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A Dude’s Guide to Valentines Day Success

A Dude’s Guide to Valentines Day Success

Valentines Day: How to Nail It.

Dear Men,

I have previously written about Valentines Day to your wives and girlfriends in an attempt to make things easier on you. I encouraged your wives to not be so specific about their expectations for VDay (and other holidays) and I have written to them to point out how they could indeed make this romantic holiday special for you, as well. After all, romance should not be one-sided. I wrote both of these to help you out, cut you some slack, and generally endear your significant others to you. You’re welcome. 🙂

Now, I want to turn my attention directly to you and offer you some specific help with this single purpose:
HOW YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY NAIL VALENTINES DAY THIS YEAR!

You’re probably thinking…Allison…it’s not even February 13th yet…why are we even talking about this? (A few of you are actually a step behind thinking…wait…when is Valentines Day this year?! It’s April 1st. Same as last year.)

Let’s be real; in all likelihood, your wife or long-time girlfriend sent you this post.

I know the drill. I will be brief. I will be direct. If you do what I say, I’ll set you up for *ahem* “success.”

Sure. You could skirt by another year with Circle K chocolate and a single rose while ordering Papa Johns from the comfort of your couch, fingers crossed that you’ve done enough for things to end in your favor. But WHAT IF you stepped your game up just a bit, and enjoyed the benefit of being the guy who gets bragged about on February 15.

Steps to NAILING Valentines Day:

  1. Start today. Listen, you don’t actually have to do anything today. You just need to casually mention, “I’ve been thinking about what we could do to celebrate Valentines Day together this year…” …and then don’t say anything else. Trust me. Less is more. All you have to do is plant the seed of expectation. Just the simple fact that it’s already crossed your mind will be enough to blow her mind. You are already winning! Congratulations.
  2. Make a reservation. To do ANYTHING. It doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be that you buy a movie ticket in advance. Schedule her an appointment to get her nails done. Sure…a reservation for dinner works, too. It doesn’t matter what it is really. Just schedule ANYTHING in advance. In this simple move you are silently conquering the “you just through this together on your way home from work” argument. It’s really the forethought and intentionality that matters. (And all the women said, “AMEN!”)
  3. Buy or do something that SHE enjoyed when you first met. This could be as simple as making a playlist of old songs she used to love, taking her to an old hangout, watching an old movie you saw together. It doesn’t have to be expensive for fancy. (But it’s fine if it is.) Just have it ready for the big day. It’s really just the thoughtfulness that gets you the points. My husband would say, “nostalgia is a real panty dropper.” So…you’re welcome for that. He’s a poet.
  4. Remove distractions. Whenever you plan to celebrate Valentines Day (the weekend before or after is totally a fine option, in my opinion, just as long as she knows in advance), do yourself a favor and remove distractions so your wife won’t get in her head. Take the kids to Grandma’s house. Hire a cleaning lady to make the house look nice. Think of whatever it that she seems to consider of urgent importance, and make sure that’s taken care of, so at the end of your celebration, she will be able to remain present with you, instead of hopping into all the busyness of household duties.

Ok…as simple as most of this is, it’s all that it will really take for her to think you’re 10 feet tall this Valentines Day. You can get fancy “above and beyond” all you want. But these elements will set you up for success: expectation, thoughtfulness, nostalgia. Have fun…make it your own. Rather than let Valentines Day give you a sense of dread or that you’ve failed…change it up just a bit and enjoy the fruit of your labor!

YOU’RE WELCOME. 🙂

Oh, and while I have you, men, let me tell you this: I have a very special, very specific “talk” that I give wives when it comes to libido and the importance of sex. I’m like Liam Neeson. I have a special set of skills, therapeutically speaking. If this is a pep talk, training, or treatment plan that you’d like your wife to have, send her my way! Here are some of my thoughts on the topic but I’d be glad to discuss a specific plan in my counseling office in Walker or Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Do You Want To Build A Snowman?
What Snow Days Teach Us: The Importance of Play

A snow day is a rare occurrence in south Louisiana. I have been a resident of this fine state since January 2005 and this is the second time I’ve seen snow; the first time I’ve seen such an accumulation like what we had a few weeks ago. And, believe it or not…we may even see some more next week!

