THE ART OF THE SPARK with Mary Zalmanek
Sex – Tantra and Kama Sutra
Francesca Gentille

Episode 90 - THE ART OF THE SPARK with Mary Zalmanek

THE ART OF THE SPARK with Mary Zalmanek, author of "The Art of the Spark; Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventures. Happily married 34 years. Guide to Adventures of the Heart since 1997.

In this episode, Mary enthusiastically trains us in The Art of the Spark. Learn to follow your connective bliss. Build on the foundation for adventure. Accomodate your beloved's surprise tolerance.Nourish your relationship from the "Romance Pyramid." Discover how "Love Languages" bring ease and joy into relating. Create sustainably ecstatic intimacy.



Francesca Gentille

: Welcome to Sex, Tantra and


Sutra: Bringing You The Soul of Sex. I’m your host,

Francesca Gentille

, and with me today is Mary Zalmanek. Mary is an intriguing woman who sometimes describes herself as both an MBA and an RA, which is a romantic adventurer. And she has written a beautiful book called The Art of the Spark: 12 Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventures. She created in 1997 a company called Adventures of the Heart to really help everyone have these wonderful romantic times together, and she’s been having adventures of the heart with her own beautiful husband and sweetheart for 34 years – they just had their anniversary – and welcome Mary.


Mary Zalmanek: Well thank you. Lovely to be here.


Francesca Gentille

: You know, it’s lovely to have you here, and I can tell our listening audience I’m so blessed in this show that I often get to meet some of the people that I interview on you behalf, and I have met Mary and her husband and they are, after 34 years, still romantic, still in love, and she clearly has some secrets to tell us that I want, that we all want, to bring more fully into our lives. And, but how did you get started? Has it always been easy and romantic, or did this book come out of something that was challenging?


Mary Zalmanek: Actually it did come out of a real challenge. I had been married about 10 years when I kind of looked around and thought, wow, all the people who had been married the same length of time as me, they’re either getting divorced or having affairs or thinking about it or they’re bored, but they’re not happy, they don’t have that spark anymore. And it was real clear to me that I can tell you the exact day this happened. I had helped a friend of mine get ready for a date with a new man and she was recently divorced and she had this lightness and this sparkle about it, and I thought, “I want what she’s got. I want what she’s having.” And I didn’t want a new man; I just wanted those experiences of being in love again, because I knew that if I didn’t I would end up divorced. There are 50 percent of couples who are divorcing and I didn’t want to be among those statistics. So my husband and I really started planning to celebrate our love. And we had so much fun doing it; I mean we just, every anniversary, birthday, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, was a celebration. And eventually some of my friends started asking, “Hey can you help me plan a whatever”, and I started doing that, and then one day – this is the coolest thing – I got a call from a guy I had never met. He said, “I hear through the grapevine that you’re really good at planning special occasions. My anniversary is tomorrow; can you help me out?” Now to his credit he already had a basic plan in mind. He was going to take his wife out for a dinner date. And in 20 minutes on the phone we turned a basic dinner date into a romantic adventure. And two days later he calls me back and he said, “My wife said that was the best day of her life.” And I mean, I was just so thrilled to be a part of somebody else’s best day ever, that I decided to make a business out of it and that’s when I started Adventures of the Heart.


Francesca Gentille: Which its alternate title is now called Your Best Day Ever.


Mary Zalmanek: Yeah. Actually that’s what, yeah. That’s right. Your Best Ever Day.


Francesca Gentille: Aww, which is so wonderful, which could be day after day after day. Now you’re, I think you’re right on point when you speak to this sense sometimes of boredom or disconnection or busyness or taking for grantedness that comes into relationships over time. Some of us find that sooner than later, some of us later. But it often does creep in. So given that there’s this creeping nature of (unintelligible) or more in our relationship, what do we do? What are some things Mary that will help us get out of that slump?


