It’s time for another edition of our newest advice posts: “Ask Dootsie!”
My fiance and I just moved into our own apartment and I am elated. We have, in our almost seven years together, never had our own place before.
But my fiance is having a hard time dealing with the move, as the house we just moved out of was the one he was literally born in — his father built it with his own two hands. My fiance lived there for 23 years, and is having complicated feelings of, “That’s my childhood home, I can’t ever go back there.”
The house is just 15 minutes away from our apartment, and I’ve tried to assuage his fears with suggestions of weekly dinner with his Dad, but I have no real comprehension of the loss he is feeling as I lived in six different houses before I was six years old, and have moved throughout my life.
Can anyone help with suggestions of how to make him feel welcome and happy in our new home, and not feel like he just lost his entire childhood? -Aimee
I’m intensely nostalgic about my childhood home and possessions. Like your fiance, I lived in the same spot until I left for college. It still takes a little bit of an adjustment period for me to feel at home in a new space — but eventually, it always happens. I suspect this will be the case for your fiance. Once he gets settled into the daily routine of living in your apartment together, he’ll grow to know it as his home.
I find it helpful to welcome people into a home by making use of their unique talents…
Let him contribute to your new apartment in a big, meaningful way that will give him pride in the space and let him know it belongs to you both now. Perhaps choose paint colours together, commission him to create something or work to organize your cupboards. If he seems dispassionate or adamant about a decision, be patient and understand that he’s lived with a set system for a long time. This will take some compromise and negotiation!
Little pieces of memorabilia from childhood go a long way to making a new place feel like home. That looks different for different people. For some, that might mean putting an action figure collection on display, putting up old photos, using furniture from his childhood home or keeping around a couple stuffies. Almost everyone has some items that help them feel at home no matter where they are. The goal shouldn’t be to recreate his childhood bedroom, of course — you’ve both gotta live there! Just pepper spaces with little tokens of his childhood (and YOUR childhood) to remind him that the past is a part of his present.
While the change in decor of a childhood bedroom can be jarring, that doesn’t mean that his childhood home is somehow gone forever. Home is very much a state of mind. This isn’t a loss — it’s an evolution. The things in that room may change, but the memories that fill it will never change or go away — they’re always with him.
If it will help, he might want to just talk to his father to secure for himself the notion that he’s always going to have a space in his father’s heart and home.