Our days can get pretty cluttered with messages in words and other forms from every direction that by the time we lay our heads on our pillows we can easily lose track of all of them. But sometimes we are blessed with a message we would love to hear again because it blessed us, encouraged us, gave us new insight, buoyed our sagging confidence, gave us hope, or reminded us we were loved for who we are rather than what we do.
No matter what your love language – “hearing” something that lightens a day again is something we wish we could recapture.
The problem is that too often all those other messages bombarding us also distract us from saying it or expressing it in whatever way blesses the other person. We let moments slip away with that tyranny of the urgent instead of focusing on the important.
It happens to us all.
Few contexts provide more opportunities than within our family life, but some days or maybe many days we don’t “say it again” or say it as if we were expressing it the first time. As a result, those most important relationships can get stale with the dailiness of life.
Sure – we might do well with birthdays, Christmas or other special occasions. We recall what candy a person likes, what fragrance brings a smile, what food is a favorite, or what place “takes us back.” All that is good, but what if we tried for a “better?”
It’s not about being more expensive or exotic, but more about being creative about delighting the other person the way you took time to do when you were first in relationship with them. The things we always do together are hopefully ones we enjoy, but so many of those are to the same places, doing the same things, and the pop and sizzle of feeling appreciated and cared for doesn’t land as it once did.
Some countries and cultures celebrate Valentine’s Day focusing on those we love with candy, cards, flowers, a night out, and more, but what about all those other days that we might call “ordinary?”
One of my favorite assignments for couples I worked with as a marriage and family therapist was to assign one of the two persons to plan a date that could not cost more than $5-$10 at most. It can be easy to not take special time together because of the cost because it isn’t just the cost of the movie (Who knew so much money would be needed for that little outing?) or dinner out, it’s the cost of the gas or transit and maybe the cost of a babysitter.
When we are just starting out, we more often tend to be more creative with our outings because we are more limited in money. When we look fondly over our shoulders, those times always make us smile because they were so much fun.
When I gave this assignment to a couple married more than 45 years whose marriage had gotten a bit “stale,” I had no idea what to expect. The assignment went to the husband whose wife thought he didn’t have a romantic bone left in his body.
But guess what?
He told her the time and date for their outing and what the appropriate clothing would be. When the time arrived, he took her to a local park near time for the sun to go down. where there was an observation tower. He also took binoculars and a small basket of treats and together they sat on the top watching and listening the chorus of the birds at sunset.
His wife had always loved birds and this time of day, but she could not have guessed he would come up with such an idea. It happened when I put a limit on the dollar amount ($5 for them) when they were typically going to movies, theater, and upscale places for dinner.
His wife was not only shocked, but thought it was one of the most romantic dates they had ever had together. It took a little thought and consideration of the person he wanted to delight, and he nailed it!!
If you have never tried something like this, you might want to give it a whirl. I have done it from time-to-time with various people who are dear to me. One example was when our daughter was about to turn 12 and I celebrated with the “12 Days of Birthday.” Each day leading up to her birthday there was some little surprise meant to delight her heart, many of those involved more time than expense such as giving her a manicure while she sipped tea. That turned out to be such a fun time that she has done it for each of her four children as they were turning 12.
Another example was last Christmas when I gave my husband a box that contained a “Year of Dates.” Tucked inside he would open a note each first day of the month and discover a special date for that month that I had planned. The parameters I gave myself was that it needed to be something new we had not done together or something we had not done in a long time. I know he enjoyed it, but I think I may have had the most fun planning and thinking through something different for each month.
The “Year of Dates” ended this past December when we celebrated our 55th anniversary. Some of the dates were as simple as a walk on a path we had not done together along with coffee at a coffee shop he had never been to. One involved visiting old friends who had moved to a city three hours away and getting reconnected after more than a few years and enjoying a local museum together. Another was taking a cooking class together even though my hubby only does grilling where food prep is concerned. I could list all 12, but I would want you to use your own imagination if you try this one.
Now I am looking for when I can be creative again and with whom.
Sometimes we need to remember to say it again, but also say it in a fresh new way that reminds us of when that spark of love and appreciation was first born.