"No," I said. "The tulips!"
"Oh. They aren't for you."
"But I did buy them because you like tulips."
Two things about this little story. First, that he instantly thought I wanted something from him because I said I loved him that way. To his credit, there is precedence for this feeling. On occasion, I may have told him I loved him in order to ask for his help. Most of the time, this was teasing. Just as his muttering was also teasing today. But beneath that tease is a germ of truth as is often the case. It's also truth that I want him to show me that he loves me by doing things I want him to do. "If you love me, you'll do this," I'm saying, whether by word or by implication. This 'love me if...' notion is common in marriage, even in the best of them. Though, thankfully, it doesn't rule the day.
The tulips were bought because we were invited to someone's house for dinner. And Beve is more thoughtful than I am. Almost always. This is just the truth. He would think to buy flowers for hosts. I would think to speak words to them. When I saw those flowers I didn't follow the dots to any future activity, I just saw tulips and was glad. I need Beve to remember such things because I will not--not until we're almost to the front door empty-handed, when I'm suddenly aware that we might have brought something to show how glad we are to have been invited, to be sharing the day. I don't mean to be ill-mannered, but I am in this. Sadly. I don't think in terms of presents. Hostess gifts and little thoughtful ways of saying a person means something. I feel those things but I don't know what to bring to say it. Except my words.
So I bring the best thing I can bring--Beve. And let him bring the tulips. Or whatever else his thoughtful brain thinks up to bring. I do coax him to do things for me, but I am also grateful for every inch of him. I do not, dare not take him for granted.
If you ask me the secret of a happy marriage, that's what I'll tell you, I think. Sometimes coax him to do things for you and sometimes be coaxed to do things for him. But never take him for granted and always be grateful for him.