Marriage — Four Year Review: a bag of stale coffee powder

A Curious Can of Warmth
4 min readApr 5, 2023


How do you like your coffee? Personally, I like it simple — black, made from freshly ground coffee beans. I prefer grinding whole bean right before brewing. In this way, we can indulge in home-brewed coffee that is substantially better (and cheaper!) than what typical coffee shops offer. All we need is fresh whole beans, a good coffee grinder, and a bit of discipline to grind the beans regularly.

Two gadgets that I cannot live without

Knowing our love for coffee, my parents-in-law always bring back coffee beans from their overseas trips. However, they tend to gift us bags of coffee powder, not whole beans. Coffee beans oxidize much faster once ground, and the coffee usually has gone completely stale by the time we get it. I find it hard to believe, but to my in-laws, all coffee tastes the same. From instant coffee that you cannot drink without sugar and cream to premium top-grade artisan coffee brewed by professional baristas, every variants of coffee tastes EXACTLY the same to them. How is this possible?

Whether coffee beans are ground or not is a trivial detail that makes no difference to them. As a result, they often overlook this seemingly insignificant detail which makes a huge difference to us.

A bag of stale coffee powder is a symbol of outpouring love, yet a missed opportunity. While we appreciate the effort that goes into buying and transporting the bag, it is difficult to enjoy the gift in its stale state. Sadly, we cannot enjoy the coffee the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

My wife and I just completed the first four years of our marriage. Although our marriage is so much more fun these days after mending many of our differences, we still gift each other a bag of stale coffee powder: an act of love, not quite in the way that the other would prefer. Let me elaborate.

My love language is acts of service. I find joy in cleaning dishes, mopping the floor, and taking care of the trash as a way of expressing my love for my wife. To me, these tasks are sublime forms of love, as I am willing to sacrifice my precious time so that my wife can rest. However, my wife insists that sharing household duties is not an act of love, but rather an expectation of what mature adults should do when living together. While spending time doing house chores is a big deal for me, it’s considered a bare minimum by my wife.

My wife’s love language is gift-giving, accompanied by handwritten letters full of kind words. She puts a lot of effort into hunting for the ‘perfect’ gift, and it brings her great joy to surprise her loved ones. For me, however, gift-giving can feel like a cumbersome tradition that I must oblige. Trying to figure out what others may need, getting the gift without telling them, and packaging it for a surprise feels like a roundabout (and quite frankly, inefficient) way to deliver something. I much prefer a more straightforward approach, like asking someone what they need and ordering it online. How the gift is prepped, packaged, and delivered makes no difference to me, but it means a great deal to my wife.

After a long day at work, my wife needs to share about her day in the office — what lunch she ate, what conversations she had, whom she worked with, and some intriguing projects at her workplace. She feel loved when connecting over minute details of her life, whereas I feel loved when I am given enough time to be alone with my thoughts.

Receiving a bag of stale coffee powder can be frustrating and even infuriating at times. Some of the issues in our marriage continue to persist not because of a lack of love, but rather due to the bitter disappointment of not receiving love in the way we always wanted. That is why my main focus has been on learning to speak my wife’s love language, so that we can attain an even greater union as a couple.

However, mastering her love language has proven to be more challenging than I anticipated, and I believe it will take more time for me to become fluent in it. Having said that, I recently started to think that it is equally important to appreciate coffee powder in its stale state.

Without a protest, a hint of disappointment, nor a trace of displeasure, I should be delighted to sip coffee from the stale coffee powder because the coffee was, indeed, purchased by many servings of outpouring love. Perhaps, the greater form of love is to surrender my preferences, so that I can properly recognize the love that went into buying the coffee.

Going forward, I would like to attempt, with all my might, to appreciate never-ending gift hunting sessions and listen attentively to every minutia of her office life. Lastly, and most importantly, I will allow her to take care of all the household chores as the ultimate, unrivaled, and magnanimous surrender of my own preferences :)

My wife, my son, and cherry blossom 🌸