Renovating our home and renovating our marriage

For the past few months my wife and I have been living in a different space as our family home has been undergoing significant restoration. Just as we sifted through the contents of our home prior to our departure into a different place, touching on memories both good and bad, we are now doing the same again as we prepare to return. Sorting out what is needed for the next phase of our shared life involves a further letting go of what is no longer necessary. Having lived without our possessions for a period in a different space has actually made this second sift easier to accomplish. What we have both noticed recently is how we have learnt to live in a new way and the changes to the dynamic of our relationship.

This has become more apparent through the forced self-isolation that we are sharing through the COVID19 pandemic. Rather than returning to the normality of our real home we find ourselves through circumstances of need lingering on the threshold and not taking possession. We, like so many, are in a liminal state and the one advantage is that it is a neutral space where we can share our hopes and fears. It is also a place where we can be honest about our relationship, undertake a deeper stock-take and move into a deeper level of communication.

In restoring our home, we have had to learn the art of compromise in terms of what we both expected in order to achieve an outcome that was both practical and met our new needs. We are at that point of being close to return. As such, we are very conscious that as we are moving into a new space, as the form and layout are radically different. What we both want to avoid is to fall back into how the dynamic of our relationship operated before we moved. One of the reasons for the work was not simply the need for much needed repair after nearly 25 years as a family home, but that it is becoming our home as a couple once again. Therefore, the underlying design was based on what we perceived as out joint needs rather than those of the wider family.

The result of the restoration has been the fruit of an on-going conversation between us over an extended period of time. This discussion has involved disagreement, a sprinkling of grumpiness and the gradual move to a shared rather than personal vision of the outcome. One of the side fruits of restoring our home has been the restorative effect on us of the place of good communication on our relationship.  Living away from our home in a liminal space has allowed the opportunity for discussions to arise, which mirror in so many ways the ongoing sifting out of unwanted physical items. Now getting rid of possessions can be hard, but sifting through memories to create a new narrative also involves pain and joy.

This has included being more aware of how we communicate and resolve our differences so that we grow more closely together, not apart. Part of our conversation has been recognising that we are not the same two people who originally met, fell in love and married. Just as our lives for over 30 years have not been static, neither has the dynamic that binds our relationship always been the same. Our journey has changed and evolved just as we have.

Whilst aspects of the original blue-print remain (just like the structure of our home) new vistas and spaces have been created. Recognising that change does not always entail loss has helped us to recognise the changes and challenges that have helped us grow as individuals and as a couple. Saying good-bye to one stage of our shared life does not consign everything to the bin, but it allows the space to revisit both positives and negatives. Memories of past hurts cast long shadows which cannot simply be put in a box and need to be discussed openly, healed and then safely consigned to the past.

For us, this has been made all the easier by going through our physical possessions more than once. We have done so together and found that it has created the backdrop for conversations that were long overdue. It has been good to laugh and share happy memories, to recognise where we have drifted apart and to know that we can shape a new narrative as we move forward. When we let go of something, we can retain the memory but in a way that is positive.

Letting go allows the opportunity for us as a couple to look forward with some excitement to new adventures and opportunities to grow as one. As we sit in self-isolation, we are taking that opportunity to look at different aspects of our lives together, what we would like to celebrate, where healing is required and at times simply to forgive.

Deacon Roger Carr-Jones

Deacon Roger Carr-Jones, Marriage & Family Life Coordinator (Diocese of Westminster)

Marriage Week 2020

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