Most of the time when the aesthetics in a home change, it’s because one half of a couple wanted it. If you’re reading this, that person is most likely you. When one person cares more, it can feel like a game of tug o’ war as you fight for every little decorating move that happens in your home. Maybe you’re tired of the tension around this topic.
Or maybe your spouse grew an opinion on things seemingly overnight, and it’s totally messing with your plans.
You made the very logical assumption that because your spouse showed ZERO interest in your excitement over the latest issue of Domino magazine or didn’t care when a Home Goods opened up nearby that the world of decorating was dead to him.
Obviously, all decor decisions should be made by you.
So you take the initiative, make plans, pick some paint samples, and lug home your goodies. But out of the clear blue, your spouse suddenly has some opinions.
Like out of thin air.
Opinions that you never even knew existed until this very moment. (And you wish had stayed underground because they threaten your glorious plans.)
“When did you start to care? You NEVER care about anything I say about the house until now?! Seriously, man. Give me break. Why are you trying to ruin things? You don’t even know how much better this will look. Why would you question me on this? Who ARE you?!?”
Dramatic? Yaaaaas. But I’ve been that crazy person spouting those kinds of things and have heard from plenty of clients after the fact who have too. You are not alone. We have all morphed into crazy ladies when we feel our decorating dreams are being challenged.
We have all morphed into crazy ladies when we feel our
decorating dreams are being challenged.
After years of feeling like I was going to battle every time I brought a decorating decision to my husband, I’ve learned a few things and changed my ways.
*Side note: You may be a “he” reading this in hopes to get a “she” on board to decorate. Or you may be a “he with a he” or a “she with a she”. Not meaning to stereotype but rather to simplify, for the purpose of this post I’ll use my first person experience of a “she” trying to convince a “he”.
THE BLATANT DESIGN DECISION I MADE
Here’s a cautionary tale of a decision I made that my husband STILL brings up with joking resentment 7 years later…The den in our last home was a nice big room with wood lined walls. (Not wood paneling, actual wood planks.) The natural oak wood felt warm and rustic like a lake house lodge, but I was craving light and airy like a New England beach house.
The wood walls had to go. I hatched my plan. It was going to be major.
I announced to my husband that I wanted to paint the wood soft white. Immediately he balked at the idea, and rallied his friends-who were over watching a game- to side with him. (Mistake #1…never tell a group of guys your design idea. The will rain on your parade faster than a flash flood in Florida.)
Stu and I talked about my paint plans for a couple weeks but never came to a compromise. So I did the only thing I could in that situation…I waited until he was out of town for a business trip and then painted the room white anyway.
I waited until he went out of town for a business trip and
then painted the room white anyway.
I mean sure, I felt guilty but I was driven by a force that was hard to control. Three gallons of Benjamin Moore “White Dove” was the only thing that could make my world right in that moment.
When Stu came home from his trip, I pretended that I had no idea this was a totally deceitful act of decorating. He let out a few choice words, didn’t speak for about 5 minutes, but was good natured enough not be truly irate. (As he probably should have been.) The next day he agreed it looked nice, but he wasn’t thrilled with what I did.
AND I have never lived it down.
Honestly, if I could go back I would have handled the situation totally differently. Do I think the walls still needed to be white? Of course. But I could have done more to share my vision for the space beforehand rather than taking the sneakily aggressive route.
1. Begin with questioning.
Ok…so this is a hard one for me. Because I care more, sometimes I feel I have the right to dictate every little thing that happens in our space. (“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than get permission” is a humorously brilliant motto in some circumstances, but not when it comes decorating your joint living space.)
Rather than announcing your grand plans, start by questioning. “How do you feel about our living room? What would you think about….? What would you change in this room if we could?” These are much better ways to ease into a conversation and get an understanding of where your spouse is coming from.
2. Communicate visually.
Words like “mid-century modern” and “bright and airy bohemian” don’t mean a lot to people who aren’t into design. After questioning, one of the best things you can do to help convey your vision is to shut up. Literally. Find several pictures that can do the talking for you. Make intentional comments on aspects of those images that you like. Use these to communicate with your spouse instead of trying to word vomit him into being excited about your ideas. Even if he doesn’t jump on board 100% with your vision right away, you’ll be able to have a much more productive conversation based on concrete images rather than ambiguous words.
