My wife had been mentioning that she needed to wash her car for many months, so this afternoon after getting home from a Haitian market at our church, I decided to finally see about washing it for her. The day was lovely, and I had nothing pressing to do, so while she gathered our mass of Christmas gifts around her to start wrapping, I gathered my supplies. A couple of rags, a duster, some paper towels, and some Windex. I figured I’d dust the interior, clean the spills in the cup holder, and wash the windows. I didn’t particularly feel like getting out again, so was still debating rather to take a quick trip to the car wash or not.
I was excited though, and couldn’t help but smile to myself, thinking how pleased and surprised she’d be to have her car cleaned! I didn’t figure she’d notice what I was doing. She was already streaming the 96th episode of Medium from Netflix and focusing intently on sizing up gifts and determining which wrapping paper would match their receiver best, so I was a little disappointed when my surprise was ruined by her taking note of my supplies and asking what I was up to.
“I’m going to clean out your car!” I replied, anticipating her delight and the beautiful smile that comes with it. But instead what I got was a big list of things to do to make sure the car was clean enough. She wanted me to use lots of Armor All on everything — especially the steering wheel — and proceeded to give me instructions for how to coat everything in it and explain how much she likes the feel it gives the steering wheel and how it makes everything shiny.
So I grabbed the Armor All and headed outside, slightly irritated that my surprise had been spoiled and that she was so particular about how she wanted me to do everything when, in my mind, she should have just been delighted that I was doing it for her, even if I did a bad job. But my irritation soon became secondary, and I got to work dusting everything, cleaning out the cup holders, washing the interior of the windows, and then coating the dash and every piece of dark grey plastic with Armor All. The instructions suggested using 3 coats for the first time, so I figured if a shiny slick interior was what she wanted, I’d give her the shiniest, slickest interior I could manage. It also said not to use on the steering wheel to prevent the possibility of it making your hands slip, but since it’s not that slick and the steering wheel was important to her, I rubbed it on anyway.
I had to admit to myself that the Armor All was making a huge difference in how clean the car looked and felt, so I decided to go the extra mile (literally) and run by some gas station with a vacuum cleaner real quick to clean out the floor boards. I ran up stairs real quick to grab some quarters and to let her know I was running out to use a vacuum cleaner. And again, instead of delight she started to tell me to make sure to get under the rugs, and say that if I washed it to wipe off the wheels, because that makes it look a lot better.
Again irritated, I kissed her goodbye and headed down the road. And then at last it dawned on me how foolish I was being, and I realized an important fact. All those tips she’d been giving me? Those were exactly what I should have been looking for from her — even prompting her for. There was a secret way to clean her car that would be more special, be more important, be more noticeable to her, and show her more love than any other way, and in every one of her “annoying” tips, she was giving me a key to unlocking that secret. Like a map leading to hidden treasure, she was giving me directions for how to give her the biggest pile of gold.
The story does have a happy ending, by the way. I realized all this while driving, and went a few extra miles to the nicest car wash in town. I got the full deal where they spray your tires to make them shiny and everything. I wiped the dirt off the wheels that the car wash couldn’t get and vacuumed every inch of the floor and mats. I threw out every bit of trash I could find, and in the end I couldn’t help but be proud of making it the cleanest car I’d ever cleaned. And my wife? She was delighted and her face lit up with that beautiful smile that comes with her delight.
So dear readers, don’t make the same mistake I made! If you really want to do a service for your partner, instead of resenting when your partner gives tips on how to do it, search for those tips, and learn from them how to show your love in the way that is most meaningful to them.