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Last year my wife flipped out when I bought her lingerie for Valentine’s Day. The truth is, I still don’t know why. She just got angry and said “Isn’t it obvious?” and that was it. Any advice on what I get her this year that won’t set her off (and that we both can enjoy), which is what I thought the point of Valentine’s Day was?
Hi Rob, thanks for your question. And it’s a great question, too, because I know a lot of guys would have blown it off and just guessed again this year, and as you’ve probably figured out, that’s not a great solution if your track record with guessing is less than stellar. Unless of course you just enjoy sexual frustration.
So, in terms of a gift… it’s less about “buying the right thing” and more about getting some clarity on what she expects from Valentine’s Day in terms of general atmosphere and activities, and also what you expect. Because it’s likely that her reaction last year was not so much about the gift in particular, but rather was a symptom of something else going on. Now that she’s had a year to feel resentful about whatever it was, it is more important than ever to get clear on what each of your expectations are.
But how does one begin such a difficult conversation? Starting a simple and loving way, telling her that you realise last year was a little rough, and you were hoping to talk about what you could both do together to make this year really special. One of two things will happen: either she’ll give you a straightforward answer and open up a conversation strictly about possibilities for Valentine’s activities this year, or you might get a chance to listen to the real reasons behind why she was upset last year. This is a great foundation from which to talk about what Valentine’s Day means to both of you.
It’s important, however, to make sure the conversation stays on course. You don’t want to start playing the blame game or devolve into finger-pointing; here are some tips to help you engage in an effective, constructive, and mature conversation.
Start by agreeing on what you’re talking about: “I would like to talk about how we can make Valentine’s Day special.”
Don’t ruin things with bad timing: When you say, “I want to talk,” most women will want to talk right now. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably not a great idea to approach the subject when she’s agitated about something, in a hurry, or in the middle of doing something else.
Set up ground rules: Maybe you could agree to each have 3 to 5 minutes to speak uninterrupted, about whatever you would like (this Valentine’s Day, last Valentine’s Day, or whatever you want). Make sure you are careful to focus on your feelings rather than your perceptions of what the other person did wrong. For example, “I felt confused when you got angry” is much more constructive phrasing than “you always get angry for no reason.”
Recap what you heard: It’s important to take turns and repeat what the other person said, so that you are each sure your message is getting through.
Talk honestly about the ideal situation: Take another 3 to 5 minutes each describing what an ideal Valentine’s Day would be like if you could have everything exactly how you wanted it.
Negotiate for each other: It might go like this: she might say, “how about we go see a movie, then we’ll come home and I’ll make you dinner, and maybe I’ll give you a massage?” Then he might say, “why don’t I take you out to dinner before the movie, then afterward we can come home and give each other massages?”
Connecting with and listening to each other is a delicate art. Each of us is subject to changing moods and changing desires, and often we expect the other person to read our mind. When you hear what each other is saying, often you find you’re looking for the same thing: to spend time together and be happy around one another. There may be some compromise involved, but remember that the true meaning of Valentine’s Day is that love is kind, responsible, and above all, respectful.