Mary Zalmanek: Well I can name several and I think the most important is to build a foundation for romantic adventures. You can’t go through a life where you’re not in love, you’re not showing your love and then expect to have a wonderful fun event with your sweetheart. It’s just not going to happen unless you show your love on a daily basis. And what I’ve done is I’ve created something called a Romance Pyramid. Imagine, you know, that food pyramid looking thing and there’s three layers to this, and I would say the bottom two-thirds of it is daily romantic adventures for, I mean, loving gestures, frequent loving gestures. What you want to do is show your sweetheart on a daily basis many, many times in a day how much you love that person. You want to just make them feel loved all day long so that, you know, when you go on a date, when you have a romantic adventure the love is already there. If you don’t have that adventure and you try to set something up, it’s going to be a disappointment ‘cause you’re going to get in a fight on the way there; you’re just not going to feel that connection. And so you want to show your love everyday, many times a day. And the important thing about that is that all romantic gestures are not created equal. There’s something called – and I believe you’re familiar with this Francesca – The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.


Francesca Gentille: Absolutely, absolutely. And I want to talk more about those five love languages so we can so we can get the most, the most expectedness out of our gestures of love and also that issue of time. I can feel part of me just kind of cringing on all, how much time is this going to take, when we come back from a break and a word from our fabulous sponsors. And I encourage our listening audience to support our sponsors because this helps great shows, like the interview with Mary, keep coming to you. And we’ll be right back.


Francesca Gentille: Welcome back to Sex, Tantra and Kama Sutra, with our delicious guest Mary, who wrote The Art of The Spark: 12 Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventures and to have a love life you love. And we’re about to go into the five love languages, the five really most effective ways to give those loving gestures, the bottom of the pyramid. And what comes up for me Mary are those facts that come up so often in life, the time and the money. Do I have the money? Is this going to take money? And before we go into those five gestues, those five ways, what would you say around those concerns, those concerns around time and money for people?


Mary Zalmanek: You know, these loving gestures take almost no time. How much time does it take to say “I love you”? How much time does it take to take out, just take out the trash or give a hug? I mean those are the kinds of loving gestures. They are not time intensive. So it’s easy to do.


Francesca Gentille: So it doesn’t have to take a lot of time…


Mary Zalmanek: Right.


Francesca Gentille: It sounds like it’s a, it becomes a practice, like, you know, working out or deciding to park a little further or eat more greens, that it’s something that takes – especially in the beginning – might take some consciousness…


Mary Zalmanek: Right.


Francesca Gentille: And it doesn’t necessarily take time and it doesn’t necessarily take money. And there’s these five different ways that you spoke about, Gary Chapman’s Love Languages, which people can take a test online about that. And…


Mary Zalmanek: Yes.


Francesca Gentille: would you review for us what those are and what are some of the favorite ones that you, that you’ve suggested to people?


Mary Zalmanek: Well the five love languages are words of affirmation, receiving gifts, acts of service, physical touch and quality time. So say your love language is words of affirmation; that means that you say, “I love you honey” or “I appreciate that you washed my car yesterday”, “I appreciate that you, you look nice today. I’m really proud to be with you because you’re such a handsome man.” Those are words of affirmation. They don’t take any time to do. And you know, in this romance pyramid that I have I mention that the bottom layer is loving gestures. The second layer is dates, those social engagements with your beloved. And at the top of the heap is a romantic adventure, and these are maybe once a year things that absolute put a smile on your face for years to come. They are those, you know, where you are absolutely queen for a day, goddess for a day, and you are in love and celebrating that love. And I can give you an example of how you move up that pyramid within the romance pyramid. You know, I mentioned loving gestures, words of affirmation; “I love you sweetheart.” For a date, you know, how about writing a love letter to your sweetheart and maybe reading it aloud after dinner. I mean that would be a pretty special date. You can take it one step further and plan a romantic adventure around that. Maybe think of the top ten reasons that you love you sweetheart, and then plan a little maybe ten day extended event where you give your sweetheart a card everyday that talks about those top ten reasons that you love your sweetheart and maybe an activity along with it. I did this for a client one time; he was getting married and on their honeymoon everyday for ten days he gave her a card and then they went and did something, and one night it was just, “I love you because you appreciate the wonder in life.” And guess what they did; they went out and laid a picnic table at night, a picnic blanket at night and looked at the stars after the stars came out and talked about the stars. That doesn’t take any money and very little time to prepare, you know. It’s just thinking about those creating things as a way to celebrate your love.


