This is not my beautiful house: The bittersweet reality of living with someone who owns a house

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?”

Me on move-in day, bossing the movers around. ;)

No seriously, HOW DID I GET HERE?

It’s like a woke up one day last week and didn’t even recognize my own life. Things I used to always have, gone. The routines I used to do every single day, gone. Even major self-identifiers, gone.

Where are all my things? Where is my furniture? Where’s my DVR full of my favorite TV shows? Where is that god damn mason jar I use to make dressing? (I can’t find that thing, it’s driving me nuts.) Who am I if I’m not self-described bad-ass, independent bitch, who lives on her own, and doesn’t depend on anyone but herself? Who am I if I’m not the girl who lives behind a porn shop in the quirky apartment that she decorated all herself?

Don’t get me wrong — 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 a 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 amazing home, 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 (and maybe based on the first): 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.

Reason, the third: 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 chotchkes 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 “our house” (oof, I had to force myself to type 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. Stuff that is familiar is actually great stuff in times of crisis!

Think about how nice it is to curl up in your own bed, and pull your own comfy blankets up over your head, and cry with your head on your pillow, resting up against your old familiar headboard, as you let those spent Kleenex pile up on your trusty bedside table, as your cat purrs, immune to your feelings, on the also-your-pillow next to you. That sometimes feels like the most comforting shelter during the shitstorm that can be life.

So, I’m in a weird place right now. “Unmoored” was the word that Mike used to describe it. That feels right. But, now that I think of it, what I actually feel like is a ghost…

I float through this house moving objects around in an attempt to make my presence known. I linger as long as possible in the room filled with the remains of my furniture, because that’s where most of my concentrated energy is collected. I wail in the shower, and on walks around the neighborhood, leaving a stream of tears in my wake, instead of Slimer-esque ectoplasm. I feel like a ghost in my own life and in my home and my head — a trace of what I once was.

I talked to my friend who’s 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 a shitty studio apartment.

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 is totally a thing for the one partner living in a home entirely purchased by another partner! Just knowing that made me feel slightly better. My friend assured me that it does get better, but it may not ever completely go away. She said, even though they’re married 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.

It’s going to feel a little strange as the ghost of Old Stubbornly Independent Megan remains as New Healthy Dependency Megan regenerates, and learns to share a living space and a life with someone else. 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 in this position? Living with a partner who already has ALL THE THINGS? Was it a struggle? Did it ease up? Was there a magic fix? Where are my fellow imposter syndrome housemates?


Vanilla French toast waffles: For people who hate french toast and cinnamon


Part-time Empire, full-time freak out


  1. I can relate to this in a financial way. A little while after we got married, my husband decided to go back to school, and part of our strategy to prepare for paying for his education was to pay off the remainder of my personal student loans in one fell swoop (his idea.) The majority of the money we used to do that was “his,” even though by that point it was really “ours,” and it was so weird for me to accept. Like, I don’t deserve this! No one has to pay for me, I take care of myself! It was hard at first, even though it was also a really practical solution for us.

    I think pinpointing the things that you and your energy bring to the house (and the partnership in general) can help. And time helps a lot–you’ll accumulate more of your own things, and you’ll accumulate things and memories and all that stuff together. <3

    • meganfinley

      “I don’t deserve this! No one has to pay for me, I take care of myself!” Totally that. In every way. Every day.

      I think you nailed what my work is going to be for a while — pinpointing the things that I bring to the house and the relationship, and reminding myself that those things have value too.

  2. Katie

    Wait, what happened to your job!? I’m assuming you’re talking about your editing position over at the OBE…

    • meganfinley

      I’m still working for the Empire, but in a part time capacity. I’ll have a blog post about that shift soon!

  3. Alex C

    I had a friend who went through something similar. They didn’t have money to afford redecorating/new stuff, so their temporary fix until they could really choose stuff together was to rearrange the furniture so the shared space felt “new,” and put all of their collected artwork in a pile and pick out what they both liked (and buy a few inexpensive pieces together), and figure out where to hang it. It gave my friend a sense of impact/representation I n the space.

    • meganfinley

      Hopefully we can do the collected artwork thing. He has TONS of framed stuff, as do I. We just need to find the time to sort through it all, find the things we both like, and then find a place to hang them. I just… ugh… I HATE hanging things.

  4. I feel you. So hard. When I moved down here a year and a half ago, I pared all my belongings in half, and more than half of that went into storage when I got here. We are living with his brother in his brother’s house, which was already furnished, so other than some end tables and a bookshelf, I have no furniture that was “mine” and the most irritating: none of MY kitchen stuff. It really fucking sucked. I loved my little purple colander and it’s still in a box in the storage unit, dammit, along with my good knife, and the few books and dvds I still had. And worst of all, because the house was packed with people, I had no crafting space. And it really burned me up because he got the garage for his CNC and a place to go DO Something, and I didn’t.
    The only thing that fixed it for me was time. Some of it I realized I don’t actually need, and over time, our situation adjusted. The crackwhore that rented one bedroom finally left (not calling names, she literally was a crack smoking prostitute). And then my nephew moved in with his girlfriend late last year so there was finally enough room for me to go get the sewing machine out of storage and get set up in one room.

