Stop, Drop, and Kiss
One small gesture sparked romantic evenings.
by Mandy Houk
A typical evening at five o'clock in our house would find me cooking dinner, my two small daughters desperately in need of a bath, and my ears perked, awaiting a magical sound—the garage door opener. This was the blessed signal that my husband, Pete, had arrived home from work. Yes! I'd think, mentally pumping my fist. Reinforcements!
As he came through the door, I'd give Pete a choice: "You want to make sure the rice doesn't boil over or get the girls in the tub?" And that was on a good day, when he walked in smiling.
If he dared to come home dragging and tired. … Well, game on, buddy. Get ready for the Exhaustion Olympics. "Oh, you would not believe the day I've had," I'd groan. "I did 14 loads of laundry, went to the grocery store, the post office, and the bank—not the ATM, mind you, the actual inside of the bank, standing for 45 minutes in that roped-off line." (Cue the dramatic sigh.) "You've got to help me with dinner; I'm about to keel over." So there.
Then our pastor began a series of messages on marriage. The first three focused on the husband's role. As I diligently took notes, I was struck by my great fortune in being married to Pete. He's tender, patient, tolerant of my insanity, generous, steadfast, loyal, and loving. By the third Sunday, I couldn't get all his wonderful qualities out of my mind. All day Monday I was preoccupied with the kind of thoughts I'd had when we were first falling in love. So when Pete arrived home that night, things weren't all that typical.
I was still cooking, and the girls were still filthy. But when I heard that garage door open, I didn't think, Reinforcements! I thought, Pete! As he rounded the corner into the kitchen, I dropped the spatula, turned, and gave him a hug and a kiss. Then I asked him to get the girls in the tub.
Later that evening, Pete told me he appreciated the way I'd greeted him. I was taken aback. Was the difference really dramatic enough to mention? I started to think, How do I normally treat him? As I mulled over my previous behavior, I realized I generally treated him like a roommate. Or on the Exhaustion Olympics days, like an adversary.
I didn't marry Pete to be my roommate. I chose him to be the love of my life. But I sure wasn't acting like it.
So the next day, I pulled out all the stops. Not only did I drop the spatula, I walked down the hall to greet him at the door. Pete isn't normally a big grinner. But his whole face crinkled into this amazing, toothy smile. For the rest of the evening, we were flirty and giggly. We even had a conversation over dinner, as opposed to simply refereeing our kids.
This was such a remarkable turn of events, Pete called our pastor the next day and reported me. My pastor then called me that afternoon and asked me to share my experience the following Sunday.
What was so significant about the spatula-dropping that inspired Pete not only to mention it to me, but to make a phone call to our clergyman? It had only been two days. When medicine works that quickly, they call it a wonder drug.
I asked Pete about it. After consideration, he said, "For those few moments, I was the top priority. There wasn't anything else going on, it was just you and me."
I pressed for more, but that really was it. His heart yearns for significance, attention, and acknowledgment, and my brazen act of dropping the spatula filled that need.
Apparently, Pete isn't alone. The Sunday after I told my story, the men were all abuzz. I was surrounded by smiling husbands, all slapping me on the back, shaking my hand, and thanking me for what I'd shared.
I'm not the only half of this couple who's changed her behavior. That's part of the magic of marriage: I reap the benefits of treating Pete better. Pete comes in the door much more quickly at the end of each day, and if I'm distracted and don't immediately acknowledge him, he gently interrupts me with a kiss and a smile. These tone-setting behaviors have had a ripple effect on our whole relationship. We remember that we chose each other all those years ago, which translates into habitual hand-holding, more frequent glances and hugs, and more attentiveness to each other. All of which remind us that we'd choose each other all over again.
Of course, these first two incidents of spatula-dropping happened when I was in a good mood. What about when I'm grumpy or genuinely tired? Do I still have to drop the spatula? Umm … yes. I chose Pete to be the love of my life, not the love of my good days. Sure, some days I can't work up a toothy grin. But as the honest-to-goodness love of my life, Pete deserves my eye contact, my attention, my smile. And that's a lot easier to accomplish without a spatula in my hand.
Mandy Houk, a freelance writer, has been married 14 years.Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Marriage Partnership magazine.