Recently, I watched a dozen or so episodes of Clean House (Style Network). This show takes messy homes and cleans them. The interesting aspect of it, for me, is that you often have couples who vehemently disagree on what style their home should be. He hates her artwork, she hates his chair. As an outsider, I usually have an equal dislike for the styles of both parties and as such it is easy to not take any sides. From this perspective it is very clear how unreasonable the arguments are in the first place. Clearly, when two people are living in a home they need to compromise so that the end product reflects both of their preferences.
I didn’t always see things so clearly. I was the type of person who winced ever time I saw the poster or furniture that I didn’t like. The fact that I didn’t like the object could irritate me in the long term. I could look around the house and feel not “at home” because it didn’t reflect my own personal style. The compromise felt more like a self betrayal. Perhaps as an American I placed too much importance on how materials goods “represent” who I am. Perhaps having lived alone, or at least having been single for many years, I had full decorating control and it is hard to give that up. Whatever the cause I have now come to see my intense reactions to sharing decorating as unreasonable.
In a past relationship, I distinctly remember looking around the home, almost daily, and feeling lost almost because the way it was decorated didn’t reflect my own sensibilities. In that relationship I didn’t assert myself and wound up in a house, and a relationship, that truly didn’t suit me. I am now in a relationship that does suit me and learning how to assert myself more. At the same time I don’t want to become rigid in those assertions. I don’t want feel the sensation of self betrayal whilst shopping for a couch because I prefer purple fabric to black leather. It is embarrassing to admit, but useful, that for me compromising about decorating brings up a lot of issues around feeling inauthentic. In the past I thought I was compromising but I clearly wasn’t. I was not asserting myself at all and compromise isn’t about one person it is about both people. The positive aspect here is that I am learning to assert myself and compromise.
If two people live in a house–then the house will have two styles. I see it now as a metaphor for how relationships mesh two lives.
I am happy to report that thanks to the arguing couples on Clean House–I no longer wince when I see things (that I put up!) around the house that are not me or my style. I look at the Godfather poster and my own stuff too and smile. I am creating a space for two totally different people. Seeing our differences up on the walls, out in the open, comfortable and somehow miraculously meshing together actually makes me happy now.