Guys, Don’t (Dis)miss Valentine’s Day!

Here’s the scenario, fellas: It’s February, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. You’re tired of the commercial push for flowers, jewelry, and a fancy dinner for your loved one. You scoff at what the holiday has become and refuse to participate. When you tell your lady you just want to treat Valentine’s Day like any other day (since you already know you love each other) she agrees that you don’t have to do anything. You made a simple statement, you got a straight answer, case closed.

Nope. You still need to do something for her for Valentine’s Day.

Confusing, right? You thought she said it was cool, that you don’t need to get her anything or do anything special. Sorry, that was just her being nice and agreeable. Most likely she is hoping that your grouchiness is just a charade, so that when you do something special on Valentine’s Day for her it will be a surprise by contrast. This holiday might not have a special meaning to you, but I guarantee that it holds some meaning for her. For little girls, Valentine’s Day is  all about the excitement of giving and receiving Valentine’s cards. As teenagers, the focus is on crushes and whether boys will profess their adoration on this special day. As grown-ups, working in an office where other women are receiving bouquets of flowers at their desks, women wonder if their guy will make the effort too.

Naysayers of Valentine’s Day, you are completely right that the holiday has gotten out of hand, but only if you believe what all the advertising it telling you – BUY this, GIVE that, SPEND this or she won’t know you love her. It doesn’t have to be like that. It can be about showing your love and making her feel special. You might even disagree with the fact that you feel forced to do these special things on a very specific day of the year. Who cares? If you’re being sweet the other 364 days of the year, what’s one more day?

Doing something special doesn’t mean spending big bucks. All it involves is being thoughtful and caring in making this day different from every other. Is there a movie she always wants to rent, but you pass on it because it’s what you consider a chick flick? Is there a jewelry store in your neighborhood where she always stops to gaze in the window? Maybe there’s a recipe she emailed you in the past, with a note about how delicious it looks? Perhaps you work long hours, and you know all she really wants is to cuddle up on the couch with you for a few hours without the beeping of cell phones and email?

Skeptics of Valentine’s Day might also feel it’s unfair that society has put so much of the responsibility of present giving or romantic planning on the guy. Guys shouldn’t fall into the trap of that mindset. Making someone else feel special is completely worth it. It grows the bond between you and your loved one, and you will reap the benefits in the immediate as well as in the future.

Now, if you haven’t already, go think up something sweet that will make her smile!

Guys, do you always make sure to do something for her on Valentine’s Day? Have you ever skipped out on the holiday? Ladies, do you agree that it’s important to celebrate the day? What was the best thing a guy ever did for you on Valentine’s Day?

Card image found here.

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Book Review – No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried to Make it Better by Elizabeth Weil

Over the past few years, especially since Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert published to great fame, there has been an influx of memoirs by “regular” people who took a year from their normal routines to change their lives. The authors’ changes range from the very specific, as A.J. Jacobs did in A Year of Living Biblically when he followed every single rule in the bible, to the more conceptual, as Gretchen Rubin did in The Happiness Project, where she aimed to find ways to bring more happiness into everyday life. Elizabeth Weil’s book, No Cheating, No Dying: I Had a Good Marriage. Then I Tried to Make it Better follows the latter concept – over the course of a year, could she make her already happy marriage happier?

Elizabeth’s journey involved looking deep into the issues that every couple deals with – money, sex, food, religion, etc. – to see if there was room for improvement in her own relationship. She consulted with sex therapists, financial planners, marriage coaches, and rabbis to get answers. The book basically reads like a memoir, but there are facts and research about marriage and relationships where relevant. I was able to read the book in just a day because the concept is so compelling. So often you hear about couples who decide to work on their relationships with therapists or counselors when things have gotten too unbearable to deal with anymore. The suggestion implicit in Elizabeth’s book is to be proactive about your relationship when times are good, in hopes that you can effectively communicate, connect, and build on your already solid foundation.

