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TANGENT Knight Ridder Newspapers

Q: My wife of almost a year and I just moved into a new house. I thought we had the same tastes, but now that we're furnishing it, I'm finding I don't like anything she's picking out. Is it too late to say something?

A: You mean, back when you were dating, and she said "I like your apartment'' when you first invited her over, and "Nice towels'' when she saw your special-occasion Han Solo hand towels, you actually believed her? Sorry to break this to you, but her putative acceptance of your home-furnishing choices didn't demonstrate so much that you have "the same tastes'' as it did your naif-like gullibility.

Or maybe you were just in love. It happens.

Many people -- not just women, of course; that would be sexist -- consider their single years to be "just practice'' when it comes to things like home decor and flatware patterns. (And all this time you thought a flatware pattern was a short pass route for a wide receiver. Silly you!) They arrange the cinder-block bookshelves and staple-gun the "Cats'' posters as best they can, figuring that when they meet the right person and settle down, they'll arrange things how they really want them.

So the answer is yes and no. Yes, it's too late to avoid learning about sconces (hint: they're not edible) and window treatments. But no, it's not too late to say something, to have some input into the process. The key is to not simply say you hate the burgundy color scheme in the bathroom, or to dig in your heels and demand a prominent spot for your collection of snake skins. If you're going to disagree with her ideas, you're going to have to bring some of your own ideas to the table. So, unless you want to wake up in a sea-foam-colored bedroom every day for the rest of your life, it's time to do some research.

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Look through some of the dozens of home decor magazines available at the bookstore. Flip through the home furnishing catalogs that have begun magically appearing in your mailbox. You're not necessarily looking for individual pieces, but for general styles. Do you like the dark furniture, or the light? More ornate, or sleeker? Pay attention to what color the catalog-room walls are painted. (This will come up, we assure you. Never heard of a red living room wall, for instance, at least outside of your favorite house of relaxation? Open your mind to the possibilities.)

Then inject yourself into the process. "Say, honey, I've been thinking about that sectional we saw at House of Sofas. Would you be open to a mauve, as opposed to the periwinkle?'' Your wife will be thrilled that you are showing an interest. Either that, or she'll think you had an overnight brain transplant. You'll just have to play it by ear. Remind her that marriage, as in multinational treaty negotiations, is very much about compromise.

And for what it's worth, we think you should hold out for those snakeskin window treatments.

LAST CHANCE

Speaking of things that can kill a relationship, we got a number of illuminating responses to our query a few weeks ago about how couples deal with differences in their personalities and tastes. Turns out it's not all about toilet seats and bad music. But we'd like to hear more. So once again, tell us how you deal with those annoying traits of your partner. Or if you don't actually resolve them, at least tell us how you avoid the head trauma from banging it against the wall.

Male Call answers questions from men and women on etiquette, relationships, men's style and more. Write to malecall@mercurynews.com.

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