It takes two

It takes two

Let disappointing Valentine’s Day serve as a wake-up call for your relationship

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 02/20/2014

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Dear Patti,
My husband, Gene, forgot Valentine’s Day again. He said he recalled it was coming a few days before, but then it got crazy busy at work and he didn’t have time to plan anything special. He said he’d make it up to me by cooking dinner and watching my favorite TV shows with me, and he did. Although I told him it was fine, the evening felt flat, leaving me sad and disappointed. Gene wanted to make love at the end of the night and didn’t appreciate I seemed only lukewarm about it. What he doesn’t understand is that if he’d just make a few sweet, romantic gestures I’d feel so much closer romantically and sexually; those two feelings are connected for me. 

I honestly don’t care about stuffed bears holding hearts, candy, cheesy cards, picked-over and over-priced flowers, or dinner at a packed restaurant. I just want to see him put us first, put himself out for me a little bit, like I do for him, and treat me like I’m special. I just want to be thought about and appreciated, and I have to say I feel bad when my friends show off flowers and gifts. The worst part, though, is that Gene doesn’t care like he used to when we were dating. I went out of my way for him on Valentine’s Day and even remembered to give his mother a Valentine’s gift. Why is it so hard for him to remember to do something for me?                                                                       
—Rose

Dear Patti,
I really dislike Valentine’s Day. It’s too contrived, there’s too much pressure, and it seems like more of an obligation than something I look forward to. I can understand why so many men forget and/or decide the stress and expectations just aren’t worth it. In high school and college I’d always be on the pursuit of girls just out of my reach. I’d create fabulous dates and be charming, attentive and persistent so some other guy wouldn’t come along. Sometimes I’d win the girl’s affections and sometime I didn’t. 

I finally realized how exhausting that behavior was and pretty much stopped playing the game.

Valentine’s Day reminds me of the old days. In spite of those negative memories, I didn’t forget Feb. 14, but I could tell I still didn’t please my girl.

Why wouldn’t a reasonably mature, educated young woman like Lacy understand that crying, sulking or lecturing her boyfriend makes him pull away? If she truly wants affection and true passion on Valentine’s Day, she needs to stop whining or I’m not going to feel it. She gives me not-so-subtle hints on how I should conduct myself. Such self-improvement tips are usually the beginning of the end for me. I really love Lacy and am extremely attracted to her, but I wasn’t that attracted to her on Feb. 14. She talked a lot about what her friends’ boyfriends did for them and I don’t like her constantly comparing. It’s not very romantic when she seems more interested in showing off to her girlfriends than she is at being close to me. If she wants that early-dating rush of feelings to return, she needs to back off and not be so demanding. Why can’t Lacy understand that? It seems really simple to me.
—Nick

Dear Rose and Nick,
I’d like the two of you to read each other’s letters, reread your own and — if you’re comfortable — let Gene and Lacy read them as well. The issues between you and your respective partners are similar in that all four of you want to be treasured, respected and loved for who you are and not what you do. 

Rose, you and Lacy represent the many women who sometimes feel taken for granted and romantically devalued; Valentine’s Day is when those feelings strongly come to the surface. Maybe this year can serve as a wake-up call for Gene and Nick to recognize those feelings and become inspired to help you heal that hurt. 

This might also be a time for you (and other women) to look beyond what your men do to prove their depth of love and, instead, embrace empathy for what they go through. That kind of love and understanding is the basis for building a truly romantic Valentine’s Day and a lasting relationship.  

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her Web site, patticarmalt-vener.com.

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