Mike and I (and baby Monty) spent the past weekend celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary by exploring Cleveland, eating all.the.things, and enjoying some time together away from home and our normal day to day. It was refreshing and relaxing and so much fun. I love spending time with Mike more than anything in the world. (I’m still working on finding a way to get paid just to hang out together. There has to be a way! 😉 )
On Friday, we dropped our oldest three off at my parents’ house and drove up to Cleveland with Montgomery sleeping soundly in the backseat. We stopped for lunch at a new-to-us restaurant (an Irish Pub) with a fantastic patio and even better food. From there we drove to The Headland’s Beach State Park, an absolutely beautiful beach with gorgeous sand dunes and a lighthouse at it’s farthest point.
We explored the beach, stopping to watch the boats in the harbor while I nursed Monty. The sun was strong that day so we didn’t stay out too long. We walked, talked, explored, soaked in the beautiful sights, and then headed back to the car to make our way to our next stop.
While we were on the beach, it dawned on me that the dress I was wearing was the first anniversary gift Mike gave me. He bought it – a beautiful silk dress from India – from one of my favorite hippie stories in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where we were living just outside of when we first got married.
I’ll never forget the way he gave it to me. We had plans to go to Cincinnati that day to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and I was in the bathroom getting ready. I was doing the thing most women do and stressing over “what to wear,” when Mike came in and said, “I was thinking you’d wear this,” and held up the dress.
I was speechless. The dress was beautiful. He had picked out something that I truly loved. But even more than that, I was shocked at what felt like an extravagant gift. We got married so young and didn’t have two pennies to our name. Those early years were so challenging financially that there wasn’t room in the budget for extras. I was completely stunned by the gift.
In that moment, I felt completely spoiled and loved and seen.
13 years of marriage later, sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m still married to the same man who sees me and loves me and does everything in his power to see me. Because, I’m sad to admit, sometimes I tend to assume the worst. I take every experience that has fallen short simply because I failed to communicate to Mike the details I had built up in my brain, and I judge him based on this discrepancy. Far too often, it doesn’t matter that the discrepancy happened because of a failure of communication on my part, he is the one who gets blamed. He is the one whom I assume didn’t care, didn’t listen, doesn’t pay attention, etc, etc.
You get the picture.
If you want to know the greatest lesson 13 years of marriage has taught me it’s this:
assume the best
What I’m am far too quick to judge as a character flaw on his part is typically just a personality difference on my part. I care about different things therefore I expect different things. And if I’m not careful to clearly and kindly and honestly express how I hope to see our life play out, then any failure for Mike’s behavior to fit meet those expectations doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me – it just means he didn’t know!
Or, as we started to communicate more clearly, sometimes Mike didn’t meet my expectations in the way I expected him to. When I get angry that Mike doesn’t meet expectations in a way that makes sense to me, I fail to see the ways he is trying to love me out of the best of who he is. There have been so many times, after I take a few breaths and remind myself that our relationship isn’t all about me (painful, but necessary), I free myself to be truly loved. Not from a list that I came up with and handed to him of “ways I want to be loved.” No. From something even better.
From his heart. From his passion. From his dedication and commitment to me and our marriage. From the depth of who he is, and all that he sees in me.
Here is the thing.
We are so narrow minded about what we think we want and need when it comes to love. We are such CONTROL freaks. We build up expectations. We create our list of demands. And then we fuss and fight when those aren’t met.
But is that really love?
That first anniversary, Mike showed me what real love is, and he has continued to try to teach me that same lesson over and over again in the 13 years since. (I’m a slow learner.) He showed me that his love for me allows him to see past my expectations, and see me…for me.
I never would have picked out that dress for myself. I never, never, buy bold prints. Plus, the dress is open in the back and I never would have had the confidence to purchase that for myself. But as soon as I put it on, it felt right. It felt like…me.
And I felt, loved.
Assume the best of your partner, my friends. Even when they see you a little differently than you see you. Assume that at the heart of their motives is a desire to love you, to see you, and to please you. They may not always get it right. But let’s not crush our loved ones by the weight of our unmet expectations. Let’s set them free to love us in ways we never could have dreamed to ask for, and in return, be loved in ways we never could have imagined.