My Home Is Starting to Look Like a Man Cave

I’ve done it again. I have betrayed all of womankind, this time because of how I am decorating – or choosing not to decorate – the first home my husband and I have ever purchased. What is it about buying and fancying up a place that has me feeling like I am failing in so many different ways?

Failure #1:

I made a firm decision when I turned forty to never to use the word failure again when describing myself or my endeavors. Shit.

Failure #2:

I’m still bothered by the fact that it's mostly hubby’s money that paid for the place. This is nonsense, according to many of you. My husband and I are a family, a unit, and my role within my family unit cannot be reduced to mere dollar signs. I get it. We split just about all of the household and childrearing responsibilities 50/50, but I get it.

Failure #3

Hubby has been primarily in charge of redesigning and selecting the furnishings for our new place and I have taken on the role of assistant. Yes, unlike just about every other (hetero) woman I know, I have taken a backseat when it comes to selecting paint, furniture, light fixtures and just about everything else in our home. And this is mostly intentional.

home-redecorating-marriedWhy? It’s certainly not because he is an aspiring Martha Stewart. And it’s not entirely because of Failure #2, which is that what we buy still comes mostly from the money that he earns. It’s because…. Oh… this one is so hard to admit…

I'm choosing to let my husband lead the home decorating process because I dominate so much else in our relationship.

At a small party two nights before our wedding day ten years ago, a kind friend summed up my relationship with my husband like this: “Wendy is ahhhhh!” she said, holding up her hands like she had been caught in a bank robbery and shaking them energetically. Her eyes may or may not have been bulging out of her face.

“And he,” she continued softly, as she lowered her hands to her lap and pretended to smooth out sand along a tranquil beach in front of her, “is like this.”

A decade later, it’s still a fitting analogy.

Day to day, my personality and needs seem to take up more space in our relationship than his. Dinner is typically what I like. I choose what movies we see together. I pretty much determine when we have sex. Sometimes I ask him to change his shirt when I think it doesn’t match his pants and most of the time he does. It’s too much, I tell you. Too much!

So I've stepped aside when it comes to our home. I do so in part because I know I have limited design sense and because I still have hangups about whose money is buying all this new stuff (I know, family unit).

But the biggest reason I take a secondary role, by far, is because I have mixed emotions about the power dynamics in our relationship. I want hubby to feel he has control and that the balance of power is something we are both comfortable with. It's important for him and for our relationship, both emotionally and physically.

What I fear (and I wonder if other women fear this as well) is that one day my husband will wake up and realize I've become that nagging, domineering wife who, metaphorically speaking, carefully removed his testicles on our wedding day. If giving up a few flowery pillows and Etsy crafts will help him feel a little more alpha, consider it done.

Perhaps at some point I’ll have stronger opinions about what should go in our home, but I seriously doubt it. What’s more likely is that we’ll continue on this path, with our den looking like a Crate and Barrel-inspired man cave and the rest of our place giving off a masculine to gender neutral vibe.

Whether I will hold this against hubby at some point or use it as leverage in the future for when I really want something is an entirely different story, one I hope I will never have to tell. Oh, marriage. Is it always such a game of give and take?

(photo credit: ambro/

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Filed under: Families in the Loop

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