Out with the old?

Bubile Tinali is a 38-year-old divorced woman who recently re-married a widower.

They moved into ‘their’ house, which was already decorated with family pictures, their furniture, pots and everything her husband shared with his late wife.

Does an environment affect couple’s emotions?
Does an environment affect couple’s emotions?

Tinali says the scenario is extremely hard for her to cope with as she feels like a guest in her own home.

She believes in a change of home set-up to usher in new beginnings and as an assurance that her husband has moved on. But are such changes necessary?

Chancellor College psychologist, Limbika Maliwichi-Senganimalunje says changing or not changing furniture in such a home depends on so many factors, including personal beliefs.

She cites other members of the household such as children, financial stand, type of furniture (intimate or general), personal style or preference as well as the ‘stage’ of the partner in relation to the loss of the previous spouse- whether he/she instance is in denial, anger, bargain, depression or acceptance stage.

The effect of maintaining the furniture, Maliwichi-Senganimalunje adds, depends on how both parties perceive the furniture and how this in turn affects the dynamics of the relationship.

“For example, if the furniture such as the bed is a constant reminder of the previous spouse and elicit feelings of anger or sadness on one or both parties, then they should seriously consider changing it. If they keep it, it may contribute to unnecessary tension due to insecurity, regret and fear among other things,” she points out.

If change cannot be made on the furniture and one is willing to compromise, the psychologist says there is then need to communicate with your partner, your feelings and find ways of making the best out of the situation.

“They can also consider rearranging the furniture. They could exchange the old bed with another member of the household for instance. If that’s not an option then consider making the changes in phases by gradually changing one or two items at a time. The key is for both partners to be open to each other and communicate their feelings throughout,” she says.

Chancellor College sociologist, Charles Chilimampunga believes that it makes sense for the new spouse to re-decorate the house to suit her taste and make herself comfortable.

“Anyone would want to live in an environment they are comfortable with, and if that means replacing some furniture around the house then they should.

“In the case where the previous spouse is deceased, then the new one needs to make sure they tread carefully and try not to replace the memory of the wife or husband. You cannot force one to forget the past, it is socially unacceptable,” he says.

He adds that as much as it should be allowed for one to redecorate, it should be done with consent from the spouse. n

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