Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Since my children aren’t old enough to manage the holiday without my husband’s help, I am doing exactly what I do before any holiday that involves presents: I am browsing the Internet and putting together a short, but detailed, wish list for my husband. This year, it’s a book and a pair of earrings. For Christmas, it was a drip coffee maker and a pair of shoes.
Before I got married and had kids, I knew wives and mothers who did this exact thing. They either created a wish list for their husbands or bought their own gift when holidays rolled around. My own mom would pack us all up on Mother’s Day, my dad included, and drag us around Home Depot while she picked out new flowers for her garden every year. I remember thinking this was unromantic and promised myself I would never do the same. I thought real love was more spontaneous and surprising, that if I met the right one he wouldn’t need hints or suggestions.
And here I am, pregnant with my third child, celebrating my fourth year as a mom and my seventh year as a wife and I am doing exactly what I swore I would never do.
My husband is a thoughtful guy, and he knows me well enough to know I prefer a bag of specialty coffee beans instead of flowers and would prefer a new book over a pedicure any day. Still, I have seen enough disappointment from friends whose husbands dropped the ball or simply missed the mark on their gift to know better than to expect my husband to be a mind reader when Mother’s Day rolls around.
I think expecting our partners to guess what we are thinking is typical, but I also think it is unrealistic, that it’s a mistake. When one partner expects the other to know them so well without expressing their expectations, they often wind up disappointed or even angry when their expectations aren’t met. Maybe it isn’t Mother’s Day; it’s date night or how they are going to spend their Saturdays. I am not sure why we do this. Maybe we think it is a sign of weakness in our relationship, having to tell our partners what we want. Perhaps, even though we have grown up and experienced a real marriage, we’re still holding onto unrealistic expectations about love and marriage from our childhood fantasies.
In reality, I think I realized pretty quickly that it was time to let go of some of my silly ideas about loving someone else and being loved. Instead of opening up the possibility of facing disappointment every single year when my birthday or Mother’s Day rolled around, I decided against playing games or placing undue pressure on my marriage over something as small as a present or a vase of flowers. It is more loving to my husband and more enjoyable for me. I get a shirt that actually fits me, and my husband can breathe easy knowing he is picking from a list of things I definitely want. Some years he buys straight from the list, and sometimes he uses it as a guide to pick out something that wasn’t on the list.
It is a simple way we make marriage a little easier, by working to express our expectations upfront. Maybe it won’t always be this way; we are still getting to know each other, in a way. Sure, we’ve been married for seven years, but there is a lot to learn about sharing your life with another person. Will I still be writing out a wish list 25 years from now? Maybe not, but if so, that’s OK.