Men, have you ever been surprised when you’ve tried to surprise your wife? I heard just such a story recently, and I’ll bet you can feel this guy’s pain.
Even though baseball tickets at the new stadium were WAY out of their budget, this guy knew his wife would LOVE to go – and he unexpectedly managed to get tickets! Not just any tickets, mind you – tickets to opening night! Tickets that had been sold out for weeks. He was thrilled when he called his wife, knowing he was going to score some MAJOR husband points.
Him: “Hey, honey! Guess where we get to go tonight?!”
Him: “My client gave us his tickets for the game. Right behind home plate! Can you believe it?”
Her: “Oh, honey – I wish I could go! But there is just so much going on. Oh, man! I have that parent conference with Billy’s teacher and Janice has piano lessons, and… and…. It’s just not a good night.”
Happy thoughts screech to a halt in his head, and indignant frustration takes over: She’s so unpredictable. I want to make her happy, but what on earth???! She wants to add some spice to life together, but when I try a surprise it feels like a total gamble. How do I ever hit the ball out of the park with her?
Guys, surprises can be awesome, but there are times they may instead cause complications, frustration, or even displeasure.
Why is that, and how can you make sure to hit it out of the park instead of with disgruntlement that your efforts didn’t work? Here are four simple tips for surprising her in ways that will avoid distress and cause her to respond with appreciation and delight!
TIP #1: For last-minute surprises, remember: your wife probably juggles a LOT of schedule priorities that you may or may not have on your mind
The average wife and mom is very “scheduled up.” You have a lot of tasks on your plate too, but most women are juggling not only tasks, but all sorts of priorities and needs that “fill in the cracks” of the day. Even more to the point, according our research with thousands of women for my book For Men Only, 79% of women experience a constant awareness of all those details. A woman’s mind is ever multi-tasking. It’s as if she is working on multiple computer windows simultaneously.
This means that your wife is probably always thinking about how one change affects many other things.
So now think through your hypothetical call to surprise your wife with tickets to tonight’s ballgame. What you probably didn’t hear was how much she really wanted to go (she did!), but her mind quickly landed on all of the other details that she had planned for the afternoon and evening. She had a course charted for the day and was well on her way. You just put up a big detour sign; a fun one, but still a detour. And she knows that without resolution to all those logistical details, she won’t be able to really enjoy your evening of fun together. In other words: without resolution, it won’t be fun. She’s thinking I can’t just stand up Billy’s teacher after trying for weeks to get this scheduled… and Janice has no way of getting to piano, and the instructor was already mad about cancelling the last two lessons at the last minute… and…
Bottom line: approach a last-minute surprise as a “Would you like to do this?” Instead of a “Guess what? We’re doing this!” unless you are 100% sure you have all other bases covered. (See Tip #4.)
Tip #2: Know The Types of Surprises SHE will like
Think of yourself as being a lifelong student of your wife, learning her hopes, goals, challenges, fears, and – especially for this purpose – her likes and dislikes. Everyone feels loved when their partner knows what they want and gives it without being asked – and this is especially true of women.
The better you know your wife, the more your surprise acts of kindness – big and small – will bless her.
For example, suppose you know that Thursdays are typically a late work night for her because she has a weekly report due on Friday mornings. That might be the perfect night to bring home takeout or cook dinner yourself, and surprise her with a text that says “come straight home; no need to stop at the store.” Or if she’s working on a goal to get healthier, support her in that effort with an unplanned walk rather than a spur-of-the-moment ice cream run. Or if she is not a morning person, and you know she would love to sleep in, quietly turn off her alarm and take the kids for breakfast on Saturday morning.
Pay close attention to the clues your wife leaves and file away ideas – then look for opportunities to fulfill them. She will feel so loved.
Tip #3: Tell her what she NEEDS to Know
If you have a simple surprise, like washing her car and filling the gas tank, go for it with no advance warning needed! But some treats are more complex and will be more enjoyable for your wife with at least some preparation on her part.
For example, would she prefer to be dressed a particular way for the dinner with friends? If you organize a surprise birthday party and she shows up in sweats and an old t-shirt, you might see a cringe of embarrassment instead of a smile when the crowd jumps out and yells “Surprise!”
If there is a situation in which you know she’ll enjoy them better with a particular head’s up, give it to her so she isn’t caught totally off-guard.
Aren’t sure whether that’s the case? Here’s what you do: ask her best friend(s). “Would Sara want to know about the surprise birthday dinner so she can look nice?” And the friend might say “Great idea, but don’t tell her it’s a dinner. Tell her that you need to stop by a restaurant to meet your boss and drop something off, and you want her to come in and say hello. That way she’ll want to look nice anyway.”
When in doubt, use her friends as your best allies!
Tip #4: Cover All Her Bases
This is another place where your wife’s friends can prove invaluable.
As mentioned, a woman can most thoroughly enjoy herself without a lot of loose ends floating around that haven’t been taken care of. Do your homework, think through all the logistics, ask her friends what logistics you need to know about, and handle as many of them as you can. Line up child care before the birthday dinner. Get the mortgage check in the mail before the weekend away. Do the dishes and walk the dog while she’s getting ready for “dinner.” Surprise her with tickets for the baseball game having already arranged a ride for your daughter’s piano and a potential replacement date for the parent conference.
Then she will feel free, peaceful, and undistracted during her time with you, unencumbered with concern for things left undone. With those pieces handled, she can focus on the fun at hand – and you!
Yes, the element of unpredictability might make it feel a bit risky to try to surprise your wife. But keep these tips in mind, and you can “catch her by surprise” in a good way. Those sweet acts of kindness will make her feel truly known and truly loved, and the fact that they were unexpected will be the icing on the cake.
Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.