(TNS)—Moving in with someone means making sacrifices. Couples have to adjust to each other’s schedules, surrender some privacy and come up with a fair system to decide who will take out the trash.
But maybe the most unanticipated hurdle of mixing homes is agreeing on how the place will be decorated. His tufted leather sofa won’t exactly complement your white leather sectional. Your framed Edgar Degas prints alongside his mounted taxidermy? Uh, no.
A recent survey commissioned by online art store UGallery found that nearly 60 percent of women respondents thought “managing different home decor styles” was one of the biggest move-in challenges for couples. This includes coming to a consensus on colors and furniture, how to decorate walls and—the most cited in the survey—how to incorporate existing household items with your partner’s.
“The goal is to create a home everyone loves and feels loved and nurtured in,” says Sharon Hanby-Robie, interior designer and author of “Decorating Without Fear: A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating the Home You Love” (Thomas Nelson). For that to happen, compromise is a must.
Without it, you’ll both be living in a home that one—or both—of you dislike. That can lead to resentment, and worse. For some couples, redecorating can be so divisive that it threatens the relationship.
A 2013 survey by Houzz, a website for home remodeling and design, found that 12 percent of respondents considered separating or divorcing amid a home remodel.
“One of the things I recommend to my clients is that they shop together,” says Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days” (Center Street). That way, both of you can have input and no major decisions will be made without the other person’s consideration.
If the dispute is about whether to keep or discard items you both already own, be empathetic, Alpert advised. Try to understand why your significant other is adamant about keeping something. People’s identities are often formed by material items, so whether it’s furniture, collections or artwork, things can be very near and dear to someone, he says.
On the flip side of that, things are only things: Don’t let someone’s belongings dictate how you feel about them.
“If you fell in love with this person, then certainly you can live with the furniture they might like,” Alpert says.
Keep in mind, though, that if an ugly (to you) couch or R.E.M. poster is driving a wedge in your relationship, it may be indicative of more severe underlying problems. These feelings can manifest through arguments over which wallpaper to put in the dining room or whether to throw out an ottoman.
“It’s not always about what we see on the surface,” Alpert says. “Sometimes a couch is a lot more than a couch.”
Rachel Waldron, an interior designer who lives near Seattle, says that most of the time there’s one partner who’s dictating the design decisions. She says she prefers when both partners attend meetings to discuss design plans, even if it might lead to bickering.
“As a designer, you tend to play marriage counselor sometimes,” she joked. But conflict has its rewards.
“I think the most beautiful designs come from opposition,” she says.
Julie Davis Canter of Redding, Conn., understands not seeing eye to eye with your significant other on design. She says she and her husband recently bought a set of chairs to go with their dining table — after a year of searching.
“(My husband) thought my choice looked like 18th-century France, and I thought his looked like contemporary Scandinavian,” she says.