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"My house isn't my own." - "She needs to accept my past."

By Deacon Tom Fogle and JoAnne Fogle | June 2011

"My house isn't my own." - "She needs to accept my past."

“My house isn’t my own.”

Sarah says: When Bob and I got married a few years ago, I moved into the house he and his late wife had shared. Because his children were still fairly young and living with us, I agreed not to change anything about the décor or furnishings in order to maintain familiarity for them. But now that they are adults, I’d like to replace some of Cathy’s things with my things. Bob won’t hear of it, and I’m tired of living in a shrine to his dead wife.

“She needs to accept my past.”

Bob says: I love Sarah, but she has to realize that I loved Cathy too – and Cathy was the kids’ mom. I know they are grown, but they still come home for holidays, and I don’t think they’d be happy to find their mother’s things replaced. Sarah needs to accept my past if we’re going to have a life together.

What do they do? We can understand Bob’s desire to maintain some familiarity for his children after the death of Cathy by not replacing too many items right away. What is more admirable is that Sarah agreed to move into Bob and Cathy’s home, agreed to not make any changes, and has allowed this situation to continue for a good number of years.

For Bob to expect Sarah to “accept my past” is unreasonable if it also includes maintaining Cathy’s décor and furnishings without regard for Sarah’s desires. His not wanting to change anything in the house leads us to suspect that after all these years Bob desires to hang on to his memories of Cathy in his home. Bob’s insistence on continuing to maintain his home the way it was with Cathy is not conducive to building a marital relationship with Sarah. To paraphrase Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13: You cannot serve two masters at the same time. Neither is Bob helping his children move on with their lives by maintaining “things as they were.”

However odd this situation may appear, it is not unusual. We both agree with Sarah that it is time for Bob to move forward in his thinking and actions. Generally a home is a reflection of the woman who lives there. Sarah has been very understanding of Bob’s concern for his children. It is very thoughtful of Sarah to consider Bob and the children in that way; in fact it borders on saintly actions! But now that the children are grown and living on their own, it is time for Bob to realize that Sarah has decorating ideas of her own that she would enjoy implementing. After all, she did not insist they get their own house to start their life together; she accepted his children and his home as they were.

It is time for Bob to respect Sarah’s wishes and desire and embrace some changes she has been patiently waiting to accomplish. It is quite possible that if the children were asked, they most likely would agree with Sarah that the time has come for a change. One word of caution to Sarah, however: Some of the items within the house also may have a special meaning to Bob and a wholesale purging of Cathy’s décor or furnishings should be undertaken with gentleness and consideration. Change is difficult, but Sarah and Bob need to share their feelings about this situation and really listen to each other. 

Their relationship is now the most important relationship to consider and honoring each other by focusing their attention on building “their” relationship to the fullest would be a sign of unbridled love for each other. Scripture gives us guidance in these situations that we should heed: “Let love be sincere … love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:9-10)