Living in the home your partner owns: “Welcome to the secret society of imposter syndrome ‘housewives'”

Posted by
Cohab box by Etsy seller OhDierLiving
Cohab box by Etsy seller OhDierLiving

I’m definitely beyond excited and happy to be living with with my partner. But, I find that I’m struggling with living with someone who owns their own house for a lot of reasons…

Reason, the first: I really wanted to buy my own place

At least I tried a few times. And, though I ended up living in an even more amazing home than I could have ever bought for myself, I’m still sad that I didn’t get to live out that empowered “the sisters are doing it for themselves” narrative.

Reason, the second: I feel so disconnected from the place in which I live

Not only is this not my beautiful house that I’m living in, this is also not my dining table that I’m using. This is not my chair that I’m sitting on. This is not my rug under my feet. Those are not my chotchkies on the side table. Those are not my photos on the walls — all of travels and experiences that also are not mine.

I look around Mike’s our house (oof, I have to constantly remind myself to say that) and I realize that I really had no idea how little of an impact I’d make on this space, once I moved in.

In fact, the other night Mike’s childhood friend was sitting with us in the living room, when she looked around and asked me, “So, where is all your stuff.” And I responded (a lot more bitterly than I intended to) “Yeah… where IS all my stuff!?”

When I finally looked around and realized what I have left over — in the aftermath of divorcing and moving — of the parts of my collection of things that remain, it’s really not much. Basically one rooms-worth of furniture, and lots of boxes full of photos and old journals in the garage.

Yes, these are all just things, and things aren’t what matters. That was a lesson I learned this past year, when all these things that I thought were so important just weren’t anymore. But I’m also learning right now that things also have a way of grounding you.

I talked to my friend whose boyfriend moved into her house full of her things, and she told me that he also had similar feelings. At times they would bubble in angry “yeah, where ARE my things?” moments — surprising them both with his unexpected rage. And then he would wrestle with feelings of guilt, because what little things he still had were residing in a beautiful home, instead of his old shitty studio apartment.

Reason, the third: I feel like I didn’t “earn” this living situation

To put it bluntly, I feel like a fake. I feel like an asshole. I feel like a failure. I feel like a spoiled brat. I feel like everyone is judging me. It’s a weird place to be in — feeling so lucky, and feeling so shitty, and then feeling shitty for feeling shitty about being lucky.

When I shared these feels with another friend who’s gone through a similar experience, she said, “Welcome to the secret society of imposter syndrome ‘housewives.’ (Note: none of the women I know in this position are actually housewives.)” Imposter syndrome housewife — yes! That’s exactly what I’m feeling like! And knowing that someone else gets it, made me feel so much better. My friend assured me that it does get better, but it may not ever completely go away. She said, even though they’ve been married for years, and her career is also awesome, that she “struggles every day to justify living under his roof.” Oof.

For now, I know that this is not my beautiful house, and I still do not know how I got here. But the fact of the matter is, I am here and, despite my struggles, I am thrilled about it. I’m also going to continue to work out my imposter syndrome housewife issues with my partner and my therapist.

And, one day, as the bathrooms morph and the closets expand, and we start to re-decorate together, this will actually feel like our beautiful house.

Anyone else find themselves living in the home your partner owns? Was it a struggle? Did it ease up? Was there a magic fix? Where are my fellow imposter syndrome housemates?

Comments on Living in the home your partner owns: “Welcome to the secret society of imposter syndrome ‘housewives'”

  1. This is great! Your thought process makes complete sense to me.

    It’s not the same, but I’ve finally moved out of my huge 6-person house, and moved into a smaller place with my boyfriend and a friend-landlord who’s here part-time and his younger brother (also a good friend) who’s already been living here for five years. It’s been a month, and while it’s still not “ours” because it’s not meant to be permanent, it helped a lot when we hung our art up in the common spaces. A lot of the kitchen stuff is ours, and my boyfriend planted seeds and seedlings in the garden and is now growing food. I’m trying to strike a balance between having it feel like home and not intruding on my friend who’s been used to living mostly alone. Sometimes I leave my book downstairs, or my laptop–which I avoided at my old place since someone would inevitably move stuff around. It’s those little things that help a lot. Ultimately though I can’t wait until we have our own space, at least for rent, but at this point owning around here feels impossible.

