‘The Marriage Umpire:’ Clutter or decoration? You decide!

We’ll have two or three rounds of “The Marriage Umpire” today spread over several blogs. You can still send us your marital problem and we’ll help you solve it. (We actually do this all the time, but we’re officially playing this week as we await the new show “The Marriage Ref” by Jerry Seinfeld on NBC.)

In our first installment, we have a woman who will be wed this FRIDAY! So we need to help her sort out this problem before she heads down the aisle. Here’s what she writes:

“OK so I am not officially married yet… (I will be on Friday) But my husband to be and I just had a HUGE fight last night about decorating.  He calls it clutter and I call it decorating.  He wants nothing on the counter or table.  I like to put candles and items on them.  How can we compromise?”

Boy does this sound familiar! I think this is a very common problem among couples – hubby trying to get involved in the decorating. Throw pillows for your bed come to mind as a particular point of dispute for many couples.

When Michael and I first got married he kept vetoing bed spreads. He was killing me. Nothing floral at all. I took back three comforters until finally we settled on a plain white duvet – with eyelet edges. I don’t think he understood that eyelet is pretty girlie.

He also was way too involved in choosing our first cookware. My mother couldn’t believe how many opinions he had on domestic items. She felt like that should be my realm and he should butt out. On the other hand he did have to live there too.

Sixteen years later he’s far more relaxed about commenting on what I bring into the home, but I think we’ve also found some compromise. He’s OK with toile or floral on the pillow shams but not on the bedspread.

So what do you think: Does hubby get to vote about decorating? Are candlesticks and picture frames clutter or do they make a house a home? End their fight now before they head down the aisle.

71 comments Add your comment

Jeff

February 24th, 2010
6:52 am

If this is going to be “our” house and “our” family, then I have a vote. When you start calling this “your” (the female) home, “your” kids, etc, that tells me you aren’t on OUR team. You are on YOUR team. Respect my opinion and work with me. Isn’t that what 50/50 is about?

Dave

February 24th, 2010
7:16 am

“hubby trying to get involved in the decorating.”
“He also was way too involved in choosing our first cookware.”
“She felt like that should be my realm and he should butt out.”

Yesterday the women complained and moaned about the men not getting involved inside the house. Now you’re complaining when we do.

See why you girls are sooooo hard to live with?

The hubby to be...

February 24th, 2010
7:16 am

…needs to get a grip and understand RIGHT NOW that “if mama (wifey) ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. He needs to just let her decorate (clutter) the tables and counters as she chooses. Those are small battles that do not need to be had…there are larger issues going on here and if they are having this difficulty now, 3 days before they officially tie the knot, then they are probably in for a difficult and stormy time.

But, then again, 27 years ago people said the same thing about my marriage, and though it has been stormy, the marriage is still intact!

Also, why is decorating a house seemingly always considered a woman’s domain? When we remodeld 2 years ago it was I who came up with the plan and who wanted to do that – my wife was not into it at all and basically complained the whole time, telling everyone that it was I who wanted it done- while true, once done she loved the changes. Yet, she continues to harp on it being “my” renovation and points out that many of her friends ask how come I was even involved!!!!

Hey, Dave...

February 24th, 2010
7:19 am

…as I said yesterday,a man figures out that life is a beotch, then he marries one, then he dies – yet RJ says that men “want it all”!!!!

Jeff

February 24th, 2010
7:25 am

Let me clarify before this gets too out of hand. If the hubby says he doesn’t want anything to do with the decorating, etc, fine. But you have an obligation to involve him and respect his opinion (do NOT ignore it or laugh at it) until he tells you he doesn’t care.

fk

February 24th, 2010
7:34 am

When we got married, my husband was 25 and I was 23. He was not too interested in entering any type of store, and no interest in patterns, so he told me to “run with it.” There is definitely something to favor about youth and inexperience. He did try every couch I’ve ever purchased to be sure it was long enough for him to lie on and every chair to see if it had a back high enough to rest his head. He always said anything I bought was fine, so long as it was not too feminine, i.e., “flowery”, or “lacey” his words. I’ve run with that for 23+ years, but now, after all this time, he’s asking the bottom line cost. Uh, too late, I’ve already run with it :)

shaggy

February 24th, 2010
7:37 am

Yawn! Just make me a sammich and bring me a beer. Those throw pillows come in handy for “accessibility” options during fun time.

mom2alex&max

February 24th, 2010
7:52 am

Mmmm…well he has to live there too.

