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I recently remarried and I moved into my new husband’s house that is already furnished with all of his furniture from his first marriage. His first wife died less than a year ago and it’s as if he doesn’t want to change anything in the home. I really want to make his home our home. He even wants me to use her kitchen utensils! He tells me that I don’t have to do anything but move in with him. He feels it’s a waste for me to bring my stuff in when he already has it all there. I worry I will lose my identity if I just go plug into his life. There are things I want to bring into the home that are a part of my life with my children and extended family, but I feel cut off from those things if I go live his life. What do I do with my stuff and what do I say to him to help him understand my feelings about this?
It’s likely that your husband is still in the grieving stage of losing his wife and finds some level of comfort in having things in his life stay the same. Even though marrying you was a happy event, it’s still a new change in his life that requires a significant adjustment. Sometimes when we are faced with having to make multiple changes at one time, it’s nice to have some things stay the same.
I’m not suggesting you just let him live in the past while you lose your identity. I am suggesting that you take into consideration how difficult it is to grieve the loss of a spouse and all of the things that serve as reminders of that relationship. It’s not unusual to need time to move through the stages of grief and slowly create a new normal.
You are both facing the threat of losing something familiar, so be gentle on each other as you figure out how to create a new life together. Most couples who marry for the first time generally don’t have emotional ties to their stuff, so creating their home environment is something they build as they pass through new experiences together.
You might take turns identifying the items that are nonnegotiable and then allow all of the other items to be up for discussion. I encourage you to take it a step further and talk about why each of the items is nonnegotiable. There are stories and memories linked to each of these items that will be a great for you to understand each other. This can be a bonding experience to help you support one another through this transition.
As you begin to identify what you want to keep and what you’re willing to give up, you’ll be creating a new environment that reflects the important aspects of your lives to this point while leaving room open to create surroundings that tell your new story.
Hopefully you’re both willing to stay respectful and considerate of each other’s losses as you create your new home. Take your time with this transition and don’t try to get the house set up in a weekend. The slower you go, the better you will understand the stories and emotions attached to these items. This is a wonderful time to discover each other in a meaningful way.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.