When you purchase a home, there is an inspection, so you have an idea of what you are purchasing and getting yourself into. This is helpful…to an extent. More often than not though, when there is an issue or a problem, it is under the surface—something that cannot be seen or presumed without indication. It could be this issue remains hidden for weeks, months, or years.

Then, without warning, you’re standing in your closet and look up to see a dark spot on the ceiling that looks a bit warped. You think, “Hmmmm. Has that always been like that?” You start rationalizing with yourself that it’s probably nothing and pretend your eyes are deceiving you.

It’s an older house, so leaks happen but the spot gets bigger and more warped. Clearly, this is not something to be ignored…so we didn’t. The good news is, we caught it early before my daughter’s bathtub upstairs ended up in my closet downstairs. When the wall was opened up to fix the broken pipe, the plumber said, “Wow. You’re lucky. This pipe was really corroded.”

Okay. That leaky, broken pipe was fixed.

Several months later, every time I walked in the house, the smell of wet dog permeated the air. I have two dogs, but they were never wet. So why now is this smell more pungent than ever? Is it because they’re dirtier than usual, or is the air conditioning somehow causing the strange smell? I was rationalizing and skirting around the issue. But then it was taking an oddly long time for the hot water to heat up. Surely, this all must be related, right? We don’t go looking for problems. We continue doing what we’ve always done, except we keep talking about this odor and the frustration of having to wait longer than usual for hot water.

After a few days of pretending nothing is wrong, my husband makes the trek to the basement to check on the hot water heater. It didn’t take long to realize there was a problem and it was big. Water was flooding out of a broken pipe in the basement, which had likely been happening for days. It then all made perfect sense as to why the house reeked of wet dog and why the water was taking so long to get hot.

When the plumber fixed the broken pipe, he remarked on how poorly the state of the pipes under the house were. He said fixing this pipe would be helpful, but it’s almost like a Band-Aid. The water will flow better, but it’s actually putting more pressure on the weaker pipes that hadn’t been well maintained or properly fixed by the previous homeowner. It’s only a matter of time before it happens again. The problem is, you don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. How comforting. So, we’re sitting on a ticking time bomb…or a leaky one.

Several days later, I’m in the kitchen waiting for the toaster to ding when I hear water running. Now I’m on high alert. Did one of the kids leave the sink running after washing their hands? (Cue a reactionary problem: placing blame.) Nope, not their fault. Then I open the door to the guest bedroom to see and hear water pouring out of the ceiling fan. Everything is drenched. This has been going on for hours, if not days. The ceiling looks as if it’s about to cave in, and we are in the midst of a divine storm. Walls need to be cut open, pipes need to be ripped out and rebuilt. A huge ordeal.

The clean up, the cost—emotionally and physically—is overwhelming, frustrating, and seemingly unfair. I thought, “This too shall pass, it’s nothing. We’ll get past this.” Days go by, weeks, months. We’re living surface lives. From the outside, everything appears “normal.” On the inside, it is anything but.

Why do we wait? Why do we rationalize? Why do we pretend nothing is wrong? Because it is really difficult to face the problems that are right in front of you. We can fix a surface issue, but in doing so, only exacerbate the bigger problems lying just below the surface that are boiling up, pressing up against the weakest parts of the infrastructure, until it can no longer handle the pressure. Then BOOM…crumbling, despair, destruction– an utter mess.

Our relationship was suffering, but neither of us were willing to admit to one another the damage that was happening below the surface. We had been applying the rationalization approach, pretending all was well, because that was easier than facing reality…even worse was the Band-Aid approach. If we fix this one little issue then it will make the bigger ones disappear. That doesn’t work. The pressure mounts, the leaking under the surface happens every minute of the day until the dam breaks, and all that has been building up comes flooding through, crumbling the very structure you were seeking to protect by pretending nothing was wrong, or that it would just go away.

I’ve learned many things from the bursting, broken, leaky pipes. Most of all, I know now not to sweep things under the rug or take an easy-way-out approach, because it will be way worse in the end. My marriage is in repair, much like my house. And it’s difficult to admit, but we’ve been building this thing for over 15 years. It needs work. It needs nurturing. It needs looking after. It needs priority and it needs love. I’ve also learned how grateful I am to have running hot water and to have a husband who is willing to be deeply committed to our marriage through thick, thin, and broken pipes.

“We’re living surface lives. From the outside, everything appears “normal.” On the inside, it is anything but.”

“My marriage is in repair, much like my house.”

“Our relationship was suffering, but neither of us were willing to admit to one another the damage that was happening below the surface.”

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