Even in the first days of their romance at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, Julie and Michael Bathke had some vigorous arguments - the kind that left them not speaking for weeks.
But as we've heard, opposites attract, and theirs is a marriage that has thrived for 43 years.
That's not to say they always see eye-to-eye. Case in point: the Bathkes' views on decorating for Christmas.
Mike, 64, an insurance manager, loves the holiday and greets it each season decked out in his Scottish kilt, a nod to his heritage. This is a man who delights in decorating their Marlton home early and abundantly.
Julie, 63, an English teacher for 30 years and now at Cherry Hill East High School, has been known to wear a button that reads, "Bah, Humbug!"
So each year the minor Christmas wars play out, and in the end peace is achieved through creative compromise. This year, Mike's penchant for lots of Christmas has largely prevailed in their otherwise sleek, elegantly contemporary home.
"I actually realized that putting up the tree and going through the ornaments can be quite a lovely and reflective experience," Julie says. "It does carry you back to other times, and to all kinds of memories."
There's the fragile decorative egg created in 1976 by Mike's mother (now deceased), painted in red, white and blue to commemorate the nation's Bicentennial. A Shakespeare Christmas ornament celebrates the Bard and creates a tangible memory of the well-traveled couple's first trip to Stratford-on-Avon. The tiny donkey hanging from the tree speaks volumes about their shared political views.
The tree in question, installed by Mike and the couple's son, Jack, an English teacher at Princeton High School, grazes the family-room ceiling in the house, bought in 2008 in an earnest attempt to downsize from one purchased a few years before, and almost within sight of this one.
"We still ended up with more space than we actually need," says Mike, who doesn't mind at all that on the second floor is his very own "man cave," complete with the requisite recliner that suits his 6-foot-2 frame and some favorite "toys" - such as a miniature working steam engine similar to one he loved in childhood and a benign mini-cannon. Walls are a deep cinnamon, which suits his penchant for less light.
The first floor's front parlor is Julie's favorite turf. There, morning sun splashes in.
"Julie is like a cat - she follows the sun," says her husband, their opposite domestic styles again playing out.
"But this is where we really live," Julie says of the family room, where her penchant for "less is more" is evident. Furniture has clean, simple lines; an Oriental rug in mellow autumn tones anchors the space, and a few elderly things are thrown into the mix from Mike's Washington, D.C.-area family, whose members were collectors rather than believers in the spare. The total effect is of serenity with some punch.
As with home design, Julie and Mike find their way through Christmas decorating by careful give-and-take. Mike has shown some restraint this year. Julie has shown some tolerance.
"I'd have more, more, more, but Julie wants less, less, less," quips the man who still managed to persuade his wife to dig out the nutcracker collection, with whimsical specimens in all shapes and sizes. This Christmas, it's been shifted from an assemblage on the hallway floor to a tabletop location in the dining room.
"But I still find the Santa and Mrs. Claus figurines that light up and blink on and off a bit creepy," says the woman who prefers the domestic landscape a bit more, well, dignified. "But after all these years, I've learned to adapt."
A tasteful garland climbs the staircase, and Julie accepts a few outdoor decorations, such as a simple wreath on the door.
Neutral areas include a kitchen the couple planned together, with granite countertops and cherry cabinetry that looks like upscale contemporary furniture.
A small library/den is decorated in books, a nod to Julie's membership in two book clubs. Recently, the Bathkes added abundant shelves to hold their large collection of volumes, along with an impressive array of CDs.
Instead of traditional paintings as wall decor, the couple have chosen unusual framed posters from places they've been, along with interesting accessories such as a schematic of Howard Hughes' famous plane, the Spruce Goose.
This year, the Bathkes plan a mellow Christmas with their son, dining on English roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and Scottish shortbread, in perfect communion with Mike's kilt. Stockings hand-made by relatives will hang from the family-room mantel.
And too soon for Mike - though probably not soon enough for Julie - the decorations will be down by the time 2012 dawns. Christmas compromise at work again.