Last week during the ritual pursuit of “what do you want to do this weekend,” my wife discovered that a new restaurant had opened up and boasted of one of the best desserts in town.
“Why don’t we get ourselves a slice of pie after church,” she said.
Immediately, my inner five-year-old began bouncing up and down on the edge of his bed. I cleared my throat in an effort to calm him and said, “That sounds great.”
I mean it’s pie. Who can say no to pie?
But then she announced that although the brick and mortar store was too far away, they had a food truck that was only 10 minutes from our house where we could get a couple of slices.
My inner-child sat down, all the color draining from his once-happy face.
The image of a rusted-out vehicle that looked like someone had cut a hole in the side of Uncle Jed’s mobile home popped into my mind. Inside stood a broad man with slick black hair in a pair of greased-stained overalls. Behind him a griddle popped and sizzled, adding the smells from an early lunch crowd to the sweet potpourri of antifreeze, diesel, and salmonella that already permeated the air.
“What? Is something wrong,” my wife asked.
I thought briefly about telling her about my dislike for food trucks. That if I was a sociopath, then charging people for ill-prepared concoctions and driving away with zero accountability would be a great way to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting public.
But then I thought: “You’re a man! Act like one!”
I mean, seriously. I’ve skied black diamond slopes in the Alps and white water rafted the Colorado. If I can handle those situations, I can DO a food truck.
So, I cued the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark in my head and smiled.
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong,” I said, believing on some level that I was about to ingest something that would force me to spend the next two days hugging my toilet.
When we got there, nothing was as I had imagined it. The truck was clean. The people were polite and appeared to have good hygiene. And, although you never judge a book by its cover, among their selections to choose from was my favorite type of pie: pecan.
Now, before I go on, I need to let you in on a little secret. I come from the Deep South where real butter is still used, mixes are looked down upon, and pecan pie is not just a staple at Thanksgiving but is also the way in which every serious Southerner judges a restaurant. So, my expectations about pie from a food truck were at an all-time low.
But, Lord Almighty, when I bit into this slice of pie, I realized this was a time to pause and savor what was on my palette. This was no ordinary dessert. It was the kind of pecan pie that made sugarplum fairies weep and demanded all other pies that shared its sobriquet to either pay homage or change their name.
“Oh my God,” I said, looking at my wife in disbelief. “Just … Oh. My. God!”
Two days later, I was enjoying their peach pie. This weekend I will probably taste some of their cherry (and I don’t even like cherry all that much). I’ve even tried to convince my coworkers to try out these desserts, and have been wondering what excuse I could use to buy an entire pie, instead of a slice. It is safe to say that I am quickly becoming a pie-aholic.
Not to sound too snobby, but now, I only want this pie from this store. None other will do, for it has left an indelible memory in my mind by which all others shall be compared. And, quite honestly, I’m really looking forward to having lunch this week at the store that is near my work.
I know I sound crazy.
But life is filled with these rare pockets of pleasure, small invigorating moments that make life feel like a fresh-cut lawn on a cool, spring morn. They remind us that life is more than the drab monotony of routine. It can also be filled with intense reds and verdant greens. And they provide a sliver of hope that if something like pie can temporarily transcend the expected and mundane, then perhaps we, too, can extend beyond the small and insignificant.
This allows us to continue placing one foot in front of the other until one day we experience a powerful voltage that is not only felt for but is also reciprocated by another human being. An energy that promises that we are not insignificant. That at least one person in this world will never forget the impact we made on their life.
If we’re honest, I think this is one of the reasons many of us get married. The idea that someone not only sees the real person beneath all our facades but also validates that we, in our fragile, ant-like existence, are valuable.
And everything’s great for a while…
But check in with us years later, and you will find that the flower of love is already beginning to wilt. The children are running around destroying the room you just cleaned. The boss is demanding that the report be turned in two days early, and the phone you grounded your daughter from is no longer in the drawer where you hid it. We still yearn to know we are special and valuable to someone in this world, but the rapid pace of everyday life has absorbed almost every tick of the clock, leaving us with only the fumes of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays to keep the embers of love aflame.
But what if you could defibrillate your marriage, so that the surge of electricity that crackled between the two of you in the beginning could not only endure but also grow as the years passed? What if you could erupt a new vigor for your marriage that made both of you pause and say, “I never knew it could be this good!”? That no matter how far away business took them or how rapid the daily pace of life became, they always centered their thinking around how to get back to you and spend more time in your presence?
