Relationship Connection: My husband’s asking me to give up my stuff, use his previous wife’s stuff

Stock image, St. George News

Question

I recently remarried and I moved into my new husband’s house that is already furnished with all of his furniture from his first marriage.

His first wife died less than a year ago and it’s as if he doesn’t want to change anything in the home. I really want to make his home our home. He even wants me to use her kitchen utensils.

He tells me that I don’t have to do anything but move in with him. He feels it’s a waste for me to bring my stuff in when he already has it all there.

I worry I will lose my identity if I just go plug into his life. There are things I want to bring into the home that are a part of my life with my children and extended family, but I feel cut off from those things if I go live his life.

What do I do with my stuff and what do I say to him to help him understand my feelings about this?

Answer

It’s likely that your husband is still in the grieving stage of losing his wife and finds some level of comfort in having things in his life stay the same. Even though marrying you was a happy event, it’s still a new change in his life that requires a significant adjustment.

Sometimes when we are faced with having to make multiple changes at one time, it’s nice to have some things stay the same.

I’m not suggesting you just let him live in the past while you lose your identity. I am suggesting that you take into consideration how difficult it is to grieve the loss of a spouse and all of the things that serve as reminders of that relationship.

It’s not unusual to need time to move through the stages of grief and slowly create a new normal.

You are both facing the threat of losing something familiar, so be gentle on each other as you figure out how to create a new life together. Most couples who marry for the first time generally don’t have emotional ties to their stuff, so creating their home environment is something they build as they pass through new experiences together.

You might take turns identifying the items that are nonnegotiable and then allow all of the other items to be up for discussion.

I encourage you to take it a step further and talk about why each of the items is nonnegotiable. There are stories and memories linked to each of these items that will be a great opportunity for you to understand each other. This can be a bonding experience to help you support one another through this transition.

As you begin to identify what you want to keep and what you’re willing to give up, you’ll be creating a new environment that reflects the important aspects of your lives to this point while leaving room open to create surroundings that tell your new story.

Hopefully you’re both willing to stay respectful and considerate of each other’s losses as you create your new home.

Take your time with this transition and don’t try to get the house set up in a weekend. The slower you go, the better you will understand the stories and emotions attached to these items. This is a wonderful time to discover each other in a meaningful way.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

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7 Comments

  • knobe December 2, 2015 at 8:37 am

    People get married BEFORE they have the basic conversations ?
    I understand teens running on hormones and no bank accounts but
    Adults with previous marriages ?
    NOT having the rudimentary talks about how they want to handle life’s issues ?
    WHY ?
    ( there are potential deal breakers wiser people deal with BEFORE heading to the altar ! )

  • sagemoon December 2, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Geoff’s advice was good for this situation. I am a little less kind and am wondering why either of you would rush into a marriage when one of your spouses has been dead less than a year? My advice is to accept that the decision to marry may not have been the best decision either of you have ever made in your lives but also accept that you need to work with the hand you’ve been dealt. Stand up for yourself. Losing your own identity to satisfy the needs of another is unacceptable. I propose bringing up the topic of moving into another home, one that will be “ours” and not “hers.”

  • laytonian December 2, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I think the counselor overlooked the entire situation:

    Everything in that home, except for dead wifey’s old clothing and personal items, are HIS. They are the items owned by the man live wifey supposedly loves.
    She’s upset about the kitchen utensils?
    Are they better or worse than those she brought into the marriage (I highly doubt the picture accompanying this story is the home she moved into)? If they are the standard “dollar store” stuff that many people own, I can see her not wanting to use them — but that has NOTHING to do with dead wifey. BUT if those items are high-quality, it’s a sign that she feels diminished by a woman with better taste or opportunities than she had….AND maybe new wifey is one of those shopaholics who is being denied the chance to spend new hubby’s money?
    I could see her being upset if he asked her to wear the dead wife’s clothing.

    WHY did these people even bother marrying? Evidently, they each had different goals and “being married” was more important than the seriousness of the situation.

  • ladybugavenger December 2, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    It’s only been a year since his wife died and you married him. What did you expect….a fairytale?

  • GrandmaB December 2, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    First, he should never have gotten married if he is still in the “stages of grieving.” But, you both did it. If he isn’t ready, it might be a good idea to have two homes for a while. Or one of you is going to end up really, really angry. He needs to finish his grieving and decide he really want a new wife. Then move on. I wouldn’t want to move into a woman’s home who has only been dead, what, less than a year! Might be a good idea to buy a new house. For the new family. WOW. If this ends up as a religious issue for both of you, I can tell you right now, the church should have counseled you to wait. I’m sure they did not.

  • .... December 3, 2015 at 5:09 am

    LOL ! Only a year later ? the only one to blame here is YOU ! and that’s for not finding out what you got into. I got ten bucks says he has a box hidden in the house with her clothe in it. and I guarantee you he will ask you to wear her clothes..

    • ladybugavenger December 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      Wear these clothes dear. Oh my! That’s creepy!!

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