I was married for almost 8 years before I ever did something really nice for my wife on Valentines Day. I probably shouldn’t start with a confession, but I don’t want every single reader to feel like I’m on a high horse. Because the fact is: if you are reading this, and you’ve never done anything really nice for your wife, realize that I was one of you.
When Mel and I first got married, I was in college. Once I finished, she went back to school. We had three kids along the way. We moved to a few states. In so many ways we were broke, or we were living in a state where we didn’t have family, which made getting a sitter difficult. But when I think back on that time, it was more about me feeling like we couldn’t afford to go someplace nice once a year because it would be a waste of money, or because we simply didn’t have the time, or both.
But the reality is, we could have made it work. We could have gotten dressed up and gone out, but I wasn’t interested in that sort of thing. I mean honestly, I’ve worn a tux three times in my life: at my brother’s wedding, my sister’s wedding, and my own wedding. All three times I hated it. We probably could have found someone to watch the kids too, but I didn’t really want to call around and impose on people we didn’t know all that well.
But, honestly, the real reason we never did anything nice for Valentines Day wasn’t money or child care. It was because I was lazy — and laziness isn’t a quality that has ever helped support a long-term marriage.
Look, I’m not proud of this. And before we go further, let’s define what “doing something nice on Valentine’s Day” actually looks like. It’s not an “I love you” text message. It’s not a heart-shaped pizza. It’s not a coupon for a back massage with a wink that ultimately ends up not being a gift for her. And it’s definitely not edible lingerie.
Doing something nice means doing something out of the ordinary. Something special. Something different.
It might be going to a restaurant that takes reservations. Maybe even a place that makes its own wine, and has a dress code. And if that’s out of your price range, I get it. I’ve been there. Do something unexpected. Do something that takes thought, like getting a sitter and taking her to where you went on your first date, or first held hands, or shared your first kiss. Then… kiss her again.
Or order her some of the flowers from her wedding bouquet. Or put together a photo album of moments you remember fondly and surprise her with it. You can do both of these online easily and inexpensively.
Now, I know, you might be wondering: Why is all this is important? Valentine’s Day is just some manufactured holiday to sell cards, right?
Well, maybe. But getting a sitter and making a reservation can be a wonderful gesture of love too. No doubt about it.
But that’s not why I do it. I don’t do something really nice for my wife on Valentine’s Day because I want to check a box that says “Do something nice for your wife Valentines Day.”
I have more selfish reasons.
You see, a few years ago, I splurged and took my wife to a really nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day. It was part of a vineyard in Oregon. The place was at the top of a hill over looking an eternity of grapes lined up in perfectly separated rows. The building looked a lot like a castle, made from hunks of stone, with large windows on all sides.
Mel and I were dressed to the nines, and we sat at a table next to a wood burring fireplace eating our meals. We watched the sun set, and although we’d been married for over a decade, there was something about the sunlight going down that made her eyes look bluer than I’d ever seen them before. There was something about the sound of her laugh next to the crackle of a fireplace that made the pitch just right. There was something about the way she smiled with a vineyard in the background that made me feel a resurgence of love for my wife and mother of my three children that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I know, this all sounds kind of mushy. Perhaps it’s over the top, I don’t know if I can fully capture the magic of the moment, but what I do know is that for days after that night out, I couldn’t get that image of her out of my head.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that evening. And when I think about that now, I realize that doing something really nice for my wife on Valentines Day wasn’t a waste of money or time, but an investment in our relationship. An investment in us.
And considering how easy it can be for a marriage to fall apart, especially amidst the chaos that is parenting young children, doing something that helps you see your wife with new eyes feels pretty worthwhile, don’t you think?