What area do you want to live?
How much do you want to spend?
And how much work are you willing to do?
Those are usually the first three questions a real estate agent asks a person in the market for a new house. And perhaps the response to the last is the most telling.
Some people look at house that has some functional deficits or is in need of a complete overhaul as chance to create what they what. A challenge, yes. But also an opportunity.
Others want to move into a ready-made house. Open door, insert family. Perhaps because of limitations of time, money or skill, they are reticent to consider a property in need of renovation to bring it up to their expectations.
Those in the second group usually get their wish at first. They find something brand new and stylish or luck into finding and falling in love with the renovations that previous tenants have undertaken.They quickly add the finishing touches that make the house a home and settle in. And for a time, all is well.
It happens gradually. The AC goes on the fritz. The paint colors no longer inspire. The wood floors start to show some wear and practically beg to be refinished. A passing storm pummels the roof, leaving tears in the once tightly-locked shingles. Or maybe it’s less the structure and more the space. That inconsequential guest bathroom is no longer large enough once the kids arrive. You find yourself cursing that awkward corner in the kitchen.
The house that was once move-in ready has started to demand attention.
To need fixing.
For those that truly fear repair, they may use this as an opportunity to leave the old house and find a new and perfect one.
For those that fear change, they may simply turn a blind eye to the house and ignore its needs (as well as their own).
And the others? They begin to see that at some point and in some ways, every house is a fixer-upper. And that rather than trying to find the perfect house, it’s more about finding the house whose quirks are permissible and putting in some elbow grease to make the rest shine.
Those same contrasting viewpoints follow into the dating world.
Some people are looking for that perfect person with an expectation that if it’s right, it will just work. No effort required. Any sign of cracks or peeling paint is seen as a problem and may result in a new search or a blind eye turned.
I had that view the first time around. And it made any discord or disagreement a very scary thing. A potentially fatal flaw in the foundation. While dating, I first looked for move-in ready men, those that seemed to have all their cobwebs dusted and scuff marks polished.
They never lasted.
What I only realized later is that every single relationship falls into the fixer-upper category.
That’s right. There is no such thing as a move-in ready relationship.
Because even those people that appear perfect on the surface have flaws just below. Every person has areas where you will be easily compatible and those where you will have to figure some things out. Just like how you figured out how to finally utilize that awkward corner in the kitchen. Every person brings their own childhood issues to the table and sometimes they will come to the forefront.
We are all fixer-uppers.
We are always fixer-uppers.
That’s not a flaw; it’s an opportunity.
And the opportunities are multiplied when those two fixer-uppers move in together.
Every relationship will face wear and tear and require some elbow grease. Every partnership will be tested and may require occasional reinforcement. There will be times when you feel hemmed in by the walls and other times when they feel comfortable and cozy and welcoming.
It’s about choosing the one whose flaws you can live with and learning how to make the rest shine. It’s about going in with realistic expectations that everything changes over time. It’s about maintaining perspective during those stints when everything seems to be breaking down and expressing appreciation when it goes well. It’s about learning together, trying and trying something new when that doesn’t work. It’s about learning to tell the difference between do-it-yourself repairs, those that require a professional and those that signal that it should be condemned.
And it’s about choosing every day to put in the effort. To build. And rebuild.