Decorating a home is an exciting and fun experience, unless you and your mate can’t agree on color, size, shape, style or anything else. In Laurie Puhn’s new book, “Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In” (Rodale, Oct. 12, 2010), she turns her expertise as a lawyer, couples mediator and relationship expert into quick tips to turn any disagreement into a relationship breakthrough.
When it comes to turning a design dealbreaker into a peaceful negotiation, all it takes is listening, and a bit of compromise. You have to move from complaining to explaining, and if you aren’t compromising, you aren’t in a healthy relationship. But how can you negotiate without entering the war zone? Here are 5 key tips:
1) Avoid dumb arguments.
Let me save you ten years of agony. If you’re trying to persuade your mate not to like that ugly couch, you’re wasting your time. You cannot persuade someone to give up their specific taste. Accept your mate’s style for what it is, and put your mind toward finding a compromise.
2) Find choices.
The world is not all-or-nothing. Whatever you and your mate disagree on, ask yourselves, what are the choices here, such as, do we have to paint all four walls the same color? Do those fake flowers have to be in the living room, or can they go in the bathroom? Who uses which room more? Can you put “your piece” in the room you spend the more time in? When you offer to compromise instead of waiting for your mate to demand that you give in, you build a sense of good will. As Nate Berkus said on his show, “When somebody gives me choices, I know that they are doing it because they care about me.”
3) Care about your mate’s preferences.
The fact that something upsets your partner should factor into what you like. If there is something in your house that you love, but your mate H-A-T-E-S, then consider putting it in the basement, sell it, give it away, re-cover it with an interesting fabric or re-purpose it.
Or, go with an eclectic style – mixing and matching items is always a good way to go.
4) Think temporary.
Decorative items in an apartment or home are temporary and can be easily changed, but a marriage should be forever. So consider turning some of your style favorites into moveable objects. If you like animal prints, but he doesn’t, then use that style on accessories and small pillows. Each item can be in a room, temporarily or seasonally.
5) Get specific.
If you like country style and he likes modern, what does that really mean? Are you talking about styles you saw in a magazine or have you actually gone into a store together and investigated what you like, piece by piece? You might discover that when you get specific, you get agreement. For instance, if you like bright colored walls and he likes white, go to the store together and look at paint chips. There are a lot of colors between bright and white. Don’t argue about something vague. Get the facts.
Remember that what’s perfect for you as an individual is not the same thing as what’s perfect for you as a couple. Coordinating things to create a warm, loving home is far more important than getting your way. After all, home is where you hang your heart.