Francesca Gentille: So one of the love languages is words of affirmation. We’ve just moved up the pyramid, thinking creatively how to do this in a little loving daily way, little time, no money, how to do it more in a date, and how to do it more in that kind of bigger memorable adventure, and… Words of affirmation is my favorite, so thank you for starting with that. My second favorite - you know, we often prioritize, you know, what’s the most important to the least important of the five and that’s so great to know with your beloved. My second favorite is touch, so what are some suggestions around moving up that pyramid using touch?


Mary Zalmanek: I am so glad you asked. I’ve got a whole little five page chart in my book about how to do that. And lets see, lets go to touch. Let me turn to that page. Touch; lets see, one of the things would be you give a massage, okay. Don’t even bother first of all if you hate giving massages because you’re going to feel that energy. But if you like to give massages and your sweetheart likes to get them, you know, maybe just a little five minute neck massage. Or you know what Jim will do for me that I absolutely adore is he’ll put lotion on my feet. That just puts me absolutely in heaven, and by the way physical touch is my number one, so this is big for me. But maybe on a date to move that up you would give a thirty minute massage in a candlelit room with music playing. And then it’s an adventure, maybe you could have an hour long lome, lome massage, maybe on a secluded beach somewhere. I mean this would be a little more money, but, you know, it’s that kind of make a really special even around the massage. And actually, you know what I did for my girlfriends – this isn’t so much romantic –but we had just put in a steam shower in our house and I was so excited to share this. So over three days I had an in-home spa where I had all my girlfriends come, I had like six a day come, and they got massages, they got foot baths, you know, the paraffin wax. We did facials, we did hot tubs, steam bath, Cleopatra milk bath in the bathtub. I mean, and so we really made it a huge thing, and then I did it a couple weeks later just for my husband. And that was a wonderful way to celebrate physical touch, you know, in your home, with things I already had.


Francesca Gentille: That sounds so luscious. And, you know, I love that you’re bringing in that it could be just a hand massage, it could be a touch or caress on the bottom of the pyramid, moving up the pyramid, it could be something longer like this wonderful at-home spa experience. And it could be woven into that amazing, amazing adventure…


Mary Zalmanek: Absolutely.


Francesca Gentille: And we just recently, my beloved and I, for my birthday we ended up having a couples Thai massage, where we went to a little, a beautiful little place and they made us homemade sushi and then it was two people actually massaged us together where we were being sort of pressed and held together, which was very juicy. And then when the massage was done they actually left us so that we could continue to enjoy the wonderful energy…


Mary Zalmanek: Wow!


Francesca Gentille: that had been built together. So there’s so many ways to do that. Thank you for reminding me of…


Mary Zalmanek: Ooh, I just got goosebumps when you told me that. I want one of those.


Francesca Gentille: Exactly. And, you know, definitely some things you can Google for our listening audience in your neck of the woods, wherever your woods are or your urban environment, you can, you can research massage and you can also, you know, see it. If someone isn’t offering couples massage you can always ask a body work provider, “Would you be willing to create something”, like the man who so innovatively called Mary and started a whole new business for her. So we’ve got three more love languages to go, and I’m very excited to hear more about what you have to say about those, when we come back from a break and a word from our fabulous sponsors. And we’ll be right back.


Francesca Gentille: Welcome back to Sex, Tantra and Kama Sutra, talking with Mary Zalmanek - and she just corrected me during the break that it’s almanac with a Z at the front, Zalmanek – and who is the author of The Art of The Spark: 12 Habits to Inspire Romantic Adventure and also who is the creator of Adventures of the Heart. And we were going through the five love languages and really looking how they work with the pyramid that’s the everyday, the periodic dates or the regular dates and then the special adventures. And we’ve got three left and so many things we want to cover. Where do you, do you want to go deeper into those or do you want to…


