My boyfriend is moving into my apartment. All of the decor in my place is new, in great condition, and I’ve spent a lot of money on it. It is mostly neutrals with a little bit of blues and greens. When he moves in he insists on hanging up his movie and video game posters and placing his little character figurines around the place. I’ve tried telling him no, that if he wants to decorate then we need to go to the store and pick out things we both agree on, but he doesn’t like that idea. What should I do to help him feel welcome, but keep the more mature style in the apartment that I’ve created?
Dear Worried Girlfriend,
Congrats on this milestone! Moving in with a partner is different than a roommate—it’s about beginning to meld your lives together, both metaphorically but also very literally.
Sometimes I joke that the reason I married my husband is because he had very few things. He moved into “my” place, and the closets were already full and the walls were already decorated. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d found someone who matched my maximalism. But that said, I still wanted “my” place to feel like “our” place. He (painfully) vetoed a few of my things that he didn’t want to live with everyday, and I did a major closet purge. But what was even more fun was creating the spaces that truly felt like “ours”: That first year, we built a gallery wall that amalgamated items we each owned, and also found together. Now all of this said, I’m not the perfect roommate. When he asked where his football posters were going, I told him his mother’s garage one state over.
I tell you this story to reassure you that this is totally normal. Moving in and cohabitation—figuring out not just decor, but also personal space and boundaries, chores, finances, and who gets the side of the bed closest to the bathroom—can start to feel like one big negotiation. But remembering why you’re doing it in the first place can help. I asked my Apartment Therapy colleagues here for their advice on managing it all with minimal friction.
For starters, one editor recommends elevating the presentation of his decor. Take a few of his most graphic and interesting movie posters, for instance, and frame them elegantly. Or find a shadowbox to display his favorite figurines. Choose a home that isn’t necessarily the main living area (like a hallway or a bathroom) to display them.
This will help him to feel like he has a stake in the place, without it being in your view during every Netflix binge.
Also, another editor points out that whatever you decide is a fair compromise for his things—you need to apply similar logic back to your stuff. So if you nix his video game posters, he gets veto power over those throw pillows he hates. Perhaps you’ll decide to fill the living room or main areas with things you acquire together.
No matter what decisions you make, start with a direct conversation—hopefully the first of many if this whole cohabitation thing is going to work out. My suggested script? Start with something like… “We have to figure out how to make two homes’ worth of stuff fit into one. Should we start deciding how we are going to do that? What’s most important to you?” It might also help to ask why a particular item is important: What value does it hold to your partner that you might not understand yet? How does it make him feel to see the figurines or movie posters when he comes home every night? Your value is a certain aesthetic, but perhaps his is sentimental value, or being reminded of a certain time in his life. And once you understand that, hopefully you can work together to achieve both objectives (or at least knowing it will help you to tolerate one extra shadowbox of figurines).
In the end, it’s about the mindset: Try to stop thinking about it as your place he’s moving into, and instead remember that it’s now going to be your place together.
Do you agree with Alice? Let us know in the comments below.
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Letters have been lightly edited for clarity and length.