    • I had a bit of that when I lived with a bunch of friends for free in a house they were renting. (I had my own place, but preferred living with them! Oh… college…) I think there’s just something about living in “someone else’s space” that makes it hard for me to relax completely.

      • Yup, it’s so much fun when you’re in college! I’m glad roommates keep me from becoming a complete hermit but the quieter and less crowded my space gets the more I love it. I think I’ll feel like I’ve “made it” when I can keep my desk and computer somewhere besides my bedroom, but so far there just isn’t space while I still need roommates. Bay Area problems…

  2. When my husband first moved in with me I think he felt this way, and even in our current apartment, its still been mostly my stuff because there wasn’t room for a lot of the stuff he had in storage. We are buying our first home, closing this weekend, and I think we finally have found a place that will be OURS equally.

  3. I think there are two ways to help this issue:

    The first is working to identify what part is truly how you feel and what part is a mental comparison to how you thought your life SHOULD be. I’ve struggled with this myself. Being a very independent person who has always identified as a feminist…I spent a lot of years pushing myself in a direction that I thought SHOULD be how my life went. Redefining what independence and feminism really mean allowed me to quit pushing myself down a career path that was making me miserable. Due to relocating, right now, it looks like I have a very traditional role in my relationship, but the way we function as a couple is very much as equals and the important part is that I am free to choose my own path (and have my partner’s support in whatever choice I make.)

    As far as the actual physical space, start adding you to it! Even if there’s no room in the budget for renovating/painting etc…start picking up a little something that represents you or experiences that you share together. Think of your very first apartment…if you’re like most people, it wasn’t immediately filled with your personality and style…it likely contained basic essentials until you were able to collect unique pieces over time. This may take time too, but get started with small touches that have big impact (curtains, a throw rug, bedding, trinkets, art, etc). If your partner doesn’t handle change well, then small changes will be easier to adjust to as well, so that you are both comfortable as you work towards making it feel like a shared space.

  4. I moved into my now-husband’s home as well, but I’ve never felt as though it isn’t mine or that I don’t have the right to make changes or bring in my belongings. He’s a bit of a hoarder, so the first thing I did when I moved in was rip apart the house to put it back together with less stuff. I wonder if that’s the difference?

    My struggles with living in “his” house come up when we talk about bills and moving. I bring in more money and I feel sometimes like he doesn’t contribute enough, but then I wonder if I have to include our house in the equation. It’s paid off, so does sparing us from paying rent or a mortgage count as his contribution toward the bills?
    I’ve never wanted to own a home. For a lot of reasons, I’d rather rent. But because I married into this house, I feel very stuck here. I love my house, but I’d also love to be able to explore living in other places.

    • you might benefit from combining your money and his money into a shared account and paying bills out of that. then, it takes away some of the resentment and entitlement to ‘my money’ vs. ‘your money’ because it is all ‘our money’ that pays the bills. maybe select a % or certain $ amount for each person to contribute to the joint fund. work it out together so it feels equal for both of you.

  5. Ugh, I have wicked bad imposter syndrome over the whole house thing, too. Though in my case, my husband and I are in the process of buying our first house together. The thing is, he’s a doctor and I work retail. I absolutely love my job (at a bookstore), but pretty much every way in which I’m a “successful adult” is because I married someone with a high-paying career. I constantly have this “this isn’t yours, you didn’t earn this, without him you’re living with your mom or in a studio with two roommates and lots of ramen” thing in my head.

    I can’t imagine how I’d feel if it were just his house.

    • “I constantly have this “this isn’t yours, you didn’t earn this, without him you’re living with your mom or in a studio with two roommates and lots of ramen” thing in my head.”

    • I think it’s difficult to see if it has always been the dynamic, but I think defining ourselves by how much money each person in a relationship makes doesn’t really make sense if you were to consider what should be prioritized in life or relationships. Throughout college, I made more money (by quite a lot) than my now husband did. He supported me in a lot of other ways and had a bigger role in taking care of things around the house, etc. After he graduated, he now makes way more money than I do (and has way more options for employment). We’ve both been the primary breadwinner at different times, so it makes it a little easier to understand there is mental baggage and pressure that comes with either role.
      The thing is you don’t have to “earn” your relationship. Hopefully you’ve both agreed to a partnership (or group dynamic) where you can share struggles, successes and even material possessions without keeping tally of who is contributing more. (Plus, when you value moral support instead of just financial, a lot of times the low earner is contributing plenty that allows the other one to get through the stresses of life.)

