ou’ve heard that famous John Waters quote: ‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f*** them.’ There’s something in that, I think. How can you gauge the prospect of long-term compatibility when in the early throes of romance and everyone is on their best behaviour?
The only way to understand what you are going to be dealing with in the future is by looking at how they are already living today. That is, how they are actually living behind closed doors, not in a carefully curated online profile. Because a few windy walks and candlelit bottles of vin jaune can only get you so far in the getting-to-know-you stakes. But the frameless, blu-tacked Scarface poster and Union Jack-covered sofa? They’ll tell you everything you need to know.
So, say you’ve made it back to theirs, what constitutes a deal-breaker? Having canvassed opinion from friends of a variety of ages, orientations and professions, the biggest turn off is predictable: a dirty home. Still, where there’s a will there’s a way. One friend told me that when she first met her now husband, his flat was so gross that she arranged for a weekly cleaner to visit. They’ve now been married for 25 years; though sadly the cleaner didn’t go the distance — so repulsed, they feigned a terminal illness in order to avoid coming back (it was only a few months later when they all found themselves in the same cinema queue that the penny dropped).
Once you’ve decided to move in together, things can become even more complex. We’ve helmed projects helping couples to set up home and the planning can be painful and heated. Decorating is a blood sport and the victor in deciding, say, whether or not to keep granny’s dark oak sideboard, can determine who sets the tone across the home.
Obviously none of this really matters and ultimately there should be a degree of acceptance and compromise in both the best homes and most successful love stories. Still, for me and many of my industry colleagues, finding an object of affection with a shared aesthetic is fraught with problems. It’s tough if they’ve got bad taste, and even harder if they have better taste than you. I’ve found a loophole that allows me to avoid this conundrum and have involved myself with someone who lives a convenient 5,500 miles away, meaning we are generally too pleased to see each other to exercise decorative judgement. And, yes, conversations about this with my shrink are ongoing…