One night my son asked me if we could go get a milkshake. We get milkshakes often on weekends, but rarely, if ever, on a random Wednesday night. So, I said no and promised we’d go this weekend. Also, we had just split a cupcake so milkshakes probably weren’t the best idea.
He got really mad. This milkshake was clearly a big deal. A big emotional deal. We did the things that we normally do when things get emotional and then when he was mostly calm I looked at his face. He looked so… sad. And I wondered if this milkshake really had anything to do with sweets.
“Sweetie, did you want to get a milkshake so that we could spend time together? Did you want to go on a date?”
His eyes lit up. I understood.
He isn’t the most verbal little boy. He has big emotions and not all the words to explain what he wants or needs, so (I think) he develops code words. Words that he attaches to big and real needs.
Milkshake, the thing we go and get just me and him on Saturday nights, was his code word. His way of asking for a little alone time with me.
So we went to Sonic and he sat on my lap and pressed the button to order and flirted with carhops and took maybe two sips of a $3 milkshake. When we got home he jumped out of the car and said, “Thank you, Mommy, for the date.”
I swear this applies to your marriage.
There was the obvious answer to my kid’s meltdown. He’s a spoiled brat who needs to learn how to do deal with ‘no.’ And I agree! I want him to learn that we don’t get to eat sweets whenever the mood strikes. But that wasn’t what he was REALLY asking for. He was asking for time and connection with me, and I’m going to say yes to that as many times as I possibly can.
We can look at our spouse’s behavior and see the ‘obvious.’ He wants sex because he’s horny. She wants help with the dishes because she’s a nag.
But would it hurt to dig a little deeper to find out what’s underneath the ‘code word’? What is he really asking for when he says he needs sex? What is she really asking for when she says she needs help around the house? (Even better what are YOU really asking for when you ask for your code word?)
And do you really want to say no to sex if it really means affirming his connection with you or his identity as a man? Do you really want to ignore her request for more help around the house if it means telling her that she isn’t alone and that she can rely on you as a partner?
Before your next fight, dig as far and as deep as you possibly can to find out what you’re REALLY saying yes or no to.