How to live with your partners' “interesting” taste in art.

Just because you love someone doesn't mean you agree on everything. Wasn't that brilliant? Isn't that an incredible insight?

There she is, completely enamored, totally engaged in a freshly encountered sculpture of glass and stone. You can see it in her eyes, that simple, beautiful recognition; that quiet, unfathomable communication. It's as if she's met a lovely part of herself. This art will add one more ingredient to a delicious presence she's been building in their home. The size is perfect for the table in the front hallway, the colors will work in an interesting way, the price is doable. There's only one small … make that medium problem: him, the one who likes ketchup on chicken, the one who thinks plywood is interesting, the one who thinks Monet is french for money … the one she loves.

Across the gallery, he too has found his muse. A large painting, fireplace size, dark, bold, speaking of resolve, conquest and fortitude. A male grizzly, on a rock, next to a brook, somewhere deep into a vast range of towering shale-black mountains. A blood-warming testament to beauty and strength.

She sees a small trickle of adrenaline lighting her beloved's eyes and walks over to him, awash in a curious mixture of apprehension and amusement. “What is it with this guy and bears?!”, she whispers to herself. But there he is, all excited, in his subdued, manly kind of way — like he'd just washed his truck or got a new drill. There he is, her man, her friend. She squeezes his arm and thinks, “He likes bears on rocks, what are you gonna do?”

In a moment, she's got him by the arm and has dragged him over to her new glass lover, knowing full well he's not going to be moved to tears, but hoping he'll at least not make fun of it. And he doesn't. He could, but there she is, in all her usual lovely weirdness, looking at that silly thing like she'd just found it in a manger. He strokes her hair and thinks, “she likes funny looking glass things that cost two grand, what you gonna do?”

When we buy art, we're buying feelings. We like the way a piece of art makes us feel, and having it in our home means we'll feel those feelings often. Even though somebody else gets those same feelings from a totally different piece of art, we're in this together, we all want to feel good, and feeling good with some one else feels even better.

So what are we going to do? He wants Mr. Bear, she wants a lovely glass whatever-it-is. Here are a few of the ways I've seen couples get through this with smiles.

  • Sometimes, you and your beloved have the same or similar tastes in art. In this case, the only problem you may have is trying to control yourselves from spending your grocery money on new art.

  • Sometimes one of the people in the relationship is quite happy to let the other person dance til their heart's content. Art's not their thing anyway, and it's fun to watch the delight of someone you love with a handful of money having such a time of it — as long as nothing really weird shows up in the living room.

  • Maybe you're in a new relationship and one or both of you is so goo-goo infatuated with the other that you pretend, or even temporarily believe you like everything your lover does. Lucky you — until the goo-goo eyes wear off and you realize that goo-goo eyes don't know a damn thing about art, or people. Enjoy it while it lasts, then move on to one of the other suggestions here.

  • Then there's the Man Cave approach. He can tolerate all the flower paintings and swirly vases all over the house as long as nobody breathes a word about his Ed Kowalski painting: “ Polar Bear on a Harley”. This might seem like segregation of a sort, but I think it's pretty natural, there are things inside a guy that we never really grow out of and shouldn't really need to, and we need a place to do them. We're all little boys stuffed inside big men bodies and things get uncomfortable when we're not allowed to come out and play on a regular basis.   

  • Of course the biggest help in all of this is balance, acceptance and loving compromise. Okay, maybe it feels like the grizzly on the rock isn't exactly the perfect match for the glass sculpture, but it's not all that bad either — maybe there's even a way to make it work! After all, that's what art is all about: creativity, exploration, thinking outside the box. Some of the most interesting and attractive rooms I have ever seen were those in which many diverse elements come together in an intriguing harmony. Rather than habitually listening to the not-so-little voice in your head that's saying it can never work, do what you're so good at in other areas of your life: open, let go, allow the situation to take you to new places.

As an artist, I'm always not-so-secretly hoping new and unusual things will show up from someplace beyond my usual thinking and expectations. And because I keep that door open, they do. I call them “happy accidents”. In the early years, I saw them as mistakes, something to fix. Now I look forward to them, realizing it's far more interesting and enjoyable to take what I'm given and flow than it is to have everything how it “should” be. It's not always easy to get out of the way but when my fundamental attitude, or perhaps I should say intention, is open acceptance of what has presented itself, all kinds of opportunities fling open, and that's where the fun really begins! Squirming and dancing aren't all that far apart.

Who knows how you'll work it all out, but I'm pretty sure you will. One thing you might try is hunting down pictures of eclectic interior decorating. The people who decorated those rooms not only had bears and glass things in the truck when they came home, there was also a sculpture of two muskox in a winter storm and a big photograph of Alice Cooper playing the banjo with a snake. You don't have to get quite that “inspired” but having a look in an unfamiliar direction may open those lovely eyes of yours to all kinds of new worlds.

That bear and that glass sculpture thought they came into this world to be art — and they did, but they also came to be two more reasons for two lovers to discover their hearts can hold much more than they thought they could, and there's no greater art than that.