What if you could make such an indelible imprint on your partner that you became the standard by which all other members of the opposite sex were compared? Not because of your excellent beauty, or charm, or intelligence, but because you had become so deliciously unforgettable?
Well, here are 15 ways to become an unforgettable spouse:
It’s not uncommon for couples to begin living parallel lives after the birth of the first child. Responsibilities and stressors become more of a focus than nurturing the relationship. Survival becomes the main interest and as a result, they begin to forget how to pursue each other on a continual basis. If this is you, reintroduce intentionality back into the relationship. Find common ground where possible and create common ground where necessary. In other words, if you think you no longer know your spouse, research them. Read their magazines. Take an interest in their favorite activities. Develop at least a working knowledge of what makes them passionate so you can have a conversation with them about something more relevant than “how was your day.”
2. Express your love through persistence
Be dogged in always finding ways to move towards your spouse (especially during a conflict). Your initial attempts may be met with anger, resentment, bitterness, or tears, but you must move past the rejection, reminding yourself that if you do not reciprocate their negative feelings, you will eventually disprove their preconceptions about you. The goal is to live mutually happy, interdependent lives together, not dependent or independent ones.
3. Eliminate Selfishness
If you want to know the key to a happy marriage, in my opinion, I can sum it up in one word: selflessness. Too many people spend their time and energy on building and protecting their miniature empires within marriage, rather than looking out for their partner and serving them. Continually redirect your thinking so that your partner comes before yourself. Meet their needs before your own. Let them see that what is important to them is important to you.
4. Be “Spicy”
In other words flirt, banter, and play with your spouse. Be spontaneous. Execute boredom whenever possible. The problem with monotony is the expected sameness. Mix up the routines. Do something new or out of order. Marriage does not have to be high energy and fireworks all the time. But we should continually pursue “interesting” over “boring.” Even on those nights when you are exhausted and only have enough energy to watch TV, even when you cannot find anything interesting to do, make it your mission to find/remind yourself about what is interesting about them. Rest in the quiet joy that they are yours because of all these qualities and let your gratitude and joy shine through in how you talk to them and share time together (even if that means falling asleep with your arms around them).
5. Nurture the friendship
In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick refresher on friendship. Friends enjoy each other’s company. They look forward to spending time together. They share the details of their lives with each other. They laugh with each other. They value the relationship over winning an argument. They give each other the benefit of the doubt. They call each other out with compassion and an uncompromising moral standard. They take each other’s point of view into consideration, and they always assume that, even on their bad days, their friend does not hold ill will towards them. If you are not nurturing these attitudes for your spouse, then you are not nurturing the friendship with your spouse. Belief always precedes behavior. Therefore, if you want a stronger friendship with your spouse, ask yourself how you can actively begin the process of strengthening these beliefs about them. Start with your negative self-talk and adjust it as needed.
6. Don’t be afraid of conflict
Contrary to popular belief, conflict is not a bad thing. It can be done in a bad way. But when done well, it has the power to strengthen a relationship. The key is to use it as a form of bonding, putting aside agendas to pursue the truth and the best strategies that will solve the problem you are facing. Conflict is not about me vs. you or who is right. Conflict is about discovering what is right. It is about finding ways to blend the strengths of your point of view with the strengths of my point of view so that we may join together to banish the dragons from our life.
7. Maintain a long view
This means being proactive, not passive. If you are going to be together “until death do us part,” then we need to plan for the future. How do you want your relationship to be five months or even five years from now? Whatever that is, you have to begin laying the foundation today for the marriage you want tomorrow. The easiest rule to implement is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s simple, and after 2000 years of use some would say cliché. But if consistently done, it has profound effects not only on other people but also on yourself.
8. Don’t underestimate the power of trauma
Everyone heals at different rates and in different ways. After a traumatic event, your job is to come together, to help your spouse know that they are loved, and to allow them the space to heal in a way that works for them. This does not mean, of course, that they should have carte blanche to cope in illegal or immoral ways, but it does mean that you must know your spouse well enough to know what works and what doesn’t work for them when they’re grieving or recovering from a difficult situation (this is where the aforementioned Research phase comes in handy). Let this time be a time of quiet preparation. Meditative. Introspective. Patient. But keep an eye on hope and healing, instead of sitting in the soup of misery and depression. Engage in quietly focusing your heart and mind toward them, e.g., praying for them. Sometimes being with your partner is more helpful than talking.
