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What Men Think About Valentine's Day

February 11, 2013
The average guy doesn't like Valentine's day. Aside from the obvious fact that the holiday is driven by marketing hype much more than by the honest needs of relationships, men dislike Valentine's day because it places pressure on them to express their feelings in unnatural and effeminate ways, and often to a degree they feel unprepared for.

On Valentines's day, men are expected to show their undying love for their woman by following a script prescribed by Hallmark or Flowers.com, and promoted by Hollywood: flowers, fine dining, exuberant cards, rose petals, teddy bears, etc. If a man doesn't follow this script, he suffers the consequence of disrupting the relationship. But if he does follow it, he feels like an emasculated pushover, forced by social pressures into expressing feelings that he may or may not have in ways that would never have occurred to him naturally. Either way, he loses.

Not every man understands his own distaste for the holiday. Maybe a man's aversion to Valentine's day is manifested as nothing other than a small feeling of annoyance in the back of his mind as he tries to pick the least-gay card off the shelf in CVS (from among thousands of cards designed for women, by women). But this annoyance is rooted in the fact that he feels forced into expressing himself in unmanly ways.

A man demonstrates his love for you regularly in ways that aren't as ostentatious as a large bouquet of roses, but run deeper for their lack of overt exhibition: he commits to you willingly, he suppresses his desire to be with other women, he avoids reminding you of that desire, he attends to your emotional needs without complaint, he holds you and protects you, etc.

In addition, men are skeptical of Valentine's day because they know it is (at least partially) motivated by a woman's need to demonstrate to her friends how much she is loved - sometimes more so than it is motivated by a true need for the visible symbols of that love. Again, while most men might not recognize this consciously, it is implicit in their thought that the Valentine's day traditions seem overdone and excessive - because they are excessive if all that drives them is the woman's need for visible expressions of love.

I am not saying that no man likes to express his love through a card or flowers, or that men don't enjoy romantic dates. Some probably do. And I am not saying that there is no need for visible signs of affection in relationships, because there is. They have a time and a place (especially if the man and woman both express their love through gifts). What I am saying is that when a man doesn't get to choose that time and place, and when his hand is forced by the social pressures of a vacuous holiday, his masculine decisiveness and authority are called into question, and he resents it.

So this year I suggest you do three things to help your man through the awkwardness of Valentine's Day:
  1. De-emphasize Valentine's Day by dismissing it openly to him as a marketing ploy. Say something like "Valentine's Day is such a farce; if there weren't decorations in the grocery store and commercials on TV, no one would even remember it after five years. It's purely driven by marketing." (Do not tell him not to get you anything, as this might give him the idea that you don't like receiving gifts.)
  2. Get him something small. The biggest pressure on Valentine's Day comes from the "culture" within the relationship to make a big deal out of it. By only getting him something small (like a card or dressing up in lingerie), you take a lot of the pressure off him the next year.
  3. Curb whatever desire you have to show off on Valentine's Day. Aside from fact that your single female coworkers will probably murder you when you receive roses and a huge teddy bear at the office, recognize that a truly confident woman who is secure in her relationship doesn't need the external affirmation of her peers' jealousy.
  4. Recognize the existing expressions of his love for you, as described above. This will help you to realize that you don't need chocolates on some arbitrary day in February. (If there aren't any common expressions of love in your relationship, you probably shouldn't be together.)
Before you complain that taking the pressure off a man on Valentine's Day makes it "too easy for him," consider this: by stepping back and letting a man do that to which he is naturally inclined, you adopt the same attitude that you do when you don't initiate contact with a man, or when you cut off a guy that breaks up with you: you are stepping back and accepting what happens, even if it isn't what you expected and hoped for. Just like you gain nothing by artificially perpetuating a relationship by constantly contacting a guy who doesn't like you very enough, so too do you discern a man's true feelings for you by taking off the pressure and letting his actions on Valentine's Day (or at other times) reflect his true feelings for you. Don't deceive yourself by reveling in a forced sign of his affection.

If your man refuses to celebrate Valentine's Day, but you don't agree with him that it is ridiculous, your best bet is to employ the tactics of the author's wife in this post:

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3. Who Is This Girl?
4. The Analogy Between Confidence and Beauty

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