Restoration. It’s a word that is used a lot when speaking about broken marriages, and infidelity. It’s repeated over and over in discussions, articles, books, videos, you name it. It’s everywhere. It seems to be a go to word when referring to healing a broken marriage. I’ve used it myself, but for some reason I always get stuck.
Like when a record hits a scratch and starts skipping. Or when your sweater gets snagged and stuck on something. That’s what that word feels like to me when I say it. It just never feels or sounds quite right.
Because the definition of restoration is:
• the action of returning something to a former condition,
• the process of repairing or renovating so as to restore it to its original condition
• the reinstatement of a previous practice, right, custom, or situation.
When you find yourself in a situation such as mine, it is not restoration that you seek.
Sure, in the first days, even months after discovery, you long for what was. You mourn for the life you were living before. Before EVERYTHING changed.
But one day you realize, that life never actually existed. It wasn’t what you thought it was.
Your perception was your reality but your reality was not the truth.
And when you see it clearly in the light of day, it’s not something you want back. While you definitely don’t want this turmoil and pain and uncertainty that your life has become after, you don’t want the illusion of the life you had before either.
So you come to a place of , “What now? What do I want? What do I want my life to look like?”
And honestly, in the beginning, it’s a hard question to answer.
Because there in that place, where you see that the life you had wasn’t at all what you thought it was, and the life you have now most certainly isn’t at all what you wanted it to be, the idea of what you do want it to be or how to get there, can be a difficult thing to envision.
The ONLY thing you know for certain is what you DON’T want it to be. Because now you’ve seen it. You’ve lived it. You’ve felt the pain. You’ve endured the heartache of this story that you did not want.
And so you know. You KNOW that you never want to end up there again.
So restoration is not the right word.
The goal is not to “restore” our marriage.
The goal is to REBUILD it.
We recently renovated our kitchen.
It started with a vision of what we wanted. That vision started with just a few pieces. We really didn’t have the full picture yet, but we had a pretty clear idea of where we were going with it.
So we got started.
It was the same when I made the decision to give our marriage a second chance. I wasn’t completely sure it would work. I wasn’t completely convinced we had the ability to do it. But I had seen enough pieces to know what it could possibly look like. And the only way to find out, the only way to see the completed vision, was to take that first step and just get started.
The first thing I picked out was the back splash.
Cararra marble subway tiles. You guys. 😍 Absolutely gorgeous. I knew from the moment I saw them that it was exactly what I wanted. I love, I mean, LOVE this tile.
It was the first thing I picked out but it was also the finishing touch. The thing that pulled everything else together and made it work.
As for our marriage, I think the backsplash represents commitment. True unwavering commitment. Without it, some of the pieces might still function ok, but others just won’t work at all, and the renovation will just never appear complete. Both spouses have to be fully 100% committed to making it work. Otherwise you end up in a perpetual state of patching things up. A perpetual state of unfinished projects. Never finding the reward of seeing the beauty of this new thing you are building to completion. You can’t rebuild something with only 50% of the supplies, or 50% of the labor. If 50% is all you’ve got, the job will either never get finished or it will fall apart. You both have to commit to going all in.
Next came the paint.
Have y’all ever tried to choose a grey paint? Who knew there were sooo many different greys?! Literally drove myself and my family nuts trying to make a decision.
Walls and trim. Then the cabinets and all the handles. Before you even get started you have to take all the stuff out of the cabinets. Which leaves a nice big mess on the dining room floor.
So much work. Before you start you think, “this won’t be so bad. It’s not that big of a job.”
But after just a few hours in you find yourself exhausted. Frustrated. Downright weary.
“What was I thinking? Why did I think I could do this? How many screws are in these darn hinges and drawer pulls? I knew this was going to be hard work but I didn’t think about all these tedious details. This. Is. Hard.”
But you do it anyway. You keep going forward. And when you finish the painting and rehang the doors, you are amazed at what a difference all that hard work made. And when you refill those cabinets, you throw out the junk and the trash that you don’t need and only put back what is useful.
And that’s what it is like. The healing process. The process of forgiveness.
You know it’s going to be hard. But then you get in there and you realize that
You. Had. No. Idea.
No idea what you were getting yourself into.
No idea the tedious details you would have to work through. No idea the junk and the trash that it would expose.
