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What Really Matters On Valentine’s Day
Dr. Haltzman explains why guys shouldn’t fret over finding the perfect gift.


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It's important to understand what really matters on February 14th.


Several years ago I published a poll for Valentine’s Day as part of ongoing research for my book, The Secrets of Happily Married Men. I asked guys for their feelings about Valentine’s Day. The results of the poll didn’t surprise me: about 15 percent of the guys eagerly looked forward to the day; the majority were either neutral or downright angry. Most men felt like slaves to the greeting card industry!

I understand why most guys don’t cherish Valentine’s Day. Let’s face it: despite all the hype about it being a day for lovers, couples and romantics, it’s really a day for women. Women look forward to the cards, the flowers, the jewelry, the chocolates and the candle-lit dinners. Guys know that their wives want something special, and they put their efforts and wallet into finding just the right thing to make their women happy.

In print, "The right thing to make their women happy" sounds pretty tame, but if you’ve ever been a guy (which, studies show, is true of about half of Americans) you know that making women happy can sometimes be an anxiety-ridden and seemingly fruitless task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Feeling anxious about Valentine’s Day is really more about your attitude than your wife’s needs. Most men get tense about Valentine’s Day because they think they have to get just the right present, give it just the right way, at just the right time. As they sense the rising expectations to be the perfect Valentine, they have increasing fears and doubts about meeting their woman’s needs. Men start to get resentful of the pressure, rail against Hallmark, and end up wishing the holiday would disappear. By the time February 14 rolls around, they are downright cranky! And that doesn’t feel so good to their main squeezes.

Instead of seeing Valentine’s Day as a burden thrust upon you by outside forces, look at it as something you want to do to express appreciation for all the great things your woman has brought to your life. If you ran a business, you wouldn’t be resentful that your employees expected to get a little envelope on Friday afternoons. If you got a haircut, you wouldn’t fret over dishing out a few bills to the barber before you walked back to your car. People who provide something of value to you want recognition for what they do. If your lady is like most wives that I know, she wants recognition too. Think of Valentine’s Day as you would any Friday, it’s just a reminder to you that it’s time to meet payroll.

I used to fall into the same camp as the average man. I used to get awfully anxious in the first two weeks of February. I was afraid I wouldn't meet my wife's expectations. Now I’m thankful for the holiday because, the fact is my wife doesn’t expect perfection, she expects appreciation, and I really don’t let my wife know often enough how much she means to me. (I ought to do it everyday, but life gets in the way.) So now the world has conspired to remind me to show my wife I care. It’s like the calendar is telling me, "It’s payday." Thanks, calendar!

Once you shift your attitude from reluctance to enthusiasm, you’ll realize that don’t have to get her the perfect gift, you just have to make her feel special. There are some things to keep in mind, though, if you want to make it a day she’ll remember: The most important thing when selecting a gift is to remember what matters to your wife. She’ll notice the thought that you put into it. If she doesn't love jewelry, then it doesn't make sense to go out and buy a tennis bracelet. If she loves the Celtics, then a ticket to a home game may mean more than a ticket to the ballet.

Buy something. Making a gift or cooking a dinner (followed by doing the dishes) can be a thoughtful way of celebrating the day, and your wife may really appreciate it. But unless you’re dead broke, you should probably purchase your wife at least one gift, even if it’s just a card. Giving a material gift is a symbolic way of saying that you’ve made a financial sacrifice for her, which sends a powerful message to your woman that you wish to provide for her and protect her.

If you want to take her out, do it without the kids. On this day, it’s up to you to find a babysitter—don’t ask her to help, just do it!

Don't procrastinate when buying a gift or a card. It’s amazing to see all the men desperately sorting through the card isle at the pharmacy on the morning of Valentine’s Day. Your wife wasn’t born yesterday, she knows why you’re scooting out 10 minutes early to work! She’ll really appreciate that not only did you think of it in advance, but you did something about it.

So, get over the commercialism of Valentine’s Day, it’s not here to hurt you. Start preparing to make this a great day for your wife. She’ll love what you do for her, you’ll be happy to see her reaction. After all, who doesn’t like payday!

Dr. Haltzman is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He is also the author of the newly released "The Secrets of Happily Married Women: How to Get More Out of Your Relationship by Doing Less." You can find Dr. Haltzman at www.DrScott.com

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