I know men who plan things exist. I know they are people just like me, who enjoy a neat and tidy itinerary, who look forward to planning events and scheduling times almost as much as we enjoy the activities themselves. I know there are husbands who will plan an elaborate date night for their wife, boyfriends who will lay out a new dress on the bed, reveling in the act of surprising their love.
I know this, but I have not experienced this. Because I happened to marry a man who is not a planner.
I believe I knew this about him when we got hitched, back when I was young and naive (and also sort of pregnant so that may have impacted my thinking just a bit). At the time, I was content to be the planner of our lives, the keeper of schedules. I got a thrill out of managing the minutiae of life, scheduling his dental check-ups and making sure he had his yearly physical.
But then eventually, as happens somewhere along the road of life and children and more children and stretch marks, I got a little tired of planning. A wife gone wayward, I started fantasizing — not about some young Channing Tatum look-a-like cleaning my non-existent pool, not chiseled muscles, a jawline carved by the gods, or even a secret rendezvous. No, my fantasies were much more evolved. My fantasizes involved one simple thing:
For someone to, just once, plan something for me.
I’ve raged and cried and pleaded and begged over the years, pointing out that my “love language” can be found in the art of planning. That for me to feel appreciated, I would like to know that he has put genuine time and effort and thought into what would make me happy, what experiences we could have together. It’s not even so much what we do, as the fact that someone else will be doing the ‘doing’ for me.
We hear so often what marriages need to thrive — regular date nights, time alone, quality time to just “be” — but if you’re the only one putting effort into making that happen, it’s not always the marriage game-changer it’s cracked up to be. Instead of feeling fulfilled by a date night, I would resent that I would be the one to not only say, “Hey, you know what? We should go out this weekend,” but also the one who checked our schedules, found and booked the babysitter, rearranged my work schedule, prepared the kids, and planned an entire night out — a task that would inevitably end in me asking my husband for input and getting the dreaded “Whatever you want, honey” reply. Those four, seemingly harmless, words that make me want to pull my hair out in frustration and storm out of the house yelling, “You know what? Forget it!”
The point is, being the planner in a relationship is a lonely, lonely post. Hearing other couples talk about husbands and boyfriends and partners who insist on time together or book a spontaneous trip away or set up a dinner on a weeknight only makes me want to curl up and cry, because I knew that would never be me.
So a long time ago in my marriage, I resigned myself to my fate. I told myself that all relationships are different, that we all have our own unique strengths and abilities as partners. And while I may not have a husband who can plan his way out of a paper bag, I do have a husband who can cook and knows how to scrub a bath tub, so overall, not a bad lot in life.
And wouldn’t you know it? I got my wish last week when, after 13 years together, my husband planned something for me for the first time ever — an overnight stay in one of my favorite places, a small and peaceful island town where cars are not allowed. And when I opened my present from him, a nondescript envelope containing a form printout with our hotel’s confirmation number on it, I realized, in a sudden and swift kick to the gut, what a terrible, awful person I am.
Because it wasn’t the hotel I would have chosen.
It wasn’t the room I would have picked.
It wasn’t the package I really wanted.
It wasn’t at all anything I would have done.
My mind raced to the 15 other much nicer hotels I knew of, the itinerary I would have planned instead of my husband’s nonchalant shrug about what we would actually do while we were there, and how I could possibly swing booking a new place without hurting his feelings.
But in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I took this gift for what it was: my husband finally, finally recognizing what was important to me and me recognizing that his efforts to plan anything was the true gift, not the glamour of our hotel room.
And when we walked into our absurdly tiny 100-year-old hotel room tucked into an attic garrett, stifling without air conditioning and covered with a dizzying array of flowery, peeling wallpaper, I laughed at my husband’s sheepish apologies and simply took his hand.
“Thank you,” I said. “It’s perfect.”
But just for the record, you had better believe I will be picking the hotel room next time.