I actually find it interesting about the bedding. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a man to sleep on a girlie bed. These days there are about one million possibilities for bedding. About every 3 years or so, my husband and I pick a new set. We go together and always find one we both love. Cheap thrill I guess, but it gives us a “new” feeling in the bedroom ;)

Dave

February 24th, 2010
7:59 am

@fk – thank you! I hate sofas that aren’t long enough to stretch out on or chairs that you are supposed to relax in, but can’t lean your head back on (I’m tall). Thanks!

Jeff

February 24th, 2010
8:03 am

I have a question. Are we complaining about what we PERCIEVE happens in other homes and relationships? Because when people on here actually describe THEIR home/relationship, I don’t see many things to object about.

Dave

February 24th, 2010
8:09 am

Jeff – did you see all of the snide (and downright insulting) comments many of the women made on here about their husbands yesterday? Lots of relationships with spouses on this blog need to be repaired.

I’ve got a great marriage (10+ years). However, even if things were bad, I’d NEVER tell other people how bad my wife was – that’s just not right or respectful (except a conselor).

I find it interesting...

February 24th, 2010
8:17 am

…that 9 of the first 12 comments are by the same three people…guess we are all waiting for the wife to get up and tell us what to do….

JATL

February 24th, 2010
8:17 am

OH how I hate this one! Unfortunately hubby or living partner gets a say. I hate it too! I grew up with a dad who could care less what anything in the house looks like. My mother made all of the decorating decisions and that was fine with everyone. Boy, was I in for a shock when my husband and I moved in together and he actually had an opinion! Don’t get me wrong -he has every right -but it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get to make all of the decisions! I don’t know why -after all, all the guys I dated had their own places that THEY decorated, but the way it was growing up really stuck with me. I still get really miffed when he wants to veto certain ideas of mine or even have input. It’s definitely been a compromise for me in our marriage!

I don’t think your hubby to be should freak out about some candles. You may have to take it down to just a few. Compromise with him and take everything off of the tables except for a few candles here and there.

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
8:17 am

I am so glad I don’t have these type of problems with my husband. LOL

The only thing that matters to him as it pertains to decorating is the color of the wall paint. He does not like dark colored walls. Other than that he only get involved when it comes to his comfort level. We have a Sleep Number bed which was his idea and a good one. We both are comfortable in bed. He helped pick out the couch in the den but not for how it looks or how it fits into the room decor, but strictly for how it feels under his behind.

As for the bride to be in the topic entry, she will have to consider the fact that it is her husband’s house equally and his input matters. He has to live there just like she does. Maybe they can meet in the middle by just placing a few items on the counter and let him help pick out which ones they will place.

And another thing to consider is who will be doing the cleaning. If he does the cleaning and will have to remove and replace these items while doing so then I will have to take his side. It’s clutter to him because he has to deal with it and the items are not mandatory.

Good luck either way.

JATL

February 24th, 2010
8:18 am

Oops -should have said my dad COULDN’T care less about decorating. He left it all up to my mother!

cld

February 24th, 2010
8:25 am

I’ve never made a major decorator decision about our house, without involving my husband. When we made our wedding registry six years ago, we thought out how we wanted to decorate each room (themes, color schemes, etc). We chose our master bedroom bedding/bathroom (gender-neutral tropical theme), our kitchen colors, our living room colors. I think I chose the guest bathroom decor because he really didn’t have an opinion about it. We’ve moved twice since then, but have kept the same decor – as we’ve added rooms, I’ve consulted with him (or gone with him) to pick new furniture, nursery decor, etc. He picked his office furniture but ran it by me first.

Now, the little things that round out those motifs – we each have picked up some things too coordinate. I didn’t consult with him before buying the coordinating lamps for our master bedroom – I got ones that matched our agreed-upon theme.

