I spent years cleaning up the messes that it caused, reassuring the people that we loved, and spending a lot of time apologizing for the disruption that it brought into other people's lives. I was determined to not throw any shade and make sure everyone, including us, was okay.
But divorce is never kind. It takes a while to move through it, and one of the things I learned was that my home truly was my anchor. That role couldn't be filled by another person or my child, but it could be filled by the warm place where I curled up to sleep and dream at the end of the day. Because that was all I could control. And it was easy.
Years later, my home is still my perpetual safety net, and I often wonder why others don't do the same thing. With divorce more common than ever, families are blending into all sorts of unusual concoctions. Some are brilliant, and they work like a dream - the family tree being a hilarious mess of people, all intertwined in a bizarre melting pot that seamlessly bends and wraps around each other. Others are complicated, and, at their worst, sad and uncomfortable, but whichever you have there has to be a blending of homes and people.
I always thought that blending homes meant a compromise of possessions. A grown-up game of sharing and giving in to the others quirks; an endless array of joint shopping experiences that ended with a bland, classical pallet that provoked neither love nor hate, just a shrug and an acceptance that this was how it was meant to be.
Now, I don't believe this. I think when we join homes with someone new, our homes should still give us joy, and they should still be an anchor. We should be able to keep what we love, and accept what the other person has, with some serious editing thrown in for good measure. In a way, one plus one equals three - yours, mine and ours.
Why should both have to give up what they have, and lose what they love so dearly, to make someone else happy in the grown-up game of compromise? It goes against the whole theory of your home being your haven, and whereas I think compromise should happen in other ways, more emotional ways, your stuff and all your funny idiosyncrasies, should be allowed to remain your own.
So, how do you do it? How do you merge two homes into one?
- You each take what you absolutely love, and you make it work. It's like the most fabulous design job in the world - everything goes in the middle of the room, and you just move things around, and decorate until you're all exhausted.
- Create your own rooms (or pockets of spaces if you have to) where you promise not to mess with what the other one has.
- Ask first. Don't assume you can organize it for them, or that you can make it look "better".
- Choose and buy a few new things together. Items that have no attachment to previous lives or ex people.
- If it matters, talk about it. If it doesn't, don't.
- Find out what is important to the other person, and why. This helps you understand why they're keeping it, even if you don't agree with the "why".
- Talk about it outside of the house, not when you're both looking at the space and items in question. It's hard to be objective when you're in the middle of it all - go for coffee or lunch, to chat about it before you start.
- Try to keep a sense of humor about it all. If things get tense, try to look at the funny side of it, and, if necessary, always poke fun at yourself rather than the other person.
- Remember, at the end of the day, creating a "home" is always more important than the stuff we choose to have in it :-)