By Jennie Smith
When I was in my twenties, I bought a charming little condo. It was in an amazing building built in 1909. I was able to find original pictures of the building with a wide packed-dirt road in front, and one of those classic cars with the big spoked wheels, open body, and a long black hood parked in front. Wood floors, original black and white octagonal tile in the bathroom and kitchen, original and beautifully etched leaded glass windows, stunning brick work, and a lovely stone fountain in the courtyard……oh….and a courtyard!
The building had been originally constructed to be opulent family homes with a gorgeous view of the city. As time passed, the large and spacious flats were divided into smaller apartments. It languished as an apartment building for decades until someone bought it and fixed it up. Selling the units to mostly young singles and couples who desired to live close to downtown and had the added benefit in living in a beautiful historic building. I was so excited.
And then the glories of a fixer upper began. To kick it all off, the cockroach infestation made itself known. I remember my cat waking me up in the middle of the night as he scrabbled and bounded all over the bedroom. I snapped on the light just in time to see him flipping a huge cockroach up into the air and then bolted after it into the living room. Go kitty! But that’s not all. The gorgeous casement windows were painted shut. When I pried them open there was so much build up and warped wood, I could no longer pull them closed enough to latch them. I had to tie them shut with string. Not the safest option in a condo just a mile from the middle of downtown Salt Lake. Water in the bathtub backed up, the kitchen sink dripped nonstop, the water heater barely worked, the walls had so many layers of wallpaper and paint that they started to crack and peel, the wood floors sanded so thin in certain areas I was told they would have to be completely replaced, the radiator heater either had to be on full force resulting in a blasting hot condo or shut completely off so it would not drip all over the floor. The kitchen cupboards had no back, therefore if you pushed something back too far…it would simply disappear into what I can only imagine was the cockroach hideout.
And then the real fun started, the leaks and power outages. Leaks from the apartments above me through my ceiling. Leaks from my apartment into the apartment below. Sweltering days in the middle of summer with no power. So frequent and widespread that the HOA decided to take a closer look. When the walls and ceiling were opened up they found a patchwork maze of original pipes and electrical wires “bandaged” up so poorly they were barely able to conduct their respective cargo from point A to point B. The entire building needed its guts ripped out and reworked. Oops.
I was done. No more fixer upper….it was time to evolve. No matter how painful, no matter how much work, no matter how much skin was lost in that game…..it was time to evolve.
And now….I get to the point. I have also had relationships that could be described just like my condo. Real fixer uppers that I could have stayed in for years. Constantly spinning to patch the next hole or plug the next leak. Bad wiring and bad plumbing right down to the core. Not that the other person in the relationship was a “bad” person, but together we were the total fixer upper. No moving forward when we were constantly addressing the newest crisis. Pretty much impossible to grow together when the foundation could not even hold what we had already placed upon it. So what to do? Commit to evolution instead of constant repair. Commit to thrive not just survive. Commit to growth instead of mere maintenance.
So what did I do? I took my leave from the relationship, as did they. Our relationship was a fixer upper. Too much with too little return for both of us. Then I committed to find an expansive relationship, one with a strong foundation and great “bones”. All the room I wanted. Not perfect, because perfection is a lie.
Jason and I have rearranged the furniture in our relationship dozens of times, even knocked out a few walls to create more space and light. But we have spent very little time attempting to “fix” the relationship. We take care, we keep it clean, we spend the time it takes to declutter, we throw open the windows to let in fresh air and sunshine when it gets stale. We thrive in our relationship.
So ask yourself: Is your relationship a fixer upper or is it a beautiful structure ready to hold your heart, dreams, love, and life?
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