Valentine’s Day-Encouragement for the Romantically Challenged

Or—A Reality Check for Dewey-Eyed Hopefuls 

Millions of women will set themselves up for disappointment this Sunday (Valentine’s Day), assuming their significant others will remember and actually plan something romantic to celebrate this holiday for lovers. 

I have no such fanciful expectations.  My hubby (the least imaginative or classically romantic man in America) HATES Valentine’s Day—probably because it makes him feel more inadequate than ever about expressing his devotion to me.  Here’s an example of just how romantically challenged my mate is.  

To celebrate our one-month anniversary (33 years ago), I pulled the top of our wedding cake out of the freezer for dessert, made a sumptuous meal, put on the sexy negligee I wore on our wedding night, and set a formal dinner table, complete with flickering candles.  When I heard David tromping up the stairs to our dinky second-floor apartment, I turned off the lights—bathing the room in a seductive glow—and met him at the door with a passionate kiss, to which he responded: 

“Hey, Beautiful.” (he still calls me this, so I figure he’s either gone blind or he stopped looking at me at least  fifty pounds ago)  David frowned at the table drenched in candlelight.  “Is the electricity out?”  At my stunned silence, he flipped the light switch on to check for himself and blew out the candles.  “These are a fire hazard.”  (Awww, at least he wanted to keep me safe.)  Now that he could see more clearly under a glaring 200 watts, he scrutinized my filmy nightwear.  “Why are you ready for bed?  Don’t you feel well?” 

By this time, my jaw was hanging slack.  I’d known this man for seven years before marrying him and dated him for the last five.  Why was I shocked by his clueless questions?  After all, the man proposed on President’s Day (one week AFTER the most romantic day of the year) by taking me to dinner at a place with peanut shells on the floor and an all-you-can-eat salad bar (which I must confess was a really good one).  When our meal was over, he leaned back in his seat, crossed his arms over his chest, and said, “So—are you gonna marry me, or what?” 

What could I say to such romantic words?   

“Will you change diapers?” I asked.  

He shrugged, heaving a resigned sigh.  “If I have to.” 

Okay, so the guy was willing to wipe feces off our future babies’ bottoms if I would spend my life with him.  Becoming a mother was at the top of my bucket list (we were barely more than children ourselves, so we’d already agreed to wait five years before procreating), therefore, I figured we were a match made in heaven. 

Advance three months to the night of a blizzard when were stranded at our future somewhat larger TOTALLY EMPTY apartment with no electricity or birth control.  

Oh, what the hell.  What were the odds I’d get pregnant on that particular night? 

 A month later, when David found me in my nightgown at only 7 p.m., it really was because I was exhausted.  That’s when I discovered the true meaning of romance.  

Every night, he grilled our meal because the smell of raw meat nauseated me, and I fell into bed at 7:30 with dirty dishes overflowing the sink.  Every morning the kitchen was magically clean, the carpet miraculously vacuumed.  Whenever I thanked him, he claimed, “It wasn’t me.  It must’ve been a little elf.”  

Then after our son arrived, knowing how much trouble I had falling back to sleep once I got up, David climbed out of bed every time our child cried and brought him to me to nurse.  Our children never wailed, “Mommy!” during the night because they’d never seen me out of bed in the dark.  It was always, “Daaaaadddy!”  And Daddy always raced to chase the monsters from under the bed. 

During the last thirty years, David has bought me flowers a maximum of five times—and never for an occasion.  And forget birthday and Christmas gifts.  He simply buys whatever I want, whenever I ask for it (but, again, never for an occasion)   He claims he has no imagination (I don’t even attempt brainstorming my plots  with him), and he insists he doesn’t know HOW to be romantic.  

About fifteen years into our marriage, after much disappointment, I tried tutoring him and explained a romantic act is simply something a person does that lets the other person know he/she was thinking about him/her while they weren’t around.  It doesn’t matter what it is. 

Then it hit me like a meteor between the eyes.  My husband is actually one of the MOST romantic men in America.  He simply has his own style.  He doesn’t buy flowers and candy, and he hates trying to be romantic on cue.  But when it comes to spontaneous displays of his devotion, he’s aces.  I just needed to learn David’s love language and adjust my expectations.    

I can guarantee there will be no romance in my house on New Years Eve, Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, my birthday and Christmas.  However, the other 360 days of the year, my life abounds with demonstrations of my husband’s love.   

If I break a glass, my Valentine swoops in and sweeps it up.  When my kooky family needs something, my Valentine is right there helping me assist them.  Whenever a job gets stinky, heavy, or gross, my Valentine takes over.  For the last ten years, my Valentine has done most of the laundry so I’d have more time to write.  And each time I get a rejection, he takes me out to dinner and watches a romantic comedy with me to take my mind off my disappointment. 