As far as clutter vs. decor, I don’t think that’s a male/female issue. I hate clutter, though I’ve had to succumb to some of it with a toddler in the house. I have decorative canisters on my kitchen counters, but they coordinate with the kitchen theme and they actually hold kitchen items. My small appliances (toaster oven, indoor grill, rice cooker, crock pots, etc) are all neatly tucked away in cabinets because I think they clutter the countertops. The only ones that stay out are a small coffee pot (used a few times a week) and a food processor (used at least once a month), a stand mixer (not used often but looks nice) which I think blend into the kitchen – they are black, like the countertops. I also have ONE candle on display in our kitchen – and I have a large kitchen. So I think the issue is subjective. Is she wanting to display a whole bunch of unmatching candles, which I think would be clutter? Or is she wanting to put out a few that match? She definitely shouldn’t ignore him entirely, as I think that gives him a bad impression of where he stands in their decision making (even the small decisions).

Robin

February 24th, 2010
8:27 am

Wow. THis could be touchy. She should tell her groom elect that she considers candles, etc, “the little things that help make a HOUSE a HOME”. Otherwise, the house is too sterile and appears like an impersonal transienct (sp) lodging. ie hotel. Perhaps they can compromise by putting some candles, etc on SOME tables, but not ALL of the end tables, etc. This way, they both get some of what they want.

Perhaps the end table next to his chair could be left empty, and the table next to her chair could have the decorating touch.

Good Luck!

JJ

February 24th, 2010
8:27 am

My parents made all decisions together. Decisions about decorating, couches, chairs, paint, bedspreads, disclipining the kids, etc. Everything was 50/50 with them, and they discussed everything before they acted.

My parents had an awesome marriage. Ups and downs, but mostly ups. I think it may have a bit to do with the fact that 1) they were both professionals; and 2) my dad travelled a lot. But they both respected each other, and their kids too.

COMPROMISE.

cld

February 24th, 2010
8:28 am

I’m with Raqi – Good point about the cleaning. Whoever has to clean those surfaces, should get more weight in the decision! I think that’s partly why I hate clutter. It takes longer to clean!

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
8:44 am

JATL, I remember my mom and dad going to buy piece of furniture together but I don’t recall him ever getting involved with the decorating of the house. Well I take that back. I do remember him holding pictures or mirrors in place on the wall while my mother decided if that’s where she wanted it. LOL But I don’t think he ever had any input or even cared about how the house was decorated.

Michelle

February 24th, 2010
8:52 am

I would definitely take into consideration his thoughts! I also agree about compromising! How about candles with lids that you can put away when not in use? Limit pictures, and agree to certain “area” that can have the knick knack type of things and not do it everywhere! Perhaps something along the lines of the formal areas have minimal and the “living” areas where a majority of the time will be spent has a little more!

I will have to say, the older I get, the less “stuff” I want around.

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
8:53 am

cld, I agree, major purchases should be discussed but as it is in my house the discussion is the cost and the need and not so much how the item will fit in to the decor of the house.

We completed gutted and renovated our master bedroom a few years ago and as I said earlier the only thing my husband was concerned with was the color on the walls. Other than that I picked out the bathroom and closets cabinets and the furniture I showed him what I was choosing and he okayed the costs. He asked for certain things when it came to his side of the closet and that’s understandable because of functionality.

As long as he is comfortable in his “castle” and it’s not breaking us he is fine.

Uconn

February 24th, 2010
8:53 am

Hi all,… I am the one getting married on Friday…. :D what I had out where 2 long clear glass tea light holders with white tealights …. they were gone as was the heart bowl in between them. I guess the point is/was they have been there for a year… and now its clutter? But we ended up with one in the middle of the counter … Oh and I clean the counter/kitchen 99.8% of time but he was off and he did it that day

My main point was what Robin said… It looked so sterile, like no one lived there… He and I are fine… I think it was stress from other things that made us both blow up… We are both excited to get married on Friday…

Michelle

February 24th, 2010
8:55 am

Oh, and something I heard that I found interesting, shouldn’t each person in a relationship give 100%? If each person is only giving 50% of their effort into making things work, they are not really giving full effort right?