      • This is my experience exactly. For years I was the main earner, and it never really bothered me much. Now my partner has started earning more than me, but it’s turned out to be such a relief because my income was just barely enough for two. It’s always gone back and forth with who is the main earner. We don’t share a bank account, but we’ve stopped keeping track of who owes whom years and years ago. It all evens out, in so many ways, though we’ve never owned a house.

    • I was engaged to a guy who made three times as much as I did (he once accidentally pointed this out.) I moved in with him as I was starting to work on filing at a place where I’d once interned. He paid all the bills. Eventually, he bought a house and because I had zero credit, the house was completely in his name… and he kept on paying all the bills. He pointed out that he intentionally chose a financial situation where my income wasn’t needed, so that he could cover everything.
      My income was completely disposable, and in terms of power within that setup, I felt disposable.
      My brain went into a panic spiral, so instead I decided to go the living in an apartment with a roommate, eating ramen path. And I’m still there (though thanks to advancing my career, we now eat a bit better.) And my now boyfriend has next to no income, so he’s in the financially disposable department.

      I don’t know what will ever make me feel like I’m really making it as a legit adult who has “earned it”. A mortgage in my name? An apartment with an extra bedroom that nobody uses unless we’ve got company? Living by myself for a year? I just don’t know.

  6. I have a similar situation although I think we have finally gotten “to the other side” with it. In our case it was my husband (then boyfriend) moving in with me and moving with me when I changed jobs. When we bought our house we chose it together but everything was done in my name. It took a while before he felt like it was our house. I felt like it was ours from day one but he had some issues over the technicalities and has had past experiences that made him worry that one day I would just grow tired of him and tell him to leave. He definitely had the feeling that without me he would have nothing. We have now been in our house for two years and it is truly ours but it did take a while for him to process through those feelings.

    • I have a similar situation. In our case, it was when my husband (then boyfriend) and I moving in together. We ‘jointed’ stuff, but most of the ‘nicer’ things that we kept (big furniture items, paintings, décor, etc.) was mine from my previous apartments. One day shortly after we moved in, he had a melt down and yelled, ‘nothing in her is mine, I feel like I don’t even live here!’ I had a realization that we needed to impart more if his stuff and style into the place and not just go for what I already had and liked. We slowly decorated to make things more of ‘his’ style and when we bought items together, I made sure that he had a say and that he picked out a few things that weren’t necessarily my favorite, but were his style. I wanted him to feel at home there, too. Now, we have moved 3 times together and refurbished a house (pretty much every room has been re-painted and decorated since we moved in!). I felt like the house was ours from day one because we made a lot of the decorating decisions together and melded his style and my style into one cohesive look. We have now been in our house for two+ years and it is truly ours!

    • Step by Step Guide to getting your S.O. to do this. PUH-lease!!! LOL.
      I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers, bc my guy is REALLY BAD at expressing his feelings… he only NOW stammered something like this (we´ve been living together for THREE YEARS, geez! why didn´t he speak up before?!!!!), so I don´t want to wait another three years for he to realize what would *help* him… :S

      • No step-by-step guide here, as he usually holds things in until he can’t take it anymore, then blows up. So, that’s not healthy, either. This was one of the few times that it happened fairly soon because of the stresses of moving and other big changes in our lives (he has been known to let me cook the same meal he doesn’t really like a ton of times before admitting that he doesn’t even like it… really? you should have told me that a while ago and I would have just made something else instead, NBD). I have tried to encourage him to tell me things sooner so that I can change them, and show lots of love and support when he actually does, but it’s a process.

        • Yep. My husband and I went through this too. For us, it was me realizing that long talks are my thing, not his. Instead I started taking little actions to make him feel more at home. I bought and framed a poster for Zelda, his favorite video game. When he casually mentions wanting to move my Glamring replica (yeah, we’re dorks), I just grab the hammer and nails and do it. When we do buy new furniture, I try to be sure I hear his opinion. I’ve been really trying to listen to the little “hints”. He recently told me this was working, so I think it helped us anyways.

