Mindreader games set us all up to fail. Hilary Lauren urges us to stop expecting anyone to read minds, and learn to communicate with a love language.
“If you really loved me, you would know what I want.”
“I’m not going to tell you what I need, if you had been listening, you would be able to figure it out.”
Relationship baloney. It’s usually made with stale bread and no dressing to hide the harsh taste.
Thinking like that went out with aerial antennas and TVs with knobs you turned to adjust the volume or to change the channel. In large part, women fueled such nonsense because they felt a husband or a boyfriend should also equal a mind reader, and this, guys, was a test—you were set up to fail.
Was it fair to force you further out onto that limb with each instance of neediness? What’s my mother’s middle name? What sport did my older sister play in middle school? When did I start hating cream cheese? No wonder so many can’t remember anniversaries. Dredging up those dates has become level with stirring to the surface less important things, for instance, will he win the mindreader game today?
I get it. I’m a woman. I thought that way for a long time and it is also why I was let down time after time.
I don’t watch a lot of sports, but keeping this score was something I became very adept at. In playing the game, I set myself up to fail in the relationship, and maybe as a person who feared abandonment, or true commitment, I wanted it as an excuse to get out. Years later, games later, players later, I can tell you with the solemnity one uses when delivering the results of an experimental drug, it doesn’t work, and it never will.
The less obvious downside? Men don’t want to play. Scratch that. No one wants to play.
Some people don’t like surprises. You can see it on their faces when they open birthday presents, a smile never quite making it to their eyes, a face only half lit with delight, their lips frozen in an automated thank you.
I love surprises. Love that people think I want a pair of silver moon boots, a light-up Jack O’Lantern night shirt, a flashlight with a weapon on one end. Because that’s what you think of me, what you consider me to be…a space walking, Halloween-loving ninja who’s afraid of the dark.
It makes me chuckle to envision the gifts I have received, which is a far better present than anything, IMO. One indicating thought (even if it’s misplaced) that the giver really considered all aspects of me as a person. Maybe this giver did see a tough ninja side to me. How wonderful that, at some point in my life, I exuded such a hint into my varied personality. It is precisely those moments I was missing out on when playing the mindreader game, when parrotting what I hoped to receive for Christmas.
I got it wrong for many years. I put it out there, it was shallow stuff that mattered, and so shallow predictable stuff was what was given to me. On demand. Receiving it felt good for about a nanosecond, and then the fun dissipated. The gift was what I thought of me, it contained no insight of the thoughts of others.
I canned all that baloney, put that sandwich away, and when the next opportunity came to receive in a relationship, I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t ask for squishy socks bought at the supermarket, didn’t request the kids’ movie I had been exclaiming over for weeks—but they were given to me and it made me feel cherished. This wasn’t my love language, the one I had been insisting my suitors speak, it was the beginning foray into the exposure to a new dialect, a foreign language, one I had never allowed myself to really hear or understand, one I had dismissed as less important than my own language without letting myself experience the joys it could bring, the joy I couldn’t imagine on my own.
I am a speaker. I’ll say “I love you” ten times a day, bestowing that verbal affection when I feel as if I’ll bust if I don’t confess how I’m feeling at a precise moment. I wait to hear it back sometimes, and sometimes I don’t get the reply I have conditioned myself to expect. Warm arms will wrap around me in reply, a soft kiss will be planted on my hairline, I’ll get a little spanking accompanied by a mischievous smirk. It’s saying I love you, too, it’s bilingual and it’s beautiful.
As soon as I let go of the expectation of receiving back what I thought I needed, my relationship became less tumultuous. I allowed myself to believe maybe this guy knew how to love me in a way I needed, and in a way I would come to cherish.
We cling to what we know, stress the need to be loved in the manner we need it, and so we forget about the “we” in a coupledom, we forget about embracing the surprises a mate comes up with to inform us, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you.”
I have learned to be more open with my love language, too, and while I am not fluent in my partner’s language, I am becoming quite the interpreter. On occasion I will even fumble a stab at his vernacular, and of course, I welcome his endearing tries to learn my indigenous terminology.
If you let yourself experience the delight of uncovering the mystery of who you are to another person, of what you represent to them, isn’t that a part of loving? Learning more about yourself through the eyes and actions of another? A gift always holds greater meaning when a person has given it unbidden, has conjured it unprompted, has chosen to take the time to think of you.
Playing the mindreader game, plotting out the path of your coupledom, a road whose direction you should be contemplating together, robs you of the ahas of love, smashes your emotions and purpose into a predictable box, and makes everything flat—especially those parts that should be spicy.
When your mate loses the mindreader game, it provides an excuse for commitment-phobes to reiterate silently that their partners were never the right ones to begin with, and wasn’t it something they felt all along anyway, a natural instinct they fought? No. Here’s your validation, and the break-up you had been anticipating from the beginning.
Believing your partners gifts to you, whatever they are; breakfast in bed, a remote handed over, tucking the kids in, picking the dogs up from the groomer, whatever your partner offers, is not just acceptable, but appreciated, means you believe in them. Another human being’s belief in the poor, ramshackle person we surmise ourselves to be on occasion, is freeing, is salvation, and it has the power to make us have certain faith in ourselves. As Huey Lewis once sang, “Can you feel it? That’s the power of love.”
The recent article comes to mind about the amount of money that should be spent on an engagement ring; here’s the magic answer for the recipient, it’s none of our business.
The action of proposing, emanating from a grateful, hopeful, loving heart is enough. How do you put a price on a symbol that’s at the root, priceless? And if you await a proposal from your lady-love, or-man-love men, the same is true. Accept the vulnerability of your partner, agree with them that they are brilliant, thoughtful, caring, that the language they speak moves your heart and mind. Then let it. Expect and do the same. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Perhaps the new wave of tattooing a heart on each person’s ring finger is the way to go. But that means no backsies. This is it. The promise to be held for a lifetime. It’s a mindset and a determination, both to join the 80-somethings who have been married for 52 years, and who have not only seen the worst, but stuck by it as if they adored it and would die without the worst. How devoted you must be for the heart tattoo.
Marriage, partnership, being in a committed relationship (or whatever they’re calling it these days) is a lifestyle. Like quitting smoking, or drinking, or catting around, it’s a commandment resonating deep in your heart, joining up with the rest of your essence. Start by learning a new love language and take it a moment at a time.
[image: via Marina Montoya on flickr]