I’ll never forget the first time I saw the HGTV show Fixer Upper. It was summer. I was pregnant and huge and mostly miserable. Until I discovered the Fixer Upper marathon and fell in love with both the concept and the couple on my TV.
At first the houses drew me in — the transformations, the chic furnishings and creative decor, all within a reasonable budget — amazing! A few episodes in, I wanted to be Chip and Joanna. I wanted their energy, their vision.
But mostly? I wanted their marriage.
By the third or fourth hour, I picked up on how much they seemed to enjoy and appreciate each other. I loved how Joanna called out Chip’s skill in front of the kids in the opening montage. “Look at how strong he is!” she sings.
Suddenly, I wasn’t just questioning my decorating style or my home’s floorplan. I found myself analyzing every stale, terse, and difficult interaction with my husband, too. And what began when I was pregnant with my first child only continued season after season. After the birth of my second and HGTV’s hard sell for its new pair of lovebirds and Home Town heroes, I found myself mired down all over again, wanting to renovate my entire life.
To be clear, there is magic in television. And it’s called editing. What we see is very intentional, a limited view of the home, the process, and the people.
In some behind-the-design footage, Joanna Gaines revealed the reason you don’t see all the rooms in a fixer upper is they’re crammed with boxes and decorations she didn’t use. We only receive a tour of the areas she impeccably staged, not the whole house, and certainly not as the homeowners will actually live in it. HGTV only shows us what they believe is worth seeing.
Similarly in my own life and marriage, I only see what I want to see, which is usually what’s urgent or frustrating or difficult. Like many people in the first half of any formulaic HGTV show, I rarely see the potential. I only see the work, and it feels like too much.
It doesn’t help that we’re consuming a tightly edited montage of transformation. When you’re not living in the dust and debris of a renovation (not to mention daily life), everything looks easier. Just as we don’t see the mass of people working behind the scenes to pull off a whole-home renovation, we don’t know how much work has gone into the people we see on screen.
What’s more, we don’t have to live with them! For example, I don’t have to kiss Chip Gaines goodnight while thinking of the cockroach he ate or the boot juice he guzzled. And I don’t have to wash piles of Ben Napier’s sweaty sweaty clothes. My family dynamics are interesting, but nothing like what may lurk behind the scenes of Good Bones or Property Brothers.
Quite frankly, my limited view of these people and their work makes it easy to love them. And makes it awfully unfair for my husband. So I am working on renovating my heart to transform my home life.
I want to call out the strengths I see in my husband, especially in front of my kids. I want more goofiness and less focus on the stress of life. I want to respond to my boys with joy at the end of a long day. (I want them to bring me cupcakes from time to time, okay?)
I want to be okay with my fixer upper of a life in its current state because I know it won’t always be that way, and I don’t have to face all the work it requires on my own. And that is a beautiful thing.