Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Salvaging Valentine's Day

When I was a young wife, I was out at the mall with my visiting parents.  I was about to spontaneously buy a flower for my husband, when my dad suggested that my motivation in doing so was because I wanted my husband to buy flowers for me.  He was right, but I didn't realize that was my motive, until he pointed it out to me.  My father is a former Air Force chaplain, and he once shared a story of a beautiful woman who came into his office for counseling.  She complained that her husband never complimented her good looks, and she added, "I always tell him how nice he looks when he gets dressed up."

My dad commented, "Let me guess.  When your husband gets dressed up, he calls it a monkey suit."

She said, "Well, yes he does."

Dad continued, "So when you tell him how nice he looks, you're telling him that he looks like a monkey.  You need to find a way to compliment your husband in a way that makes him feel more like a man."

Together they discussed her husband's skills as a mechanic, and she was encouraged to go home and tell him about how much she appreciated the fact that he always kept their cars running well and what a good job he did.  The following week, the woman waltzed back into my father's office and exclaimed, "He told me I was pretty!"

I have often thought about this simple advice of honoring others in a manner that they can receive.  When I had been married for several years and had a young family, another young mother in her 30s called me on the morning of Valentine's Day.  She was fuming mad and in tears.  She went on to tell me about the fact that she had presented her husband with a card and a cute teddy bear, and he didn't have anything for her that morning.  (He probably planned to pick something up on the way home from work that day.)  Immediately, I thought about my flower story and quickly thought about how I could help diffuse the situation.

Knowing her personality, I knew she could easily stew all day, and even if her husband did bring home a gift, she might fling it back at him in anger.  I told her the flower story and the story of the mechanic's wife.  I let her know that a teddy bear was probably not something her husband would desire as a gift, but she was giving him what she might have wanted.  I told her, "You have two choices:  You can feel sorry for yourself all day and be in a bad mood when your husband gets home from work and your two boys get home from school, or you can do something positive." 

I gave her a positive plan for the day.  I suggested that she take a nice bath, pamper herself, put on a nice outfit, and do her hair and make-up.  I gave her permission to do whatever she wanted to do that made her feel good about herself.  Next, I told her to plan a nice dinner that day as a surprise for her family.  I told her to make a big deal about it and show her family how much she loves them.  I said, "Get out your best dishes, a tablecloth, and candles."  I knew that if she put her energy to use in a positive direction, she would really bless her family and feel better, too.

The next day she called and excitedly told me, "Your plan worked!"  She went on to tell me how thrilled her boys were when they got home from school and saw that their mom was making them a special dinner.  When her husband got home from work, he presented her with a card and a gift, which she happily received.

Valentine's Day is a difficult holiday for many, whether single or married.  If you find it depressing because you are alone or not in a relationship, find someone else in a similar situation who could also use some love and encouragement.  Get a group of friends together to do something fun, make a big deal out of the day with the children in your life, and focus on loving acts of kindness.  My children are now adults, and they still look forward to Mom's heart-shaped waffles, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.  When they were little, I might have even added some cheap Valentine's decorations to the festivities.  As they grew older, we would have a family gourmet dinner, and they would have the fun of trying new things and eating off of the good china by candlelight.

My husband and I decided years ago that romantic events, like Valentine's Day and our wedding anniversary were sometimes stressful because he couldn't read my mind.  He wisely began asking me about my expectations just prior to the event.  Being a practical person and not wanting to break the budget, sometimes I request something as simple as him making me a gourmet dinner at home, watching a movie together, or a simple lunch date.   I appreciate his thoughtfulness in honoring me in this way, and it has saved a few tears.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

Happy Valentine's Day!

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