A friend asked, “How do two strong-willed people—control freaks to boot—manage a successful relationship”?  I chuckled and replied, “That’s a good question.”

I’ve already described in a blog (7/15/15) how we each took responsibility for various elements of our living together.  This question seemed to require a more meaningful answer.

In business, we had each been the number one, the boss, and so we came together with very decided views on a number of things.

Perhaps the best illustration of our success occurred when we agreed to live together some 20 plus years ago.  We were thinking of maintaining our separate domiciles—Gabriele in Santa Monica, me in the Marina—and buying a condo somewhere in Orange County for weekends.  We were both still working so maybe a weekend place somewhere like San Juan Capistrano would be a workable plan.

On a flyer one Saturday afternoon, we went to take a look at a condo in a gated community here in the Marina.  The complex was nicely landscaped, had an attractive pool area and tennis courts.  The unit was on the top floor with two bedrooms and a loft.  It was quite spacious with 2,250 square feet and had lots of windows and light.

The one drawback was how the owner, the V.P. of Saudi American Airlines, had decorated the place.  The living room had pink and aluminum wallpaper floor to 20-foot ceiling with dull dark grey carpet.  The rest of the place was similarly decorated.

The next morning I casually asked Gabriele, “So you want to make an offer on that unit”?  She looked at me a little wild eyed and said, “You’re crazy, it’s horrible.”  I replied that I knew that.  We’d have to gut it down to the barest beginnings and start over.

Gabriele said one other, for her, major problem.  The unit’s kitchen had a right-handed layout and she’s left handed.  I said I didn’t know rooms were left or right handed.  She explained that the dishwasher was on the right side of the sink and she would have trouble reaching down to put the dishes in.  So we really gutted the whole place.

We made an offer, bought the unit, and started dealing with Frank, the contractor from hell.  We had a lot of help from Bonnie Sachs, who had helped me design my previous condo, as well as my office.

Long story, but here’s what I wanted to get to.  Gabriele and I agreed easily on wall colors, furniture, carpet, drapes, and everything Bonnie recommended.

We had one problem.  We didn’t agree on what to put on the walls.  We had very different tastes in that area.  My inclinations were to bold Native American and very modernistic expressions.  Gabriele had an accumulation of very conservative contemporary art.

Having accumulated our own stuff, we worked out an arrangement where we assigned walls to house our individual stuff.  It worked out pretty smoothly.  Over time we also began to acquire art and artifacts in our travels to South Africa, Mendocino, Thailand, Vietnam, Santa Fe and Sedona that we both agreed upon.

We easily agreed that I would do the travel planning and Gabriele would keep the community checkbook and the kitchen.  I got the chores she didn’t want; i.e., emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage.

So here was the answer to the friend’s question on how two very directed, opinionated people could make a relationship work.  Find an area of disagreement, like art, and assign walls.

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