    So…patience, I guess? And be honest that it bugs you.
    And demand equal delegation of chores – that should help with the housewife syndrome. I did 90% of the cleaning when I moved in because I didn’t have a job, but now that we’re all working full time, I still seem to be stuck with that. Wtf.

    Build things together.

    And damn, find another mason jar! πŸ™‚

    • meganfinley

      I feel like my lesson to learn right now is how to be patient and let time do it’s thing. I’m SO BAD at just waiting for things to change. But my one friend who had the boyfriend move in with her was like, “Let’s say you got to redecorate the ENTIRE HOUSE to your liking… in the end, you’d still feel weird like this, because it’s a giant life shift. And it takes time to get comfortable.” So yeah, I agree with your patience reminder.

      I’m working on being honest without being a jerk.

      And damn that mason jar! It’s one of these small ones that you can’t buy just by itself! And I don’t need TWELVE! grumble grumble.

  5. I have been trying to condense my feelings about this, but struggling. I have been so terribly there. I am the cautionary tale of there.
    My solutions are: paint something, hang something, focus on cultivating your spirit (AKA go learn something and distract yourself until your surroundings are so familiar, they are Home.) i don’t think it’s a foolproof plan, but it sure fools me.

    • meganfinley

      Paint something. Check. Hang something. Check — although only in “my” room. I should hang more things. Distract myself — no check. Thank you for that advice. I have to do SOMETHING while I’m waiting for home to feel like home. Thanks, Doots.

      • I hope you get there. HOME is honestly a process and a thing you don’t necessarily recognize that you feel until you’ve been feeling it for a while. That’s where distractions come in handy. πŸ™‚ You’ll eventually look up from your macrame? Mindfulness exercise? Knitting? Foray into animation? and realize “wow, okay! This is Real and Mine!”

  6. Amanda

    I have only combined households in a new place, not moved in under these circumstances, but I do think I can relate a bit because of one thing: when I moved in with my husband, he had thousands of books and hundreds of CDs. I love books and music but have moved a lot and try to travel lighter. Initially, it made sense to me to combine our books and CDs and store them in the same places.

    I HATED that, it turned out. I literally could not find my books and CDs given the way they were organized (more his way than mine, I will say), and I had this general sense of my tastes being swallowed up by his.

    I uncombined everything. While there is still a sense that “all these books” are his when you walk in the house, I can point to my one bookshelf and a half and say “those are MINE, that’s what I read.”

    It sounds like “your” room helps, but maybe think about as you hang stuff or get more stuff of yours, concentrate it in one area of another room?

  7. Lindsay

    It’s possible that you would feel this way even if you bought your own house. Instead of a physical person, it would be the ghost of your apartment past whispering “security deposit” everytime you thought about making the space your own. Personal experience.

    • meganfinley

      HA! That’s true. You just made me realize that I would have probably felt like the house I bought with my own money wouldn’t necessarily feel like “mine” for a while. It would take some settling in time for me to even feel like it was my home in THAT situation too.

  8. KathyRo

    Wow! It’s a comment bonanza!
    I’ve lived with boyfriends and roommates where nothing but the clothes on my back was mine. Didn’t bug me. But I was in my 20s. Now I have my own house that I’ve decorated to my taste… it would be hard to give it up.
    As far as the guilt goes, think of it this way: Life is unfair, no? Sometimes it’s unfair in your favor. I saw all the effort you put into trying to get your own house. This is your karmic reward. Enjoy it. Don’t overthink it.

    • meganfinley

      FYI: I’ve repeated that “sometimes life is unfair IN YOUR FAVOR” statement several times over the last week, and it’s really helped.

  9. All the feeeels. I’ll echo what others have already noted (recognizing your contributions and being patient, especially), and add that being patient is fucking hard. Just sitting and waiting for something to “feel different” can feel like being lazy… I play weird games with myself to quantify it like counting days since I felt X, or number of days that I did Y, or number of times I did Z. It’s all sort of pathetically Protestant work ethic-y… MUST DO SOMETHING, even while consciously choosing to do nothing?

    This is all to say, no solutions here. Just commiseration.

  10. This makes me think of the one episode of Love It or List It where a woman moved in with her long time boyfriend and basically hit a point where she wanted to buy a house for the BOTH of them or redesign the house to bit both of their personalities. This was something like 7-10 years of living with each other mind you, I couldn’t imagine living in someone else’s house for that long and not have it start to feel like your own.

