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damage control

The question

A while back my husband convinced me to buy a canvas painting online, depicting an Italian seaside. I paid $180 for it. It looked beautiful online but I was very disappointed with the painting when it arrived. It was smaller than I expected, with a weird two-inch canvas border – and it clashed with everything in my living room. But my husband liked it, so we hung it up in there. I thought over time I’d see what my husband saw in the painting. But it didn’t happen. I decided maybe having it framed would make it look better, but because of the two-inch border we had to get a custom frame for $210 – and the picture still looks awful to me. I want to take it down but don’t want to offend my husband. I’m also embarrassed I spent money on something I don’t like. Every time I sit in my living room, I cringe, looking at this painting. Any advice?

The answer

I’ve always been fascinated by the ways couples navigate differences in personal taste.

Me, I just tend to cede that territory to my wife. We might debate over a fixture or painting but those discussions usually wind up with me saying something like: “Yeah, okay. You win. Let’s go with the one you like.”

Maybe you’re thinking: “How sad. I had no idea Dave was such a ‘surrendered husband.’”

Maybe you have a point. But I just figure our relationship is more important than our surroundings.

Also, I remember being in my 20s. We were guys in our 20s. Our taste was – well, for example my friend (let’s call him) “Myron.” Myron lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a cow-patterned couch; wagon wheel coffee table; and long bamboo stick for changing TV channels (there were remotes back then, but he didn’t have one).

We all spent many happy hours lounging on his cow couch, our feet propped on the wagon-wheel coffee table, while he stabbed at the TV with his stick, thinking: “Ah, this is the life.”

Then he was taken in hand by a woman with perfect taste who immediately started an extensive and comprehensive makeover process. His cow-couch and wagon-wheel-table were quickly dispatched in a garage sale.

He rose through the ranks at work, and began to exude what can only be described as a vice-presidential aura. Now he lives in a mansion, surrounded by beautiful art, furniture, and fixtures, architecture and design magazines strewn about – any of which might well have a spread featuring shots of his own house.

So when he locks horns with his wife on, say, which type of curtains to put in their bigger-than-his-old-apartment living room, my reaction tends to be: “Myron, what are you doing? Buddy. Take an overview, have a cocktail, let her choose.”

All this is not me building up to say your taste needs to prevail over your husband’s.

In fact, all things considered, I’d say the opposite: give him a mulligan on this one. Allow his beloved seaside fresco to remain pressed to the wall.

I feel your pain at having to shell out good money after bad for art you don’t like. We too have a painting I don’t love in the living room, bought by my wife for an amount that could also have sent us somewhere to sip sangria under a palm tree, waves tickling our toes.

But do I squawk? No, because in the end (and I have to qualify this because my twentysomething self would be appalled, angrily toss his long hair, tug on his earring and say “Dude, what have you become?”) maybe marital harmony is more important than what art festoons your walls.

You know the saying “ars longa, vita brevis”? “Art is long, life is short”? Well, it might not seem so short if the two of you are constantly scrapping over a scrap of canvas pinned to your wall.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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