After a long meeting in a cold building hut of a project nearby, Harry comes home just after lunchtime. His warming up in de car wasn’t that great due to the short distance. He steps out of his car and crosses his driveway under a foul gusting freezing North-East wind. The outside temperature is far below 0 gr. C (32 gr F), but it feels much colder due to the wind chill effect. Brrr. He is cold to the bone.

Indoors it isn’t even better. While walking to his home office, he casts a glance at the thermostat in the living room. 10 gr C (50 gr F), gosh.

It is bloody cold in the house; it will be in his office too.

Jessica, his wife, left just after him early this morning and must have set the thermostat at ‘green level’, as she usually calls her routine. Necessary to save the world. Harry knows that that is not the real reason. 

He enters his office, and the cold atmosphere hits him in the face. So does his intense chagrin. His workload will not be finished this afternoon and evening. Even if he turns up the thermostat, his office with the numerous bookcases, file cabinets, and other furniture will not get enough time to get heated comfortably. And due to the chilly ambiance, his production strikes dead. This kind of low temperature is sheer misery. 

Sometimes he flees his office and works in the warm library nearby, but today he needs instant access to many a construction drawing. Stuck in the cold, he is.

Harry and Jessica have different body temperature regimes. Jessica always liked it cool indoors, and even more, now menopause has kicked in. A nasty bastard that physical state is for her. One that doesn’t make things better.     

Harry was better to have been born in the tropics. He is always cold, either in summer or winter and in between. His winter period starts in August and ends in June. For him, there are only two summer months.

The thermostat setting is a never-ending subject of conflict between them. Harry’s office work suffers from it. His ‘home’ feeling in his house is slowly but surely deteriorating, and he is at a point of not wanting to live anymore in their house. Due to their completely different physical constitutions, discussing a solution does not work. On the contrary, the temperature gap appears to become unbridgeable.  

The issue here is a matter of difference in thermal comfort. Surrounding floor, ceiling, walls, furnishings and furniture, books, and accessories in a living space represent a so-called thermal mass. The more of that mass, the longer it takes to heat it or cool it down.

When a room has a heavy thermal mass, it could take over 6 hours to show a perceptible temperature difference. 

The air in the room is light and quite quickly reaches a temperature change, but the surrounding mass can’t follow that speed and keeps (in a winter situation) radiating from its cold surface.

And the body picks up that cold thermal radiation, making the person feel cold, while the air temperature is, say, 20 gr C  (68 gr F).

Especially people who are thermally highly sensitive suffer from this discomfort.  

This explains the different perceptions of temperature; it does not bridge the gap between Harry and Jessica. By the way, in most of these kinds of situations, men feel warm quite quickly, take off their jackets, etc., while women are the ones who find it cold. 

Jessica does not want to give in and keeps complaining and fiddling with the thermostat until she is satisfied. Harry, on the other hand, has the disadvantage. 

When just relaxing, he might feel slightly better when wearing more layers of clothes, but when working and sitting still behind his desk, his hands are cold, so is his neck, and those sensitive areas give him the discomfort he so profoundly hates.

Can a thermostat kill a loving partnership? The thermostat is just an instrument in someone’s hands. It follows the human command. So, the answer is NO, it cannot. 

Thermal conflict, however, can certainly be a partnership breaker or cause at least a lifetime of misery. Prevent that from happening, no matter how difficult that is.

This topic does not appear on anyone’s ‘regular’ list of traits of the other person. On the Devil’s List of Traits© (DLT)©, however, in The Unique Life Creator’s Partnership Worthiness Checklist, which a (future) partner is expected to comply with, thermal conflict is a prominent topic.

Warm greetings,

Nelleke Scholten


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