JJ Heller considers the importance of responding to each other's love language.

JJ Heller
JJ Heller

This is a story of how non-stick cookware changed my marriage forever.

Once upon a time I was single, and in search of a husband. The tricky thing about dating is the slow revelation that the object of your affection isn't as perfect as you thought they were. Over the course of weeks and months it is slowly revealed to you that they are an actual human with actual nuance and idiosyncrasies. It's a painful process; finding out where they're strong and weak, what they love and hate, and in my case, that they're about as sentimental as an algebra textbook.

Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but let me explain. During our first few months as boyfriend and girlfriend, my now husband, Dave, and I loved reading books out loud to each other. One of those books was The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

For Christmas, I had a brilliant idea to make Dave a miniature wardrobe with miniature hand-made fur coats hanging inside (like the one in the book). I painted the wardrobe on the inside to look like a winter scene complete with a glowing lamp post. I wrote a thoughtful message on the top referencing how much I had enjoyed our adventures together and looked forward to many more to come. In my mind, this was a home-run gift, and I couldn't wait to see his eyes filling with tears of appreciation as he opened it.

Christmas finally came and I handed Dave my masterpiece and held my breath as he opened it. He tore off the wrapping paper, inspected the gift from all angles and said, "Hmmm. What do I do with it?" What do you mean, "What do I do with it?!," I thought. "You cherish it forever and tell all your friends and family about how special it is!"

At first I was shocked, then crushed, then I was angry. Not only had I invested hours of my life into and my whole heart into creating what I thought was the best gift ever, and he saw it as a useless piece of junk.

Even though this was a painful moment for me, it led to an important conversation that eventually shaped our entire marriage of nearly 15 years. He explained to me that the gifts that mean the most to him are ones that are practical. "Practical?! How boring," I thought. I assumed he appreciated sentimental gifts because that's what I appreciate. The idea that he would value a practical gift over a sentimental one blew my mind.

I took this information to heart, and for his birthday a few months later, I bought him a $12 frying pan from Target. Dave was living in a house with 13 other guys at the time and all their cookware was old and terrible. Here was a gift that he could potentially use everyday. It felt strange and almost depressing to buy a pan as a birthday gift, but it seemed like the right choice. I wrapped it up with paper and low expectations and handed it to my non-sentimental boyfriend.

It is not an exaggeration when I tell you that he jumped up and down for joy when he tore off the wrapping and realized what it was. His eyes were full of happiness and wonder when he dreamed about the countless quesadillas he'd make in his brand new pan. I remember throwing my hands up in resignation and disbelief, but also smiling at his elation about something so simple. That frying pan was beginning to teach me what it meant to love my husband the way he wanted to be loved.

Dave and I have known each other for almost half of our lives now. Even though we have a lot in common, we are still very different people. It's those differences that can be the most frustrating and the most beautiful parts of marriage. I can't imagine anyone else in the world I'd rather share this crazy, mundane, frustrating, and beautiful life with.

While some husbands love power tools or season tickets to professional sporting events, Dave's favorite gift this Christmas was a coffee grinder. He uses it every single day, and it brings him an astonishing amount of joy each morning. For Dave, practical is fun, and I think that's wonderful.

While I enjoy gorgeous wallpaper or placing beautiful things in our home, he enjoys consistently ground coffee. Once upon a time I hoped my perfect match would sweep me off my feet and fill our home with the poetic lines of a male lead from a romantic comedy. Instead, Dave came along and everything changed in all of the best ways. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.