Diary of a Marriage: Home Sweet Home

Think marriage is tough? Try owning a home together.

We have a hole in our living room ceiling. A big, black hole with ragged edges that exposes the metal underbelly of our air conditioner, along with the pink cotton-candy insulation and other weird pipes that I’m not quite sure what they do or where they lead to. Which is probably which led to the hole in the first place.

J. and I bought our little Yardley townhouse three years ago. It’s in a charming little development with wide sidewalks and friendly neighbors who walk their dogs and push their babies in jogging strollers and invite us over for cocktails. Our next-door neighbor is a lovely grandmotherly type who cries each year on the anniversary of her husband’s death and asks us how married life is every time we see her, even now that it’s been nearly three years.

Home ownership went swimmingly for the first two and half years. No floods or fires or tornados or any other manner of natural disasters befell our tiny nest, and we proceeded to decorate and paint and wallpaper and settle in. And then, about two weeks ago, we noticed it: A water spot on the ceiling, which, upon further inspection, continued in a darkish streak down the wall. J. and I looked at each other, panicked. This was it. The beginning of the end. Our house was falling apart.

The next morning, I volunteered to go to work late and deal with our phantom leak, promising take care of it. After he left for work, I did what any other discerning homeowner would do: I flipped through the Yellow Pages and found the best-looking ad. One hour later, I was standing in a pile of plaster, watching the plumber I’d called shake his head after energetically ripping a hole in my ceiling.

“It’s not the plumbing, miss,” he said, almost pityingly. “It’s the AC.”

When J. came home later that night, I explained to him that, while I may have been a tad hasty in calling a plumber without knowing if it actually was a plumbing issue, the hole was actually a good thing. We’d diagnosed the problem! The AC was the culprit! We’d fix it and patch the hole and all would be right with the world! He grew pale, and looked at me warily, clearly not sharing my optimism.

It wasn’t until the HVAC guy informed us that it wasn’t the air conditioning either, that we started to panic. We imagined water spots everywhere, feared coming home to all of our furniture afloat. We started questioning why we ever bought. Sure, we thought we were being responsible and financially savvy, but what we’d done is get ourselves roped into a money pit. Like Tom Hanks in that movie. Only in real life, Tom Hanks has a bajillion dollars and probably six other homes. A phantom leak wouldn’t phase Tom Hanks.

“I’m so sorry, babe,” J. said one night. Sorry? For what? His apology caught me off-guard. “For making you live in a house that’s falling apart.” He looked almost sad. And it was then that I realized that J. feels responsible for me, for our little two-person family. What a huge weight that must be, I thought. Since then, I’ve looked at him a little bit differently. I’ve always imagined us as a team -— we both do housework and cook and work hard to pay our bills — so I never figured he felt that our life, good or bad, rested on his shoulders.

I can’t say that our life has changed in any drastic way since then. We still have a hole in our ceiling (it’s a roof thing, apparently) and the water streak is still there. But I look at J. in a slightly different light now. And it’s a good one.

By the way, we found another water spot in our laundry room. I’m taking care of it.

What about you? Has owning a home with your fiancé or husband taught you anything about each other? About your relationship? Do you think he feels a sense of responsibility outside of your little team? Tell us your stories in the comments!

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