I can see splitting chores, etc. 50/50, but the actual relationship should be 100/100 right? Just a thought!

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
8:57 am

but he was off and he did it that day

And there lies his issue. Just like when a person makes the bed that normally doesn’t and find any pillows other than the ones you actually sleep on to be in excess….because they are having to take a extra few minutes and place them on the bed. LOL

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
8:58 am

Yes Michelle I agree. Each individual should be giving 100% of themselves to the relationship.

Lori

February 24th, 2010
8:58 am

Just don’t put the “stuff” on the coffee table, but rather on the mantle or bookshelf then he probably won’t even notice it’s there. As for the counters, who has extra space for decor, mine is taken up with the toaster and canisters. I say, if you are the one doing the cooking, then put whatever the heck you want in there. Why in the world would you ask for permission? Sure, discuss expensive purchases, but if you want a $20 decorative cookie jar, then buy it. He’ll get over it, trust me. Men have short memories and don’t hold grudges, but women do, so don’t let him take over the whole decorative process or it’ll make you mad for years. He on the other hand will forget you even had a fight about the cookie jar or pictures by the end of next week!! Happy decorating!

Spacey

February 24th, 2010
9:01 am

Wait until you have an active 15 month old running around! He takes everything off the shelves and tables – I just put it all away :)
The child is now the decorator.

Becky

February 24th, 2010
9:15 am

My husband finds what he likes, then runs it by me..He picked out the tiles that are in the kitchen and bathroom, once I told him that I liked them, I came home from work one day and had new flooring..We both decided on paint colors..For my candles, I have an antique baking dish that sits on my coffee table and it is filled with candles..

I usually pick out all of the bedding, but have never picked anything that is all girly..I would never do that to my husband..As for kitchen “stuff”, I do all of the cooking, so he really doesn’t care about what I buy for there..The cookware, I’ve had for 20 years, so he knows that I’ll never get rid of those..To me, there are things that hes good at and things that I’m good at, so we leave it to that..

@Dave..Sounds like your wife found a good man..Congrats on 10+ years..

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
9:17 am

The child is now the decorator

LOL Don’t you it Spacey. My daughter will soon be 9 months and she pulls herself up at the couch and holds on to the coffee table. Whatever is on the table within her reach (i.e. magazines, a cup, the remote) gets pushed on the floor.

MomsRule

February 24th, 2010
9:20 am

Re the topic, are we talking about just the kitchen? I’m going to assume kitchen. IMO, whomever spends the most amount of time cooking has the most say on this one.

Also, did the couple actually discuss the pro’s and con’s to the decorating vs clutter OR did they just throw their differing opinions of “CLUTTER” vs “DECOR” around without digging any deeper into why they disagree?

Respect, compromise and consideration for your spouse. It is not hard as long as each is willing to concede from time to time.

My husband and I both have a say in everything, we are partners. He doesn’t always care, and often says, “your call.” And I do the same on things I really don’t care about or that I know he feels especially passionate about.

We always purchase furniture together to ensure it is comfortable and enjoyable for us both. It is not something we’ve ever even discussed or set ground rules about. I love him and respect his thoughts about our home and vice versa.

We just finished redecorating our bedroom. It was a huge undertaking as we changed everything, color, bedding, light fixtures, the whole kit and kaboodle. We didn’t have one agrument or disagreement. We went together and picked out a duvet/shams, etc that we both liked. (We actually narrowed it down to two and had a hard time deciding and he said, “you pick, I’m fine with either.”) Everything else fell into place from there.

The only thing I really wanted that he had a hard time envisioning was a chandelier for the master bath. We picked one out together and now he loves it. He compromised because he knew it was something I felt strongly about and I compromised on the exact fixture we selected.

Maybe I got lucky in that our decor tastes are similar….not always exact though and that’s where the compromise comes in. We never put up/display anything the other hates though. Why would you do that?

Raqi

February 24th, 2010
9:27 am

I keep reading comments about candles and the only place I have candles is in the bathroom and one on the nightstand beside my bed.

I guess because I am sorta like a neat freak I decorate using mainly functional items. Not all but mainly. I little decoratives bowls that sit in the den but they are usually filled with candy that company can eat when visiting.

