by Bob & Yvonne Turnbull
As Susan drove home, she wondered what Jeff had up his sleeve. She hadn’t been able to concentrate since receiving his call earlier in the day. “The kids are staying at your mom’s this weekend. See if you can get away a little early so you can get a bag packed.” Her heart skipped a beat as she rounded the corner and saw his SUV in the driveway with the hatch open.
Where were they headed? What would they be doing? Whatever or wherever it was, Susan knew it would be an adventure. Life had certainly been interesting lately!
At one time, their marriage had cooled to ashes and coals as the monotony of daily life shifted their focus from thriving to surviving mode. They were trudging through the humdrum of life – paying the bills, keeping on top of the mountains of laundry generated by a family of five, getting kids to soccer and dance practice, meetings for work, housework and yard work on the weekends. It seemed like the closest thing to “surprise” in their marriage was whether someone was going to pick up fried chicken or burgers for supper. They had lost the blazing passion of earlier years and had no idea how to rekindle it.
But that changed last year, when Jeff surprised Susan with an intimate date in front of the warm glow of their fireplace. She’d been busy around the house and he slipped out to pick up her favorite decaffeinated cappuccino. When he came back, he gently drew her to the family room. As they sipped and relaxed close to the fire, Jeff vowed that things were going to change in their relationship. That was the first kindling added to the dying coals of their marriage and it started a consistently growing flame, impacting their entire family.
Tyranny of the Hum-Drum
More often than not, it’s not the big crises that destroy a marriage. It’s the little things – the merely existing – the life-by-default mentality – that eat away at the appeal and anticipation of love. Many marriages get bogged down in the day-to-day stuff of life. An escape from the humdrum brings a genuine freshness to the relationship.
Remember when you first fell in love and couldn’t bear to be apart? How every moment you spent away from each other was filled with the anticipation of the next time you would be together? The intrigue…the unknown…created desire. Wouldn’t you like to put the intrigue of the unexpected back into your marriage and set the flame of love ablaze!
Like fresh kindling on a dying fire, the element of surprise can spark new interest in the relationship. Planning creative ways to say, “I love you,” energizes your affection for your mate. Thinking of new and different ideas to surprise your mate with special loving touches ignites your imagination. Of course, being on the receiving end is fun, too – kindling appreciation and anticipation.
Here are some fire-starters to get things heated up – things your mate would not expect but would love if you did them!
Husband: If your wife is flying in from a trip, go get some flowers and a Welcome Home card. Go to the parking garage where her car is parked. Leave the card and flowers in her car. She’ll know she was missed!
Wife: When your husband is going to be away on an extended trip, buy cards for every day he’ll be gone. Choose a mixture of serious and funny ones and sign each one differently: “Yours for the laughs” or “Yours for the hard times.” Hide them in his suitcase or label the envelopes with opening instructions (“Open on the plane” or “Open before your meeting on Tuesday”) and bundle them together with a ribbon to give to him when he leaves.
Husband: While she is in the shower, write a loving message to her with your finger on the fogged mirror. When the fog clears the message is invisible. (This is especially important if your children are old enough to read). Here’s the fun part – the next time she takes a shower and the glass fogs up, the message will reappear!
Wife: Write a provocative message on the bathroom mirror with lipstick or washable crayon while he’s in the shower! It wipes off the steamy mirror easily with a towel to be tossed in the hamper.
Husband: Send her a formal invitation for a date through the mail. You make all the arrangements – where to eat, what to do, child care…
Wife: Participate in his favorite hobby or activity – especially if you’ve complained about it in the past! Borrow some ladies golf clubs or a motorcycle helmet, and tell him you want to go along sometime!
Husband: If you have older children, get them to help you prepare for a special meal for Mom before she gets home. While you pick up a special dish from her favorite restaurant, leave specific instructions with the kids for creating a fancy restaurant atmosphere with tablecloth, cloth napkins, candles, centerpiece, and soft music. Have the kids meet her and open her car door for her. Have them usher her to the elegantly set table to where her mysterious date is waiting. Let them serve as your waiters. (By the way, don’t forget the tip.) This surprise accomplishes two things –You will bless your wife, and you will also give your kids a great lesson in married romance.
Wife: Make his favorite meal. Serve the younger children earlier and put them to bed. Then serve his meal complete with candlelight and soft music, or take it out to a bar or a disco, some of them have the best karaoke system if you like to sing also.
Husband: Take the initiative to take your beloved away to a marriage retreat.
Wife: Kidnap him for a weekend and include tickets to see his favorite team or to do something he loves. A friend of ours did this, including a weekend cooking school for her culinary hubby!
Ignite your Imagination
Gather information that will help you create surprises you know will please your spouse. Here are some questions, taken from Love Talk Starters by Les and Leslie Parrot, which you could ask:
- What do you miss most about your dating days together, and how can you bring that into your marriage?
- What is the one thing in your life you have been most proud of in the past twelve months? Why?
- What would be the perfect way for your partner to wake you up in the morning?
- What expression of affection from your spouse makes you feel most deeply loved and understood?
- What is your definition of intimacy?
- What is your favorite food or meal?
- If money were no object, where would you want to go and what would you want to do on our next anniversary?
Now take their answers and dream up some fun surprises!
Guard the Fire
As you well know, a fire has both constructive and destructive uses. A fire in a home fireplace is enticing, provides warmth, and is relatively safe. But a fire becomes destructive when it escapes from its intended place. The threat of a house fire increases when the proper fireplace screen or door isn’t used. These devices act as a guard for the fire.
The same is true of your marriage. When left unattended, the flame of your love will die out. If not properly guarded, a spark can escape the hearth of your relationship and start an affair, which will literally destroy your home! Keep the fire where it belongs. Keep it burning brightly by constantly adding the fuel of surprise, spontaneity, and creativity.
Now it’s your turn to use your imagination and rock your mate’s world through the element of surprise. Yes, it takes some planning, and occasionally it takes some money. But the payoff is fantastic! The result is a man who is still captivated by the love of his wife and a woman who feels cherished and romanced by her husband. When the flame of love is evident in a marriage, others can’t help but notice! How we live out our marriage is a testimony to our children and a watching world.
Wait a minute, is that a “for my eyes only” text message on my phone?
Resources for Sparking your Imagination:
Simply Romantic Nights, produced by Family Life, is a box full of creative ideas for promoting intimacy. Provisions are made for both husbands and wives.
Extraordinary Marriage, written by Rodney and Selma Wilson, will help you honestly evaluate the present state of your marriage, and will challenge you to set some goals for where God wants to lead your marriage.
52 Ways to Have Fun Fantastic Sex is a book written by Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner that gives some great ideas on how to have…well…fun, fantastic sex!
52 Dates for You and Your Mate, written by Dave and Claudia Arp, gets you out of the routine of dinner and a movie. Use their suggestions, then let them spark your own imagination.
Bob and Yvonne Turnbull are the founders and directors of Turnbull Ministries. They are popular marriage speakers and Life Coaches. You can find out more about them and their ministry at http://www.turnbullministries.org