"Where are we going?"
"I'm not telling."
"Can I have a hint?"
Experts say the key to a happy marriage is communication. Personally, I think communication is overrated. Sometimes being secretive can lead to marital bliss.
After five years of marriage, Eric and I were in a rut. Although we'd always enjoyed each other's company, our lives were becoming routine and our relationship lacked the excitement it once had. Here we were, on the cusp of our 30s, and our idea of a romantic outing involved shopping for towels. We had stopped courting.
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I decided to do something unexpected. In the summer of 2008, I planned a "secret" date - not just a dinner or a trip to the movies, but an excursion that was a complete departure from what we'd normally do.
On the morning of our mystery outing, I called Eric at work and told him he would need to wear comfortable clothes for our date that evening. We met up after work and made our way to the undisclosed location. He looked puzzled, but went along with it.
Once inside the building, we scanned the room and saw trampolines, aerial silks, high wires and other circus equipment.
Eric was starting to look uneasy. "Trampoline lessons?" he asked.
"Flying trapeze," I answered with a huge grin.
The colour drained from his face. Still, he was a good sport and put on his harness.
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As we lined up to take our turn on the trapeze, I suddenly remembered my fear of heights. What had I been thinking?
Eric went first. I watched as he climbed the rickety ladder and stepped to the edge of the platform. He reached out for the trapeze bar and hesitated only for a moment before launching into a full swing.
As I stepped up for my turn, I found myself wanting to slink back down the ladder. The fact that I was perched on the edge of a small ledge nearly 40 feet in the air had seemed like a good idea while I was on the ground, but was terrifying from my vantage point on the platform. Eric called encouragement to me and cheered as I grabbed the bar with both hands and flew through the air.
Buoyed by the adrenalin, we both lined up for another turn. With each leap, we learned a new move - raising our legs over the bar and arching backward, sliding back into a hanging position and attempting to flip and land in a standing position. Eric even managed a back flip and full dismount.
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We left exhilarated (and slightly nauseated), proud of ourselves for trying something we would never normally do, and grateful to have shared the experience with one another. That wasn't the only thing we shared: Our abs were sore for days.
A few weeks later, I announced we'd be going on another secret date. For this one, he'd need a passport and two days off work. I rented a car and we set off to New York state to see two of our favourite musicians in concert. It was a great show, but the best part was the spontaneity and the time spent together belting out tunes as we drove, away from the worries of work and the duties of home.
And then a remarkable thing happened. Eric started planning secret dates too.
Suddenly our calendar was full of monthly mystery outings. I found myself across town at a wine and cheese class, at an improv talk show, seeing Feist at Massey Hall and relaxing in a hot tub at an outdoor Nordic spa.
That's the beauty of it: One night you're at the opera, and the next you're shooting each other with paintball guns. These new activities have added spice to our conversations, and they're addictive - once you've done a few of them, you can't wait for the next instalment.
The funny thing is, it's not even about the dates themselves: It's the fact that they're a surprise. There's something so appealing about seeing it circled on the calendar and not having any idea where we're going or what the other person has in mind. The fun is in the prospect of sharing something new with each other and trusting that whatever is planned will be an adventure.
Some of my friends have since begun planning secret dates of their own. After recounting her latest outing, a close friend mentioned that her parents have also adopted the idea. Her mother took her father to see an IMAX movie and is planning a trip to the theatre. She loves the idea because she no longer has to persuade him to try new things, and he always enjoys himself once he's there.
As for us, our next secret date is slated for Valentine's Day, and Eric is planning this one. I can only guess what we'll be doing, but I'm certain it won't involve a flying trapeze - I'm due to give birth to our first child in the next few weeks.
So bring on the secrets. My marriage can handle them.
Gillian Mathurin lives in Toronto.
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