Rob, 35, from California asks:
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?
Rob, that’s a great question. Some guys might have just blown it off and thought, “Hmmm, maybe this year I’ll get her some lingerie in a different color.” Sounds like you’re guessing that is not the answer, unless you like being told off and sexually frustrated.
In terms of what you can get, you need to get clear on what both your expectations are about Valentine’s Day… and the more explicit the better! Because likely, her reaction last year is not only a symptom of what’s really going on, but has now had a chance to fester and become a resentment for you both. That is like poison in a relationship. So, getting clarity is what should be first on your list!
You can start by saying a simple “I love you (fill in her pet name; babe, honey, sweetie) and I know last year’s Valentine’s was a little rough, so I was wondering what we could do to make this one special.” Things could go either way: on one hand, your inquiry might elicit a simple and straightforward answer like “Awww, thanks for asking honey, I don’t know…what were you thinking?” Maybe she too realizes how Valentine’s Day conjures old memories or expectations, and all she wanted was to be asked. Or you might have created an opportunity to listen to what really upset her last year, a great segue to discussing what Valentine’s Day means, and have a mature and loving talk about how you both would like this one to play out.
If it’s the latter and you’d like this to stay on course, to be effective, constructive, mature and responsible (as opposed to her unloading, reacting or blaming, or whatever your concern), here are some guidelines that will help set you up to succeed in engaging in responsible, effective communication:
1. State your objective clearly: I want to talk about how we can have a great Valentine’s Day together this year.
2. Timing: Make sure you don’t approach her while she’s on her way out the door, brushing her teeth or obviously frantic about anything. Most women, when you say “I want to talk,” will likely want to talk now. If not, ask her when a good time is.
3. Agree on some ground rules, such as the following: We each get 3-5 minutes to talk without interruption, without using I-messages and without blame. If neither one of you knows what an I-message is, go online and find out, it could save your relationship. An example is, “I felt disappointed when you gave me lingerie when I really wanted to go out to a romantic dinner.” or, “I feel resentful that you don’t spend more time being romantic like we used to be.” Then you say: “I feel angry about how contrived this holiday is sometimes and then I feel pressure on me to do it perfect and if I don’t do it right I’ll get cut off and I don’t like guessing at what you want or trying to read your mind.”
4. Repeat what you heard: This is critical; take turns and repeat back what you heard each other say. Doing this carefully and sincerely allows you to unlock your compassionate heart and start moving the energy from feeling separate towards being more connected.
5. Be honest about how you would like it to be: Spend 3-5 minutes telling each other what you want this Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s in general to be like ideally. “I would like to go out to a nice dinner, surprise me on where, and then let’s maybe come home and fool around, I love the buildup…” And you might say: “I would really like to stay in, order takeout and then have you give me a sexy massage and skip your friend’s party.”
6. Negotiate on each other’s behalf: This is the fun part; now you get to switch roles and be each other’s advocate, keeping in mind the ultimate goal, which is to create more intimacy and connection! That might look like, she says on his behalf: “How about I make you dinner, give you a massage, we stop by the party if you still want to for an hour?” And then he says on her behalf: “How about I take you out for champagne and appetizers, we stop by your friend’s for a half hour and then come home and give each other massages?”
Typically, after you have taken care to connect and hear each other, you realize that you both want the same thing: to be together, to understand what each other wants and to please one another. You just might let it all go, pop a bottle of bubbly, Skype your friends at the party while she’s wearing your lingerie and then take a taxi to an all-night diner after you’ve made love!
The thing is, relationships aren’t tidy and our wants and needs change from moment to moment, year-in and year-out. So while you may not be willing to give or get what you want this time, keep in mind that Valentine’s Day or not, true love is kind, patient and always respectful. We don’t need a holiday to remember that! And responsible communication is the way we can show it 365 days a year!
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Mar 2012
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2012). 6 Steps For Better Communication About Valentine’s Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/02/13/6-steps-for-better-communication-about-valentines-day/