Change Your Marriage with One Small Habit

Resurrect the romance in your relationship.
Change Your Marriage with One Small Habit
Image: ANNA ISMAGILOVA / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

My little black dress worked. It was more modest than strappy, but it did the trick beautifully. My target? A handsome graduate student named James. The setting was a swing dance party at a friend’s home. I looked around the room for James. When I found him, I looked at him until his dark brown eyes met mine. I smiled slowly and turned away, as if I were going to get a glass of water. Like a moth drawn to a flame, he followed and the dance began.

We talked and danced as best we could while laughing and smiling at each other. “It’s getting a little warm,” he said. “Do you want to go outside?”

Following him through the crowd of people, we stepped outside and onto a little bridge in the backyard. The distance closed between us. We were standing face-to-face, about two feet apart. I flipped my hair back a few times, smiled, and giggled softly. He paid me a few compliments and looked straight into my eyes. Our hands touched. It was the most wonderful mix of awkward and awesome. There was electricity in the air, and it wasn’t coming from the fireflies.

That scintillating moment happened more than 17 years ago. I married that handsome graduate student from the swing dance. My little black dress doesn’t fit me anymore, but I can’t quite give it away. Perhaps if I could slip into it again, I might be transported to meet that younger me. The me who flirted, smiled, and dared to dance with two left feet. The me with the heart full of desire for a certain young man.

No Time for Romance

Today the married version of me is much more practical, pragmatic, and kid-driven. No time for long glances at my beloved. We’ve got dishes to do. Who’s got the energy to flirt? The once-shaky knees have stabilized. Looking at my loved one upon waking doesn’t send me soaring anymore.

Is it really possible to keep flirting with your husband? Could flirting be the one small habit that would significantly improve your marriage? Flirting is playfully showing your husband that you’re interested romantically. It’s sending subtle, lighthearted messages to your man to say you’re attracted to him physically. You tease the object of your affection and, in so doing, compliment his masculinity. You use body language, sweet words, and creativity to woo your mate. This enticing, come-on-over behavior makes your man feel alive and engaged in the chase.

Flirty, fun, playful tactics came easily to us during the dating and courtship phases of our relationships. But those tactics are often neglected and forgotten after we say “I do.” Rather than waiting until you feel amorous, make a daily choice to flirt with your husband. The feelings will follow (yes, the butterflies can return even after decades of marriage).

Bring Back That Lovin’ Feelin’

If you’d like to surprise your husband this week, try resurrecting these flirting techniques from romantic days past:

• Hold your eye contact longer than would seem to fit the situation; gaze at your mate.

• Blow kisses from across the room, play with your hair, wink. (I know, this sounds a bit cheesy. But see what you can pull off!)

• Smile and laugh at his jokes.

• Touch casually in places like his arms, neck, and back. Run your fingers through his hair.

• Sit closer than usual with your thighs touching each other.

• Play footsie under the dinner table.

• Send a suggestive text to him at work.

• Kiss for 5 to 30 seconds each day.

Yes, you read that right: kiss for 5 to 30 seconds each day. According to sex therapists and authors Dr. Cliff and Joyce Penner, passionate kissing is key in a close relationship. In my book 31 Days to a Happy Husband, Joyce says, “When he knows I’m going to kiss passionately every day, but it has nothing to do with whether I want sex tonight—it has to do with ‘I love you’ and it feels so good—it’s going to keep my pilot light on so I can get more turned-on on a regular basis. We love kissing!”

I loved kissing James when we were dating, and I didn’t think twice about smearing my lipstick. After getting married, though, I started giving James my cheek to preserve my lip color. I had to decide that my makeup shouldn’t stop me from kissing my man. After all, he can wipe the lipstick off his lips, and I can reapply it to mine.

Author and marriage counselor Dr. David Clarke describes different types of kisses. There’s the pathetic little peck, the poofy-lip kiss (while standing far apart, the couple leans in to kiss one another), the sound-effect kiss from across the room, and the dreaded kiss on the check. Do any of these describe the staple of your kissing diet?

Clarke says in 31 Days to a Happy Husband, “You’ve got to keep those romantic behaviors going. The make-out sessions are very important during the week. It’s leading up to the main event, but that may be a day or two away. All that anticipation is part of the deal. It’s wonderful.”

It’s Okay with God

One night James playfully asked if I could get the kids to bed quickly because he wanted to give me a massage. You would think I would jump at the chance, but after kissing the kids goodnight, I went to the kitchen instead. I washed bottles, put dishes in the dishwasher, and packed up my bag with items for the next day.

All this clanging around in the kitchen was ticking James off—and rightfully so. Hadn’t he communicated he wanted me to bed early for my massage? I was rejecting his flirtation with my actions.

When I finally walked in the bedroom, he looked tired. “If you don’t want to give me a massage, that’s fine,” I mumbled lamely. “I took a long time in the kitchen.” He asked why I couldn’t just leave the dishes in the sink. He said he would have happily done them in the morning.

I had made the wrong choice. If I had left the dishes in the sink and walked up to the bedroom for my massage, and perhaps something else romantic, I think God would have winked in approval.

Too often we are uncomfortable engaging in flirtatious, even racy, behavior with our spouses because we’ve been conditioned to think that kind of behavior exists only outside of marriage or somehow offends God. Perhaps that’s because the sensual images we are bombarded with through the media are most often placed in the context of sexual immorality. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that nakedness is shameful and sexual desire is sinful. But intimacy is beautiful in the marriage bed, and God smiles when a husband and wife are intimate, close, and, yes, flirtatious with each other.

The Chase Is Back On

Song of Solomon attests to the virtue of romantic love between a husband and wife. Verse after verse describes the flirtation, devotion, and desire between Solomon and his bride. “You have captured my heart” (4:9); “your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride” (4:11); “I am weak with love” (5:8). Scripture offers this approval of their desire: “Oh, lover and beloved, eat and drink! Yes, drink deeply of your love!” (5:1).

For many married couples, daily conversation doesn’t sound much like the affection exchanged between lovers in the Song of Solomon. It sounds more like the business and accounting recorded in the Book of Numbers. Flirting drops to nearly zero because we don’t have time or interest in being whisked away anywhere. Yet being whisked away by romance, as lavish as that may sound, may be the exact thing your marriage needs.

Maybe it’s time to dig into the wardrobe and pull out the little black dress. Add some attitude, flip your hair, and cue the butterflies. Flirting with your spouse may be the one thing your marriage really needs right now. The chase is back on.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Arlene Pellicane

Arlene Pellicane is a TCW regular contributor and the author of several books, including 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Mom and 31 Days to a Happy Husband. Arlene lives in Southern California with her husband James and their three children. You can connect with Arlene at @ArlenePellicane and on ArlenePellicane.com.

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Husbands; Marriage; Marriage Struggles; Romance; Spouse; Wives
Today's Christian Woman, January 6, 2016
Posted January 6, 2016

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