Valentine’s Day is, for the most part, about women. Guys tend to be less enthusiastic about it, mostly because of the fear factor they have over the prospect of screwing it up. But for men and women alike, it can be a time of high expectations followed by failure and disappointment. For weeks afterwards, the internet will still be buzzing with the many horror stories of Valentine’s Days gone wrong.
I have some pretty good ideas for making the best of Valentine's, which I've broken down into five survival tips below, but first I thought it might be interesting to look at what men are feeling as the holiday draws near.
If you peruse the men’s magazines and websites this month, you’ll notice that guys are going through their grumbling stage before the event. While women's media is building our expectations to impossible highs, men are preparing for disaster. It seems that Valentine's is a high pressure day for guys, and the meaning of the day has been completely lost in the turmoil. The most positive male perspective I could find about Valentine's Day was that it could potentially be used to “earn brownie points,” but even this optimism was tempered with cautions about how hard it would be to “live it down” if they “screwed up.” “Pretend you're not put out by the ordeal that is Valentines Day,” one article advised. And I found a number of “don’t panic” guides for men who still don't have a plan of action. From the man’s point of view, Valentine's Day seems like more of a tribulation than a celebration. I think it would surprise men to know that it can be just as stressful for women. There can be an enormous amount of anxiety for a woman to come face to face with how much or little her man cares. With all the hype associated with it, Valentine's Day can become too closely connected to our egos and his performance can wreak havoc with our self esteem. This is because women need to feel valued and loved. We don’t want to be disappointed. Perhaps this is why we become so upset when we are.
For a woman, Valentine’s Day is about the man in her life acknowledging, appreciating and celebrating her softer, more romantic side, and everything that she brings to the relationship. It's a chance for him to reciprocate. However, many men see it as little more than another excuse to make him jump through hoops.
I'm not excusing male thoughtlessness. If I were writing this newsletter for men I would be stressing the importance of Valentine's day and all of the many reasons why it is so important. But since the majority of my readers are women, I’d rather focus on some ways we can walk away from this holiday with our self esteem intact - regardless of what he does or doesn't do.
The main thing to remember (and ironically the first thing we usually forget) is that men are very different from us. This sounds so simple, and yet it continues to be a major cause of conflicts. Remember the golden rule “do onto others as you would have them do onto you?” Well, it doesn’t always apply between the opposite sex. One of the best relationship books I’ve read is Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. In his book he explains that each individual has their own “love language,” and that you can actually determine a person's language by how they show love to others. In other words, if your guy works harder and longer hours to provide for the people he loves, that could indicate that his love language is providing and being provided for. He will probably appreciate having things done for him. If, for example, one of his household chores is taking out the trash, you taking out the trash for him could be construed, in his mind, as a very loving gesture. You, on the other hand, may give your time to the people you love and, in this case, you likely feel loved when someone wants to spend time with you. These two examples illlustrate two completely different love languages. Understanding this helps us realize that giving others what we want isn't necessarily giving them something they want (this is a very rudimentary summary of what’s in the book. It's a great read that I highly recommend).
The point is, men are very pragmatic, so they often view holidays like Valentine’s Day as cheesy and insincere (interestingly, the three most popular Valentine’s gifts are steeped in human suffering. Did you know that most of the roses sold in the U.S. are grown in Latin America, using an overabundance of chemicals and pesticides that put the workers and the environment at risk? Or that a huge percentage of cocoa beans used for chocolate are harvested by child labor in the Ivory Coast? Or that the workers who mine diamonds suffer horrible working conditions while the revenue they produce is used to support the war effort?). Men have a hard time understanding the importance of this day to us because it isn’t significant to them. They have a hard time seeing it as having anything to do with their feelings for us. If you believe and understand this, it can take a lot of the pressure off both of you.
Communication can help. What would you like him to do for Valentine’s Day? If you’re like most women you want him to do something that will make you feel appreciated and valued. Having your own personal love language, you’re the only person who really knows what that is. So tell him, and keep reminding him. Even if you’ve told him before, it’s probably so different from what he wants that he will question that it's really what you want. And no, guys don't just “know” what it is if he truly loves you. Our own mothers may not even know. This idea that the “right” guy will instinctively know what we want is an unreasonable expectation that the media has encouraged. It isn’t based in reality. If you want something from a man you have to literally say the words; “I want you to (fill in the blank).” Notice how I didn’t even venture a guess as to what it might be. That’s because even being a woman with years and years of research about women behind me, I have no idea what might make you feel valued on Valentine’s Day. You may say, “yes, but my husband/boyfriend should know me by now.” Perhaps, but if you’re like most women you’re subject to change. What made you happy last year won’t make you happy today. That’s another difference between the sexes. Women are constantly re-evaluating who they are and what’s important, whereas men often need a crisis to make them change. Look, the truth is that we are simply more difficult to please than men are, and there are times when we don’t even know what we want ourselves. Men, on the other hand, are generally less complex and strikingly similar in what they want. They generally want to be appreciated and have their basic needs met (mainly food and sex). Women, on the other hand, have a wide variety of hot zones and cold zones, with thousands of zones in between. You really have to know a woman to truly please her. As a woman, you can help him out by saying things like; “I feel appreciated when you (fill in the blank).” Talk slowly and calmly. Leave anger out of it. Instead of saying; “Do you really think it makes me feel appreciated when you (fill in one of his stupid behaviors here),” try; “I would love it if you (fill in preferred behavior here).” For some women, it ruins it for them to have to ask for what they want. I feel bad for them. I’m afraid they might be doomed to a life of disappointment.
