I cleaned the house yesterday. Really cleaned. Baseboards and furnace vents kind of cleaned. I know. It was intense. And while I was cleaning, I was musing about how much effort was being expended in relation to how much credit I would get for all of my blood and sweat. I cut myself. Twice.
And then I got to thinking about one of the great sticking points in relationships - the tendency for women to feel underappreciated, and the tendency for men to feel sucker punched with spousal discontent when all the while they thought things were going great. Don't know what I'm talking about? Bite me.
In any case, I have to be honest and admit that my first thought was "Hmph. I bet he won't even notice." Hey, I've told you before that I'm a jerk. But then I asked myself why I was cleaning the house in the first place. Was I doing it as a favour to my husband, because he asked me to do it? Was I scrubbing the toilet as a special treat because I know he just loves the way the porcelain gleams on a freshly scoured throne? That would just be weird.
No, I was cleaning the house because it needed to be cleaned, and it needed to be cleaned so that my family can be comfortable and safe and taken care of. That's what I'm doing when I'm sweeping gargantuan piles of dog hair into mounds the size of a small Ralph. I'm taking care of my family. It's one of the ways that I show them love. Which kind of explains why a lady likes to be appreciated for such domestic displays of affection.
But here's the trickery. It's difficult to recognize an expression of love that you wouldn't use yourself. Although I'm sure my husband appreciates a clean home, he appreciates it insofar as he doesn't have to wade through debris to get in the front door or use the same smelly towel for months on end. It's just more pleasant. He's not tying all kinds of relationshippy meaning into it. Sure, maybe he could say thank you once in a while, but I also need to understand that if I want to engage in a mutual exchange of affection, we need to be speaking the same language.
Do you know how he shows love? By spending hours on the computer looking for the perfect movie for me to watch. It irritates the snot out of me. At the end of the day, I just want to sit on the couch and turn on a movie. I don't much care what it is or if it's good, so long as it doesn't involve human trafficking or the death of a child. But J will literally spend an hour scouring the internet for options, painstakingly IMDB'ing each one, before handing me a laptop with 20 windows open, asking me to narrow it down. And if I don't appear to take the decision seriously, he is wounded. Slowly, slooowwwwly, I've come to realize that this is one way that he shows love. He really wants to find a great movie for us, one that I will really enjoy. I didn't realize this at first, because it's just not something I would do. We weren't speaking the same language. See what I'm saying?