Mary Zalmanek: Let me just tell you real briefly what the other three are and maybe just a real quick example. One of them is quality time, and that’s when you just take the time to talk to each other. And of course that’s just a loving gesture; you just say “How was your day?” and you talk about that. It’s a date when, it’s really a date where you go out, maybe it’s a dinner date or a walk on the beach, you just spend a lot of time in conversation. And it’s an adventure if you have a date that celebrates, like for example your past, present and future. When we renewed our 20


wedding anniversary vows, we went up to a mountaintop and just we each prepared a list of past, present and, memories of the past, qualities we love in each other, and then hopes and dreams for the future. We had the most wonderful conversation. And you can do that anytime, and so that’s an example of how quality time can be an adventure. And then acts of service; maybe you cook a meal, prepare, you know, a quick meal. A dinner date would be just a little special deal, a special, more special meal. And then the adventure would be maybe you hire a chef to prepare and serve a feast for two. And you have a harpist play or, you know, you put on some nice music. So those are the examples. Oh and then the other one is receiving gifts. And this one, you know, people think that it has to cost a lot of money and yours is receiving gifts and maybe that’s, it can be a real source of problems if you expect to get a big gift. But, you know, this is more like just giving little gifts. It can even just be some inexpensive thing like a single rose or maybe if it’s a date, you maybe give a pair of earrings that that person can wear out to dinner; they don’t have to be expensive earrings. But then if you want to have an adventure around the gift, I, you know, I have a whole chapter in this because it is so much fun to create an adventure around a special gift. I mean I have done it around books – actually a book created a special adventure, Under The Tuscan Sun. You know, it’s just a simple book about Italy and cooking. We created a whole day around that and it was really fun. But, you know, also a bicycle or all kinds of things. I mean it can really be from one extreme to the other, but you can have these wonderful adventures around gifts.


Francesca Gentille: I love that. I love the idea that it can be little; I encourage people to go the, you know, the dollar stores and, you know, keep their eye out if they know they have a beloved who loves receiving gifts. I actually have a huge, one of those plastic bins at  home that whenever I’m anywhere I look for things on sale and I just put them in the bin so that when a particular time comes up to give a gift I don’t have to worry about it, it’s already in the bin, it’s so easeful to pick something out. For my word people I have a drawer full of cards that I just keep stocked so that when it’s that moment to give a card it’s already there, it’s easy. We want to think of structuring for success; whichever love language is my beloveds main language, how can I set up things so it’s easy for me to be giving to them in their, in their love language? Ahh, thank you for brining that up. And you have other wonderful things that you want to gift to us in our time together. So what are some of your other very important suggestions? I mean the book is filled with so many, but today what would you like to tell us about?


Mary Zalmanek: You know, what, another thing I think is really important is to think about the level of surprise that your sweetheart’s comfortable with. One of the habits is called – one of the twelve habits to inspire romantic adventures – is called accommodate your beloveds surprise tolerance. I created this thing called the surprise tolerance, and there’s three different types. And that helps you determine how much surprise is wise to use if you want to plan something for your sweetheart. Some people absolutely hate surprises, but yet we always feel like, oh, they should be surprised with a big surprise party on their 40


birthday or whatever, and you know what, sometimes that’s miserable for the person. And so this really is more about honoring the receiver, that person that’s going to receive that gift, you want to honor them in way that if they don’t like surprises plan something together with them. You know, don’t go to a restaurant and have everybody jump up and start singing happy birthday, you know, and all that silly stuff. You know ,that kind of person would be so much happier with something more intimate and maybe with friends, where they get to be a part of the planning. I think that’s really important. And that’s a type one, where they don’t like surprises. Type two is the kind of person that absolutely loves surprises, but they love the anticipation of the surprise just as much. It’s like a kid at Christmas time, how they get to shake the boxes. That anticipation sometimes is as much as opening the presents. And so for those kind of people you want to give hints about what’s to come. And then the final type, they love surprises, anything goes; you know, you can come over to my house today and say “Oh, guess what, I’ve arranged, I know that what’s on your schedule there’s this thing but you’re not really going to do that, I just put that there because we are actually going to go away for the next two days” or “We are going to, I’m going to have a surprise party” or, you know, “Here is the surprise party. Surprise!” That kind of person loves to just be out of the blue surprises. And the reason I think this is so important – I thought it was important when I wrote the book – but after I wrote The Art of the Spark, I had several people, one guy in particular, he said, you know, “I bought this book for my wife’s 40


