Marriage Lessons From an Unwed 23- Year Old

This past week, my parents finished a giant do-it-yourself kitchen renovation in a home they’ve now lived in for two years. When they moved in, the kitchen had a completely dysfunctional layout, two sinks, two ovens, a gas cooktop that only had one working burner, and a smattering of horrid designs everywhere you looked. The linoleum floor looked like crocodile skin that had been covered in Dijon mustard, and the backsplash was so ugly I cannot even describe what it looked like because there are no words in the English language that can adequately sum up how ugly it was.

This week, my parents nailed in the last piece of trim, and the kitchen is beautiful. New countertops. Subway tile backsplash. Beautiful gray, rustic plank flooring. White cabinets. New layout. New built-ins. It looks like a magazine! To a guest, the newly renovated kitchen is clearly a beautiful feature of the house, something worthy of a compliment. To me, the kitchen is even more impressive knowing the work that went into it.

Since September, I have witnessed my parents learn how to demo a kitchen, rewire electric, lay tile, install appliances, fix plumbing, build cabinets, and solve an endless amount of inexplicable measurement conundrums. As an observer, I often stood baffled, wondering…how? During the project, my brother Sam remarked that watching my parents renovate their kitchen gave him a good idea of why their marriage works.

This year, my parents will celebrate their 38th year of marriage. Their marriage began when my mom was 23 and my dad was 24; my dad had hair, my mom looked about the same as she does now because she is a flawless woman of tremendous, ageless beauty. A few months after they got married, they packed up all their belongings and drove across the country so my dad could continue seminary outside of Los Angeles. They didn’t have much money and they were just learning what it meant to be married, but they had perseverance and a vision, qualities that I think my brother Sam was getting at when he said that watching our parents renovate their kitchen these past few months gave him a good idea of why their marriage has worked so well for the past 38 years.

When I step back and look at what my parents have fixed and built throughout the years, I always am filled with both awe and respect.

During the countless number of home renovations my parents have taken on over the years in all the old homes we’ve lived in, they have displayed quiet perseverance and a strong sense of vision. Whether it’s redoing a kitchen, a bathroom, or repairing and refinishing a ratty antique, my parents never seem to give up on a task and always are able to see the potential and value of uncovering that potential. They’re willing to learn, and seek knowledge through reading and observing. They then take the time to teach each other what they learned. Their skills that complement each other, and they don’t blame each other when something goes wrong or someone doesn’t know what to do. And when a project doesn’t go right, I have seen them laugh, shake their heads, step back and say, “Oh well! We’ll try again tomorrow!” They are a team.

As is typical when renovating older homes, things often get messed up. They’ve had to redo projects and tasks, and timelines have proved unpredictable. And in the end, no project was ever perfect no matter how hard they tried. But with each house and project my parents touched, the potential always shined through. The beauty always surfaced. It was remarkable to witness. When I step back and look at what my parents have fixed and built throughout the years, I always am filled with both awe and respect. 

As my parents finished their kitchen renovation this week, I couldn’t help but step back and feel the same way looking at their marriage. It is both beautiful and inspiring for me to see my parent’s marriage through the lens of such a tangible project such as home reno. The journey of marriage is never a perfect one or a pretty process, just like all their home renos. Marriage requires perseverance, vision, patience, and acceptance; it requires two imperfect people to come together and decide over and over again that they are willing to get their hands dirty. But in the end, what can be made from the team a husband and wife make is inspiring. Beautiful. 


Today I am feeling grateful for the times my parents were willing to get their hands dirty. For the times they didn’t give up. For the times they felt tired but persisted. For the times they stuck to the vision that they first set their eyes on 38 years ago.

Though I am 23 years old and woefully inexperienced in the area of marriage, nor do I even know if I’ll embark on that journey myself one day, I do know this:  I am grateful for the legacy my parents have built, and are continuing to build. They inspire me to persevere. To not be afraid to get my hands dirty. To ask for help when I need it. And to always keep the faith. These are not lessons for people that are dating, engaged, or married: they are lessons for everyone. Lessons worth learning again and again, lessons worth reminding ourselves of, lessons we always can get a better grasp on.

Here’s to you, Jim and Pam. Thanks for the lessons you’ve taught me so far in my 23 years. I can’t wait to see what I’ll learn from you next.

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