I loved Elizabeth’s candid descriptions of her relationship. She writes very openly and honestly about her and her husband’s past, their conflicts during the project, and the issues that come up time and again in their relationship. Even her descriptions of family and friends are very forthright. She isn’t afraid to describe things the way they truly are. If there is any issue I had with the book, it’s that I wanted more of that, the honest meat of their relationship and the straightforward experiences, rather than the stats about marriage. While the data was nice, the real heart of the story is about her and her husband.

I give this book a solid 3 carats. It’s not likely a book you will need to read more than once (so maybe borrow it from the library or buy it from a used bookstore), but still, it’s a lovely peek inside a couple’s relationship.

Book image found here. Diamond review image is hand drawn by me!

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The Thin Line Between Love and Engagement Nagging

It’s common to reference a ticking biological clock when a woman begins feeling the intense desire to have a baby, but what about earlier in the relationship story, when all she can hear is the loud tick-tock of the engagement clock?

As the modern-day relationship benchmarks are crossed — first date, moving in together, getting a pet — many of us get impatient to cross the engagement threshold. We already split the bills, share a bed, and know we don’t want to be with anyone else. So what is taking so long? This is the moment where us women do the thing we know we shouldn’t, but can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing… engagement nagging. It starts simply enough. We comment  to our boyfriend on a ring in a magazine ad that we would love to wear someday. Or while looking through a friend’s wedding photos we mention how we’ve always wanted a wedding with flowers like that. At first we are mentioning these things simply to see if our thoughts about the relationship and future marriage are in sync with our partner’s.

But then the slippery slope dips, and it becomes an undercurrent of engagement nagging. We purposefully drop hints about marriage in more and more situations. It becomes less about wanting to know if our partner is on the same page, and more about reminding him that we are thinking about marriage. A LOT. And for some reason, we seem to think that reminding him of this, more and more often, will make him propose. It is a hard place to be, feeling like you are a step ahead of your boyfriend, and not knowing when he will catch up. What can be done?

Ladies, here’s the thing we all already know but have a hard time reminding ourselves: if you have dropped hints on several occasions, he knows you want to marry him. He has gotten the message. Repeating that message when you are not getting an equivalent level of enthusiasm back from him will possibly delay the goal you are trying so hard to achieve. He may start feeling like there is no space to propose, since your conversations are constantly mentioning it. Plus, the pressure has now continued to build, all around this thing you expressed you want from him. One of the best things you can do is have a quick conversation to clear the air. Tell him that you know you have been bringing up marriage a lot, and that you’re just really excited about spending your life with him. And then ease up on the marriage hints. Give him room to think about proposing without all the pressure. Sometimes that is all it takes to let the natural course reset itself.

And guys, here is what we ask of you: please remember that since we were all very little girls, the fairytales we were read in bed, the movies we have seen, the magazine ads we have flipped through, have all told us we want to get married. And when we find the guy we truly want to be with, we can’t help but think about the day when we will hear a proposal from him. If you haven’t been proposing because your girlfriend is constantly bringing it up, forgive her. But if you’re not proposing because you have an inherent fear of marriage, or because there are things about the relationship you feel need to be addressed first, or because you’re not in the professional or financial place you want to be before joining lives so completely, let us know. Communicating that will help us understand you better, and perhaps even tap the snooze button on our ticking alarm clock.

Ladies, do you find yourself engagement nagging when you know you shouldn’t? Guys, are you feeling the pressure from your girlfriend to the point that you’re not proposing because of it?

Diamond ring clock image found here.

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The Holiday Proposal

Guys, it’s hard enough to decide it’s time to propose, let alone figure out what ring to present her with at that special moment. But there’s also the question of… When? In honor of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to discuss The Holiday Proposal.

