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Relationship Issues are Like Home Repairs - Choose to Grow

Home Repair

EEK, What is that? Oh no, please no, please don’t let that be what I think it is. Ugh, it is what I think it is. I really hope there is a simple explanation for this. Oh man, there’s not. Ugh.

This was the response of a bewildered homeowner upon discovering a dreaded home repair. Whether a water stain on the ceiling, A super cold shower with no hot water, or another sign that a major home repair is needed, spotting a large and unexpected home repair can be downright terrifying.

Homeowners traumatized by the sighting of a home repair in their home tend to cope in one of three ways. The first way is to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist and it will go away. The second is called The MacGyver. This way of coping generally involves the use of duct tape and potentially a paper clip to fix the problem. The third coping strategy is termed The surgeon. This option is normally a lot more painful and expensive than they first two options, but also the most effective. This strategy requires the home owner to hire an expert to replace old or damaged parts and install new ones. This is the preferred way of dealing with home repairs because ignoring repairs or using quick fixes to repair the home can lead to even larger problems and could potentially compromise the safety of the home.

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So far, I’ve explored how homeowners respond to unwanted home repairs and the strategies they use to cope with home improvement projects. Surprisingly, homeowners respond in a similar way and tend to apply these same strategies when trying to repair their relationships. 

Whether it is in a romantic relationship, parent /child relationship, sibling relationship, or other relationship, conflict happens, and when it happens it can be just as frightening as knowing a major home improvement project needs tackling.

man talking to upset woman

We all have frustrating, embarrassing, and downright ugly moments of miscommunication in our relationships. ?ohn Gottman, world renowned couple’s therapist stated, “Expecting communication to be easy is like expecting to hit a hole in one every time we play golf.” Thus, relationships repair work is needed in every relationship, no matter what it looks like on Facebook or in Christmas cards.

So let’s look at how individuals use the same coping strategies for conflict in relationship that they use for major home repairs.

First, individuals can apply the “pretend that it doesn’t exist, and it will go away” strategy.  Postponing home repairs can be costly and potentially dangerous to a home, and postponing relationship repairs can be equally costly and dangerous to a relationship. Relationship conflict that has not been repaired or worked through tends to build up over time causing mistrust in the relationship. Unresolved conflict can start to spill over into future non-conflict interactions and future conflict interactions if it is ignored.

Second, individuals can respond to relationship conflict using the MacGyver strategy of applying duct tape. Duct tape repairs look like they have temporarily fixed things, when the reality is all they have done is masked over the real problem. Duct tape repairs can start with the statement, ?I  said I’m sorry okay, so let’s just move on. Duct tape repairs also include but statements, such as I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings, but . . ., Paper clip repairs include: excusing oneself, or focusing on things that the other person has done wrong.

Third, is the Surgeon strategy. It’s way less comfortable and requires more risk and vulnerability than ignoring or duct taping – but it is more effective. The scalpel of the surgeon strategy is having empathy for the other person by listening to and opening up one’s heart to what part of the interaction is causing the other person pain. The surgical suture is owning one’s part in what has happened. Healing starts to happen when each person takes responsibility for what went wrong and takes the steps to do better in the future.

husband and wife talking

Repairs. Whether they are home improvement repairs or relationship repairs it’s never fun to have to deal with them. If they are taken care of properly they can strengthen and enhance both homes and relationships. As noted play therapist Garry Landreth stated, “The most important thing may not be what you do, but what you do after what you have done.”

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