By the time Lyn and I met in 1985, we both had become accustomed to operating like lone managers around the house.
In her previous marriage she pretty much bought furniture, food and furnishings without consultation, knowing her husband wouldn't opine against it. In my previous marriage, I almost never weighed in on purchases for the home – unless they were plants, which I considered my private passion.
Of course, we both wished for a relationship in which each partner cared equally about what went into the home and into the ground around it. That, we figured, would reflect a caring relationship. We got our wish when we got married in 1987. We also got some surprises.
The first came during a shopping trip to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where we had gone hunting a ceiling lamp. There must have been a million lamps in the place, but eventually we narrowed down the possibilities to two.
"We'll take that one," Lyn said, pointing to my second choice.
"Whoa," I said. "I like the other one. Let's flip for it."
When the quarter came up heads and I asked the clerk for our lamp, we both knew that we had entered, for us, uncharted territory. Still operating under the old model, Lyn asked for another flip – "two out of three." Yep, I won that toss, too.
Decades later, she still tells this story, saying she was taken aback that I had an opinion about the lamp, adding that she believed up to the end that I was kidding about letting a tossed coin decide.
While Lyn was surprised and undone that I cared enough to beat her out of her lamp choice, I also was surprised (and delighted) to learn that what went into the house mattered to me. A lamp is just an object, yes, but this one represented a commitment to being involved in shaping our space, a desire to have some of me there.
Since then, we've gotten more and more comfortable with this new kind of life. When we left the nation's capital for Atlanta in 1989 and began renovating our Victorian home, we both trekked to the wallpaper store and flipped through hundreds of samples. Same for the paint store. And what kind of kitchen stove we got was as important to me as to Lyn.
By the time we got to Connecticut in 2001, she had stopped being surprised at my showing up with a vase or rug that she had never seen. And when I'd challenge her in the grocery store because she bought scented detergent, she took it in stride, appreciating my involvement.
Of course, what's good for the gardener is good for the gardener's wife. Thus, Lyn, who paid little attention to gardening before we met, increasingly began to voice her choices on which plants I should buy, where they should be placed and whether I'm weeding and neating up as diligently as I should.
"You're starting to collect too many little plants in the kitchen," she boldly declared one day. "I'd rather see a few large ones."
I resisted reaching for a quarter.