Same House, Different Beds?

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When tempers run hot, communication goes cold. But, before all is lost, there are ways of stifling the fuse of an argument and understanding our partners.

After a long day of work, the only thing keeping Jennifer going was knowing that tonight was date night. She began the preparations for dinner. The vegetables lay chopped, the chicken thawed, and all she needed was the dinner rolls that Vincent picked up from the store.

... Or, at least that he should have picked up from the store.

But, unfortunately, Vincent had a long day of work too. And all he was looking forward to was kicking up his feet for those few precious minutes he gets before dinner. Now, Jennifer didn't say anything at first -- after all, they were just dinner rolls. But as they sat down for their special evening together, Vincent asked a simple question that lit the fuse to an unfortunately unforgettable evening.

"Babe, where are the dinner rolls?"

Jennifer clenched every muscle in her face to keep her jaw from dropping in sheer disbelief.

"I asked you to pick them up from the store today, remember?" She responded

"Really, but you always pick up the dinner rolls," Vincent retorted.

Jennifer lost her appetite for the evening. She picked up her plate, ignored her husband, and began cleaning up. The silence continued for a few moments, but for the couple, it felt like hours.

"Alright," Vincent caved in, "what's wrong?"

Jennifer couldn't believe her ears. Exasperated, she responded.

"You knew I was working late today, and I made that entire meal... I asked you to do one thing, and... ya know, you could've thought to yourself... you could've said, 'ya know, Jen's had a tough week. Why don't I bring her some flowers when I stop for the dinner rolls.'"

"Flowers?" Vincent stared at his wife in confusion, "You hate flowers! You told me they're impossible to keep alive, so why bother!"

"This is not about the flowers, Vinny. You... you're just not... you're not getting it." Jennifer was beginning to lose her calm as she continued, "It's not about the dinner rolls. It's not about the flowers. It's just about... I mean, how many time do I have to drop hints about the ballet?!"

Shocked at this new information, Vincent quickly came back firing, "the... the ballet? I hate ballet! We've talked about the ballet -- we agreed there's no way I'm going to see a bunch of dancing dudes in leotards!"

"This isn't about you loving the ballet! It's about the person you 'love' loving the ballet and YOU wanting to spend time with them!" 

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It's clear Jennifer's temper has flared since the start of this night, and this fight is far from over. But in those few short moments, things went from irritating... to Vincent sleeping on the couch for the foreseeable future. 

Now, every couple is unique -- no argument will be the same or stem from the same root issues. Yet, we can learn from Jennifer and Vincent's fight. There are a few key takeaways all couples should recognize when signs of an argument pop up.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say 

The majority of this conversation has Jennifer continually saying, "It's not about..." and, it was frustrating standing there, trying desperately to explain something to her husband, and Vincent is genuinely trying to understand her, but they just can’t connect... it's like they were speaking two different languages.

Love Languages.

Jennifer is speaking one love dialect and Vincent is speaking a different one. Both are missing each other in translation. But as a spouse, it is our responsibility to learn the love dialect our spouses, understand it, then speak it to them. According to Gary Chapman, there are 5 Love Languages (take the quiz to find yours){{hyperlink to https://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/}}.

  • Words of Affirmation: Hearing the reasons behind that love sends spirits skyward. Insults can leave someone shattered, and they are not quickly forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words give life to someone like this. 

  • Receiving Gifts: The perfect gift or gesture shows knowledge, care, and sacrifice. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous. But, so would the absence of everyday gestures

  • Physical Touch: This language isn't all about the bedroom. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial. While neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. 

  • Quality Time: Nothing says, "I love you," like full, undivided attention. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen are especially hurtful. Sharing quality conversations and quality activities show someone how special they are. 

  • Acts of Service: Anything to ease the burden of responsibilities will speak volumes. Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for someone says their feelings don't matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

 

When it comes to our lovely sample couple, Jennifer's Love Language would be Acts of Service. She works long hours and often feels under-appreciated. So, kind gestures that make her life easier are exactly what she needs. And, while we can't completely tell from the conversation, Vincent could probably use a few more Words of Affirmation from Jennifer.

It is imperative that couples talk about their love languages. This will help you better understand what is needed in regards to feeling loved.

What to Say Instead 

Once we learn our significant other's Love Language, we can slowly start to understand each other. For example, when Vincent proclaimed that Jennifer always bought the dinner rolls, he should have recognized the stress his wife was under and apologized with:

"I'm sorry for forgetting to pick up the dinner rolls. I know you had a long day today, and I was wrong for assuming you would pick them up. How can I make it up to you?"

It’s important for Vincent to validate his spouse's feeling when he did what he did (or in this case, didn't do). We often apologize for the action but fail to reach the heart level by validating the other's feelings.

Next, Vincent accepted the responsibility of his (lack of) actions. Those three little words can mean so much: "I was wrong." But, so many of us struggle to get them out.

Finally, Vincent should have offered to find a solution to the situation... or at least offer to make the situation better. While we can't change the past, we can always adjust our actions to create a better future.