My marriage was not in crisis. We, like many young couples, were just busy with work, kids, and social commitments. Even with our monthly dates, marriage counseling, and dance lessons, neither of us felt truly fulfilled. Our daily interaction looked more like a meeting between coworkers than two lovers. I wanted the romance. Now, there are certainly two people in every marriage, both with the responsibility to pursue the other. But I could take steps to set an example of pursuit.
While pursuit is traditionally considered the role of the husband, the Song of Solomon shows us that the wife also pursues her lover (Song of Solomon 3:1-2 ESV):
On my bed by night
I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not.
I will rise now and go about the city,
in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.
In the New Testament, Paul indicated the mutual nature of desire (in this case, sexual) by commanding both husbands and wives not to deny each other without mutual consent (see 1 Corinthians 7:5). Combining the intentionality of biblical love (see 1 Corinthians 13) with the passion and mystery of falling in love is powerful. And then there is flirtation. Flirtation — I was taught — is inherently deceitful and insincere. But is that true? As I dug deeper into the Word, I couldn’t find a solid case against flirtation when it was expressed to a person you genuinely wanted to date. Scripture is actually very open to the idea of female pursuit in marriage. Since love reciprocates and initiates, it makes perfect sense for a wife to cultivate the chemistry she wants to see in her marriage.
I did research on actions and attitudes that encourage “spark” in romantic relationships. I wrote down thirty items, and with them in hand, I started the Flirtation Experiment. I was completely out of my comfort zone and I was nervous about appearing silly or out of character. The first week of experiments consisted of tiny changes in my words, body language, and attention that took a little effort (and discomfort) on my part at the beginning. But on day seven I noticed that my husband’s attitude had changed. He took more interest in reciprocating, in taking an interest in my day, in bringing me little surprises. In the context of positive flirtatious teasing, trust was growing. I was feeling more fulfilled, and so was he. It was working!
- I firmly believe that marriage is meant to make us holy — but holiness also includes joy. A godly marriage will also be a happy marriage.
In 1 Timothy 6:6, Paul wrote that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (ESV). Contentment is a heart attitude that does not strive for more than what it has. A contented marriage is a happy marriage, a marriage brimming with fulfillment.
My list of thirty ways to pursue my husband that launched the Flirtation Experiment provided me with a structure to build powerful habits of affection, admiration, and affirmation in my marriage. What started out as a desire to rekindle romance and closeness grew into something deeply profound and far more beautiful than anticipated. Not beautiful in the sense of everything turning out perfectly (which it never does!) but genuinely beautiful in how our loving God did a work in our hearts.
God has the best intentions for your own relationship. You have the freedom to be courageously proactive — empowered to act where you might have been less inclined or thought, That’s not what Christian wives are supposed to do. Embark boldly on the journey — enjoying the full measure of what God intented for your marriage. Every husband is a different personality. Every marriage has its own story. As you begin your Flirtation Experiment, remind yourself that it is more about you than it is about changing your husband. The Experiment will reveal areas of growth in your own heart. Are you ready to begin?
I began my Experiment with an area I needed to work on:
- physical touch.
Nowhere inside of me was there a desire to hug or be hugged, to touch or be touched; doing so made me extremely uncomfortable. I had no problem in the bedroom; it was almost as if I’d compartmentalized our physical interaction, placing any physical contact in the “sexual” part of my mind. I loved to cuddle my babies, but with my husband, there was a wall. He felt it. I felt it. I didn’t realize it then, but my disdain for physical touch was actually fear. I was terrified that reaching out to my husband would result in rejection.
Once I recognized what fear was doing to me and my marriage, I had a starting point. I couldn’t change years of fear patterns overnight, but I could take small steps to fight back. My first step: touch Josh — not in a seductive or sexual way, but in the simple way one does to say, “I’m here, and I love you,” instead of passing him like a coworker at the water cooler.
It was new at first. I felt awkward. But I noticed that these little efforts at affection, with no strings attached, made me more attached. He didn’t say anything, but he squeezed my hand when I gave it. He came up beside me as I tossed laundry in the dryer and touched my shoulder too. It was like affection was contagious. My personality fought against the vulnerability, but my heart was grasping for that single straw of hope. In loving him, I felt loved. Maybe affection wasn’t to be feared after all. I had taken the risk and I was overcoming my fear. God was at work in my marriage bringing unity, passion, and love, and I was ready for more!
~ Phylicia Masonheimer
Adapted with permission from The Flirtation Experiment: Putting Magic, Mystery, and Spark into Your Everyday Marriage by Lisa Jacobson and Phylicia Masonheimer.
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What is your role in bringing transformation to your heart and your spouse’s heart? Where can you begin your Experiment? You may have a fear to face, or busyness may be holding you back. Time in God’s Word understanding what He promises to those who follow Him and how He says to deal with fear is a starting point. Then express your love. May the power of pursuing love — and the fun of flirting with your beloved — be the beginning of something truly beautiful for you both! ~ Devotionals Daily