With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are all wondering what our men have planned for us. While I will admit that something sparkly does make me smile once in a while, most of us have tried to emphasize to our men that its NOT the size or the expense of the gift that touches us, it’s the thought behind the gift that really has the meaning.

While that seems easy enough to you and me, I’ve seen – both as a researcher and a wife – that men have a hard time believing it! And it makes all the difference when they see our excitement over the thoughtful little things just as much as over the big ones. That helps them see that knowing they thought of us is what truly touches our hearts. Especially since guys often get paralyzed by one big success and don’t know how to top it – not realizing that they don’t have to!

When my husband Jeff and I were newlyweds living in New York, he gave me a Valentine’s Day to top all others. Over the years, he learned firsthand of my love for figure skating. Whenever it was on, I was glued to the TV. Ice-skating was something I’d always dreamed of doing, but I had too many other commitments as a kid and so never really learned.

So on this particular Valentine’s Day, I opened my gift to find a children’s book about a little girl who dreamed of having ice-skating lessons. On the page where the little girl finally gets her dream, I found two things. The first was a sweet little necklace with an ice-skate charm on it. And the other was a certificate for two months’ worth of private ice-skating lessons at Rockefeller Center with … wait for it … Jo Jo Starbuck.
Jo Jo Starbuck

Those of you my age and older will know immediately who this is and how my heart leaped a mile when I saw that gift! Private lessons with a heroine of the Olympics, who I had watched intently as a little girl! And the icing on the cake was that during those lessons, I was able to meet some of her friends like the legends Scott Hamilton and Katarina Witt.

Yes, this was one of those over the top gifts. But what honestly got me was not its extravagance, but the thought he put into it. It said to me that he did it just for me because he knew it would mean the world to me.

But here’s the funny part of the story … I didn’t get another present (other than a card or gift certificate) for several years. It wasn’t until I was researching and writing about men that he confessed that he felt totally stumped as to how he could possibly top that gift. Guys are so competitive, even with themselves, that he thought anything else could never be so good – which would mean (he thought) that in my eyes, he’d be failing me.

It was SUCH a relief for him to hear that it was the THOUGHT that mattered, not the extravagance of the gift. And that made it safe for him to try. (And I learned fast to encourage whatever he did – even if it WAS just a gift certificate — since that would make him feel like making me happy was possible!)

So, I wonder – have you ever been disappointed and thought your husband wasn’t thinking of you? The reality is likely that he’s just overwhelmed, intimidated, or even a bit fearful that he’s going to disappoint you … that he’s going to fail. If so, really, it’s up to you to help him understand that even the smallest, subtle displays of his love for you will make you smile.

As we approach this Valentine’s Day, for those of us who are dating or married – lets all make a Girlfriends’ Pact to encourage our men!

They need to know they don’t have to give diamonds or spend bundles; they need to know that they really can – and do! – make us happy.