Renegotiation: tractors, dogs and televisions, oh my!

By |2018-01-15T16:01:23-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

Compromise is an important part of any relationship and when two people move in together their compromising skills are often put to the test.
Whether it’s her tacky wall-hangings, his insistence on keeping the heat at 60 degrees, a Precious Moments collection or perpetually vomiting cat, happy couples learn to adjust each to other’s quirks and live in peace despite them.
For Ypsilanti couple Michael and Clayton Gibson-Faith, the issue was dogs. Michael wanted them, Clayton didn’t.
“Every day I would just say, ‘Let’s get a dog’ and every day for, like, the first year we lived together I would say that and finally he broke down,” said Michael. “And once I was able to have him agree to one I said, ‘We need another dog.’ So we have two now.”
Though he admits they don’t really need another, “Now I’m trying to get a third,” he said. “I’m hoping my persistence will pay off.”
Although Clayton had a dog growing up, said Michael, “His family didn’t have that same appreciation for dogs like my family where the dog is a family member and he went everywhere with us and lived to be 16 years old.”
Clayton may have resisted being a dog owner at first, but P’u and Leelu, a rottweiler-shepherd mix and a shepherd mix Michael described as “little and brown” and “really cute,” have won him over.
“He loves them,” said Michael.
“He actually is the one who takes care of them,” he said. “They are actually closer to him because I’m gone so much.”
Martin Contreras of Ann Arbor also tells a tale of being converted to a “dog person.” When he met his partner Keith Orr nearly 19 years ago, a dog came as part of the package.
“I grew up without pets and having a dog in the house was something I had to get used to,” said Contreras. Fur balls under the couch, dog hair on slacks and wool coats, and the way dog hair swirls around the car when the window is rolled down were some of his new experiences.
He said he didn’t appreciate the loving relationship between pet owners and their pets before he met Orr. “Keith’s first dog was a wonderful animal and I immediately earned a respect for that relationship,” he said.
The couple, who live in Ann Arbor and are co-owners of Common Language Bookstore and the /aut/ bar, currently have two dogs. The oldest dog is now 12 and named Tchotchke. “That’s because I collect all kinds of little tchotchkes and that’s something I’m sure Keith had to get used to,” Contreras said.
Tchotchke came into their lives at a time when their friend Chris was sick with AIDS and was living with them. Contreras recalled Chris as “a dear friend who always wanted to have a pet and was afraid that when he died no one would be there to take care of the dog. And so the three of us lived together and Chris and Keith picked Tchotchke out together and she was always by Chris’s side.”
Their other dog, Teddy, said Contreras, is a bundle of energy. “Our youngest dog is a handful. We got Teddy as a rescue dog from Great Lakes Border Collie Rescue,” said Contreras.
“You can find love online. Keith fell in love with Teddy online,” Contreras said, adding that Orr was “cruising” the border collie rescue site.
“I can’t imagine my life without an animal as part of the family,” he said. “We treat them as children.”
For John and Mark, who have been together for four years, the issue was not pets, but one partner moving into the other’s home.
John purchased a large older home in a Detroit neighborhood in 2002 and Mark moved in the following year. “I had already moved in and the decorating, I had done much of that myself,” John said. “Mark had just gotten out of law school and didn’t have a whole lot of stuff.”
Since the inside of the home was already spoken for, Mark looked outside to find his space. “Mark became the person who designed the garden outside and that’s sort of become his stamp on the house,” said John. “And it works out well because the kitchen is sort of my domain and the garden is his.”
Mark eventually found his own space inside the house, as well: what John calls “the TV room.”
“Mark is one of these people who likes to have television in the background,” said John, “and I’m very much not that way.” Since John was the person home when the cable was installed, he made sure that cable outlets were minimal in the house.
“One of the nice things about having a large home is the ability to have your own space,” said John.
For some couples, personal tastes clash and result in decorating struggles. In the Waterford home of Ann Cox and Deb Dysert, who have been together 15 years and have lived together most of that time, John Deere is taking over.
“I grew up on a farm and so I have this John Deere fetish and so every time I turn around I’m getting something John Deere,” said Cox. “One day she came home and all of her burner covers on the stove were gone and I had replaced them with John Deere covers.”
“I do think it’s kind of interesting that within 24 hours after they entered the house I had one of them burned up,” said Dysert, adding that it really wasn’t intentional.
Neither was the broken John Deere salt shaker.
“Somebody bought me salt and pepper shakers that were John Deere and they were ceramic and I’m the kind of person when I get something like that I like to keep it in the package,” said Cox.
Dysert, however, thought she was being nice by taking them out and displaying them. “When we got the salt and pepper shakers we still didn’t have too much John Deere in the kitchen and so I took them out of the container because how are you going to use them if they’re still in the package?” she said.
Soon after Dysert put the shakers on the top back of the stove, one of them fell and broke. “It just fell off the back of the stove. Of course, had they still been in the box they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to fall so it was still my fault,” Dysert laughed. “My goodness was I in trouble.”
But that was hardly the end of John Deere in the kitchen.
“For my birthday somebody got me John Deere plates and silverware and so I put it all away in the cupboard before she even knew it was there,” said Cox.
Dysert, who has been collecting Pfaltzgraff dishes for nearly 20 years, remembers this well. “I came home from being gone at a church conference and my cupboards were infiltrated with John Deere dishes. They were everywhere.”
Cox, who acknowledges that Dysert is “not real big on John Deere,” has to contend with a collection she’s not really big on, either.
“I do the country theme which works pretty well with John Deere, but I also collect angels,” said Dysert, who is the pastor at Divine Peace Metropolitan Community Church in Clarkston. “We’re trying to do a co-mingling, but it’s a little challenging.”
The angels, said Dysert, are losing to the tractors. “They’re fewer and farther between,” she said with a laugh. “Displaced angels in a pastor’s house is probably not a really good thing.”
Dysert is good-natured about the John Deere take over, however. “She does like seeing her John Deere stuff everywhere,” Dysert said. “The living room was at one time coordinated with throws that matched the furniture but now we’ve got John Deere throws.”
One piece of John Deere paraphernalia, however, hasn’t yet found a home. “She did get a John Deere night light which I actually bought for her,” said Dysert, “and she tried to put it in the bathroom but there wasn’t enough space for it there, so I was kind of praising the Lord.”
John Deere’s decorating influence hasn’t been limited to the couple’s home. It was featured prominently in their holy union. “Her idea of an ideal holy union was for both of us to be wearing bib overalls and to be leaning on a John Deere,” said Dysert. That didn’t happen, however. “She did organize the reception and had ham and beans and corn bread and green table cloths with yellow mums on them,” said Dysert. “And yes, there was a John Deere tractor in our flower arrangements on the alter.”
For a woman as into John Deere as Cox is, she doesn’t actually have one. Well, not in Michigan anyway. She left her John Deere with her mother on the farm when she moved from Michigan to Indiana to be with Dysert. “But if she moves anywhere I’m taking back my mower,” Cox said.

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