Monday was my birthday. On Sunday night, as we finished up the dishes, I told Curtis, “So tomorrow, I want Donut Drop donuts, scrambled eggs with cheese and avocado, and to sleep in. Then I want to take Riley to the zoo.”
“What kind of donuts?” he responded.
“What kind of donuts?” Not, “picky-picky” or “don’t you think you’re carrying enough weight with that baby in there?” (To be clear, there is no circumstance where he’d say that.)
Then I realized: this is one way we have found our groove.
I love birthdays, along with most holidays and occasions. I want them to feel different and special. Also, I want some exact version of different and special and if that isn’t what happens I’m bummed. This is why I took over my own party planning by age 8.
My husband, in contrast, cares little about birthdays. He doesn’t have a strong desire to mark an event on a calendar.
Over the years, we have made and continue to work on this commitment to each other: I will not ask you to read my mind.
Mind reading is very difficult. Perhaps not impossible, because if it were impossible, then surely I would never fall into this trap that implies that you love me more the less I need to say to you.
We romanticize mind reading, not only in marriage but with friends, at work, as parents. But more than having someone successfully guess at what I am thinking or feeling, I want to be able to tell someone what I’m thinking or feeling and have them listen well. More than having someone do what I’d prefer without my telling them, I want to be able to own what I want—without fear, shame or judgment—to another person.
Speaking and listening are surprisingly significant tools for experiencing love, given how much we do of each all the time. But there is magic in this simple thing–we say what need and someone tells us that is OK. Then they help us meet that need. Perhaps they do it for us. Or maybe they just encourage us to do it for ourselves. Either way, that is love.
I believe Curtis loves me because when I tell him how I want to celebrate my birthday, he does those things joyfully. And I show him love when he tells me what I can do for him and I do it. (Often this is about caring for his cook’s tools properly, since I do the dishes and maybe don’t have a great sense for that.)
Far from being sterile or transactional, dropping mind reading is more personal and vulnerable. Because I have to say, out loud, what I want and trust that the person on the other side will hear me and say, “What kind of donuts?”