3. Keep it simple.
Don’t overwhelm your spouse with all the nitty gritty of your plans. He likely won’t understand, and it could put him on the defensive. He doesn’t need to hear about the 15 different throw pillow combinations for the sofa, and he won’t want to see the 247 pictures of white kitchens you pinned on Pinterest. Spare him the details.
Once you’ve arrived at your top picks, then share with him. Be clear that you’ve already done a lot of research and you feel these are the best options. And here’s a big one…Don’t ask for an opinion if what you’re really wanting is someone to sign off on a decision you’ve already made. It will just make him feel like he isn’t’ heard when you don’t listen to his opinion.
Don’t ask for an opinion if what you’re really wanting is
someone to sign off on a decision you’ve already made.
4. Cut the complaining
When you’re discouraged about the way your home looks, it’s natural to share that dissatisfaction with your spouse. I get it. Just be very careful that it doesn’t turn into incessant complaining. Your spouse probably works very hard to help pay the mortgage, and hearing repeated negative thoughts about your house might translate into him thinking that you are ungrateful for what you do share together.
Instead, focus on identifying the problems that can be solved. Rather than making blanket statements about how much you don’t like your house/room right now, pick one area that you know can be addressed. For example, you could bring up how cluttered your living room feels and note that if you had some new shelving it might help organize items in the space. Problem & solution. This usually leads to better outcomes than sweeping statements of disdain.
5. Be careful with compromise.
Huh? Yes. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but if you both compromise too much then you’ll end up with a room neither of you loves. Instead look for the separate “wins” that can work together. Decide what the biggest priority is for each of you in the room, and try to make decisions with that in mind. If the most important thing to him is a comfortable sofa, then maybe he makes the final call on that decision but you get to decide the color scheme for the room.
Tell your spouse how the state of your space is affecting you. Then paint a picture of how having all intentionally designed home will affect both of your lives for the better. Will you be able to entertain more? With the house stay cleaner because you’ve addressed organization issues? Would you be able to repurpose a room to better serve your family? Would you add value to your home with a renovation or even small update? Let him know it’s more than just more “pretty stuff”.
7. Dream together.
Spend some time imagining your dream home together. Don’t set parameters. Just let the conversation live in the fantasy realm for a little while. Pretend that money is no option. What would your dream house look like? Where would it be located? What kinds of things would have? How would it make you feel? What’s on your “wish list”? When you start dreaming aloud together, you may find that you have more common end-goals for your home than you thought. Bonus? It doesn’t cost you anything to dream.
A few times I’ve helped a client create a plan for a room that she loved. But when she took it to her husband, he didn’t react the same way she did. She felt badly that he didn’t love it like she did, so she’d start to doubt her choices and wonder if we should change the plan. (In a couple cases we did, but most times the plan was not the problem.) If decorating is not as big a priority for your spouse as it is for you, then he will NEVER have that over-the-top excited reaction.
Here’s the deal…it means more to you. It just does. You probably imagined your first home and collected decor magazines long before you ever moved out of that first crappy apartment. Was he doing the same? Of course not.
He’s not going to spend hours agonizing over the perfect shade of “griege” paint or swoon over those gorgeous chairs you found online. (In the same way you may appreciate a new grill or flat-screen TV, but you probably don’t have the same level of interest in them as he does. It’s just not your thing.)
You can’t expect his enthusiasm to match yours. For you,
nesting has been hard-wired and something you’ve invested
in emotionally for years.
You can’t expect his enthusiasm for a cohesive home to match yours. For you, nesting has been hard-wired and something you’ve invested in emotionally for years. While he may enjoy a nice home, he hasn’t been dreaming about since childhood like you have.
It’s ok if you love it more than him.
Is he fine with the plan? Does the budget work? Do YOU love it?
Then go forth and decorate with gusto, my friend.
*And if you realize that depending on your spouse to advise you on decorating decisions is not happening, we should chat. (It’s kinda’ my thing.) Check out Decor Coaching. It’s husband approved:)