While it has to look nice and go with the decor it has to also make sense for me to put it there.

dumbernow

February 24th, 2010
9:30 am

I am slightly dumber having read this, dumber still to have responded. what happened to the AJC? Grizzard and Bisher to this crap and rodney ho….WOW!!!

FCM

February 24th, 2010
9:30 am

Does hubby get to vote about decorating? Absolutely. He lives their and presumably contributes to the household (expenses, labor, other). Therefore he gets a vote.

Are candlesticks and picture frames clutter or do they make a house a home? I knew a guy that was into minimalism. He owned 2 dishes, 1 mug, 1 glass. (That was a surprise when he made me tea then stood watching me drink it. I asked if he was having any and he said when you finish with the cup). He kept no “decor” type items at all. You would never know ANYTHING interests about the guy by walking into the apartment. The exception was he had 2 or 3 throw rugs with patterns (to keep the carpets clean). However he had stacks of papers holding diagrams of various systems he was designing (Config Mgmt) on book shelves. (I am not even discussing the white boards in every room). Stacks of mail on the counter. All of this was “neat” in that it was piled up…However to me it screamed clutter.

Same person liked to come to my home — I had furniture to sit on that didn’t fold (seriously, card table chairs at his house). He did say he felt that mine was cluttered because I had “furniture’. I had photos of my children up and he wanted to know if I didn’t see them enough in my waking time.

I do have candles, photos etc out in MY house. Um, I am the only adult there. However, if and when I get another spouse, he does not have to live with how things already are. WE will find OUR style and go from there.

That is what the next 40-60 years is about for these almost weds. Finding what works for them and going from there.

Uconn

February 24th, 2010
9:34 am

@FCM …. That sounds like what my soon (and getting closer every min) to be husband sounded like when we first met…. 2 plates and 2 forks! LOL …. We are compromising …. He has a football from when the Giants beat my Patriots 2 years ago in the superbowl…. NOW that is CLUTTER if I ever saw it LOL

FCM

February 24th, 2010
9:39 am

Uconn..so you each get a shelf on the case for “your” team and let the gentle/playful ribbing about the teams begin.

JJ

February 24th, 2010
9:43 am

Spacey – Don’t allow your child to control you. Which is exactly what you are doing by allowing him/her to “take everything off the shelves”. A consistent and firm “NO” will stop that…..I have a friend with two little boys who come over often. They NEVER touch anything in my house, as I have told them over and over. I never “baby proofed” my home when my child was younger. She knew what she could and could not touch. But once you allow your child to control you, you will never be able to get that control back. That does not make a happy household.

I used to be the Queen of Clutter, until about a year ago. I have collected little knick knacks from my travels and from when I was younger. But I painted my living/dining room last year, and had to take everything down off the walls, and off the mantle, shelves, etc. Once we finished painting, I didn’t want to put everything back up/out, so I reorganized all the boxes, and packed up all my little “dust magnets” and have been clutter-free!!!!!!! I have a few pictures back on the wall and a couple of accent pieces. However, I am a candle junkie, there are 8 candle and holders in my living room right now. Two on the walls (sconces), one on the mantle, and the rest are on the coffee table.

Nowr, when it comes to dusting, it takes a few minutes, as opposed to a “chore”. So I have freed up more time to spend out in the yard.

TechMom

February 24th, 2010
9:45 am

I don’t mind taking into consideration what the hubby likes around the house, the problem is that he won’t go shopping, say what he does like and he’s cheap. So if you are going to have an opinion about what you don’t like, you need to also have an opinion as to what you do like.

This topic has just made me realize that we still have a plain off-white duvet on our bed (after a year and a half in our new house) and I have returned 4 different comforter sets because he didn’t like 3 of them (I didn’t like 1 once I got it out of the package). Then the weekend before last he says to me, “we need to go get a comforter set with that gift card my mom gave us for Christmas”. When I told him the two sets I liked at the ‘gift card’ store were $300 (gift card is significantly less), he made an excuse as to why we couldn’t that day. I think I might go buy the one I like and put it on the bed before he gets home on Friday and if he doesn’t like it, he can take it back. (And neither set is floral or pastel).