  7. You know, a thought that sparked in my brain: “(Note: none of the women I know in this position are actually housewives.)
    Is it easier (in some subtle ways) if you marry someone and then move in? Because that’s inherently part of the deal, right? You’re married, so moving in together is a natural progression, and one you’ve often had several months to prepare for. Your things are legally both of your things. There are still all the challenges that come with living with another person, but marriage is basically a big statement of “we’re gonna do this thing. Together.”
    But going from dating to “living in sinnnnnnn”? It tends to happen more quickly (usually at the end of one of your leases) and there’s no big, public proclamation of “what’s mine is yours, what’s yours is mine.” It’s a commitment, sure, but you’ve got no level of legitimacy to lean on. There’s no safety net of “this is real life, this is what we’re doing together.” And OMG don’t get me started on the power imbalance of one person legally owning everything.

    • It sounds nice, but I’ve had a few friends who waited to move in together until after the wedding and if anything, it seemed more difficult…They still went through the same struggles, but were constantly getting asked by well meaning friends and family how the honeymoon phase was going. They felt like they couldn’t talk about it with most people because they’d be judged if they were already struggling in their first year of marriage…everyone expects that time to be easy and blissful, but they really struggled with how to live together and just deal with the other person (and all their belongings) being around all the time.

      Oh, and I’d also say that living together tends to happen gradually with lots of overnights at each other’s houses before deciding to move in…waiting til marriage tends to be one big move in day where suddenly you have a new home.

      • That’s so funny, because I’m so used to hearing people ragging on with the old “marriage sucks, doesn’t it suck to have to answer to your spouse, oh the honeymoon phase is OVER” cliches.
        But there are definitely struggles that are unique to being married and moving in together.

        • Lol, well if they answer to their spouse as an authority figure, then they might be right…that would suck. I think this might also vary with whether they are only waiting to move or if they are also waiting to stay the night.

    • “Is it easier (in some subtle ways) if you marry someone and then move in?” YES to this… I think. Only… in my mind it would be easier to move in together if engaged. That was always my rule — I wouldn’t move in until there was a ring and date. And I was like, “eh, that was old Megan. This is new Megan. And I practically live here anyway…” And I regret that. I feel like if we had more of a “serious” “our lives are fucking combining legally” sense of things, I’d feel a bit more ownership. But we’ll see!

      • I agree – we also moved in while ‘just dating’, although talking about getting engaged, but it took a while. It did make for an interesting dynamic at the time.

      • This is interesting to me culturally, because I don’t know anyone who’d have considered getting engaged to someone before they’d lived with them. Hell, a lot of couple I know were living together before they even started going out! I guess as it’s getting more and more common to houseshare with three or four other people until your late twenties here (swapping every six months or so as couples form and split) it’s just a fact of life that you’re likely to get close to the people you’re closest too ^_^

    • For me, it didn’t become *A thing* until recently, when our incomes became extremely different. We lived together for a year before we got married.

      Our stuff didn’t seem so much ‘my stuff’ vs ‘his stuff’ but that is probably because 1) we had very little stuff; we lived in a studio that year! and 2) most of the stuff we had in our first place was hand-me-downs from our families.

      We bought some essentials (some kitchen stuff, a bed) together when we moved to our first place.
      Perhaps because we moved in with one another at a time that was entirely our decision, and not depending on other leases, or long distances, or jobs, it was easier. We were fortunate to be able to look for a place ourselves, and move when *we* wanted.

  8. I struggled with this BIG time! In fact after living with my partner for over 9 months I actually moved out for almost 3 weeks because I felt so disconnected from the space we were living in. I felt displaced and “homeless” – like i was just existing in someone else’s home. It was a really hard time, i was questioning my relationship because of my relationship with his house (and his money). Which sounds so silly now. It probably doesnt help that I had moved out of a house I had built and decorated and been very happily completely independent in. I honestly never thought Id be in a relationship, let alone living in HIS house, so it was a huge change in thought process. It was my mama who put it all in perspective for me, during those weeks I was “taking a break” from the house and from cohabiting with my love I was mostly staying in her guest room. After the second week she pointed out that he had stayed there all but 3 nights and that I didnt sleep at all when he wasn’t there. That even when we tried we couldnt help but be together. I still dont love this house we live in but being with him now makes it home (gag ;P) and after a year and a half of living here we have now acquired stuff that is ours which helps. However it does still bother me that we are starting our lives together and I have brought no financial assets into the relationship. He owns 4 properties and the most expensive thing I own is my laptop – I could literally fit my entire life into a suitcase. I should feel lucky but theres some feminist thing in my brain telling me Im letting myself down, building a life off someone else’s foundations… that nothing is ever really going to be mine. My partner is not reinforcing this at all, even as we talk futures and marriage he always calls stuff ours, but I can’t quite get over it. I guess the ideas we have around success and money and equality can impact in many ways.

