A Small Surprise Makes a Big Impact

In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say this is a post I need to take to heart as much as anyone. Just ask my spouse. 


Not long ago, a friend of mine told me that in the spring he likes to go mushroom hunting. It piqued my interest because this is something that I used to do with my mom when I was a kid. I told him that my 88-year-old mother (whose age and mobility issues have made mushroom hunting a distant memory) still gets wistful every spring as she misses the joy of feasting on fresh-picked mushrooms.

A few days later, my friend showed up at my office with some fresh-picked mushrooms for my mom. I was truly overwhelmed by such a kind and thoughtful gesture toward my mom…and me.

The next day, I called mom and told her I wanted to bring her to our house for dinner. When we got to the house, I told her that she was going to have to cook her own dinner, and I showed her the mushrooms. Her eye widened, her mouth dropped, and I literally heard her gasp for joy. It was just a handful of mushrooms, but her reaction rivaled any Christmas morning reaction I’ve seen from my kids or grandkids.

She savored every minute of cooking and eating those mushrooms. And when I took her back to her assisted living apartment, she was telling everyone she saw about cooking and eating mushrooms. As I drove away, I was so grateful for a small surprise, and for the friend who made it possible.


My mom’s reaction to these mushrooms reminded me of what a big impact small surprises make.

All too often, we think we have to do big things to make a big impact. We think we have to buy a big house, take a big vacation, bring home a big salary, or give big gifts to make a big and lasting impact on our spouse.

But ironically, it’s the small surprises, not the big ones, that touch our spouse’s heart and give them something to cherish. I’m talking about small things that anybody (on any budget) can do. Things like…

  • Giving an unexpected card for no particular reason.
  • Bringing home their favorite candy.
  • Sending a text in the middle of the day, just to tell them how much you love them.
  • Cooking their favorite meal. (The one you rarely cook.)
  • Taking them to their favorite restaurant. (Especially if it’s one you typically avoid.)
  • Bringing home flowers when you’re not in trouble.
  • Planning a day for them to do their favorite thing…with or without you.
  • Taking the kids off their hands for an evening.
  • Preparing them a luxurious bath with soft lights, a nice drink, AND NO STRINGS ATTACHED.
  • Taking them away for one kid-free night. (Even if it’s somewhere close to home.)

When we were dating and first married, we surprised our spouse often.  That’s part of the reason we felt so in love.  But the longer we’re married, the more we let such things fall by the wayside, only to wonder why we don’t feel the way we use to about one another.  (I stand guilty as charged!)


As we said, you would think it would be the big surprises that make the biggest impact. So why do small surprises make such a big impact? Small surprises make a big impact because they show your spouse…

  • You’re thinking about them.
  • They’re important to you.
  • You took time out for them.
  • You want them to be happy.
  • You still love them.

Small surprises will leave strong positive memories stamped on your spouse’s heart and soul. And your spouse will carry those memories with them long after the surprise is complete…and long after you’re gone.


Small surprises are a guaranteed home run in a relationship, and they cost very little in time and effort. So, if you’re wondering how to get started, let me give you some ideas:

  • Take out a sheet of paper and start making a list of all the small ways you could surprise your spouse. You can start with the list above and then build on that. Make the list long. The longer, the better.
  • After you’ve made a good long list, then every Monday look at the list and pick one surprise to do.
  • Decide when you’re going to pull off this surprise.
  • Follow through by carrying out the surprise. And don’t call attention to yourself or expect anything in return.
  • Then repeat this process the following Monday.

When you’ve gone through your entire list, then start over from the beginning or make a new list. You’ll eventually start to watch and listen for things your spouse might like, and you’ll get to the point where you don’t even need the list. You’ll just know what to do.


Just a little gasoline can create a much bigger fire. In the same way, small surprises have a way of enlarging the flame of your relationship. And they’re easier and cheaper than marriage counseling and divorce court.

So what are you waiting for?

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