    I just bought a house and it is hard to make it feel like ours because of money constraints. We are young and don’t have a huge cash flow so we have a lot of hand me downs and most are not what I would of picked out. And the items are expensive (some at least) and nice quality so I feel bad about wanting to get rid of them. And I think my husband has some emotional connection to those things since they were from his parents, so he gets a little weird about me wanting to replace them.

    • meganfinley

      Oh man, I feeeeel yooooouuu on the money constraints thing. It’s like, well, I could spend $$$ on different pieces of furniture, or save a butt ton of dough by just living with what we have now. I’ve compromised by spending some serious dollars on things like the bedding and MY bedside table. So that at least I feel at home when I’m the most vulnerable — sleepy times and sexy times. πŸ˜‰

  11. Stephanie Kaloi

    Full disclosure, I’m sick and going through blogs of people I haven’t caught up with in forever, buttttt just commenting to say that this was a really fascinating, interesting read. Like ,that kind of sounds boring, but I’ve never been in this position and didn’t anticipate loving this as much as I do. CARRY ON, I’m gonna keep catching up.

    • meganfinley

      Thanks, Steph! It’s a fucking weird-ass position to be in, but I’m loving that this post is resonating even with people who haven’t been in this weird space. Life, man… πŸ˜‰

  12. I know you wrote this a year ago, but I googled to find this topic and it was exactly what I was expecting/hoping to find.

    My situation is a bit flipped, as I bought my dream loft about three years ago. As I’m a basketball player, I had/have cash to put whatever I want into it… So I did! And to be honest, there was no more satisfying moment in my life (so far) than buying and decorating to my exact desires.

    So fast forward and now I’m in a serious relationship and my girlfriend is most likely going to move in with me. I expressed to her that I feel bad that she has to come into my space, mainly because I can anticipate what you said above. Further, I want her to have that same joy of making your place your own one day. Problem is we’re not buying again for a while and I’m honestly so content. It’s just now getting awkward adding art or games or whatever you my place, as I think she is starting to feel like it’s not and won’t ever be hers.

    Anyways, the move is still probably a year away. Any suggestions on how to help her feel more at home? I suggested getting extra book shelves for her many books, maybe getting a new rug and/or couch. Her Vitamix is always welcome! But basically everything I have is brand new and rather expensive, and also I like bright colors all over the place and she’s more black and white.

    Thanks in advance. I just want her to feel as comfortable as possible when the time comes!

    • meganfinley

      Rodrique! You are so sweet to be thinking about this. Wow. I’m so impressed by your thoughtfulness.

      One of the best things my partner ever said to me was, “what do you need to make this space feel more comfortable?” And it actually made me think of the really basic things I need in my living situation. Knowing that you understand how she feels in this situation, and that you actively care about making her feel comfortable, will go SUPER FAR, my friend.

      I would also suggest that, if you can, give up the bedroom to be redecorated by the both you — new bed, new headboard (if you have one), new sheets, new art, new rug, new bed-side tables, etc. The rest of our house looks almost exactly the same as when I first met Mike (grumble grumble) but the bedroom — the most intimate space in the house — was completely re-done, and I can’t tell you how great it is to retreat, every night, and wake up, every morning, to a space that feels like ME.

      And then see if you can do things like, change window treatments, add throw pillows, change out a few little things (coffee table maybe? Or a chair?) over time.

      That’s what we’re doing. And, a year later, I’m still feeling really anxious about the house still looking like “his house.” And a move isn’t in the cards for us for a few years. But being able to make small little changes over time is helping me stay sane.

  13. Mary

    Love the article found while looking for something completely different, legal help about possessions. I was a happy single mum in rented accommodation, fully furnished with my belongings and tastes. My partner and I decided to live together, he bought a house(his name only on the mortgage) and I moved in, fast forward 9 years and I look round and all my furniture has gone replaced with all be it things we chose together, however paid for by him and of course he had the last say! I also feel like a ghost, don’t feel like its my home, my true personality, in essence I feel trapped, but worse than that possessionless. If I left tomorrow, I’d have to start again from scratch, so I stay resentful and sad, don’t get me wrong I love him and want to stay with him, but I don’t think I will ever feel like his equal, he doesn’t understand, yes I’m a very lucky lady, but feel I’ve sold my soul to the devil!!

  14. Sheila

    Thank you for this conversation. I feel the house my boyfriend owns is not my home. I’ve lived with him 10 years and renovated this house decorated, with him, (him as the last say) but it is not home to me. I own another home that I rent out, this gives me income in my retirement. I love when renters move out and I get to be their and improve, or renovate it. Relationships build character. I must be a very funny person!

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