The Missing Ingredient that Ruins Valentine’s Day (and Every Other Day)

Comments 14
red roses

Flowers are pretty and smell nice. They make nice gifts as a symbolic gesture to those you care about. Unless, of course, the person you’re buying flowers for doesn’t really like flowers, or maybe has an allergy to the particular variety you bought.

But mostly, they’re nice. Like chocolates. And jewelry. And champagne. And dinner reservations at the nicest places.

There are two reasons that gifts are (usually) nice:

  1. They demonstrate that someone voluntarily went outside of their daily routine for the sole purpose of making another person feel valued and cared for.
  2. The gift, in and of itself, usually provides value for the recipient. Gifts are usually not one-size-fits all. Thoughtful gift buyers effectively match the gift to the person they’re buying for, so that we’re not giving Boston Red Sox fans a New York Yankees hat, or giving child-size winter mittens to adult men living in balmy Miami, Fla. (Unless you’re being intentionally ironic, which I’m entirely on-board with.)

I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in the United States most businesses are required by law to accommodate physically handicapped people.

Handicapped parking spaces near entrances, wheelchair ramps, and extra-large bathroom stalls to accommodate wheelchair users.


Well. To be considerate.

I can’t speak from experience, but I imagine most blind people don’t spend a lot of time in art museums. I imagine most deaf people don’t spend a lot of time at concerts. I imagine most people who don’t know how to swim don’t spend a lot of time participating in competitive swimming. I imagine most people without arms don’t work as hairdressers. I imagine most people with deadly bee sting allergies don’t work as beekeepers.

I realize how obvious all of this is, but what’s truly amazing is that these same principles apply to EVERYONE we encounter in life.

Certainly not everyone’s ‘conditions’ or ‘handicaps’ or ‘shortcomings’ are going to be as obvious to others as blindness and wheelchairs might be, but I think the case can be made that we should know about these things in all of the people we are close to—like say our spouses, children, siblings, parents, best friends, etc.

And I don’t mean ‘should,’ like it would be nice someday. I mean SHOULD, like how is it even possible that we don’t already know?

About someone who lives in the same house? A wife or husband who we vowed to love and honor all the days of our lives?

How is it even possible that we don’t know THEIR ‘things’ so well that every move we make automatically includes our consideration of them and their needs?

Until We Get This (Like Really Get it Down in Our Bones and Soul), Our Flowers and Chocolates are Little More than Concert Tickets for the Deaf

Our spouses don’t want things (even if they actually like things).

Your spouse wants to be considered. She, or he, wants to be considered because they are a person.

And people want to be considered.

No one wants to be the kid in the wheelchair hanging out with his friends, and while they’re all deciding what do together on Friday, they pick some activity that’s totally impossible to participate in from a wheelchair.

So everyone else goes and has a great time, and leaves you sitting there, alone and wheelchair bound.

It’s scary how apt that metaphor is to the average wife and mother in 2019.

Dad and Son and Daughter run off to watch TV, play video games, text their friends after dinner, and mom is abandoned in the kitchen to put food away, clear the table, wash the dishes, etc. while everyone else is off having fun doing the things they want to do.

That’s making your wife the abandoned kid in the wheelchair.

That’s making your mom the abandoned friend in the wheelchair.

‘I want to be considered.’

That’s what my married friend said after her husband changed their Valentine’s Day plans without talking to her about it first, creating a cascade of inconveniences she had to account for and deal with because of the last-minute changes.

Her husband had a schedule conflict. So he fixed the problem by adjusting his schedule.

Adjusting his schedule created SEVERAL problems for his wife. Enough to more than negatively offset all of the previous kind and thoughtful things he’d said to her on Valentine’s Day.

Flowers are nice.

But being considered is REALLY nice. And flowers are a demonstration—evidence—that you are considering someone you care about.

Chocolates and pajamas and stuffed animals and dinner reservations and jewelry—all the things—are nice.

People like getting things, but outside of children, MOST people like getting things because thoughtful acts of generosity and/or pleasant surprises from those we love and want to love us make us feel good.

It’s not really more complicated than that.

When we are considered—which is another way of saying RESPECTED, or LOVED, or CARED FOR, or HONORED—we feel good.

When we are not considered—which is another way of saying DISRESPECTED, or ABANDONED, or NEGLECTED, or DISCARDED—we feel shitty.

This scenario is not limited to Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays. The opportunity for this scenario to occur happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. And it does.

And the difference between good relationships and bad ones—between good marriages and bad marriages—boils down to this one simple, but deceptively complex idea.

When you say things, do things, make plans—in your daily life—are your romantic partner’s needs CONSIDERED?

The quality of your relationship—and the relative impact of your bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day—depends on it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. (Even you, my single partners in crime.)

14 thoughts on “The Missing Ingredient that Ruins Valentine’s Day (and Every Other Day)”

  1. Awesome post, Matt. It feels great to be considered and valued in the way you describe. I agree with everything in your post,

    except I know this beekeeper with an deathly bee sting allergy.

    How could you know? You are not an insensitive clod, you just didn’t know. Which is totally OK when you don’t know the person. Like you said.

