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Ask Alina – Fiancé Upset Over Late Dinner

Dear Ask Alina,

My fiancé has been upset with me about the lack of time we spend together. However, I have shared with him from the very beginning about my goal to build my career into leadership. The last fight was over me coming home 30 minutes later than I said I would. He is angry that I promised to make dinner that night and because I came home 30 minutes late, he is saying I am unreliable.

How do I convince my fiancé that starting dinner 30 minutes later is not an indicator that I will miss our future child’s school recitals?

Thanks for your help,



Career Minded

Alameda Post - a couple sits at a table. They both look tense.

Dear Career Minded,

I hear that you each are frustrated and suspect that this is about more than being 30 minutes late. Having agreed-upon goals and finding a way to support each of those goals can be difficult but can happen with open communication.

One strategy I often use when working with couples is filling their emotional bank. Emotional bank is like a financial savings account, but instead of money we deposit positive experiences. When our emotional bank is low, just like a financial account getting close to $0, we feel more tense, more stressed and less accommodating. On the other hand, when our emotional bank is full, periodic hiccups do not put a strain on the relationship.

So how do we fill an emotional bank?

Start off with these three activities:

  1. Once a week notice something nice your partner did, recognize it, and state your appreciation. Example: “I noticed you checking the tires on the car. Thank you for keeping us safe.
  2. Once a week do something simple and nice for your partner. Example: Leave a chocolate kiss on their pillow.
  3. At least once a day show your partner physical attention. Example: Brush your hand over their back as you pass each other in the hallway.

Back to being 30 minutes late. If your emotional bank is full, your fiancé will be more open to hearing your apology. Discuss the situation together, come up with a plan to prioritize work obligations and personal time, and determine the best way to communicate when a work emergency occurs. Listen to each other’s needs and create a plan that fills both of your emotional accounts.

Alina Baugh is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Ask Alina is for informational purposes only. This article does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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