"Hey, do you know where the muffin pans are?" he asked.
Immediately, I knew I was busted. I took the muffin pans to use for my encaustic paints a few months back and never replaced them. I planned on replacing them, but totally forgot I took them.
Mike abruptly got off the phone with me. He didn't hang up on me, but I knew he was mad. He called me back a little later and said, "Do you know that whenever I make a decision I always ask myself 'will this make Kimberly mad? Will it bother her? Or will she not care at all?' I attribute the reason we rarely fight to the fact that I consider you in each decision I make."
I'll be honest, what he said and the sadness in his voice crushed me. It was like he punched me in the gut. No one what's to be told they are acting like a thoughtless jerk. When I took the muffin pan I didn't think about anyone but myself. I wanted to use the pan to hold my encaustic paints and so I took it. What I didn't realize was the impact it would have on Mike. Mike does all the cooking in our house. The kitchen is his domain. By taking the muffin pan and using for painting I was taking something of his without asking and without thought of whether or not he'd need it. Basically, I was giving him the middle finger.
But here's the deal: I'm not a total asshole. I'm normally a very thoughtful and loving person, but sometimes, when I'm focused on painting, I forget everything and everyone else. Except, when you're in a relationship you have to work hard to remember you're part of a team and you can't just do, think or say what you want.
You've gotta work for love. Mike and I have a really great relationship and truly love each other. But that doesn't mean we don't have to work at. We have to work each day to be thoughtful of the others' feelings. We have to work each day to makes choices that are good for both of us. We have to work each day to share our lives with someone else.
After Mike explained the message I was sending him by taking the muffin pans, I promised him I'd employ the same thought process when I'm making choices about things in our shared domain: Will this make Mike mad? Will it bother him? Or will he not care at all?
Keeping Mike (or in his case, me) at the front of my mind can prove to be tough at times, but I can tell you it's one of the simplest ways to show him I care. If let him know I'm running late when he's at home making dinner, I'm telling him I care about the time he spent making dinner for our family. When I immediately replace on the kitchen tools I "borrowed" for my art making, then I'm telling him I value the work he does to keep our family nourished.
I might be wrong, but I don't think this comes naturally to most people. It's work. It's a practice.
I used to think that true love was magical and effortless. But seriously, that's bullshit. I have a magical relationship because I work hard and I'm committed to love. Being able to work for love and being committed to your partnership ... that's true love.
P.S. My friend Hannah sent me an article about "Real Love" just days before Mike and I had this exchange. It's a great read, check it out.