Anyone who knew me and my husband when we first met would have placed bets on us not surviving past a few months of dating. There were a whole slew of issues we had to work through, mainly my jealousy over his ex-girlfriend of 15 years and his lack of communication when it came to making me feel special.
There used to be animosity and contempt between the two of us all the time. My core sense of jealousy often caused spin-off-arguments that resulted in me learning one valuable lesson: True love does not always come prepackaged.
Like many women, I had certain expectations of how a boyfriend should behave in relationships. He should be able to know when I’m upset without me having to come right out and say it. He should know how to make me feel better. Heshould be able to make me feel special. He should know that whenever I ask him about an ex girlfriend, he should notdivulge every detail about their relationship. Basically, I was a “shoulder.”
Once, after weeks of taking the train to meet my husband (then my boyfriend) for dates, and then waiting for him to offer to pick me up in his car instead, I finally exploded.
“You should know that I would rather be driven than have to take public transportation,” I huffed, assuming he already knew this.
“Why didn’t you just ask me to pick you up?” he asked, confused.
“It’s obvious,” I said, throwing my hands in the air. “You should already know that I prefer to be picked up and dropped off for dates —— in a car.”
“I thought you liked taking the train,” he said, scratching his head.
I rolled my eyes, thinking that this guy was a hopeless case. It did not help that my girlfriends validated my anger by saying, “He should have absolutely known that this would upset you. What guy would think a girl would rather take public transportation than be picked up in car?”
It wasn’t until we went to couple’s therapy when my therapist looked me straight in the eye after I relayed to her the same story and asked me, “Why didn’t you just tell him that you would rather take the train?”
“He should know,” I said stubbornly.
“I hate to tell you this,” she said, “but men don’t read minds.”
I admit that at 26 years old, the thought of simply asking for what I wanted was a novel idea. To me, it meant that he didn’t really know me, and therefore, didn’t really love me.
It also occurred to me that if I asked for what I wanted, then his efforts would come across to me as insincere. After all, Prince Charming would never need a girl telling him how to be a valiant boyfriend. It was ingrained in his DNA. Cinderella was one lucky girl.
However, I decided to give this whole asking thing a try. The agreement was that my boyfriend and I both ask for things that would make us happier and more secure in the relationship, and we’d each comply as best we could.
The first thing I asked for was an email-love-note from him. Sure enough, the next day at work I opened my email and read a two-paragraph note filled to the brim with how special I am to him. Instead of feeling like I forced him into it, which I did in a way, I felt incredibly lucky to have a guy who made the effort to step outside of his comfort zone to make me happy. It was more than a love note — it was a grand gesture.
And thus, the practice of Asking for Things was born. My insane jealousy melted away with a year of self-reflection and determination, but also with the help of my husband. It seems so easy now, but I still experience moments when my expectations of what my husband should or should not know gets the better of me. I also took my newfound honesty to the workplace and found that I became a more assertive manager and received raises sooner than I normally would have … because I asked.
My husband grew up in Germany and had a very different upbringing than I did. Naturally, this caused us to encounter a lot of disconnects. I knew that our foundation was there, but it was getting past the insecurities, passive aggressiveness and misunderstandings that allowed us both to clear the debris away and build from there.
I always thought I was a strong communicator when I grumbled about what was making me unhappy in the relationship. And then I figured out a way to achieve happiness: I just needed to ask.