I waited tables for five years, and have shared before how grateful I am for everything that experience taught me about life.
The first two years I waited tables, I loved it. LOVED it. I was ready to quit college and retire waiting tables. It was fun work for easy money and the people absolutely filled my tank. It was a honeymoon stage, if you will.
Something shifted in year three and my perspective changed to it being not enough money for hard work and the people made me want to spit. I resented it and I grew bitter and another b-word in a hurry.
Push pause on that story and work with me here.
When you go to a restaurant, what takes place? You’re seated, given a chance to settle in, and your server comes to take your order. When you give your order, you are incredibly specific, telling them what you want, how you want it, what you want substituted, and in what order to bring it to you. (Do you want your salad before, or with your meal?) You are happy to provide explicit instruction because you desire specific results. The server, then, is happy to provide you service based exactly upon the direction you gave. Communication is paramount.
Now, imagine you go to your favorite restaurant. You’re seated, and your server approaches you with a cheerful greeting, then asks, “What can I start you off with to drink tonight?”
You fold your arms, sit back in your chair and reply, “I shouldn’t have to tell you. If I have to tell you, it means you’re not paying attention.”
Your server is confused and replies, “Well, I just wanted to know what you wanted to drink so I – – ”
You cut them off to say, “You know what? I’ve been in this restaurant so many times. So. Many. Times. You can’t get it through your head that every time I come, I want water with lemon. Always, every time. Except when I want lemonade or a milkshake, but I’ll tell you that’s the case when it happens.”
“Okay, so you want me to bring you water with lemon?”
“Oh my LANDS, server! Were you listening? Would I have told you that if that’s NOT what I wanted?”
“I don’t understand, I just came to take your order and now you’re all upset with me, and I – -”
“Of course you don’t understand! You NEVER understand!”
Taking place in a restaurant, it seems a ridiculous scenario, right? Yet these things take place in our most important relationships all the time. We are so careful to communicate over-the-top about our food, but we expect our spouses to read our minds.
Friends, this is messed up.
We give the cold shoulder. If we’re mad enough, it will motivate them to change, obviously. (sounds legit…) And we’re certainly not going to change, because why should we be the only one putting forth the effort? If I give them space and ignore them long enough, maybe it will soften them up a bit.
Too many times we see ourselves as the customer at the table, expecting to be waited on and served. Rarely do we position ourselves as the server in the relationship, making sure we’re doing what we can to ensure our partner has the most worthwhile experience we can give them. But the whole basis of relationships is service. I’m going to actively listen to what my spouse is saying so I can deliver.
And we need to take turns. We can’t expect one person to do all the serving. At first, they may fall all over themselves excited to do anything you want, and think they can spend the rest of their lives serving you. Then the honeymoon stage ends and the perspective shifts from something being enjoyable, to being menial, fruitless, frustrating labor.
I have been married to Hubs for almost 14 years. The man still doesn’t know how I order my cheeseburgers. If I want my cheeseburger the way I like it, I have to tell him – every time. Even after 16 years of being together. All the same, he doesn’t know every time I need a hug. He doesn’t know every time I’m feeling burnt out. He doesn’t know every time I want him to kiss me with his super kissable lips.
I have to tell him.
Likewise, I couldn’t pick a gift out for my husband if my life depended on it. I stink at gifts for him. There are so many decisions I cannot predict he’ll make. What to drink? What to do? What shirt he likes? I don’t know what he wants unless I ask.
He can’t get mad at me for not knowing if he doesn’t tell me. I can’t get mad at him for not knowing how I like my cheeseburgers when he’s trying so hard to make so many other areas of life better for me.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a husband or wife – put the apron on. Serve your spouse. Over communicate to figure out what they need, then deliver. Stop sending your order back demanding it be fixed, without communicating what you expect in the first place.
Stop fighting. Start serving.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
~ 1 Peter 4:8