    • I have been struggling with similar things about my life choices and how they interact with my feminisms lately as well (and I think OP Megan made a post on OBH+L about it recently as well?) so I totally appreciate this struggle.

      That being said, I think this needs to be unpacked a bit and that as feminists we shouldn’t be holding ourselves to standards that may not be right for us. On a personal level, afterall, isn’t the most feminist thing to make the decisions that you want and are comfortable with? Whether that means bringing more financial assets into the relationship or whatever works for you and your unique life.

      Basically: don’t feel less feminist! For anything! A woman who owns her own house or doesn’t shave or is the epitome of androgyny or who is a homemaker or so on is no more or less feminist than you are.

  9. My boyfriend and his roommate had been sharing their two-bedroom apartment (a bachelor pad if there ever was one) for over a year before roommie’s girlfriend and I both moved in this year. Needless to say, doubling the number of people in a house within a few months was bumpy. In the beginning I definitely felt like a guest in my own home, largely because most of my stuff was still in storage. I felt like I had no control over the house because all the messes were made of stuff that wasn’t mine and therefore couldn’t organize myself. I feel more settled now that I’ve set up a space for myself in the common area with my desk and other art things. Luckily we’re all of similar financial levels so there’s no power play there. The four of us are slowly adjusting to living together, but also we know this is a temporary situation and the two couples will probably go our separate ways within a year or so.

  10. This post came at a very serendipitous time for me as I am moving into the home my partner owns this Friday.

    I think it is especially weird for me to wrap my head around this idea for two reasons. Namely a) that I had always envisioned “moving in together” to mean we picked a place together and put if not equal then fair amounts of time/money into it, and b) that I am moving from Ottawa to Vancouver at the end of the summer for grad school. The former is just a pre-established idea that I’m working around, but the latter makes packing and anticipating what I need a bit more difficult, since everything I don’t take is going into storage and everything I do is coming with me to BC.

    That being said, boyf has been so good about ensuring I feel like it is our space, not his. We picked out furniture together, I get to pick most of the paint colours (he hates painting), he’s renovating so the footprint works for us better. I’m also taking a good, hard look at my things and figuring out what I need and want to both live and feel comfortable there.

    I guess I will know soon enough if it works …!

  11. I’m trying (by doing what? I don’t know) not to loose my mind over the fact that my husband is about to make like 3x as much as I do. Up until now, we’ve always been very comparable in what we ‘brought home’ – between being in school and the slew of jobs we’ve held over the years. We’ve oscillated between being full-time students, to one of us working full-time, to switching…and it has always felt very equal.
    But we’re about to move so he can start his new awesome job. And this new apartment is so much more expensive (cost of living geography difference)…and I don’t even have a new job nailed down yet.
    I’m scared I’ll end up living off of him for no real reason. Scared that I won’t find a job, and I know it likely won’t ever come close to his income level. I’m scared of him resenting me because his job essentially pays the rent entirely. Like mentioned above, I’m just too in-tune with the fact that if it weren’t for his money, I would be living with my parents, probably never paying off my student loans. And it would suck.
    I don’t feel less of a feminist…. I feel like less of a person.

