Ask Team Practical: Making Yourself at Home by Liz Moorhead I know you deal a lot with wedding planning questions, but I’m having a hard time on “the other side.” I lived with my now husband for a year and half before we got married. After our beautiful (and practical) wedding, I started to feel like a stranger in our home. See, this is the house he has had for six years and lived with another girlfriend in. I hadn’t tried to do too much decorating when I first moved in because I didn’t want to “steamroll” my fresh (read three months old) relationship. But nowadays I find myself flying off the handle when he moves my papers, laptop, etc. to the room that has been dubbed my office. He is not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not a slob, so I’m uncertain as to why he feels the need to move everything. But I think my reaction is a wee over the top. How can I finally make his (mine, our) home feel like home and a place I feel comfortable in, because right now I don’t feel like that at all? -Will I Fit Ever? Dear WIFE, First, let’s dig out what’s really going on here. Starting with the ex-girlfriend, because I have a feeling this other chick isn’t the problem. She may have lived in the house before, but you’ve been living there for a year and a half! It’s long been your place and not hers. So if it’s not about the old girlfriend, and I’m willing to bet that it’s not just about cleaning either (mostly because you said so yourself), then I think what we’re talking about here is feeling like you can’t be yourself in your own home. That’s a completely different story, and probably justifies some wild emotions. The obvious answer is that your partner probably doesn’t even realize he’s irking you. I’m guessing he didn’t just suddenly pick up this habit after the wedding. (Though, from your letter, maybe he did? If that’s the case, you might be dealing with something else entirely.) But for argument’s sake, let’s say he’s been doing this as long as you’ve lived together without an issue. Why would he stop now? So, you know, clue him in. Let him know that it makes you feel like you’re only allowed that one little room, that you don’t feel you have the freedom to spread out and be mistress of the manor, rather than Daisy in the servant’s quarters. (Downton? Yes/no?) Like most of my own marriage fights, break, “This is why I flipped out over nothing,” down to, “Here’s why it’s not ‘nothing’ to me.” After that, there’ll probably need to be some compromising. While never touching your stuff and letting you throw things wherever you like sounds lovely, it just might drive him crazy. Or maybe I mean me. It would drive me crazy. For some, “home” is that place where you can just drop your stuff and crash. For others (like, ahem, me), “home” has a place for everything and everything in its place. So, my husband feels “at home” when he can kick off his shoes as he steps in the door; I feel at home when I’m not tripping on some dang Aasics. Compromise for us means that there’s a mat beside the door where shoes are tossed. They have a place! For your spouse, it might feel like moving your things into their designated room is a means of putting them in their place. But the important thing is that you’re talking about these expectations together. But that raises another question. Do you have any stuff mingled in with his, or is absolutely everything relegated to that back office of yours? If it’s the latter, fix that quick! Put your DVDs in with his, your books on the same bookcase, and generally mix it all up. This isn’t a dorm room, after all. You guys don’t need separate spaces for everything. Because guess what, now they’re not “mine” and “his”—just about ALL of it is “ours.” When your stuff is mixed into the general population, instead of shoved in a corner, that might be a step in the right direction. Lastly, the final puzzle piece of your integration of the things might end up in some redecorating (it doesn’t even have to be big. Sometimes just the symbolic act of choosing new things for your home together can go a long way towards making it feel like it to both of you). So go pick out some “us” furniture together. Hang some art. Whatever it takes to make it feel like home to both of you. So, we’re sticking with the classics today. Voicing expectations, communication, and sharing your feelings is what I’d suggest here. Only, lucky for you, it also involves some possible cute new lamps. ***** Team Practical, how have you worked to make your house a home for both of you? Did you find that the past played into how you felt about your new home? How did you transition from “yours” to “ours”? Photo: Emily Takes Photos. If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.