If you’re anything like me, your social media feeds were filled with beautiful and amazing pictures of friends and their loved ones loving their lives, making the most of this momentous occasion. It was the best day on Facebook in a loooooong time! 🙂

All of this got my wheels turning about some things. What is it that snow days have to teach us? What is it about the snow that calls out our desire to make the most of those moments? Here’s what I learned…

  1. Play clarifies what is important. Snow days completely throw a halt on our regular activities. We have no choice but to stay home and connect with those we are hulled up with. Suddenly, everything that seemed urgent goes to the back-burner and you’re left with realizing that all you need to focus on in the fun right in front of you. This is a rare gift!
  2. Play is powerful. It requires us to be present and cast off our “cool.” True and deep connection thrives in the midst of play. The only cool/famous social worker out there, Dr. Brene Brown, has researched the effects of play in relationships. Here’s a great article she wrote that explains this idea further. Dr. Brown states, “doing things just because they’re fun and not because they’ll help achieve a goal — is vital to human development.” Play is one of the keys to creativity and whole-hearted living (Daring Greatly). If you haven’t read her work, you should!
  3. Your presence is required. That snowman isn’t going to build itself! While you can live vicariously through social media if you must (like…if you have the flu or a broken leg, heaven forbid), there really is no substitute to layering up and stock piling snowballs for the big fight. And you can’t pack a good snowball with a cell phone or remote in your hand, obviously!
  4. Time is of the essence. The snow is melting! These moments come so infrequently. Give it all you’ve got! There is literally no telling when another moment like this will come. Go out and wrangle your own joy. No substitutes allowed!
  5. Experiences build bonds…not stuff! In the midst of this holiday season, the truth is that your kids will almost certainly forget by Valentines day what you got them for Christmas. But they will remember your undivided attention, laughter and joy in play…you can bank that.
  6. Shared misery is bonding! Nearly getting frostbite on the tips of your toes and fingers and experiencing the shriek inducing sensation of 1,000 tiny needles poked into you is a ridiculous memory you won’t soon forget. Freezing your tail off while playing in the snow is a hilarious moment that is bonding…in the same way that a miserable night’s sleep in the tent in your back yard is bonding. Every insanely awful moment as a family will end up making it’s way to the highlight reel shared over holiday meals for years to come.

The most important lesson of the snow day is this:

You don’t have to wait for snow! Find another outlet of shared joy. (Or misery! Either way works, actually. 😉 ) Pick something you could more easily replicate and that isn’t entirely weather restricted, of course. The most important part is that you take the lessons you learned from the snow day and apply them to other family activities. You won’t ever regret it!

For non-weather driven play activities, check out the Red Stick Mom’s Blog! They keep a calendar of family-friendly activities going on in the area. You can always make your own fun, of course, but if you need help with ideas, this is a great place to start!

Counseling appointments in Walker, Louisiana and Baton Rouge are always available and you can take your first step in scheduling here.

A Wife’s Guide to Valentine’s Day Success

Why Valentines Day, Mothers Day and your Birthday became your worst days of the year…and how to fix it.

After counseling hundreds of clients over the last ten years, I’ve picked up more than a few quirky insights into American marriages. One of them is this: nothing brings on a good fight like a big one-sided holiday. I’m talking Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day, and your birthday.

Let me explain… Christmas is easy because you can focus on others. Other people’s birthdays or special holidays aren’t an issue because you are in the giving role. But one-sided holidays tend to reek havoc on a woman’s sense of relational satisfaction.

In two words:
Unmet Expectations.

Wives, does this sound familiar? Your first holiday in the relationship was probably pretty painless. Maybe even enjoyable. You weren’t sure what to expect and men usually take the occasion to show off. This trend often continues through dating and engagement.