So whenever anyone asks if I model my heroes after my husband, I reply, “No way.  Readers would consider him too good to be plausible.” 

How about your significant other?  What’s his or her love language?  What are your expectations for Valentine’s Day?

42 responses to “Valentine’s Day-Encouragement for the Romantically Challenged”

  1. Laura,

    Your husband and mine must be brothers. For the first ten years or so of our marriage, he didn’t know if it was Valentine’s Day or President’s Day. (too close together). He’s one of those men who would do anything for me- including iron my clothes. (this is how he earned money in college in the 60’s when guys still dressed for dates.)
    He’s supportive of my writing and respects the time I spend doing it.
    He’s more than all right in my book. Who needs flowers with guys like ours around.

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    Awwwwwww, Laurie!! I’m all teary. What a sweet guy! (And a funny post–proposing on Presidents’ Day…and the whole anniversary dinner story…I love it!)

    It’s true about the way men show love. I know my husband loves me from the way he gets crazy worried when the kids and I are out driving in bad weather.

    • I suspect mine worries too. But my husband really isn’t comfortable with his feelings, and would never let himself show his concern. More likely he’d express his fear in an angry way. Men.

      • Totally. I can hear my dad now, all angry and scared, blustering at my always optimistic, uber-independent mom:

        “Why’d you have to go out? What was so freaking important that you couldn’t wait ’til it stopped raining? Or did you not notice that there’s a flash flood warning? Juuuuuune! You gotta be more careful!”

  3. Vivi Andrews says:

    Okay, Laurie, you just made me go all mushy inside. Your Valentine is definitely a keeper.

    I myself don’t have plans for V-Day, since I’m the Only Single Romance Writer on the Planet (or so it sometimes feels). But I’m looking forward to that Valentine movie that’s coming out this weekend. It looks kinda like Love Actually & I *love* that one.

    • Diana Layne says:

      Ah, Vivi, don’t feel bad. I anticipate I’ll be taking the kids to that movie where the Greek gods try to kill that teenage guy.

      • Vivi Andrews says:

        Oh, wow, I must have completely misconveyed that sentiment. I don’t feel bad. Not even a tiny bit. I just meant that in the romance industry where everyone is hyper-aware of relationships it sometimes makes you the odd one out to be an independent person who likes being single.

        And Di, I’m gonna have to see the Lightning Thief too. I think the books will really translate well onto film.

    • You never know, Vivi. Perhaps some secret admirer will surprise you. But if not, you go romance yourself, woman. Take yourself to dinner AND that movie and maybe buy yourself some chocolate and flowers too. 🙂

  4. Addison Fox says:


    What an awesome, awesome post!!!!! Wow – your David is a keeper – but obviously you know that. 🙂

    And I’m still chuckling about “did the electricity go out?”

    One thing I do have to correct you on, though – he calls you Beautiful because you are!!!


  5. Diana Layne says:

    Yep, he’s a keeper, Laurie. Happy President’s Day. 🙂

    • That’s right, Diana! My engagement anniversary is coming up. I can’t believe it’s been 35 years. (Yes, I was only 10 when he proposed.) Have fun with your kids. Mine were always my Valentine’s Day date too.

  6. Men! You’ve got a good one, Laurie. It seems to me he treats you like his Valentine 365 days of the year. Sweet.

    My DH usually serves me breakfast on Valentine’s Day with a card. I have all of the cards he’s given me in a box. He’s a card giver and has a nack for picking the one’s that bring hugs to my heart and tears to my eyes.

    This year, we are planning to go out because we’re getting him measusred for a TUX for my step-son’s wedding in a month. So to do yet.

    • Awww. That’s sweet. It sounds like your honey really knows how to treat a girl. Congratulations on the wedding. My daughter got engaged on Christmas night. (She hit the jackpot and found someone who is a romantic guy AND extra considerate like her daddy.) She’ll be getting married August 2011. We’re going this Saturday to give the caterer a deposit.

  7. Liz Talley says:

    Sweetest story, Laurie. He’s golden.

    Mine is a nice mix, I’d like to think. Sometimes he surprises me; sometimes he doesn’t. He sometimes thoughtful; sometimes not so much. He’s basically the typical man..but he’s my man. I don’t need flowers or chocolates to remember that he loves me.

    Here’s hoping he does the dishes for Valentine’s Day! 🙂

    • “Sometimes he surprises me; sometimes he doesn’t.”

      That may be intentional, Amy. He’s keeping you on your toes. If you started to expect to be surprised, you wouldn’t be as surprised by surprises anymore!

      Er, or something like that. Man-logic cannot be adequately explained.

    • Maybe he’ll really surprise you and take you out!