9. Discover your fun/funny side
Too many couples that I work with have forgotten how to laugh together. They are so wrapped up in the seriousness of their problems, they have forgotten that one thing they enjoyed about each other was that they used to have a lot of fun. Humor can be a great asset in this journey. If you can, be self-deprecating in your humor. Don’t focus your jokes on your partner. No one likes to be the butt of a joke. Keep track of things that made you laugh together. Make inside jokes out of them. And use them as part of your “spice rack.” Additionally, don’t be afraid to be a kid again. Play a game. Eliminate time in front of screens to get the juices flowing. Go do something new. Use a Groupon. Little things like this make a couple feel like they have something special together.
10. Accept the seasons
Every marriage has its ups and downs. No marriage is perfect. That means that sometimes you’ll feel like everything is working great. And other times things will be stagnant. Think of this like the seasons of the year. Every marriage goes through a winter, spring, summer, and fall. Marriage just looks different in the season of winter than it does in spring/summer, i.e., instead of going exploring and having fun, you’re inside together, cuddling and coming together for warmth. It’s okay if you’re going through a cold, wintry season. The goal is to not give up on your relationship, just because there is a blizzard outside. Working together to fight off the elements is always a better solution than cannibalism.
11. Don’t make the kids more important than your marriage
Don’t get me wrong. Kids are important and they require a lot of attention. But look around at the older couples you know, and you will quickly realize that kids are only a brief part of a lifelong commitment. Eventually, they grow up, move out, and develop families of their own. Trust me, you do not want the last kid to go off to college and on the way home, as you turn to engage your partner in conversation, you wonder “Who on earth are you?” Therefore, make it a habit of creating quality time moments out of every single day. This may mean that you have to schedule a time to talk with each other, even if that is 10:00 at night. Also, it’s ok to tell the kids that Mommy and Daddy need time to catch up before we start our evening. It won’t kill them or scar them for life. Don’t reject your kids, but be jealous of the time you have with your spouse. You married them to share a life. So, share it.
12. Remember the details
As you talk to each other, listen to your partner’s struggles as well as triumphs. Listen to not only what they like/dislike but also make a mental note of the names of the people who irritate them at work. Don’t just nod your head as they talk. Ask questions. React to what they said. Show your interest in their life. Actively seek how to support them accomplish their dreams.
13. Make sex the result, not the goal
You know this, but I’m going to say it anyway: a person is not defined by how they look or what they can do in bed; they are defined by how they use their mind, heart, and spirit to interact with others and the world. If you will pursue your partner’s intellect, emotions, and spiritual nature, if you truly value these three aspects of them more than sex, then sex can be the result of love, not the goal of it. Plus, if you think about a relationship as made of up either the physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual quadrants, you’ll realize that you interact with your spouse the least in the physical quadrant anyway. Valuing your partner for who they and not what they can do for you will always make them realize how treasured they are and encourage the expression of physical love as well.
14. Let “I love you” be less about your feelings
I know that sounds weird but let me explain. Feelings come and feelings go. There may be times, in fact, when you don’t even like your spouse very much. Therefore, let “I love you” be less about how you feel and more of a reaffirmation of how you consistently behave towards your spouse. Are you patient? Are you kind? Do you keep a record of wrongs? Have you stopped insisting on your own way? Are you irritable and resentful or have you discontinued these attitudes towards your spouse? If you are these things and more, your spouse will not only hear how you feel about them, they will also have a library of positive attitudes and behaviors that immediately arise at the sound of these three little words.
15. Be creative
I was once told by an English professor in college that “Creativity is finding a way to look at old things in a new way.” This piece of advice has always stuck with me, especially since creativity is the essence of romance. You may feel like you’ve done everything, but no one’s asking you to improve upon the last romantic gesture you made. Rather, just find new ways of approaching or doing old, familiar things. This could include dates, quality time, gift giving, or whatever. You may have to put your thinking cap on a little bit, but doing so shows your spouse that they are special enough to you to invest time and energy into making something fun or unique…just for them.
If you practice these 15 things, you will become unforgettable to your spouse. Valued. Treasured. Remembered. Who knows? They may be so impressed with you, they may even find you as delicious as pie.