Giant cotton-ball clouds floated overhead in a blissfully blue sky. Temperatures were mild, and a soft breeze caressed my face. Like the clouds, I felt as if I were floating along while enjoying my walk.
Then I spotted them—such a cute couple. Their eyes revealed the depth of their relationship, obviously established by deep bonds of trust. The two of them were sitting there, enjoying each other’s presence. They didn’t speak. They didn’t need to. They were in sync. They were as one.
I watched as she leaned in on his shoulder and nodded off for a quick catnap. He loyally assumed his role of protecting and watching over her while she slept. It was evident they were in love.
Suddenly, a haunting shriek pierced the air. Immediately he stood up, shielding her body. He didn’t say anything, but his actions revealed his thoughts: What was that? What’s going on? Where did that noise come from? At the same time, being startled from her nap, she shook her head and blinked her eyes. Then the shadow of a large bird passed by on the ground in front of them. Realizing it was just a bird, they settled down, snuggling closer together than before in the sheer contentment of being together.
Once again, she leaned on his shoulder. And then I witnessed a clear demonstration and outpouring of her love and appreciation for him. She began licking his face and ears. He smiled as he nestled a little closer, enjoying her “kisses.”
Before you raise your eyebrows, thinking this is just too weird, I will confess: I was walking through my backyard, and the cute couple was my beautiful, bonded-for-life bunnies. (And, yes, bunnies do smile!)
This time of year, many husbands and wives are pondering the best ways to show their spouse how much they love them. Valentine’s Day calls for flowers, fancy cards, candy, or a dinner out have become customary. All of this is fine and good. But true love goes deeper than monetary and momentary gifts. Can we expect our spouse to feel loved if we do something special only once a year?
So, how can we live out our love every day of the year throughout our married life? How can we show our husband or wife how special he or she is to us? I believe the cute little couple in my backyard can provide some practical insights.
Communicate your love
First of all, frequent communication is key to a thriving relationship. Even though my bunnies didn’t speak, they communicated. Perhaps there are times when we would be better off not talking. Bunnies have big ears, all the better to listen with. Maybe we can follow suit by developing “big ears.” Practice your listening skills with your spouse. After all, God gave each of us two ears and one mouth, so perhaps He intends us to listen twice as much as we talk. Sometimes your spouse may simply need to “get it out,” and your job is to listen intently—not interrupting, not offering suggestions, no questions or criticisms. Just listening. Listening well can genuinely confirm how much you care.
There are many ways to communicate without talking, and the bunnies do it so well! Could we do the same? You know the old saying, Actions speak louder than words? I’m not necessarily saying you should lick your spouse’s ears as a way of expressing your appreciation, although that might be fun every now and then!
But what about these ways? Wink at your spouse across a crowded room or across the table. Take a walk together and hold hands. Smile every time you look at him or talk to her. How about hugging before either of you leave the house?
You may not want to groom your spouse as bunnies do, but what about cutting your spouse’s hair? Consider giving a relaxing neck massage and rubbing his or her feet. Hand massages feel quite wonderful too.
Taking a refreshing drink of water out to your spouse while he or she is working in the yard on a hot day might be another way to communicate your affection. Play footsie under the dinner table. Keep life fun and exciting. Perhaps you could sneak up behind her in a store and gift wrap her in a big bear hug. Or you might develop a special greeting for him when he gets back home after being gone for the day. For example, when either my husband or I am gone, after we get back, we jump up and down, expressing our joy at seeing one another again.
Spend time together
The cute couple in the backyard spends most of their time together. True, they don’t have to “go to work” every day. But in their own little world, they do “work.” She is always busy digging the next burrow and keeping their “house” in order. He’s a faithful sentinel. On some occasions, the roles are reversed. When that happens, there’s no quarreling or fuss. They just do it. Could we follow this same pattern? Ladies, if your husband strains his back, perhaps you could go out and mow the grass for him. Or guys, if your wife’s energy is failing, you might take over cooking supper and doing the dishes. If your spouse is ill, you could be a nursemaid. If he likes being pampered, do it. If she prefers to be left alone, give her space. Be perceptive of your spouse’s preferences and needs.
Could we also follow the cute couple’s pattern of spending time with our spouse? Enjoy some fun time together. Does your spouse love to ski? Then learn how and go skiing with him or her. Or maybe your spouse loves birding. Learn the names and songs of the most common birds. Set up a bird feeder at your home. Does your spouse enjoy baseball? Play catch with him in the backyard. Does she love hiking and being outdoors? Join her on a hike. We can’t do everything our spouse does, but we can find some common ground. We can embellish and expand on it. Being interested in things that interest your spouse is a wonderful way to show how special he or she is.
Watch out for each other
Another way the cute couple in my backyard demonstrate their devotion every day is by having each other’s back, and by that, I mean looking out for each other. Do you always have your spouse’s back? If anyone threatens him or her, whether physically, verbally, emotionally, or spiritually, do we naturally shield and defend them? Do we champion our spouse if someone makes a negative comment or treats our spouse unjustly? Are we adept at seeing and sensing their needs? When they need help for one reason or another, do we instantly jump up and give them aid—even before they ask?
Committed for life
The cute couple in my backyard are “lifers.” They’re bonded for life. One way we can show our spouse how special they are is by being a lifer. My mom, who has been married to my dad for more than 70 years, explained it to me this way: “Once you make the decision to marry, you stick with it. You don’t consider any other options or possibilities. You don’t wonder what if . . . , or what might have been. You don’t let your mind consider anything else.”
You might be thinking, Well, they’re bunnies! That’s why they’re bonded for life. That’s just their instinct. However, the Bible explains in Genesis that God designed our parents, Adam and Eve, with those same instincts. “ ‘At last!’ the man exclaimed. ‘This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh!’ . . . This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Genesis 2:23, 24, NLT).* God designed Adam and Eve, two unique human creatures, to become one with each other. Being one with each other is implanted deep in our DNA!
Jesus reinforced God’s intention when He said, “ ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Mark 10:6–9, NLT). This was God’s original and ideal design in the perfect world He created. Unfortunately, we live in a world that has deteriorated from 6,000 years of sin. Life on this planet is far from perfect. Sin damaged our God-designed DNA. Understanding our struggles, our compassionate Father makes allowances for when relationships suffer, such as situations where abuse occurs.
When I asked my dad how he expressed his love to Mom, he jokingly said, “I say, ‘Yes, ma’am!’ ” When I asked him to explain, he said, “Every time she asks me something or tells me something, I say, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ ” In spite of his joking, I know he does much more than that.
Dad loves working in the yard and growing things, and he especially enjoys cultivating roses. When I was growing up, every Friday evening, Dad selected one of the best roses from his “weekly rose crop.” With a smile on his face, he cut and carried the rose into the house and presented it to Mom. Seeing that happen melted my heart.
I’m convinced that animals can teach us many things—even things like showing our spouses how much we love them. Apparently, both the biblical patriarch Job and the author George Eliot agree. Job tells us, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you” (Job 12:7), and George Eliot states, “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” Wouldn’t it be wise for us to exhibit how much we trust and treasure our husband or wife in similar ways?
* Bible quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Nancy Schafner is a freelance writer who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. She is a frequent contributor to Signs of the Times.®