birthday, and I had already decided what we were going to do and it was going to be a big surprise party for all our friends. I read that chapter and realized, whoops, that would be a big mistake.” And so he was going to plan the party that he wanted to have for her, not the one she would’ve wanted to have. And so instead of a big surprise party they had a more intimate dinner party with like six or eight people where they actually got to talk and converse and it wasn’t a big jump out of the woodwork kind of surprise, it was something that she was more a part of the planning, and she felt so honored by that. And he said he still uses that on his kids. Even his kids have different surprise tolerances. So I think that’s another thing that’s vitally important, is to realize that your sweetheart may have a different surprise tolerance than you do and honor that person by finding out what it is and then acting accordingly.


Francesca Gentille: You know, I really love and want to highlight what you’re pointing to Mary, is this sense of individuality that each person is unique and you’re really supporting us as listeners to not make the mistake, the so common mistake to think that someone wants to receive the same way that we want to receive; “If I like to be cooked for, you’ll like to be cooked for”, “If I like massages, you’ll like massages.” And there is a phrase that I heard, the difference between the golden rule and the platinum rule; the golden rule is you do unto other the way you want them to do unto you, that’s the golden rule. It’s a good rule. But the platinum is you do unto others the way they want to be done to…


Mary Zalmanek: Yeah.


Francesca Gentille: You actually don’t just say, “I’ll treat you the way I want to be treated.” “I’ll treat you the way you want to be treated.” And that’s…


Mary Zalmanek: Yeah.


Francesca Gentille: That’s so beautiful. That’s what you’re pointing to in these, in these…


Mary Zalmanek: Actually that’s another one of the twelve habits is follow your own romantic bliss. What’s romantic for me may not be romantic for you, and vice versa. And just because somebody told you once that all women love flowers or massages, all women don’t love flowers and massages. Your sweetheart, you need to find out what they feel. I mean you may have a sweetheart who’s allergic to flowers, so don’t bring flowers. And so I think it’s really important to know what’s important to you and your sweetheart and then act on that.


Francesca Gentille: And when you just said that, it felt like I heard you say to advocate as well for yourself…


Mary Zalmanek: Absolutely.


Francesca Gentille: To not be the self sacrificing, “Oh, whatever you want to do honey. Oh, let me just keep doing things”; Mary said to, you know, make sure to give to your sweetheart the way they want to be, you know, given to. I hear you also saying to hold in the other hand advocating for “This is what I would love. This is what would (unintelligible) me.


Mary Zalmanek: You know, you have a, once you read The Art of The Spark, you have a responsibility to tell the truth about what you want if you want to get it. And especially that surprise tolerance thing; if you say, “Oh, I really don’t want a surprise party” for your birthday, if you don’t mean it, that’s not fair. You’ve got to be willing to tell the truth in order to get what you want. And then if you not tell the truth and you get what you ask for, guess whose fault that is. You have to tell the truth.


Francesca Gentille: Now that’s very radical. I mean it sounds simple, but its’ very radical for many of us who are raised with don’t be needy, don’t be greedy, “Who do you think you are”, and almost this sense that it was shameful. I mean I work with people all the time who carry a sense of shame around asking for what they want or feeling that if they identify their own desires or needs, that that automatically makes them needy. You know, like you can’t even think of what you want or what you need because you’d be that needy person, you’d be a bad person. So you’re really turning that on its ear, you’re turning that upside down and saying if we’re going to be really related to one another in authentic juicy ways we have to find the courage…


Mary Zalmanek: Absolutely.


