The Power of Positive Surprising

Mixed race couple lying on the beach holding hands, Ibiza

Research shows that surprise breaks from daily routine can spark renewed vitality and insight, whereas running on the hamster-wheel of routine can lead to dissatisfaction and boredom. Even small surprise doses of kindness, generosity and respect can enliven and enrich relationships.

Just the Right Kind of Surprise

What one person sees as a wonderful surprise, another might see as a discombobulating shocker that raises pulse and blood pressure. So you want to plan a surprise that will be welcome.

What kind of guy is he? What does he enjoy and appreciate? On the other hand, what does he feel uncomfortable with or actively dislike? Be aware of what he might consider to be intrusive or invasive. If you're not sure, bring up possibilities in casual conversation and see how he reacts; but since you don't want to give anything away, make your remarks as sly as the clues in an Agatha Christie mystery.

For example, there's nothing as unsurprising as a surprise birthday party. Plan an un-birthday party instead. Did he just get a new job or a new promotion? Has he completed a project at work? Is he celebrating a milestone in his quit-smoking regimen? Any achievement can be a good reason for a party, complete with balloons, confetti and cake—and good friends popping up from behind the furniture yelling "Surprise!" when he is truly not suspecting a thing.

Help Wanted: Babysitter for the Day (or Night)

Sometimes, bringing the kids along makes everything more fun. But sometimes you two just want some time alone together. If you have a trusted babysitter or relative to take over for a spell, you can make some super surprise plans without worry. If he has kids too, they all might enjoy a chaperoned party of their own while the adults are away.

Make sure he's free for the day, and then take him on a road trip with no specific destination in mind. Anywhere he wants to go, any stop he wants to make, anything he wants to do along the way—it's okay with you. No rush, no overthinking anything, just let the scenery unfold before you and have a nice, relaxing day on the road.

What's his favorite band? His favorite team? His favorite play? Scope out a wide periphery of events and buy tickets for something he'd never buy for himself. Casually mention the upcoming affair, bring up the difficulty of getting tickets, then spring the surprise on him. Since this might involve a longish trip, before heading home, stop at that charming little B&B (the one you've always meant to stay at) for the night.

Little Things Mean a Lot

Is there a nice park nearby? Invite him to your place for a weekend lunch, then greet him with a packed picnic basket and fixings-to-go. Or invite him over to help you with the plumbing and then let him discover you've prepared a romantic dinner with candles and soft music instead.

Write a poem for him and leave it where you know he'll notice it. You don't have to be Shakespeare, you don't even have to rhyme. It can be as long as you want, or short and sweet. The important thing is you thought it out, wrote it up, and gave it only to him and nobody else.

Is he a craft beer connoisseur? Sneak a selection of local beer into his fridge, maybe before his mates show up to join him in watching the big sports event of the season. Stick in a few brands of hard cider too, just for variety, and fill up the pretzel bowls on your way out of their man-cave.

Does he get to your place via big-city public transportation and pay for every single trip? Buy a stash of tokens or a month's worth of passes or even a pass app for his phone (you might have to steal his phone for this last one, so consider how he'd feel about that).

Have an at-home movie marathon. Does he have a fave franchise? Think Star Wars, Star Trek, the Marvel or DC universe. Or a favorite director or favorite star might be more his style. Plan the binge-fest to include a variety of flavored popcorns and movie-concession candy like Red Vines, M&Ms, Milk Duds, Goobers, Sno-Caps, Junior Mints—and plenty of soda to wash it all down.

A surprise can be boisterous or gentle, serious or silly. What's important is that the surprise is a happy one. Spontaneity can add an extra zip to most any relationship. And that's not so surprising at all.