A few weeks ago my friends and I had a chick-chat lunch (you know the kind—salads and iced tea all around, plus a healthy helping of husband tattling). Five of us were pouring on our dressings (served on the side, of course) when Cindy, a petite blond seated across from me, said, "Scott had me all excited about our anniversary last week. He kept telling me about these 'secret plans' for the evening. He even booked the sitter! So I was thinking this was going to be something really grand.
"Then the morning of our anniversary, I asked him what I should wear for this big night out. He said, 'Anything you want.' I knew right then I was in trouble."
Cindy stopped to take a bite while the "I can just imagine what's next" buzz rumbled from the rest of us at the table.
"When we pulled up at Jonathan's"—a casual restaurant Cindy and Scott frequent, mostly so Scott can network for business—"I wanted to explode. Of all places! And then Scott proceeded to work the room all evening. It was a disaster, and he didn't even see it!
"I didn't say a word all the way home. When we got there, I let him pay the babysitter, and I went to bed."
We all sat in stunned empathy. What an anniversary! "Have you told him how disappointed you were?" I asked finally.
"Naw," Cindy shook her head. "He should know that Jonathan's is not a place to take me on our anniversary, especially not when he built me up to expect something spectacular."
A few days later, I phoned Cindy. Once we'd decided on our next lunch spot, I asked if she'd worked out the anniversary mix-up with Scott.
I felt her pause. Finally she said, "I'm the one who really screwed up."
Then Cindy went on to tell me how she'd confronted Scott about the botched evening, starting with the whole "secret plans" build-up.
"How could you mislead me like that?" she'd asked him.
Scott had defended himself by reminding her that she was the one who'd been badgering him to plan a night out for them. "Can't you ever call the babysitter and make the dinner reservations?" she'd complained to him a few weeks earlier.
Cindy had to admit he was right. And she saw how, in his eyes, simply calling the restaurant and hiring the babysitter fulfilled what he thought were her requirements for a "special" night out.
As for the restaurant choice, Cindy explained that Scott showed how she'd driven that decision too. A few months earlier, the couple had faced financial difficulties. Even though they were able to resolve their problems, Cindy was still concerned about their future so she'd suggested to Scott that they "do something casual" for their anniversary.
But she didn't really mean it—and he should have known that, she declared with a tone that told me she now realized there was no way he could have known it.
"It was just one big mess of a miscommunication," she said. "So we agreed next year to split the duties: I'll choose the restaurant, he'll call in the reservations, I'll book the sitter, and he'll pick her up and drop her off." She giggled. "I think I got the best end of that deal!"
Have you ever run into the same wall in your marriage? For some Mars/Venus reason, we women assume that our men know all our thoughts. Cindy assumed Scott knew he was creating visions of breathless romance by touting his "secret" plans. And Scott assumed he was following Cindy's "rules" perfectly—except that she hadn't been completely honest in conveying them.
After I got off the phone, having learned my lesson about communicating expectations, I called to my husband in the other room, "Rich?"
"You know how our anniversary is in a few months?"
"Yeah?" he said, appearing in the family room doorway.
I got up from the sofa to hug him. "I'd like to go someplace new and different, where we have to get dressed up. And it would be nice if you could make the reservations. Oh, and when I say, 'Someplace new and different,' I'm talking about …"
Christy Scannell, freelance editor and writer, is co-author of Katt's in the Cradle (Howard Books/Simon & Schuster). She and her husband, Rich, live in Southern California. www.ChristyScannell.com
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