What Our Own Fixer Upper Taught Us About Marriage

Last June we moved into a new house with lots of potential–which is realtor speak for “fixer upper.” It needed a major overhaul to bring this 1980’s construction with 1990’s decor into the Joanna Gaines era of shiplap and barn doors (neither of which fit into our 2017 budget). But we moved into the house anyway, convinced we could make big changes with a few dollars.

Renovations started the week before Christmas (because only crazy people with five kids schedule their remodel the week of Jesus’ birthday). Ultimately we moved in with Brandon’s mom for a week, returned to a home of dust and disarray for a couple more weeks, then moved back in with my very brave, very gracious mother-in-law for an entire month. We officially moved back home two weeks ago and, while we loved our time with my MIL, I agree with Dorothy, “There’s no place like home.”

Unpacking Projects

A good friend advised me to just relax and unpack one box a day. “Um, do you not know me at all?!”

When I move into a new home, I fly into Ninja-mode, never resting until the house is as show-ready as the day I bought it. And then my children wake up and ransack the place like they’re in cohorts with that evil Elf on the Shelf.

While I unpack boxes, Brandon plows through his project list. In fact, just yesterday he had hung up new his-and-hers towel hooks in the master bathroom when I walked in, took one look, and blurted out, “Why is my hook a foot higher than your hook?

He gave me his infamous blank stare. “I don’t know. I didn’t realize it was higher. I just hung them in the same place the old hooks were.”

“Exactly. We just spent three months doing things completely different than what was already here. Why would you hang towel hooks exactly where they were?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“I don’t know. I just didn’t think I needed to ask you where to hang them.”

Unpacking Feelings


Clearly, what started as a simple DIY had turned into something more . . . and it was not about the hooks.

What Brandon said was, “I didn’t think I needed to ask you where to hang them.”

What I heard him say was:

  • “You’re so bossy.”
  • “You call all the shots around here.”
  • “No matter where I hang the hooks, you’ll never be happy.”

I let his comment prey on my insecurities, I negatively interpreted his words, and conflict ensued. Yes, I wanted parallel shower hooks (I crave symmetry and order among the chaos of real life). But more than that I wanted to feel understood. Noticed. Valued. I desperately wanted to know that my opinion counted.

Brandon, on the other hand, wanted to feel appreciated. He wanted to complete a project and hear a simple, “Thank you,” instead of an immediate criticism. He, too, wanted to feel understood. Noticed. Valued. He wanted to know that, amid his long list of projects, his opinion counted as well.

Isn’t that what we all want? Whether in a disagreement or a deep conversation with our spouse, to know that we matter?

Whether you’re moving, renovating, or just making your way through the daily mundane, I encourage you to think about the words you speak and the words you hear. Oftentimes, it’s not about the hooks, but a deeper core need. Take a step back and examine what you really need. Do you need to be:

  • heard
  • understood
  • valued
  • loved
  • cared for
  • appreciated
  • noticed
  • listened to

Then tell your spouse what you need. In the end you’ll realize it’s probably not about the hooks . . . or the nail.


Share this post

Leave a Reply