“There was a significant amount of deferred maintenance present throughout the property and exterior grounds at the time of the inspection, and this property probably needs significant renovation, remodeling, refurbishment, or rehabilitation.”
That was the opening statement on the inspector’s reports for the home my wife and I were considering buying. The location was where we wanted. The yard was what we wanted. Buying this house would eliminate 6 to 8 hours of drive time per week for us. It even had a pool (of course the above mentioned “deferred maintenance” also extended to the pool, which had a small tree or two growing in it).
For most people, a house like this one is the perfect invitation to look elsewhere. I’m not a do-it-yourself guy who loves this kind of thing. We’re not house flippers. And, the reality is the investment of time and energy, not to mention money, can seem overwhelming. But we still bought it. Why? Because we saw what it could be. Yes, it had been neglected and had fallen into serious disrepair, but we knew what was once a nice house could be a nice house again.
In pastoral and clinical counseling sessions, I’ve worked with a lot of couples who have allowed their marriages to fall into disrepair because of “a significant amount of deferred maintenance.” At first, they talked freely, but over time it became easier to just not talk at all. For a while, husband and wife always saw the best in each other, but eventually all they could see was animosity in the relationship. Responsibility and accountability were a cornerstone of security in the relationship, but eventually blame and a victim mentality eroded the foundation. Lovers used to be able to come home to intimacy, but less and less physical contact led to a non-existent emotional connection. Patience and forgiveness were freely given and received, but eventually only broken promises and grudges tarnished the landscape. Slowly, what was once a beautiful, Christ-centered, haven of goodness and blessing became a gloomy eyesore that only brought anxiety and pain.
And just like with the house, rather than remembering what was and seeing what it could be again, it became easier to look elsewhere. Sometimes it was with another person, either physically or emotionally. Sometimes it was through work or hobbies. Sometimes it was through alcohol, or drugs, or pornography, or other addictions. Sometimes it was through an overpowering apathy that caused one or both spouses to just become numb.
Our house didn’t go from a beautiful home to a fixer-upper overnight. It took a long time to get to the state of disrepair it was in when we bought it, and we knew it wouldn’t become what we knew it could be overnight. It was going to take a serious investment from us in every way. At times it has been frustrating. At times we have wanted to quit. Often, we’ve asked ourselves, “Is this really worth it?” But the thing that keeps us going is hope—hope that something so much better is coming, hope that we don’t have to live in…well…hopelessness. Every accomplishment, every freshly painted wall, every new piece of flooring, every time another room in the house is transformed, our hope is renewed and we press on, knowing we are making a house our home.When a marriage falls into “a significant amount of deferred maintenance,” it did not happen overnight, and it will heal overnight. Trust will have to be restored. Intimacy will have to be rekindled. Couples will have to re-learn selfless love over selfish expectations. Healthy boundaries will have to be redrawn. Transparency will have to be renewed. But it can be done. And as the relationship is being rebuilt, celebrate victories (no matter how large or small), and above all else, hold on to hope—the hope that our God is a God of restoration, and he can restore your covenant marriage.