Haunted by the Ghost of Wives Past

Dear Dategirl,

I am finally in a good relationship, after six years on my own, but now that I have officially moved into my boyfriend's house, I'm a little surprised at how I'm feeling. He's been divorced for three years, but his ex-wife is EVERYWHERE. Her wedding gown is boxed up in our linen closet. Family photos (they have three kids, shared custody) line the mantel, and he's perfectly content with the way things are. I'm known for having exquisite taste, and a pumpkin-colored dining room is not my idea of appetizing. Even the bed we sleep in was theirs!

I'm not worried that they'll get back together, but I'm bothered by living in her shadow. While he's agreed in theory to redecorating, he's very reluctant when it comes down to it. This is NOT a money issue for us, either. We're lucky enough to be doing fine in this economy. He just doesn't want to change things that he feels work.

So I'm uncomfortable, and he thinks I'm crazy for wanting to change what he sees as a perfectly good home. I don't want to be the insecure crazy lady. Do I need to just get over this?

—Throwing Up Over Throw Pillows

Screw being the "cool" girlfriend. That's merely code for doormat. A long-ago ex had a photo of his ex-girlfriend hanging over his bed for months, but I was reluctant to seem insecure even though it was making me mental. Eventually I mentioned that it was kind of unnerving that she watched us have sex. He agreed it had to go. It stayed.

So I meekly mentioned it again a few weeks later, saying I didn't think I was being unreasonable. He agreed and promised to get rid of it. Months passed. I quietly grew angrier until one day my head exploded. "FUCK YOUR EX-GIRLFRIEND AND FUCK YOOOOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!" I screamed as my head spun around and pea soup blew out my mouth. He clearly thought I was over-reacting, but he did take it down immediately.

Don't let it get to that point. However, you do realize you should've figured all this out before you packed your first box, right? I mean, you're moving in with a guy who has kids and an ex-wife. That's a lot of baggage, but unless he's a real jerk, I'm sure that once you explain how miserable you are, he'll be more amenable to change.

The best way to start off this home makeover is with the offspring. What kid wouldn't want a new flat-screen or a bed shaped like a race car? Sure, this has a tinge of bribery to it, but I can live with that if you can.

Then it's time to choose your battles and draw up a plan. I agree that pumpkin (or as we lay people call it, orange) is not a color you want on your walls. Screwing on the same bed he and his wife made their babies on—yuck. At least spring for a new mattress and sheets. Basements are perfect places for ex-wives' wedding gear, and when the painters come, those pictures lining the mantle are going to be put away anyway, so maybe be a little more selective about what goes back up after they're done. Resist the urge to include one of you and your ex, even though it might be tempting to give him a bite of the poo sandwich you've been eating for the past few months.



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