Toss the cliches and reach for communication and intimacy
Q: Why do women expect men to be mind readers?
My wife has been grousing around lately. She finally erupted, "Just once, I'd like to come home and find you made the salad for dinner!"
"You want a salad? Call/text/e-mail and it's yours!"
To which she replied those killer words, "I shouldn't have to!"
It's the same with gifts. She won't tell me what she wants except, "Jewelry is always nice," but she never wears the jewelry I buy her; it doesn't "go" with her outfits.
I know this is a Mars/Venus question, but we are well-educated, professional people. All I ask is that she tell me what she wants, and she expects me to read her mind. Only one of those is possible, so why can't she just tell me what she wants? I know it's a control issue, but if she really wants compromise, then she can't adhere to her impossible expectations.
A: Why do people attribute to an entire sex the behavior of one person?
Calling this "Mars/Venus" undercuts your professed goal of reaching compromise, because it defines your wife up front as "other."
It would be far more productive to see her as a person, just a person, like you. A person who has wants, needs, doubts, and who makes choices (both thoughtful and reflexive) based on those inner motivations.
And just like many, male and female, your wife has an idea of the way a romantic relationship is supposed to look. Apparently, she believes a loving mate will study her wants and needs, and then step up wordlessly to satisfy those needs.
That romantic cliche is certainly out there for the acquiring, if not from one's own family, then from the global media family. And, while we all like to think we're living at the emotional frontier, creating something unique with our love, newcomers to relationships — and veterans without mentors — tend to follow scripts based on observed behavior. Thus, flowers at the doorstep, proposals on bended knee, declarations of "You don't know me!" punctuated by a theatrical storming out the door, through which you expect to be followed for the purposes of an apologetic embrace. Because that's how fights go, right?
It's also not uncommon for such a clunky romantic template to go unchallenged well into a marriage, if there's little flexibility and cooperation between your parents; no good premarital education before your marriage, or skilled couples counseling during; no eye-opening trauma; no maturity leap from either of you that moves you to replace "I don't like the way you're acting" with the momentous "I don't like the way I am acting."
If you'd like your wife to chuck her script and talk from her heart, then you have to chuck yours. No more playing the sensible, put-upon Mars to her irrational Venus.
From now on, these are the only players: your needs, her needs, your feelings, her feelings, your frailties, her frailties, honesty (even when it scares you) and your mutual humanity. "You should have made a salad" offers no remedy, so ask her what the salad thing is really about — feelings, not food. "I feel discouraged/frustrated/lonely, and here's why" invites you into each other's thoughts.
That's what intimacy is about.