No idea the strength, the determination and the sheer will it would take to push through it. But that is what it takes. You just have to make the decision to do it, then you roll up those sleeves and you get to work. And you don’t quit. Even when it’s hard. Even when you’re tired. Even when you aren’t feeling 100% sure it’s going to turn out the way you want it to. You just do it.
After that we replaced the flooring.
That required pulling up the old floor, laying down a new subfloor then tiling over that.
That’s when we hit a bit of a snag.
Jeff spent hours laying that tile, but after it dried they started popping up.
It was disastrous. How did this happen?
So we had to backtrack and try and figure out why it wasn’t working. Turns out, when we bought the bag of mortar to lay it with, we failed to notice that the label said not for use with porcelain. So we had to pull EVERY last tile up. Scrape the mortar off the back of every tile. Scrape the mortar off of the subfloor. And start all over. This time using the right materials.
Sometimes, as we are working through rebuilding our marriage, we screw it up. We do things or say things or let the wrong thoughts take precedence in our minds, and we try to lay the foundation down based on the wrong things. And when that happens, we quickly see that the floor starts cracking and we are on unsteady ground. Many times over we’ve had to tear that foundation up again. We’ve had to look back and see where we went wrong, what materials we used that didn’t belong and re install it with the right materials. A solid foundation is crucial. And sometimes it takes time to find all the right ingredients. But once it’s done right, you’ve got a firm foundation to build on. A solid place to land. Steady ground to stand on.
Next we bought a new stove top and vent hood. Jeff found it on Craigslist. I must say I am not a fan of Craigslist and was slightly terrified. But thankfully, not everyone selling on Craigslist is out to murder people and there are great deals to be had. Good to know! As we prepared to install it, I realized that the countertops that we had just were not working with the new aesthetic. Which was a bit disheartening because we had not budgeted for new countertops. The only way we were even able to do what we had done so far was based on an extremely low budget, buying materials at the lowest possible price we could find and doing ALL the work ourselves. But, it was clear that for us to achieve what we were going for, those countertops had to go.
Miracle of miracles, Jeff talked to a former employer. A cabinet maker that he worked for when we first got married. When asking about the price of new countertops, this sweet man told Jeff that he couldn’t be prouder of how he had worked hard and made something of himself, of the man he had become since he worked for him all those years ago. And then he proceeded to make him a deal on those countertops that was better than we ever could have hoped for.
God is so so good.
Countertops are a place of serving. They are also a place of presentation. The way we served each other, the way we presented ourselves to each other in our old marriage. Those things just didn’t work in this new one. We had to learn new ways of showing love. If you haven’t read the five love languages by Gary Chapman. Go get it. Read it. Read it now. Don’t wait. It will be life changing.
After that we moved on to the dining room. I hung new curtains. They provide just a bit of shade, while still letting the light in. And bring a little warmth to the room.
I guess in our marriage maybe that represents new boundaries and also new transparency and the protection and security that both of those things bring.
I refinished our dining room table. It was painted black before. Dark and uninviting. I painted it with a very pale grey chalk paint, then distressed it, and topped it off with several potted succulents. Then we replaced the light fixture hanging above it.
It’s inviting, and the plants give it a little pop of life.
Exactly the way I want my family.
Inviting, and full of life.
The painting on the wall no longer matched, so I replaced it with this. Yes, it’s a cow. And I LOVE it. It’s exactly what I wanted. Full of color and just a touch of whimsy.
In our marriage I suppose that would represent the fun. The adventure of getting to know the new people we are becoming. The unexpected blessings. The joy.
The stairs still need to be redone and the oven and kitchen light fixture still need to be replaced. There is still some work to do in our kitchen and in our marriage before it reaches completion. But with time and the right resources, we know it’s going to be better than we even imagined. We know this because we can already see it coming together. And it already is better than we could have imagined. So how wonderful it is to know we haven’t seen anything yet. There’s still so much goodness ahead.
Most recently, I added this to our shelf.
And that is the key.
The key to everything.
It’s the reason it’s working.
Because we are so, so grateful.
We know how different our lives could be today. How different they should be by the world’s standards after what happened in our marriage.
But instead we have this.
And yes it’s so incredibly hard.
Yes, it’s so incredibly messy.
But it’s also incredibly beautiful.
And nothing short of miraculous. And we are grateful.
Amy Thurston Gordy