It’s the first big holiday after you’re married that tends to fall a little flat. Expectations have been set by this point. You’re expecting the celebration to have taken some planning or a degree of thoughtfulness…like he did when you were dating.
Instead, you get gifts bought on the way home and an invite to eat “wherever you’d like.”
The result: you probably resemble a cross between the hungry velociraptor from Jurassic Park and Medusa before her morning coffee.

Your strategy: You take matters into your own hands and instruct. This is the “let me teach you how to be awesome at gift giving like I am” move. For Father’s Day or his birthday you plan the most amazing gift he’d never even dream of fulfilling for himself. You think (or even say? Bless your heart), “see how easy this is?! Just PLAN! Just PAY ATTENTION to what I like.”

Next holiday, the assumption is, “surely he learned his lesson from last time and plus I taught him how to do it since then.”
The result: he didn’t remember or take your instruction. Rage blackout…take 2.

Your strategy: For the next holiday, you try to get out ahead of it. You think, “I will tell him exactly what I want him to do so that I won’t be so disappointed.” Still shell shocked from last time, he thinks, “she doesn’t want EXACTLY what she said…there’d be no surprise.” Or perhaps the more classic, “I don’t want to be told how to love my wife. I will give her what I want to give her.”
The result: that random coffee mug you mentioned liking at Starbucks one time last summer. You aren’t even drinking hot coffee anymore. You only drink cold brew because of the low acidity is better for your IBS. Hasn’t he noticed you stopped drinking hot coffee?!?!

The next holiday…if you make it that far…you decide to proactively kill off the part of you that wants attention. You say, “just don’t buy me anything.”
The result: he knows that’s a trick. He buys you another coffee mug. Because he still doesn’t remember that you don’t drink hot coffee any more, he just remembers that last time he bought you a mug you liked from before and that makes him feel smart. He doesn’t remember the other mug fiasco. For him, that situation just went into the category of “vague sense of failure and disappointment.”
The result: sobbing for a month. Your poor IBS. The coffee mug symbolizes all that is wrong in your marriage and the world at large.

Henceforth, you will find other things to do on holidays that are supposed to be about you or you continue in vain to kill off that part of you that still hopes for him to finally come through on these special events. You disengage to self-protect. (This feels like a safe move but it only leads to isolation.) When the holidays roll around, no one makes any sudden moves and the day comes and goes with a sense of frustration, loneliness, dread, and resentments going both ways. “I can’t ever make her happy. Nothing I do is good enough. Her expectations are like moving targets. I might as well not even try.”

Here’s how to fix it.

  • Meet efforts with enthusiasm.
    • Appreciate the small things.
  • Understand that you’re not married to a woman so he’s never going to think and feel like you do. And that’s ok.
    • Different isn’t wrong.
  • Find something to praise. You’ll get more of it.
    • If a man feels like a failure in what he’s already attempting to do for you, why would he take the risk of doing even more? He doesn’t want to feel like a bigger failure and disappointment. Instead, he will do less. This serves to protect himself and the relationship from further injury. The more you criticize, the more you encourage this mindset. Praise works the opposite way.
  • Approximations of the goals count.
    • You won’t see a total transformation in one step. But steps towards the desired outcome count for a lot and should be praised accordingly. Praise in a way he’ll remember. 😉 You’ll ease up the tensions and focus on the positive between the two of you. Before you know it, your bad gift giver will be unafraid to put efforts in because you have changed the environment by being pleased with his attempts. That’s key. If you can arrive at this sweet spot, things will only get progressively better.

A man who already feels like he’s made you happy will want to do more to make you happy.
A man who feels like he’s already disappointed you won’t do anything more because he won’t risk feeling more like a disappointment than he already feels.

So this Valentine’s Day, capitalize on praise in the small things, a positive attitude, and finding a memorable way to encourage his efforts. It’s good for your man. It’s good for your relationship. It’s good for you.

Contact me for any relationship or individual counseling needs. Offices in Walker and Baton Rouge.

Photo credit goes to my friend, Katie Barnett of Vivid Dream Photography, LLC