When I was newly married, I must have expected my husband to read my mind. I sulked when presented with a sweater he had worked hard to select. “He should have known this is a bad color for me!” My heart sank: clearly the marriage was based on some horrible misunderstanding. I wanted to gather my skirts about me and scurry to my tower so as to get a head start on growing a very long braid. Deep in my melodramatic heart I knew that if he really loved me, if he really knew me, he would have known I look hideous in beige. My handsome prince would have known to get me the plum-colored mohair!
I now understand that these are normal feelings as we learn to negotiate the path from romantic love to mature friendship and back again. It makes sense that we’d need some new skills. In their materials for the Couplehood as a Spiritual Path program, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt offer a simple exercise to eliminate some of the guesswork. Invite your partner to tell you about things you currently do to make him feel loved. Then ask him about things you used to do but don’t do as often these days. Write these down. Partners, please respond in positive language – what she does that makes you feel special (instead of how happy you are that she has quit doing XYZ!). Say something about how this simple act makes you feel special. “I feel loved when you bring me coffee in the morning. This reminds me of when Mom and I used to drink cocoa and read the comics together before school.” Be sure to switch roles. Each of you now has a clearer picture of how to make the other feel cared for this holiday season.