Francesca Gentille: to reveal what, maybe to ourselves first. There have been times in my life where someone has asked me “What do you want”, and I feel like, you know, frozen, like a deer in the headlights, that I literally can’t figure out what I want and I feel frightened to…


Mary Zalmanek: You might not know exactly what you want, but if you know some of the perameters around what you want and you can communicate that, then maybe you can do some creative brainstorming about where you go next. Maybe you say, “Well you know, I really don’t like surprises, so lets do this”, but you might say, “I love surprises honey, and here’s the kind of things I enjoy doing. I enjoy golf and cooking and skiing.” And so you’ve got some input there and it gives - especially if you’re a surprise person, you don’t want to say exactly what, you can’t say “I want to be surprised this way”; now that’s not a surprise. But you can say the kinds of things you like and then leave it up to your sweetheart to be a little bit creative. And this comes about slowly if you’re not a naturally creative person. My husband always says he’s an engineer so he couldn’t expect to be creative. Well let me tell you, once I started doing things for him and showing him the kinds of things I liked, he got it. He got it in the biggest way, and so now he’s really good at planning surprises and coming up with creative things. But it wasn’t something that was just, you know, a snap for him; he had to kind of ease into it. So just because you’ve said what you want doesn’t mean that automatically that person has to do it for you in the exact way you want. It’s a learning process.


Francesca Gentille: It’s a learning process and we want to support one another to succeed. So I have a couple that I’ve been coaching where she has this tendency to look at him and say, “I asked him to set up a date and it wasn’t good enough.” Well if he hears that it wasn’t good enough, is he going to be inspired to set up another date; versus if he hears, “Oh, thank you so much for doing that. I really appreciated it, and here are some ideas for next time”, this, once again, that structuring or supporting for success, I love that you pointed to that, is you can give someone a list. You can give them a list of restaurants to call, you can give them a list of ideas. Now some people don’t need that, and they would almost find it insulting to have that much information. But other people really do need it and feel that it’s so supportive to get very specific ideas of how to please you.


Mary Zalmanek: Yeah.


Francesca Gentille: I mean, you know, “Let me tell you how to please me and then let me celebrate you when you do.”


Mary Zalmanek: You know another thing, as long as we’re talking about that is I want to point out that, you know, it’s important that you both take responsibility for romance. A lot of people think that it’s up to one person in the relationship, whether that’s the man or the woman, I’ve seen it both ways. But, you know, sometimes I think men think, “Oh, you know, I’m the one that has to be responsible for romance and it’s really a burden.” It’s not fair. You know, you have to be able to do things for each other. And you, I’m not saying it has to be equal totally because then it’s kind of like, “Well you do this for me and I’ll do that for you.” You do for the joy of giving, but you also do for each other. You know, one person can’t be the one bearing the burden because then it does become a burden rather than a joy.


Francesca Gentille: So you share together and yet at the same time you support one another in your weaker underdeveloped areas. There’s a sense of compassion and patience that we’re all learning together. Sometimes we’re not really good at something to start. We all flourish when we’re encourage rather than criticized. And when together a couple can have this as a goal or an intention; we want to bring more spark, we want to bring more adventure, and design how to do that, what they get could be thirty four years of having a beautiful relationship with someone they love. I want to thank you so much Mary for embodying this; for really being that woman who was willing to take on a floundering spark, a floundering flame and turn it around for herself, live it and also give it to, give it to the world. And how would be people find your book, find out more about you, have your support in designing wonderful adventures, how would they do that?


Mary Zalmanek: They can go to my website, which is


Francesca Gentille: Mmm. Thank you so much for joining us…


Mary Zalmanek: And if anybody does buy the book today I’d be happy, from this program and they mention this program in the email that gets sent to me, there can be, after you purchase the book you can go back and then send another email, I will give them a free romance profile; it’s a 25 page tool where you can kind of get to know each other and figure out how to plan you romantic adventures.


Francesca Gentille: Mmm. Thank you. Thank you for being on this show and for giving our listening audience, if they mention Sex, Tantra and Kama Sutra, a 25 page romance profile. You are absolutely precious and I am delighted to have you on the show and to have you in my life.


Mary Zalmanek: And you are delicious as well.


Francesca Gentille: Thank you so much. And for our delicious listening audience, we want to thank you for being on these journeys with us, for being more of this beauty into our sexuality and into our relationships. And you can find out more about Mary, her coaching, link to her website, see her adorable picture, find out more about me, my coaching, link to my website, see my adorable picture, at That’s, Sex, Tantra and Kama Sutra: Bringing You The Soul of Sex.