My husband and I have fairly open discussions about decorating (whether he likes it or not…haha), but I am still shocked by how much goes unsaid.
I’ve always been guilty of asking surface questions like, “What do you think?” or “How does this look?” He usually answers with equally simple replies like, “Nice” or “Good.” When we only ask surface questions, we never get the full story.
So how do you get your husband to open up and share what he really thinks good or bad? I am going to share with you how I did it. I never knew it could be this easy to start a real conversation about decorating.
You might be thinking who cares…it’s better if my husband doesn’t have an opinion…I like that he lets me do whatever I want. But deep down I bet you’d like it even more if you both loved your home. You settle for indifference, because it’s better than rejection. But I know you secretly want him to want what you want. To be interested just a little. After all, it’s his house, too.
In any relationship, good communication comes down to finding common ground–a place you can both talk from openly and honestly. Not a one-sided conversation, but a discussion.
You know those great conversations you have after you see a good movie together, finish the same book, or reminisce about a family vacation? Those talks center around a common experience. You have a shared story and a common vocabulary to hold a conversation. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of conversation about your home? A real discussion?
When I finished writing Free Decorating, I felt something was missing. After some reflection, I wrote a whole new chapter to add to the book and I think it’s one of the most important sections. It became more evident just how important it was when it opened up a frank discussion with my husband that I’ve been craving for years.
In Chapter Three The Eviction Notice, I share a simple but life-changing decision tree that helps you decide what decor to keep, what to get rid of, and what you should plan to replace. I wanted to create a really practical tool that anyone could use to evaluate their current belongings. It’s the same refinement process I’ve used (in my own head) for years to make sure we love everything in our home.
But I always did it solo. I assumed my husband would speak up if he really didn’t like something, and he has on occasion. But I also had this sinking feeling that he probably was letting some things slip by. That he wasn’t telling me everything he thought. That there was a real opinion behind those short one-word replies.
When I was developing the decision tree, I tested it out one night in our bedroom. I wanted to make sure it was strong and comprehensive. I wanted to make sure it would work for anyone. So I asked my husband to use it. I pointed to different items in the room, then had him follow the questions on the decision tree. Little did I know it would open a great dialogue about our decor and I would finally discover what my husband really thought about our bedroom.
In creating the decision tree, I had already run several of the items in our bedroom through the questions and come to my own conclusions. But I had also made most of the decorating decisions in the bedroom, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that pretty much everything came up a keeper for me. When my husband worked through the decision tree, he came up with some different results.
For example, I thought our bed was a total keeper. We bought it together, we’ve had it for maybe close to ten years now, and it’s from our favorite furniture store. I assumed all along my husband loved this bed too. Guess what? He only feels so-so about it. Obviously it’s useful, but after going through the decision tree, he revealed he doesn’t think it’s beautiful to him.
Now imagine if I didn’t like the bed, but had been working off the assumption that he loved it. We could have both been sleeping every night on a bed we both hated, assuming the other one liked it enough to keep it. That’s a real possibility when things go unsaid. One or both of you could be living with things you don’t love.
After our discussion we decided to keep our bed. It’s certainly useful and I think it’s beautiful. It’s not a priority at this point to replace it, but someday maybe we’ll find something we both find beautiful. Now I trust that we have a framework to have an honest discussion about how we feel before we buy the next bed.
There were a few other things that are leaving our room because of our conversation. The most notable was a piece of inexpensive art in the corner. It was nothing spectacular, but I enjoyed it. Turns out my husband hates it. When I asked why he’d said it was nice in the past, he replied, “I thought it might grow on me, but it’s not.” Even though I still like it, I didn’t want to keep it around knowing he doesn’t like it. It was easy for me to let it go knowing I’d rather find a piece for that spot that we’ll both enjoy.
You Just Need the Right Conversation Starter
The Keep It or Lose It Decision Tree and the entire Eviction Notice chapter gives you a simple way to start a discussion with your spouse about any item in your home. Instead of making assumptions, you can discuss what you like and don’t like about it and why. Instead of just accepting it when your husband doesn’t like something, you can refer him to the decision tree to help pinpoint why, so you can make a better selection next time.
With the decision tree you can uncover how he really feels about any item. Is it useful, but not so beautiful? Is it beautiful to one of you and not the other? Is something you assumed was meaningful to your spouse, not that important to them? Is there something else that is deeply meaningful that’s not being displayed?
The Keep It or Lose It Decision Tree is just one of the conversation starters in Free Decorating. My husband and I have also had great talks over The Pre-Purchase Test in Chapter Nine and Love vs. Appreciation in Chapter Two. They’ve given us the shared vocabulary to have meaningful decorating discussions and to hold each other accountable to create a home we both love.
P.S. You can get your copy of Free Decorating (in ebook or paperback format) here.