  2. “People like getting things, but outside of children, MOST people like getting things because thoughtful acts of generosity and/or pleasant surprises from those we love and want to love us make us feel good.”

    Remember that not all people feel “considered” by gifts. Others would prefer quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and words of affirmation. You know, the other “love languages” described by Gary Chapman.

    I’d say more but it’s an especially unhealthy path for me on Valentine’s Day.

    1. I’m inclined to agree with you that gifts aren’t the ultimate show of love to some people. It’s easy to just buy something random off a shelf and give it, but that generally won’t make someone feel valued.

      But to really apply thought and meaningfulness to the gift shows your person that they were considered and in turn (hopefully) makes them feel loved.

      Gifts are my least-preferred love language. But I can certainly appreciate receiving a gift that’s been carefully and thoughtfully selected just for me. It’s all in how you decide to look at it.

      Hey OKRickety, I don’t know you but I bet you’re an awesome person and regardless of everything, I hope you’ve had a lovely day. ?

      1. jbrookeb,

        My mom might say I was an awesome person, but maybe not a lot of others. Anyway, I had a fine day (thanks for the wishes), but it might not have been if I’d gone down that road. I hope you had a good day, too.

  3. Matt, I get your point about relationships here, but I’m thinking that if you don’t have a lot of experience of living with a physical disability, you should perhaps not make assumptions about what people with certain types of disabilities do and don’t do? (Ever heard of audio description, for example?) You also seem to assume that none of your readers are blind, deaf, or use wheelchairs – I’m reading your post as if you use people with disabilities as examples to make a point about “us” (i.e. people without disabilities).

  4. Matt – been reading your blog for a while now and wanted to say thank you for your insights.

    I have a question for you and I am not sure if you had answered it, but I am curious. Given all of the changes and strides you have made in your own growth and understanding of how things went sideways, is there the potential for reconciliation with your ex-wife? Are you at a place where that is something where you would pursue?

    1. Hey. I have been asked that several times, yes.

      That ship has sailed, TL.

      She is in a relationship. He’s a good guy. (Which is awesome compared to if he wasn’t in the context of my son.)

      I don’t know whether that’s what would be best or not. It’s not something I think about unless I’m asked, like this.

      We do an effective job getting along and helping each other out RE: co-parenting, and have for nearly five years now.

      It’s a situation I can live with.

  5. Hello,

    Some thoughts worth pondering: “Considering the possibilities for how life can look for a couple today, it’s even more important for couples to take time to sit down together and talk about what they want their UNIQUE MARRIAGE to look like. It will not, nor is it supposed to, look like anyone else’s…..
    The future of marriage is one that creates and anticipates life, not one that reacts to or defaults to the way things used to be in the past.” ( Future of Marriage: Co-leading in a Thriving Household).

    Suggestions: 1. Raise your emotional intelligence 2. Shift roles 3. Have a family meeting each week 4. Delegate 5. Trust each other to make decisions 6. Remember Co-leading is co-growing.

    1. I wonder how many couples would be totally on board with each other on what their UNIQUE MARRIAGE looks like? The Divorce Cure Challenge calls this process of defining what marriage “should be” a marriage box. Whether the box is defined by one partner or if both partners agree, the box is limiting and a recipe for disappointment from unmet expectations and, eventually, built-up resentment makes the box unbearable for one or both partners. The Divorce Cure Challenge says the solution is in understanding and living the four laws and the two forces of relationships, which creates a marriage bungee and eliminates the marriage box. Learning how to get out of my marriage box has proven to be very healthy for my marriage.

      1. Hi Laney,

        Point well taken.

        However I thought the author was asking the couple to consider MANY possibilities for what a marriage COULD BE between them, hopefully taking into consideration that some of life’s challenges would certainly upset the most carefully laid plans.

        I think perhaps I was being overly optimistic about how well we know our strengths and weaknesses. Yet, I am convinced that something significant may happen just by SUGGESTING that we need to actively “dis-invest” in the current traditional forms of marriage.

  6. My favorite (because it is useful) way to think of respect is this: what matters to me matters to you (or vice versa, of course). Lack of respect is when what matters to me isn’t regarded, or considered, as you eloquently explained here (and is what happened to the woman in the story you told). Disrespect is when you know what matters to me and openly mock it or blatantly violate it. Both are degrees of the repellent force in a relationship, much like the force that separates magnets when trying to push together the two ends with the same pole. The only antidote to the repellent force is the attractive force, which is facing risk together… In other words, when the one who didn’t respect faces a challenge or difficulty with the other and helps solve it in some way. And you’re right that giving flowers or a gift probably isn’t facing a risk with your partner. I’ve learned a lot about the two bonding forces and the four laws of relationships from the Divorce Cure Challenge and it really simplifies my relationships, not just with my husband, but with others as well.

  7. Deaf people do go to concerts, actually. That’s why there are ASL interpreters at concerts– that are considerate, anyway. I recommend staying away from metaphors around disability, because able-bodied people tend to get them wrong. and it’s just all around iffy when these ignorant analogies are clumsily made to support the abled persons point, all while being… wrong.

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Matt Fray

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