The idea is to get what you want and be happy right? Most men are actually very generous and they enjoy pleasing their loved ones. They just want to be appreciated. Yes! They want something back, the selfish bastards! So compliment him when he gets it right, and throw in loads of details. “I just loved the dark chocolates with the almonds in them,” you might say. I know many women dislike this idea but, if you have expectations about something, why not help those expectations come to fruition? Perhaps you’re afraid he won’t even remember Valentine’s Day. If that is the case, why not say something like; “I want to go dancing on Valentine's Day?” or “Have you made any plans for Valentine’s yet? Because I have been dying to try out that new little restaurant on Main Street.” He will appreciate both the reminder and the tip about what you want to do. You might be thinking; “And do I have to bathe and dress him too?” Well, if you think there’s a chance he might show up in greasy coveralls, then yes, that might not be a bad idea. Whatever it takes to get what you want. Seriously, if you’re with him, you might as well make the best of it, right? Men are what they are. I find that most of them try harder if you give them a little help now and then. If they feel like they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, what’s the point of trying, right?
The object is to have a good day. It is not prove yet again what a jerk he is. It is a fallacy that we will feel better about ourselves if we can make someone else feel worse. That doesn’t work.
Whether you’re with someone or alone, Valentine's can be fun if you take charge of your own destiny. Regardless of your social status, these five tips can put you in control.
2. Many women think of Valentine’s Day as an indicator of their value to their partners. Why not pass on this very high risk venture on your self esteem and do something to increase your confidence so you will be less vulnerable to his potentially thoughtless actions? You could spend the day doing something entirely for the betterment of yourself. Read a book, go to the gym, sign up for a course at the local college. The point is, if you find yourself too easily crushed by the behavior of someone else, maybe you’ve allowed yourself to become too dependent. What's your opinion of yourself? Could you use improvement? Why not start today?
3. Try not buying him a gift. Get a card if you must (my recommendation, actually, would be a sticky note attached to the fridge). The key to this is not to be bitter about it. “Happy Valentines Day darling!!!!!” is preferable to something whiny and pathetic like; “Did you forget again?” There are guys out there who actually know how to really spoil a girl on this day, and if that sounds like your guy this tip is not for you. The question to ask yourself is this; "do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya? If you go all out and prepare something extravagant and in return you get a cheap box of chocolates will your feelings be hurt? If the answer is yes, maybe you shouldn’t do it. You’ll only be setting yourself up. Give him the chance to be the hero. Its good for you and its good for him.
4. Any time your self esteem is being tested you ought to look your best. Wear that special outfit that’s been sitting in the back of your closet (what are you saving it for?). Do whatever it takes to make you feel pretty. Take extra time getting ready. Get out of the house or office, and stop every chance you get to talk to strangers. Pretend your single again and flirt (if you are single, Valentine’s Day is a great day to meet someone because, weirdly enough, men who are single and lonely actually seem to be more in tuned to this holiday).
5. Try thinking of someone else. Okay, this may appear to contradict the first tip, but it actually doesn’t because in this case you're doing it for you. A great way to get out of your own head is to focus on the people around you. Try performing some completely selfless acts. The more anonymous and random the acts the better. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Valentine’s Day falls in the middle of the Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb 12 -18). This is a great opportunity to do simple little things that can make another person’s day. These days, it could be something as easy as being polite, opening doors for others, giving up your seat on the bus, or letting the other car go before you on the road. Look for creative ways to make people smile. Your self esteem will soar, and you’ll be doing something good. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. Random acts of kindness provide you with a wonderful opportunity to expand your awareness and experiment with your potential to be divine. Through random acts of kindness you suddenly realize the incredible power you possess through something as simple as a kind word. It’s invigorating, and in this day and time, when random acts of violence are becoming the norm, the influence of your kindness could make a huge difference in a stranger's life. Since we’re talking about Valentine’s Day, think of all the lonely people out there. Perhaps you know someone who has lost a love. Maybe they would appreciate a small token on this day. This began with you wanting to feel special, but wouldn’t it be great to help someone else feel that way? Ironically, doing so could give you the feeling too. If you love this idea as much as I do but are short of ideas, here are a few that I discovered online from those who practice these random acts all the time.
· Visit someone who is sick or infirm.
· Reach out to a child in some way
· Pay the toll of the person behind you
· Leave an anonymous treat for someone at work
· Buy coffee for the person behind you in line
· Make a pot of soup for a neighbor
· Volunteer for a few hours at an animal shelter
· Drop Valentines off at a retirement home
· Put quarters in someone else's parking meter
· Recruit some friends to join you in your random acts
· Show appreciation for whatever your significant other does for you on Valentine’s day
These tips should increase your joy on Valentine’s Day. However, that still leaves Valentine’s night. Hopefully, you’ll be cuddling up to the one you love, but it never hurts to have a backup plan just in case. Depending on your mood, you might enjoy a heartwarming, feel good movie to lift your spirits. There are lots of great movies out there but I would recommend Where the Heart Is. It is a wonderful story that is perfect for Valentine’s Day. However, if you prefer something more interactive that you can share with your significant other, a book of erotica might be a fun way to get you both in the mood. May I suggest one of mine (Enchanted, Enchanted Again, or The Twelve Dancing Princesses)? My books feature erotic short stories that have none of those pesky female stereotypes to make you feel bad about yourself. Or, maybe you already have a favorite erotic book of your own. Valentine's night is the perfect time to share it with him. Tell him why you like it. It could bring you closer together. I guarantee you’ll capture his interest. And lastly, if all else fails, one of the best ways I have found for lightening any mood is through laughter. If you also find laughter to be a good medicine, you might like the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. And if you have another five minutes or so after reading this article, check out this YouTube video I found online. It's hilarious. To view it click on the link below:
Have a happy Valentine’s Day!
Nancy Madore, Author