of three homes. They have all been projects, and they have helped us learn some of the most important lessons in our relationship.
We thought our first home was the most awesome thing we had ever seen. It was built in the 1950s, but it looked like a shiny new diamond to us. The bright yellow and orange wallpaper in the kitchen looked hideous, but we thought, This is not a problem. We’ll just put up new wallpaper. The green shag carpet throughout the house was nauseating, but we thought, This is not a problem. We’ll just rip it up and refinish the hardwood floors. We had heard that the house had termites, but we thought, This is not a problem. The house has just been fumigated, so all the termites are dead.
Looking back, we realize this was relationship lesson number one. We all go into our marriages thinking, This is not a problem. We’ll just work it all out because we’re in love. This idealism is probably necessary because if we knew everything that is involved in building an intimate relationship, we would conclude it is impossible and run the other way. But we seem to have a marvelous magnet in our hearts that convinces us we desperately need each other.
Actually, every marriage has bugs, viruses, challenges, inconsistencies, and shortcomings. As Dr. Harry Ironside is famous for saying, “Where there is light, there is bugs.” Successful married couples learn to live with their eyes wide open to the challenges and assume they will have to remodel their relationship on a regular basis to counteract the natural process of decay.
What Is This?
And so with youthful enthusiasm we began our adventure. With wide eyes and expectant hearts we launched into fixing up our “new” home. We started by tearing down the hideous wallpaper in the kitchen. Attached to the kitchen was a breakfast nook with a bay window with wood frames, and the nook was accented with a wooden wainscot. The wainscot was not original, so we decided to remove it as we were remodeling the kitchen.
As I (Bill) was enthusiastically taking the wood paneling off the wall, one of the windowsills came with it! The rotten piece of wood dropped to the floor. It had obviously been the home of termites for a long time. A cavernous network of tunnels ran through the wood. Parts of the sill were nothing more than a paper-thin facade. I’m not sure, but I think I heard the house laughing at me. With the sill on the floor, I could clearly see the bottom of the window frame. What I saw there was amazing. Dead termites were stacked on one another. The bottom half of the frame was almost totally eaten up. Some fat termites must have been running around that neighborhood! I remember thinking, What have I done? We knew about the termites, but no one told us we were buying the Home Town Buffet for bugs!
Lesson Number Two:
Every couple goes through a period where they wonder, What have we gotten ourselves into? No one could possibly anticipate all that is involved in an intimate relationship, so surprises are inevitable. I remember my first big surprise. Pam and I were quietly sitting in our living room during our first year of marriage. I was thinking to myself, This is awesome. She is beautiful, sex is great, and we’re young and having a lot of fun together. Then it happened. I said something that pushed some button in Pam.
She abruptly stood up and exclaimed, “You don’t love me anymore!” Then she ran to our bedroom, slammed the door, and sprawled herself across the bed. When I walked in, she was sobbing violently. I knew our marriage would hold some challenges, but no one ever told me about this!
I have since learned that one of the best things I can do for Pam is to help her feel secure. She needs to know that she is important and valued. I know that now, but I didn’t then. That day she ran into our room, I wondered who this person was and where she had taken my wife.
Adapted from The 10 Best Decisions a Couple Can Make: Bringing Out the Best in Your Relationship.
Copyright © 2008 Bill and Pam Farell, Published by Harvest House. All rights reserved, used by permission.