How can a couple work around differences that are potentially hurtful?

Q: How can a couple find ways to work around legitimate differences that sometimes are, by nature, hurtful to the other person? For instance, one spouse’s love language is quality time, but the other one has a highly social job and when at home needs most of his or her time alone in a quiet part of the house to renew and refresh.

A: This is one example of a difference: One wants quality time when they are together the other needs private time when there is free time available. But there are many other differences that we encounter in marriage. How to we process those differences?

First of all, I think, we recognize that differences are normal. Every married couple, and even engaged couple, are going to have differences. We can discover these differences and identify what about that is difficult, what stimulates hurt or pain or irritation in that difference? Then verbalizing the answers to those questions with each other and then saying, “How can we overcome that?”

For example, in the illustration of quality time, one desiring quality time and the other feeling that they have used all of their quality time before they get home and want time alone; it’s okay to want quality time when you get home if you have been with people all day long. But if quality time is your spouses love language then we have to make time somewhere in order to have quality time with them. It may be a date night once a week or on the weekend, when maybe hey aren’t quite as spent as they are during the week. Whatever the difference, we ask, “What is it about this difference that I find difficult? How can we meet that difficulty or need?” If in this illustration, you find a place and time that you can give regular quality time, that need will be met and the spouse can have their free time to unwind emotionally. So it’s a matter of finding an answer to the thing about the difference that stimulates hurt, pain or irritation.



Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling 5 Love Languages® series, which has sold more than 8 million worldwide and has been translated into over 40 languages. Dr. Chapman travels the world presenting seminars on marriage, family, and relationships, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Karolyn. For more information visit

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