Women typically look forward to Valentine's Day, while men frequently dread it. For many years, my anxiety level increased as February 14 approached, because I knew women wanted more from me than the perfunctory gifts of roses and chocolates and that's all I could give. I wasn't able to be emotionally open and let them into my heart. I kept women at an emotional distance because I didn't feel safe enough to trust them.
So, for men like I used to be, who buy roses and chocolates in hopes of satisfying a woman's desire for a romantic Valentine's Day, I have a better suggestion. You can bring candy and roses, but if you really want to touch your sweetie's heart, give her a half-hour of openly and honestly sharing your feelings about her and the relationship. This dialogue is a rare and lasting gift that only you can give and that will deepen your relationship.
It takes real courage for a man to share his feelings without fearing that being vulnerable might blow up in his face, though. Speaking from my heart with women hasn't always worked well, but I continue trying. I consider it a risk worth taking, because living in integrity as a man trumps a few bad experiences.
Sharing how you really feel about your relationship is a liberating experience--nothing frees a man's soul like telling the truth. Besides, if you don't open your heart to the woman you're with, you won't know if she's worthy of your trust and will hold what you shared as sacred. Since nearly all women respect open and honest dialogue, there's little risk of their using your shared information against you. And the rewards are huge.
Here are three simple guidelines you and your partner should agree upon before opening the gift of your dialogue:
• Explain to your partner that you'll be talking about your feelings and that you're open to hearing how she feels about what you share. Remind her that, unlike your ideas -- which are only opinions and, therefore, debatable -- your feelings are your absolute truth, and that her judgment, opinions, and criticism are not welcome. Ask her to wait until you're completely finished speaking before responding.
• Let her know that the point of sharing your feelings is to say what's true for you without fear. What you say may or may not please her, but your feelings have been affecting your relationship anyway, and discussing them openly can reveal hidden assumptions and agendas and enable you to deal with them.
• Before speaking, take a moment to connect with how you're feeling in your body. It's normal to be anxious or nervous, so just honor those feelings and allow yourself to experience them briefly. Then take your time as you speak, making sure you're expressing yourself clearly, and completely.
Giving your partner this gift will deepen the intimacy and trust between you and will provide a model for your future conversations. It will make you an equal emotional partner in your relationship and help move it to the next level.
So, when the roses are dead and the chocolates are gone and all that's left is the pretty ribbon from the candy box tucked away in a drawer, what you shared with your partner is a gift that will keep giving -- a giant leap forward into honesty, trust, and healthy sharing.
Make this Valentine's Day your best ever. You deserve it, and so does the woman you love.