MomsRule

February 24th, 2010
9:46 am

@JJ, well said on the baby proofing.

Jesse's Girl

February 24th, 2010
9:57 am

Just tell him that the candles have a libido scent…:) totally kidding. He hangs his hat there too….so he should feel just as comfy as you. However…it would be interesting to know what he does with his undies and socks at the end of the day. Everytime he drops his pants where they don’t belong…you can put a vanilla scented candle there. Guys like vanilla….:)

RJ

February 24th, 2010
10:15 am

Hubby and I usually get each others opinion. We really haven’t had decorating issues.

@Spacey, I remember those days! Little ones getting into just about everything…they’re explorers! When my nephews come over I am reminded how much they like to explore. My home is far from baby proofed. I suggest you just put up the expensive stuff and enjoy this time. It’ll be over before you know it.

Uconn

February 24th, 2010
10:17 am

@JG … LOL! I love that idea ….

LM

February 24th, 2010
10:35 am

Hubby wants white walls, he perfers all black & white. I moved into his house, I live with his funiture, decorations and even (gasp) old photos of past girlfriends. It is no biggie, and I have no desire to completely change him. Over time, as things wear out or life changes happen, we will update and move things and I will have some say in the decoration of the.

When we got our horse trail LQ package, he insisted on Black, White & Gray. Okay so I found things I like to fit that scheme and added red accents. He really likes it.

Last year while we were building the rental property in TN. We both had opinions about things. I insisted on buying the funiture off Craigslist and most of the little stuff off Craigslist or Ebay. I have quilts which I love and he never thought he would like, but once it was done, we both agree it is the most welcoming and comfortable place to retreat to. In fact it is so comfortable that next month after I have my shoulder sugery I was hoping I could go there to recover, because our home is not a relaxing place.

FCM

February 24th, 2010
10:35 am

Tech Mom Try sending him a couple of links, or just catch him for a moment while your online looking. He may not do the store but he might look at few online.

Lisa

February 24th, 2010
10:55 am

JJ’s advice is horrible and can be deadly!

She didn’t baby-proof her house because her child knew what she could and could not touch? When a toddler opens the door under the kitchen sink and drinks a variety of poisons, that doesn’t do much good.

You’ve got to lock up ALL of the poisonous items. It’s just assinine and incredibly stupid not to.

Dave

February 24th, 2010
10:56 am

Jesse’s Girl – your husband may drop his undies, socks and pants wherever, but most men don’t.

New Stepmom

February 24th, 2010
11:00 am

Man, again I am lucky. I am a decorator and completed several high end projects prior to my pregnancy so this is something I take very seriously. Our home is part of my portfolio. My husband does not care too much, he just does not want to walk into a house that looks like Laura Ashley (ultra feminine) threw up all over it. He also wants some veto power. So we came up with the idea that I get to pick out anything we buy and before the purchase he can veto it. So far we have not had any arguments. I also agreed that our bedroom would always look very high end hotel instead of feminine. He moved into my home when we married and I had quite the boudoir. There was nothing floral, but it was very feminine, so I re-did it. This works for us. I say sit down and figure out what both of you can live with in this area and come up with a compromise.

He did not care about our wedding registry, so I did all of that. He said he knew I had good taste because I was marrying him ;o)! So, again, I feel lucky because this is the only area where I do want to have more “power” I guess and he is totally on board. I guess since I earn extra money with my skill, that helps. So when he does not sort his clothes and does not put the toilet paper on the roll, I remember that he lets me decorate and play in the house!

Jesse's Girl

February 24th, 2010
11:01 am

Hey Dave…darlin…my husband drops trow when and where I say:)

julia

February 24th, 2010
11:06 am

I am not a nick nack fuew fuew girl I hate to shop so its pretty much just necessities in my apartment. I still have not hung the first pic and the thought of going to get curtains make me cringe

julia

February 24th, 2010
11:09 am

My son never has and never will control me but I have the freaking common sense to not put stuff that can kill him or hurt his self in his reach. JJ not all kids are alike, there are some that when you tell them NO they use that as a hmmmmmmm lets see if I can get by with it.