There are 365 days a year when you can propose (heck, there’s even an extra 366th day during a Leap Year), so which day should you choose? Some people propose on a holiday, such as Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, or even Independence Day (built-in fireworks!). Is that the best way to go for you? Is that what she really wants? Here are some things to consider:

  • Is this holiday something special to her? If your girlfriend has always said New Years is silly, or Valentine’s Day is just a holiday fueled by companies trying to sell chocolate and flowers, it might not be the best day for you to propose.
  • How important is it that you remember the date you proposed? Usually couples celebrate the day of their first date, or of their marriage, so celebrating the date of the proposal each year isn’t all that important. But, it might give an extra oomph to the holiday each year when you are able to reminisce about the year you proposed.
  • Will it make for a good story? Proposing to the woman you love is a momentous occassion, and you want to make it special for her. Just remember to keep that sentiment alive when proposing on a holiday. Propose with the same planning and detail as you would on any other day, rather than hoping that just the fact that it happened on a holiday will be enough. After being proposed to, women love to be able to tell their friends all the unique details of their romantic proposal.
  • Is there a chance one of her friends will get proposed to on this holiday? If you are friends with her friends (or their boyfriends), try and see if you can find out whether any of the other guys in the group are planning to propose on that day. While we girls love to be supportive of our friends when they get engaged, we might not want to share to spotlight when it comes to announcing our special news.
  • Is she hoping you will propose soon? Here’s a little secret guys — if you and your girlfriend have talked about marriage, and you can tell that she has been hoping you will surprise her with a ring soon, then every time a holiday comes around she is thinking you might propose. We know that holidays are a key time for people to get engaged, and so we wonder if it just might be the day we get proposed to as well.

In the end, you know your girlfriend and what she likes. If you think there are some things from the list above that might mean she won’t enjoy a holiday proposal, then hold off for another day. Heck, propose on the day before a holiday! She’ll never expect that!

What do you think, Ladies? Would you want to be proposed to on a holiday?

Candy hearts image found here.

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The “M” Word

After a self-imposed four year hiatus from watching The Bachelor, I have been sucked back in. Call it a bad romance, but knowing that Brad Womack was coming back for his second chance at love after ending his original season by choosing neither of the girls, I had to see what would happen this time. Season 15 has a heavy dosage of the theme of redemption and forgiveness, and the previews make it seem as if this time around it will be Brad who is left at the altar. Let the voyeurism begin!

Admittedly this is reality television, and therefore not all that realistic, but a few moments in the first episode struck me. Brad is greeting the thirty women as they step out of their limos when one of them, within 10 seconds of meeting him, declares that she wants to get married. Another asks him to get down on one knee and propose right there. And yet another girl says that she wants to take him to meet her parents. The format of the show is like dating on speed, so of course, normal relationships don’t start out this way. But it brings up the question: when is it ok to bring up the “M” word in a relationship?

The women on The Bachelor feel that they have to differentiate themselves, since after all this is a competition, so they are usually a bit more forward than the rest of us on the other side of the television looking glass. Out here, our relationships are allowed to have their own road maps and time frames. And while laying all your cards on the table on the first date might seem like a good idea, it can be a bit too intense for most potential suitors. So when is it right?

The greatest fear when bringing up marriage is usually, “does the other person feel the same way I do? And if not, what does that mean for the relationship?” And yet it is hard at some point in the relationship not to let the words just bubble up and get blurted out. It doesn’t mean that you want to get married right this very moment. It’s just that the relationship is progressing, and you want to know if it is headed towards a collective goal. I have been on both sides of this proverbial relationship coin. I have brought up marriage with a partner, and seen that flinch, or heard that gulp, indicating that the hot topic arrow has officially reached it’s bullsye. And all of those outward reactions are not necessarily bad. Because in relationships, it is usually best to know where each of you are at. Even if your timelines aren’t perfectly aligned, it doesn’t mean you won’t reach the finish line together. So I say, bring it up when you’re ready, but be prepared to really listen to what the other person has to say as well. He or she might have been stifling the desire to talk about it too. And if they weren’t, now they know a bit more about how you’re feeling. Which means now you can move forward together.

What do you think? Is there a time in a relationship when it is just too soon to bring up marriage? Have you ever been surprised by what your partner said when you eventually brought it up?

The Bachelor image found here.

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