"You are not bringing 100 football helmets into our house!"
"What about you—are you gonna get rid of some of those hundred pairs of shoes?"
The idea of getting married may be bliss. However, the actuality of merging two households—especially when you've both been on your own for years—can be part Let's Make a Deal- meets-The Clash of the Titans. So what are some stress-lite ways to handle this challenge?
Negotiate: Married in 2010, one month shy of 36, Kristi Lawrence found the process of turning two homes into one "more overwhelming than I had anticipated." The New Mexico-based marketing executive explains, "I left my house to move into my husband's place. He was used to having his house decorated a certain way." That 'certain way' left Kristi feeling a bit like she was losing her identity. The solution: several conversations over the first year or two of marriage aimed at incorporating Kristi's prized possessions into the overall decorating scheme. Kristi says, "Over time our décor has evolved into a wonderful representation of us."
The keyword here: evolved. Both people need to develop a spirit of openness and experimentation. If your merged home looked exactly the way you truly desired, you'd likely be living in it alone!
Develop the "It's Only Stuff" mentality: Unlike Kristi, who moved into her groom's home, Amy Schoen's husband brought himself and his lifetime of possessions into her townhouse. "I had already downsized from a four-bedroom house after my divorce. So when I married the second time, at 42, I was in the 'cleaning up my mess' mode," explains the Maryland life coach.
This translated into Amy reorganizing the basement so her spouse could have his 'man cave' and getting rid of her living room furniture so the two could buy a couch and cocktail table together. Another way they made it "their" abode: painting the living room. "My husband got rid of most of his furniture, keeping some of his pictures which were hung in his office."
Be creative: Samantha Verant took relocating for marriage to a new level—at age 40 she moved to France to marry a widower with two girl tweens. Four years after this enormous life change, the author, recalls, "I arrived in France with three suitcases, some packed with paintings and small design items, which we hung on once barren wall or placed on tables or counters."
Little by little Samantha added homey touches—throw pillows, photos of her wedding and of her stepdaughters with their deceased mother. Samantha says, "Jean Luc and I make decisions together of what's going to stay, what's going to leave. We work within our budget. We're taking the 'the merge' one room and one day at a time."
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.