I’ve been in Atlanta over fifteen years now and in that time, I’ve seen some neighborhoods slide into disrepair and I’ve watched others climb back from near-ruin. It’s fascinating to observe how an area can go from “No way would I ever live there” to “I wish I could afford to live there!” in under a decade.
And this cycle of new hope, establishment, inattention and renewal is not unique to neighborhoods and it effects more than real estate.
We can also witness it in marriages.
A new marriage is like the construction of a new neighborhood. It is full of promise, even as it is devoid of roots and rituals. Everything can seem perfect as no veneer has yet been worn away from use. New friends are made and a different schedule and routine is worked through. Dreams are shared freely and rarely tempered with reality. This is a period of excitement and possibility.
In a relatively short period of time, the new family transitions into a period of establishment and growth. This may be marked by the raising or children or the focus on nurturing careers. Money, time and attention are directed towards the family. The surroundings and environment are personalized to match the needs as the default template of the new marital construction is discarded. This is a period of creation and purpose.
And now is when the problems can begin to occur. The surroundings may begin to feel stale and too constricting. The small issues can grow into larger ones until they crowd out the good. Life gets in the way and places extra demands. Attention and care may no longer directed towards the family and this inattention starves the marriage. This is a period of uncertainty and fear.
In real estate, this is when some people choose to leave the older neighborhood and look for a newer and fresher home elsewhere. Others stay put and still refrain from putting money into their homes, continuing their disrepair. And some stay and invest in their homes, reinventing their existing space.
It’s the same in marriage. You have three choices.
And if you choose to stay and infuse your established relationship with new vitality, take a cue from gentrification:
Much like the early investors and artists that venture into a neighborhood that has seen better days, you have to be willing to take risks and think creatively.
Instead of tearing down everything, look at the underlying structure to see what can be preserved and enhanced.
Be willing to re-purpose. Just because it’s always been that way, doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.
Do those things you have always wanted to do but always put off. Put those early dreams into action.
Freshen up. Make you and your space inviting and warm.
Know your limitations. Hire help when needed.
Be empathetic and thoughtful when making changes that impact others.
Balance expectations with reality, wants with needs and frustration with thankfulness.
Make your relationship your hub. Your city center. Surround it with what you need.
Talk up your marriage as if it is the most desirable place to be.
And then buy it.
This is a period of renewal.
Hopes and dreams rooted in connection and history.
Best of the old and the new.