      • Liz Talley says:

        Have to add this.

        Today he brought me a surprise. He said, “It’s not really for Valentines. Just something I’ve been meaning to give you.”

        So I open this retangular box. Inside was a desk placard that read “Liz Talley” underneath it it said “Romance Author”

        One of the best presents he’s ever gotten me considering he’s finally accepted my hobby is now my career 🙂

  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    I wouldn’t know what to do with a stereotypically-romantic guy, or one who expected those types of Hallmark gestures from me. Luckily, my SO surprises me with McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets and new windshield wiper blades instead of flowers or candy.

    It works. 😉

  9. Thanks for the inspiration, Laurie. I’m so glad to know that you’re well-loved.

    I love men like yours: steady, reliable, rocks of humanity who let us feel comfortable and safe enough to be ourselves.

    I’ve known a few romantics in my day, and they were horribly unreliable. Sure, it’s great to wake up on a random Tuesday and find flowers on your windowsill, but I’d rather he showed up on time for dates and remembered to call when he said he would.

  10. Laurie, is it possible we’re married to the same guy? My husband has asked me three times what date (not day of the week, mind you), what date, V-Day is on. Like it hasn’t always been on Feb 14th. He can’t remember my birthday or our anniversary – not even the months. For Christmas, I cut pictures out. Yes, he needs visual aids and a power point presentation. Not just what I want, but where to get it and how he should go about paying for it.

    On the flip side, I haven’t pumped my own gas in years. He brings me lunch at work once a week (his version of dating). He kisses me before he goes to work (although, I’m usually asleep and it wakes me up, and I don’t really appreciate being woke up). And he makes a mean tomato and cheese omelet.

    I like to write about real men, even though women don’t want to read about real men because they already have one of those, complete with burping, spitting (my pet peeve), and dare I say – farting. There, I said it. Why do we love them? It’s got to have something to do with biology, but I flunked biology.

    • Aw, sweet!

      My DH recently asked what date Valentine’s Day fell on this year, and I gave him a Look, like, are you kidding me?

      He glared back. He was not kidding me, and he did not appreciate my sass. He was, as was yours, completely unaware of the fact that V-Day fell on the same day every year.


      OTOH, getting lunch once a week, never pumping your own gas, being kissed every morning, and the tomato-cheese omelet sure do make up for occasional disawareness of the American holiday calendar.

      (I hate spitting, too. It’s worse than farting. I don’t know why. Maybe because spitting is a choice, and farting usually isn’t, not when you’re a man).

    • David usually pumps my gas 75% of the time too. It sounds like you’ve also got a keeper. I used to do the whole list and instructions thing for Christmas. About ten years ago, I decided it was futile. Now we go out and buy something big we both want at Christmas time like a new TV, computer, DVD, etc. This year my kids got my hubby to chip in on a laptop for me.

  11. Shea Berkley says:

    Such a sweet post, Laurie. Your husband sounds wonderful. Give me a man who cares for his sweetheart every day of the year than a romantic man who plans “events”. But then, I’m not a romantic. All I want to know is if my man’s got my back.

    • Amen, Shea. It’s nice to know they’re behind us when the chips are down. The one time my husband lets me down, though, is when I’m in the hospital. He’s a terrible patient advocate and is reluctant to push for my pain meds and other things that get forgotten by the staff. I’ve learned to sic my sister on the doctors and nurses instead. She’s a physical therapist who works in a hospital. When I’m sick, she turns into a little pit bull.

  12. Tina Joyce says:

    Laurie, you’ve got me feeling all weepy.

    My husband proposed to me on our third date in the parking lot of a McDonalds restaurant. It might have been tacky, except he said he’d already held off asking during our last two dates and couldn’t wait any longer. What could I say but, “yes.” I’ve never had to wonder if that man would be there for me when I needed him. He’s been solid and steady and the love of my life for the last 26 years.

  13. Laurie, what a lovely post. Your husband (and actually there sounds like a lot of great husbands here) sounds wonderful. Happy Valentine’s Weekend everyone!

  14. Rita says:

    Sounds like the perfect hero to me. thanks for sharing your love story.

  15. Darynda Jones says:

    LAURIE! Sorry I’m late to the party, but this post was awesome!!!! I laughed so hard. Hugs you and he sounds like an incredible guy!

  16. Happy Valentine’s Day to Laurie and my Ruby Sisters! Laurie, what a great catch David is. It sounds like you’re made for each other.

    My hubby buys me flowers, chocolates and clothes for no reason at all sometimes. I don’t know how I got so lucky!

  17. […] me and you married one of those individuals you might want to read a Ruby blog I wrote in 2010, Valentine’s Day Encouragement for the Romantically Challenged, for a bit of […]


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