By Rudy Hagood
My wife, the unbelievably beautiful Osharye, recently shared an article titled, “We’re Talking About (Marriage) Practice.” In it, she reminded us of the cultural phenomenon from 2002 when basketball star Allen Iverson famously said, “We’re talking about practice . . . not a game . . . we’re talking about practice.” (If you haven’t read it, you might enjoy doing so before reading this.)
Osharye’s words got me to thinking about the areas of our marriages that are underdeveloped due to a lack of, well, practice. One area where we could become proficient is in the art of surprise. Many of us were all about surprise when we were dating, but once we got married, had kids, and got expanded work responsibilities, well, this relational practice simply and gradually drifted away. So, I want to share seven simple practices you can use to surprise your spouse. And I think these will be easy (even for you “Surprise Grinches” out there).
But before I list these seven practices, I want to share two things. First, we’re all just human beings who are trying to do our best; in other words, there are no experts, just practitioners. So, whenever I mess up, I like to remind Osharye, “Hey, we’re just practicing, Baby.” Matter of fact, we’re all just practicing. But, if we want a world-championship marriage, we all must put in the practice. If you want confirmation of this, just ask Allen Iverson.
Second, I want to share this proverb, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22, English Standard Version). A great marriage honors the “good thing” or the blessing that is marriage.
7 PRACTICES FOR SURPRISE
1. Do for Her/Him What Their Dad/Mom Used to Do
I know in-laws can be a touchy subject. And I know you are still wondering how they produced such an amazing person as your spouse. But if you want a cool way to surprise your mate, do for them that thing that their mom or their dad used to do for them. Maybe it’s taking them out for or preparing a particular meal, or keeping the gas tank filled . . . I don’t know. With Osharye, it’s keeping the car washed and detailed. Now, I’m not a “keep the car perfectly cleaned” person, and I’m definitely not a “detail the car” person. But Osharye’s dad kept his yard pristine and he always washed and waxed his car. Let me tell you, whenever I make sure the car is washed and detailed, it’s a good day. I think it’s more about her dad than the car. But whatever the reason, It’s always a good surprise for Osharye!
2. Plan an Alone Day Vacay.
This one is particularly focused on couples with kids, but it could apply to all couples. If you see your spouse getting overwhelmed, plan an “alone day vacay” for the win! Several times, when we were raising our kids, I booked a room at a hotel for Osharye to go to by herself, and I stayed home with the kids for the day or a weekend. Osharye loved it because she got a chance to refresh. The kids loved it because they knew we were going to play board games, make s’mores on the stove, and go to see a bunch of movies. I still feel bad about how my daughter’s hair looked while Osharye was gone. Yet, the surprise “alone day vacay” was always worth it.
3. Join What They Do with No Ado
What do they do, that you never do, that you make a big to-do about, whenever they ask you to do what they do? (Got that?) Is it going to sporting events, or to the gym, or maybe eating healthily. Maybe your spouse likes to join book clubs and has always wanted you to join one with them, but reading is just not your thing, so until now you have taken a pass. Why not surprise them by suggesting a book club you could both join? You will benefit personally by stimulating your mind, and you will earn points by raising the level of your conversations.
4. Do What They Do (for No Apparent Reason)
We all are grateful when someone notices what we do. One of the best ways to express your love is to take over that task for them for a day, a week, or a month, depending on the activity/duty. Believe me, your spouse will feel seen and loved. This is a tangible way to say “I love you” and “I appreciate you” without words. It might involve cooking, taking the kids to practice, helping with homework, washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or something else. Whatever it is, do what they do . . . for no apparent reason. They will thank you for it!
5. Orchestrate a Special Date for Your Mate
When I say “orchestrate,” I mean “do it all” . . . to the degree your spouse’s only concern is enjoying themselves. As the kids say, “Take care of the ‘deets’” (meaning details). Pull off a surprise date for the ages. You line up the babysitter. You pick the place and time, and you make the reservations. Consider buying flowers. The more details you handle, the better!
6. Let Them Pick the ‘Stream’ and Make the Night a Dream
It can be a nightmare to decide what to watch on TV with Osharye. First, I’ve got to decide on Netflix, Hulu, Max, Prime . . . Wow, there are so many choices now! And once we get past that, the truth is, I like what I like, and I’m not even sure why Osharye likes what she likes. What is she thinking? AAARRRRGGGHHH! I’m guessing it might be the same with you. So, the next time the two of you decide to “Netflix and chill,” I suggest you surprise your spouse by letting them pick the show. If they always pick the show, then you pick a show that you think you both will enjoy. This surprising practice will change the streaming nightmare into a streaming dream.
7. Remember What They Say and Make It a Day.
Use your memory to create a memory, or maybe use your observation to create an opportunity. Here’s what I mean. Does your spouse say, “I would love to do that,” every time you watch a movie where a couple takes a cooking class together? Use that memory to make a memory. Is the Apple Watch they love getting old, but they would never upgrade to a new one? Buy the upgraded watch for them. Observation leads to opportunities. This could be as affordable or as expensive as makes sense in the season of life you are in, but the surprise will be beautiful regardless. Remember what they say, and make it a day to remember!
I encourage you not to give up on the practice and art of surprise. It is one way to live out the beauty of marriage that God designed. I like what Harville Hendrix said: “Marriage, ultimately, is the practice of becoming passionate friends.” Maybe adding a little surprise will bless the friendship in your marriage. Why not try one of these practices? If it’s a hit, great. If not, just remember: “We’re talking about practice . . . not a game . . . we’re talking about practice.”