Monday, April 27, 2009

A Lovely Surprise

Last Friday evening as I was watering some plants, my wife presented me with a written demand: Stop what you are doing, take a shower, and get in my car.

At first I was slightly confused, and then I remembered that this was her month to provide me with a surprise. Several years ago I purchased a book--101 Nights of Grrreat Romance--that we use as a guide for providing one another with surprises. Each page of the book gives a task for one partner to complete for the other.

I dutifully complied with my wife's demand. Despite my prodding, she refused to provide any clue as to where we were going. She took a circuitous route before pulling into the parking lot for a small office building. She led me to an elevator, and down a short hallway to our final destination. We were greeted with a glass of champagne, fresh fruit, and cheese. As we enjoyed our snack, my wife explained what would unfold next.

A few minutes later we were taken to a small room and told to remove our clothes. For the next hour we reveled in delight, as we each received a full-body massage, complete with hot stone therapy. My wife then took me to dinner. It was a first for me, and certainly an experience I would not mind repeating with great frequency.

The book has been a source of great pleasure for us. It can be "easy" to get complacent in a relationship. The book helps us prevent this from occurring, by giving imaginative tasks to complete. While we seldom follow the instructions literally--time, expense, or other restraints sometimes make the task difficult--the book does provide creative ideas that keep the excitement in our relationship.

One of my favorites involved a map of Houston. I took shiny adhesive stars and placed them on locations in the city that had special significance to us. I told my wife that when she identified all of the locations I would give her an award. She quickly identified all but one, and then spent the rest of the week in a futile attempt to win her prize. She drove by the intersection many times, each time convinced that she had finally solved the puzzle.

Late Friday morning I announced that I was going to the bank (we work together). A short time later I called her, saying that there was a problem at the bank and she needed to sign some paperwork. When she arrived, I grabbed her hand and led her towards the intersection that contained her unidentified location. As we approached the door of a particular restaurant, she said, "I've always wanted to eat here." Her timing was perfect, because as she said this I was opening the door. My wife looked at me with complete surprise as I asked for a table for two.

On another occasion, I arrived home to find two gift wrapped boxes on the coffee table. I could not open the boxes, and each day another box or two appeared. On Friday night the boxes were piled on our bed, and I was finally allowed to open them. Each contained a trinket or other memento of places we have visited, events we have attended, or other important aspects of our life together. We had a lot of fun sipping wine, eating snacks, and reminiscing.

Experts on relationships have long recommended "date nights"--an evening away from the kids, out of the house, etc.--for married couples to focus on one another. A healthy relationship, like any value, requires effort. 101 Nights of Grrreat Romance is a useful tool towards that end.

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