    • Melyi, I’m so sorry to hear that you feel like this. I’ve struggled with this myself. I recently made the decision to walk away from a really unhealthy graduate program and move in with my husband in a new state at his new amazing job. I found adjunct teaching work and was really lucky to find that. He’s a programmer. His income triples mine and our new apartment is in a really pricey urban area.
      I’ve been trying to remind myself that capitalism unfairly rewards particular kinds of labor and people. Money isn’t human worth or the amount of work you put in. I put in 50 hr work week teaching low income community college students. This is really important work. The pay is crap, but I’m still doing something really valuable socially, just not monetarily in our screwed up labor system.
      Whether you end up working part time, being a homemaker/parent, volunteering or advocating for political causes, remember that what you do is important not how much you make. 🙂

      • Thanks Beth, your reply is really kind.
        I need to remind myself of those things too – money doesn’t equate worth.
        I had to chuckle at your description of your new situation! We’re living very similar lives (I’m a teacher, in daycare). What is it with programmers and high-end urban environments?! When we were apartment hunting last month, I could not pick my chin up off the floor, the pricing is SO DAMN HIGH.

      • “I’ve been trying to remind myself that capitalism unfairly rewards particular kinds of labor and people….The pay is crap, but I’m still doing something really valuable socially, just not monetarily in our screwed up labor system”. TOTALLY. I struggle with our society not valuing certain professions monetarily considering the huge benefit they provide for society socially. It’s bananas. Thanks for acknowledging and fighting the good fight. I’ll choose meaningful, fulfilling work over a big paycheck any day.

    • “I’m scared I’ll end up living off of him for no real reason. Scared that I won’t find a job, and I know it likely won’t ever come close to his income level. I’m scared of him resenting me because his job essentially pays the rent entirely.”

      Ugh, I feel this so hard. It’s something I’m also working through, along with the house thing. To get through it on a daily basis, I just keep telling myself that I NEVER felt like “making a boatload of money” was my top priority. My top priority has always been “do what makes you happy.” As long as I can say that I’m focusing on my top priority, I can calm my “I’m not good enough” brain enough to stay calm.

      • Oy, priorities. You’re right, ‘doing what makes you happy’ is a very good top priority to have. I’m not sure I’ve never felt the opposite, though. Maybe not making buttloads of money, but definitely ‘making money’. Not sure how I got to be that way, but maybe from always working low-wage jobs. Money = literally shelter and food. So while I want to be happy at work, at least until recently there was always the reality that ‘too bad, you gotta get a second sucky job or you ask to move in with mom and dad’.
        There must be a happy medium.

  12. I have struggled with this “imposter syndrome housewife” issue, not because of moving into his space, but because he earns so much more than I. In my best year working full-time, I only earned about 40% of his income and some years I have worked only part-time or actually been a housewife. At times, it made me feel too dependent and like I was not living up to my feminist ideals, but it was the best option for us at the time.

    I think a large part of the problem is that we are so used to keeping score in the world (measuring status) by comparing our possessions & money. Net worth becomes self worth and we often measure our contributions to a relationship only in financial terms. We also foster competition with our SO by measuring who gets more of what they want. Does he get a new TV or does she get a new sofa? Sitcoms are full of these story lines. Keeping score doesn’t really work in a healthy relationship though, especially when we only consider the financial picture. There are so many intangibles in a relationship that can’t be measured. How much does it mean to SO when (s)he has a bad day and you are there to offer emotional support? When I really feel inferior, I try to make a list of all the intangibles I bring to the relationship. I also really try not to keep score of what he does or doesn’t do. I think that makes it easier for me to see us as team members rather than competitors.

    It has gotten easier with time. As some of the other folks pointed out, the first year of living in the same space is the most difficult, no matter the circumstances. Eventually, “yours & mine” does become “ours”, sometimes so gradually, you can’t really remember when it changed.

  13. All of this! The way I personally have looked at the changing financial/living arrangements of our relationship is by thinking “would this happen/be OK the other way around?”
    For example I moved into his place, started buying food instead of bills, would I be OK if it was the other way around? Yes, actually I would’ve been OK still buying food.
    He’s seconded abroad and paid at home, I earn local currency, so we spend my money while here, even though he gets more back home. Took him ages to be OK with it because it felt weird. Would that be OK the other way around? Yes and I’m not going to pay bank fees when I don’t have to!

  14. I live with my wife in a small flat we bought together but I still get that “I haven’t earnt this” feeling. Because while it’s in both our names and we both contribute to the mortgage she provided the deposit. I am currently finishing (apparently) a PhD and for all the time we’ve been together I’ve been studying something and so had an income less than half hers. Before this I have never had a “grown up” job so just couldn’t match her savings. If I could we might have been able to afford a house.

