Even with the best intentions, it’s easy to make mistakes on Valentine’s Day.
When you have a national holiday telling you it’s time to celebrate your love, sometimes you end up “phoning it in.”
I would never do that, I’m a romantic. You think to yourself.
But often, the signs of a lackluster Valentine’s Day effort are subtle.
Below are some common Valentine’s Day mistakes every man should watch out for. In fairness, your significant other needs to pull her weight too. But you can’t control her, you can only focus on you. So here goes…
1. Getting Carried Away With Valentine’s Day “Merch”
I know, this one doesn’t seem fair.
It’s Valentine’s Day. Why shouldn’t I get the cute plush teddy bear with a red bow that says “I love you” when you squeeze its furry paw?
The short answer: if you’re not careful it can come across as impersonal.
Sure, it’s okay to get the big red heart-shaped box of chocolates and even the Valentine’s Day greeting Card.
When you rely only on the drugstore end-cap for all your Valentine’s Day gift-hunting, you make Hershey’s and Hallmark happy. But your significant other may feel like you’re just going through the motions.
2. Expecting a Greeting Card To Do The Talking For You
While it’s OK to get a Valentine’s Day greeting card with a pre-written message, you sure as Hell need to add your own touch.
Does this card, which you purchased at Target for $3.99, really represent the sum of all you feel for your special lady?
Yes, you thought the message was touching/funny/witty/inspiring. But does it sound like something you would say?
You don’t have to be a poet or a master of words. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, the best gift is a gift of yourself.
She doesn’t need a perfect haiku, and she’s not expecting to be wowed by your brilliant prose. She just wants to hear, in your own imperfect words, what she means to you.
3. Giving Only “Classic” (But Impersonal) Valentine’s Day Gifts
I know I’ll get some objections to this, and I have certainly broken this rule. But hear me out.
I’ll admit, there’s a reason certain gifts are classics: women love jewelry, chocolate, and flowers.
That doesn’t mean your job is done if you swing by the jewelry store, grab a box of chocolates and hit the florist on your way home from work.
Look for a way to personalize these gifts in some way. The last thing you want is for your lady to think this is some “template” you use for any woman on Valentine’s Day.
Even if you do stick to the classics like jewelry or chocolate, find a way to customize them for her.
Find out what her birthstone is or what her favorite stone is. Does she have some quirky taste for a specific type of chocolates (my wife loves anything with salt; one year, I even bought her a bag of French sea salt for Christmas). Is there a unique flower (not a rose) that she loves or that reminds you of her personality?
4. Just Going Through the Motions Without Any Intimacy
Especially if you’ve been together for awhile, it’s easy to find yourself just checking the boxes on Valentine’s Day:
- Dinner reservation made
- Gifts and card acquired
…OK, I think we’re done here!
Even if you’ve nailed down the mechanics of your Valentine’s Day evening, you’ve got to consciously make an effort to physically bring the intimacy.
Small things like holding her hand. Touching the small of her back when you’re walking. Staying in for that extra long kiss outside the restaurant.
Focusing on touch and being present in the moment can enrich the evening for both of you. You need to show her (and tell her) how you feel, not just say it with your gifts.
5. Allowing the Daily Grind to Seep Into Your Evening
If you’re on your 4th date, it’s pretty easy to maintain the the magic of the evening—you’ve still got butterflies and everything is new and exciting.
But if you have two kids together and just went through a kitchen remodel, you have to work a little harder to keep the “business of life” from seeping into your evening.
Just because your default dinner conversation is to strategize on how to hit Home Depot before tackling Bed, Bath and Beyond and on Saturday, doesn’t mean you can’t shake things up during your Valentine’s Day meal.
Whether you’ve been together 3 weeks or 3 decades, Valentine’s Day is a great time to talk about the big picture.
To step back and talk about each other’s dreams and passions—especially if you’ve been too busy focusing on the mundane details of life.
6. Not Basking in the Afterglow (or Creating Preglow)
Sometimes you focus all your attention on making your Valentine’s “night out” the special time…while the rest of the day feels like your usual daily grind.
What often happens is that you rush home from work, you have a nice Valentine’s Day dinner, then the rest of the evening you find yourself watching TV together or surfing the internet, like any other night.
It’s much better if you can continue the romantic vibe for the remainder of the evening—give yourself a chance to enjoy the afterglow.
And why can’t you have some preglow as well?
You can surprise her with a small gift or romantic gesture in the morning, and tell her you’re looking forward to special evening with a special lady. You can even send her a message at work or give her a call during the day to say you can’t wait to see her.
Try to build an air of excitement around the ENTIRE day, not just the Valentine’s Day evening.
7. Relying On Valentine’s Day to Keep the Spark in Your Relationship
Once you’ve been together for more than a few months, it is pretty important to remember that relationships take work.
That doesn’t mean it has to be agonizing, but it does take conscious effort.
So if Valentine’s Day is the only time of year when you are actively “creating romance,” that’s a problem.
Admittedly, not every day can be a lovefest.
Oh, no schnookems, YOU take the last cup of coffee…
Sugar plum, I had a terrible day at work, but your face makes it all melt away…
Couples who are that happy all the time are annoying.
But one thing that is very doable is to schedule weekly romantic outings, aka “date night.” Even if the rest of the week is filled with the “business of life,” you can still use take one evening a week to actively nourish your relationship and just have fun together as a couple.
There’s no reason you can’t make this a mini Valentine’s Day each week. If nothing else, your weekly date nights will be easier since you won’t be battling the crowds.
It’s easy to make these Valentine’s Day mistakes without realizing it. But as you might have noticed, the common fix for most of these is this: just pay attention and put in a little more effort.
After all, you’re not celebrating Valentine’s Day because the rest of the world says so. You’re celebrating Valentine’s Day because you care about your special lady. And you want her to feel like a special lady—not just your co-star in this year’s Valentine’s Day production.
What other tips do you have for Valentine’s Day? Leave a note in the comments below.