Q: My husband and I are building our dream home here in Florida. Most people would be happy, but we are having terrible fights about what to put in the house.
I have hired a decorator and together we have decided on a contemporary theme with understated colors and natural woods. However, my husband, who comes from a traditional New England background, doesn't like contemporary but has agreed to go along with it for the most part. The problem is that he absolutely wants the family room to have traditional leather sofas, dark, heavy fabric and carved wood as he had in his "den" up north, when he was growing up. He says he has the right to decorate just one room in the whole house, especially since he is paying for it. The problem is that it will look completely disjointed to have one room entirely different from the rest of the house. Even my decorator agrees with me. I want this house to look like a model home, so all the rooms flow together. What should we do?
A: A mantra spoken from Dr. James Bray, author of "Stepfamilies," says, "Is it better to be right or is it better to get along?" This saying applies in your case because while you and your decorator may be right in that the perfect house would look just like a model home, in reality, some homes have to reflect the personality of the two people who inhabit it. Your husband has given you carte blanche to decorate, even though he doesn't care for contemporary style. However, he has chosen the room where he will likely spend a great deal of time to be reflective of his individual tastes and preferences.
While you may be right, according to decorating principles, it may be better to get along and allow your husband a say-so in the decorating of the family room. If you do, you win by helping him feel integrated into the creation of the house, and having a room where he feels really comfortable and at home. The worse case scenario is having your husband come away from the building experience feeling bamboozsalled, and as if nothing in the house is reflective of him personally. This may cause him to disengage from the family and resent the home all together.
You may be worried about being embarrassed when people see the house and it's out of place family room. Most people, especially if they are your friends, will understand that building a house involves many compromises. They will know, it is better to live in a loving home than a model home.
Finally, if architectural plans are not finalized yet, it may be possible to locate the family room where there can be a door closing it off from the rest of the house, or even built as a separate "media room" wing of the house.
You are fortunate to be building a dream home with your husband. Focus on all the wonderful things happening to you now, and be understanding and patient as you choose between "being right, and getting along." Try it ,as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.