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A Valentine’s Day Challenge
By Sheila Wray Gregoire
Valentine’s Day is approaching, posing a challenge for everyone from third grade girls trying to figure out which cards to buy to lonely adults reaching for the Haagen- Dazs. Today, though, I’d like to spend some time talking to women who are waiting with bated breath for their husbands to mess up. We can think of a myriad of ways that they can buy exactly the wrong gift, the wrong card, or fail to buy either of the above, any of which will result in our profound disappointment.
I am a big fan of chocolate truffles. But after being unable to lose that last ten pounds of baby weight, I started to become self-conscious. That was also the year that my husband decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day all year long. Each month he bought me flowers. At first I was pleased, though a tad disappointed a chocolate box didn’t accompany them.
He attributed my discomfort to the wrong blooms. The bouquets became more elaborate as I became grumpier and grumpier about his choice of gift. Finally, in July, I burst out, “You think I’m fat, don’t you?!” My poor husband didn’t know what hit him.
Perhaps you’re thinking I know nothing about pathetic husbands since yours can’t tell the difference between a carnation and a lily. But isn’t that the point? Police have speed radar guns, but I think we women have romantic radar guns. We’re holding them up to our men, just waiting for them to cross that line so that we can retain our status as The Good One in the relationship.
Are we women really the romantic experts we think we are? I’m not so sure. I think we are simply experts in women, rather than in romance. But we believe that our interpretation of romance is the correct one.
Romance is simply showing the other person that you value them for who they are—not just what they can do for you. But if romance is demonstrating that we value the other person, then there must be a Male Romantic Code in the same way that there’s a Female Romantic Code! Most married women, of course, assume that they have deciphered that particular code long ago: it’s three letters long and—well, you know the rest. But most men need far more than that—though those three letters sure don’t hurt—and if we women can’t see it, perhaps we’re not as romantic as we think we are.
We live in a culture which assumes that men are dense while women are insightful, morally superior, and selfless. We know romance; they know sports. We keep the relationship together; they wouldn’t remember their own mother’s birthday if it weren’t for us. And with these stereotypes floating in the very air we breathe, it’s easy for women to feel as if we are the marriage experts, and thus we have nothing to learn and everything to teach.
Yet while we women may yearn to be romantically pursued, that’s awfully hard to accomplish if we’ve made sure that our men, instead of feeling like knights in shining armor, feel more like captured vassals who need to be locked up in the tower until they repent.
This Valentine’s Day, instead of asking what he is—or isn’t—doing for you, why not ask what you can do for him?
Could you cook him a romantic dinner, but instead of focusing on your arugula salad and low-fat crab quiche, could you prepare ribs and mashed potatoes by candlelight? Could you buy tickets to a hockey game to watch together? Could you watch a war movie with him? Can you show him that you value his interests, his time, and his opinion, and don’t think that your way is automatically the right one? Now that’s the language of romance, and I think it’s time we women learned to speak it.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is a marriage speaker, author of The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, and a blogger at http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com. Find Sheila on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sheila.gregoire.books .