    We have a joint account for bills (inc mortgage) and groceries. Our contribution to that is proportionate to each of our income so while she contributes more the proportion is similar, this is really helpful to me in defeating the guilts. There is an automatic deduction from each single account each month into the joint account and the bills are on direct debit and go out automatically after this.

    This means what is totally triggering for me happens behind the scenes each month.This also means I can go to the supermarket and buy groceries from an account we both contribute to, even if not equally, so am not triggered there either. I cannot emphasise enough how helpful this is in minimising the “I haven’t earnt this” thing.

    My super clever maths smart wife also worked out what we needed to pay in to automatically have an excess each month so we can have a joint savings pot (we also each have our own savings accounts). We use the joint savings pot for holidays and buying things for the flat. It’s mostly from my wife and there is an argument to say we could just keep it in her account but it feels totally different for me to pay from the joint account compared to just having my wife cover something and she get’s that, she really does (she’s a keeper!).

    I don’t really have anything left after all this so I don’t get to save currently but with her larger income she does. Once I am finally finished with the study and have a job, I can save and can contribute more. Meanwhile we are both contributing what we can, if it were the other way round ,I would do make that larger contribution for her in a heartbeat and I know she would let me. The savings she had from before we met, which I just couldn’t match are just an extra asset she brought to the relationship in the same way I bought the ability to cook.

    What’s important is that we are both contributing what we can to the joint finances/joint life project now and the fact that the proportion is similar really helps with guilt over the fact that amount is not equal.

  15. Oof. I feel this so hard. I moved in to my boyfriend’s home about three years ago and majorly struggled for so many reasons: I didn’t like his house and would never have picked it out myself, I would find ex’s things from time to time, it contained memories of him and other women, and I felt like everyone was secretly judging me for riding the coattails of his hard work and financial success (…even though I paid him “rent”). It actually got WORSE instead of better the longer we lived there, and I grew more and more unhappy. I even thought about getting my own apartment again a couple of times towards the end. I was miserable.

    We have moved now and bought a new house that we picked out together, that is in both of our names, and I am so relieved. We unfortunately still have not sold the old house, and juggling 2 house payments isn’t fun, but it has done wonders for my sanity and happiness. Can’t wait to start remodeling and make it even more our own. Consider moving if you are truly unhappy! In my case time made it worse, not better…

  16. I moved in with my husband less than a year into dating (well before our “engagement” ever happened – I don’t really remember it happening at all). It was his house in his name. I had very little things because my previous rental was a bedroom in a house. I think I had 2 -3 luggage bags worth of stuff not including my purse and computer bag. While I did struggle with it not being my house or my furniture or my pictures on the wall, it was an investment into a future life together. Two things helped me.
    First, I was starting law school so like your cat’s room, I needed a space for myself. I needed an office space where I could close the door and study without being bothered. So the spare bedroom (which was used as a chaotic storage space) got cleaned up, painted, and became my office.
    Second, part of the reason I moved in with my husband was because it was my cheapest option. Instead of paying ridiculous rent (when I was taking out student loans to pay for school and living expenses), I paid a very small rent to him. Since he was already covering all of his bills and my presence didn’t change that ( I pitched in for groceries), we decided that he would save that money into an account for home improvement expenses. As the savings accrued from my rent, we were able to slowly complete small home improvement projects.
    Now that we are seven years deep from that move, I can see the investment I made. We’ve since married, I graduated law school, we’ve got two kids, and I’m working (starting my career). My office has now become the nursery. And our home improvement savings (which I continued to contribute to once I got a job) have helped pay for a new roof, new plumbing in the basement, lots of electrical work, and we are about to complete the bathroom renovation (only bathroom in the house).
    While it was not my house when I moved in, I’ve blinked and now it our family’s home. It is where my kids will play. It is where I get to telework from a few days a week. Its where I became Mommy to his dog, where we rescued the cat our neighbors abandoned, and where we’ve learned that we have a knack for growing tomatoes.
    While it doesn’t feel like your house, you might just open your eyes one day and realize you are in your home.

