If you’re like most couples, moving in together will bring you face to face with a startling realization: The charming, amazing person you want to build a life with has terrible taste in something. The trick is learning to accommodate their fondness for a decorating style, item or music as a quirk that makes them more lovable, while acknowledging that something you love probably drives them crazy. Here are some good ways to accommodate your partner’s tastes.
First, come to grips with what you don’t like about something and why. Focus on specifics, and acknowledge it’s important to your partner. Saying, “I hate your recliner” ends the conversation. Saying, “I don’t really like recliners because they take up a lot of space, and in this room it will be hard to get around it when it’s open. Also, I know you love this one, but it’s pretty worn,” starts a conversation and opens up possibilities: Moving it to another room, buying a replacement with smaller profile, reupholstering it.
Find a way to blend diametrically opposed decorating styles. If you’re into the clean, sleek lines of modern minimalism and your partner has a more exuberant style, remember that interior designers intentionally blend styles. Combining items from different styles can bring them into sharper focus and provide you with a unique and personal design aesthetic. The trick is to pick pieces and accessories that provide high contrast. Choose those pieces you like best from each other’s style and work on a room plan that works for both of you. It will probably take a couple of tries to get an arrangement you’re both happy with.
Take the focus off that piece of artwork you hate. Maybe on its own the colors scream at you, or the dogs playing poker just seem tacky. How would it look as part of a gallery wall or in a group of pictures? Chances are it would stand out less, and even if you don’t like it, you’ll have other items to catch your eye. Try out several groupings on the floor before hanging pictures. Using a unifying frame style or color will make differing styles and colors appear more intentional. If reframing everything is too expensive, you can always take the pictures and the glass out of the frames and spray paint them to match.
A lot of houses are divided between neat freaks and people who don’t mind clutter. If scraps of paper on a counter are like fingernails on a chalkboard to you, and your partner is the kind of person who puts stuff down anywhere, you will have to negotiate. Maybe it’s that tidying up the clutter is your job, and you’ll put all of their stuff in one place, or maybe you’ll create a couple of spots that your partner is free to use as landing places, and learn to overlook the mess there. It will help if you go into your home knowing that nagging and continually berating each other because someone’s messy and someone else is always cleaning will only make things worse.
Taste in music and TV can also be challenging. If every time you put on your favorite music, your partner cringes, or you’re a news junkie and they’re not, you’ll need to accommodate that. Whether that means you use headphones for the music or have a room where you can watch cable news on your own, acknowledging that your partner doesn’t like something without trying to change their tastes is an important step. If you can do that from the beginning, you’ll have a smoother path, and you may find that your partner’s tastes change over time.
Finally, learn where you’ll need to just accept something. You may not like cats, but your partner probably won’t give up Fluffy. And your partner may think your salt water aquarium is messy and takes too much time and effort, but you probably won’t give it up. Don’t dig in your heels and insist on the other person giving up something they love as a price of living together; instead, learn to tolerate it as the price of admission to your relationship.