I headed downstairs the other day to the kitchen for some much needed caffeine therapy. I could hear my husband speaking to my daughter in earnest, "No, don't take that one, I'm saving it for Mommy." I heard my daughter's little voice peep in protest, "But it's the biggest and the bestest!" He answered, "Yes, that's why it's for Mommy."
This sums up one of the greatest secrets to a really happy marriage: Never stop trying to win the heart of your spouse.
It isn't always in the over-the-top, extraordinary demonstrations of your love, it's in the little everyday things. Although most people have a particular love language that they respond to more than others, here are some ideas that are universally welcome expressions of love and a powerful means of winning the hearts of our spouses:
1. The Gift of Nurturing. If your spouse is showing signs of sleep deprivation, the words, "You should have a nap while I take care of things." provide the same dose of happy as, "I'm going to fly you to a remote island, where you can blanket yourself in the rays of sunlight, as you serenely float on a hammock made of cotton candy clouds (solidified enough to support your weight but digestible for intermittent snacking)". It might mean working hard and making sacrifices to make that nap possible, but it will help woo the heart of your beloved - who is undoubtedly more "wooable" when not sleep deprived. Another way to nurture your spouse is to ensure that they are well fed and not becoming run-down. My husband has brought me food when I've been busy nursing a baby and unable to eat. My heart has grown three sizes, and decidedly belongs to him.
2. The Gift of Giving Preference. This can be lived out, "a la St. Therese", in very small ways, but when mutual generosity defines your marriage, mutual happiness ensues. It can be in sacrificing time in a shared bathroom, so your spouse has the time they need to get ready, or choosing a show to watch that you know your spouse would really appreciate, or giving your beloved the last of the K-cup coffee flavors you like. It's those little ways in which we bend our will and our preferences for the good of the other that speaks love. I fully admit I'm usually on the receiving end of this, as I still have far to go, but every time I've caught my husband pulling a "Therese", I am slain.
3. The Gift of Acknowledgment and Respect. Not everyone's love language is affirmation, but when it comes to the marital bond, I promise you it will be strengthened every time the effort is made to acknowledge your spouse for all they do and all they are. It requires that we take our eyes off ourselves, and even if we're not in the best of moods, to admire the gift that we've been given: "Wow. You look more beautiful everyday.", "I think our kids are so blessed to have you as their dad.", "I know you've been working extra hard lately, I just wanted you to know how grateful I am for everything you do for our family." When you are going out to a function, treat your spouse like the hot date he or she is, seriously. Check them out, let the compliments fly, flirt (with your spouse only), and remember what first attracted you to your beloved and admire the ways in which they've grown (not necessarily physically though - but maybe).
4. The Gift of Yourself. Granted all the aforementioned acts of love are "gifts of self", but this one focuses on the effort to be the very best version of yourself as a demonstration of your love. I've noticed that my husband has become more of a gentleman since we've been married. He's careful to consider where I'm at emotionally, physically and mentally before asking things of me, his tone is always respectful and kind. He works hard to learn more about the faith, so he is able to be a spiritual leader for our family. My opinion of him matters more than any other (God aside), and I try hard to be someone deserving of his love. I believe that even the effort to maintain good hygiene and to look your best for your spouse is an offering of love. It says that even though you've committed yourselves to each other, you refuse to let that love become stagnant and you take delight in surprising your spouse, and in winning their heart over and over again.
Please forgive the sappy tone of this post. I admit that when I speak about my husband, it probably summons up the image of white cartoon doves twirling about our home as we gracefully dance around pulling heart shaped boxes of chocolates out of thin air. It's more like Barbie dolls being whipped at our heads, as we walk carefully through Lego infested floors while pulling used diapers out of cupboards muttering, "seriously, who put this here... and how long ago?" But amidst this messy, busy existence, it's a gift when you know your spouse is still pursuing you, still delighting in you, still trying to turn your head and your heart.