  17. I had a very similar situation when I moved in with my then-boyfriend-now-husband. I looked around and saw nothing of myself in his house. I had previously lived by myself for 3 years so I was used to having things how I wanted them. He was ostensibly very welcoming and open about wanting me to make myself at home–until it came to me actually suggesting changes–then he felt like I was insulting his stuff and reacted defensively. We had a lot of heart-to-hearts about what it takes to feel at home and to share a space, and we agreed on some changes together. Now he thanks me because the place looks so much better (we painted and ripped up old carpet to install laminate wood). His family/friends have also made comments about how much they love the changes.

    I won’t lie; it was hard. Those heart-to-hearts were tearful sometimes. Sometimes they were combative. People don’t realize how important things like curtains and paint and art and garage parking can be to them, so the feelings can come out in weird ways. Moving in is complicated enough, but I think it is way more complicated to move into someone else’s established space.

    I, too, felt a little weird about living somewhere that I definitely couldn’t afford on my own, but gradually as we shared more finances/responsibilities/decor decisions, it has become truly our house and not just his. It also helps that we are legally married now, so it technically IS partly mine now.

    • Yes, my now husband bought a house before we were engaged, & it was hard to move in because everything was in his name.

      Our transition also wasn’t smooth, but what helped was deciding on paint colours, and curtains and how to arrange furniture and hang the the pictures. It made me feel that it was eventually going to be our home and not the home he had & I moved my stuff into. Sometimes it is just the littlest things that make you feel a part of the home, even if the compromise is having the dining room walls painted in 2 different colours…

  18. Oof, these are a lot of feels for a Vulcan, Megan!
    I’m not in touch with all these problems but one does resonate : feeling like you didn’t earn it.
    Now I don’t know about you but when the little voice in my head is saying “you don’t deserve this” what she’s really saying is “other people think you don’t deserve this”. For me, that’s the dark heart of the imposter syndrome: worrying what other people think. Yeah yeah — we’re not supposed to worry about what other people think. But that’s a lot easier said than done.
    So when my mind spins into this vortex, I try to remind myself how toxic and ridiculous this line of thought is like so:
    “Nobody needs your help to judge you. You don’t need to pre-emptively judge yourself. Wait for somebody to judge you right to your face – don’t beat them to the punch.”

    • “when the little voice in my head is saying “you don’t deserve this” what she’s really saying is “other people think you don’t deserve this”. For me, that’s the dark heart of the imposter syndrome: worrying what other people think.”

      Erm… hi. Yeah. You pretty much nailed it in such an obviously truthful way that I didn’t even see it there in front of me. That’s a HUGE part of it. Oof.

  19. Discuss with your partner about redoing a bathroom. Bathrooms are small and easily do-able. Paint that sucker. Make it your own. Hang that tree sloth shower curtain. Buy a teddy bear-skin bathmat with a stuffed head, or make one that looks like cookie monster. Make a fake window from a 2′ square of wooden trellis and fake ivy with a mirror behind it. Paint the ceiling cobalt blue and stencil on metallic silver stars. Go for the 20,000 leagues under the sea theme. Whatever floats your creative boat. Make it yours! Own a space in YOUR new home that you can feel totally comfortable with. Then spill out into the rest of the house over time. Curtains, throw pillows, occasional tables, coffee table books. It will be ok. You just have to break the ice.

  20. So glad there is a post for this. I moved out of college and into the home of my then-boyfriend-now-husband. I have made some impact, but it has never felt like “my” house. He he in turn feels guilty because he tries so hard to include me. We are getting ready to sell and move out, and I am WAY more excited than he is about finding a rental – I’ve figured out this is because it will really be my first place where he feels like he’s moving backwards. It’s awkward and hard now, but I can’t help feeling like it will be much better once we’re on even footing.

  21. Thank you for posting this. Not that it’s terribly relevant anymore, but this justifies feelings of my younger self when I moved with a now-ex into a home owned by his parents. At the time I couldn’t articulate what made me so anxious about the move and he just couldn’t understand either, all of which made me feel kind of crazy. It didn’t end up being a big deal, but I remember that as such an invalidating experience (gee, why didn’t I dump the jerk then instead of wait for him to end it a year later?) and this post just makes me feel so much better. Also informs some life planning I need to do with the love of my life I’ve found since as we move closer to the homeownership phase of our lives. Mom tried to tell me to buy a house on my own if he’s not ready soon, but I don’t want to cause him the sort of struggle described in this post. Thanks!

Join the Conversation