My parents have dueling tea kettles.
Actually, the kettles don’t really duel. They just face off across the back burners.
It’s a somewhat long story, how the two kettles came to live on the same stove. My dad scorched one of them (the original kettle) when he put on water for tea and then got distracted and left the room.
Now he won’t use that one. He bought a replacement, which my mom won’t use because it’s annoying to fill up. She still uses the original one.
They also use different water for their tea: my mom has a Brita filter, and my dad buys water from the store. Neither trusts their tap water, which has a somewhat tainted history in their small NH town.
I asked them what the his-and-hers kettles symbolize about their marriage.
Mom: “We’re stubborn, and we let each other do our own thing.”
Dad: “We work well together.”
All of those statements are true. My parents give each other space and support. They are independent and connected.
They know that sometimes, compromise means giving up something. And sometimes, it means allowing something extra into your life that you might not have planned for.
As we head into the New Year, I’m thinking about the ebb and flow of relationships: the paradoxes of intimacy (both romantic and otherwise).
Everything that we give up, and everything we gain, when we intertwine our lives with those of others.