Thursday, February 12, 2015

How responsible communication can lead to a great Valentine’s Day!

by Maryanne Comaroto

Rob, 35 Huntington Beach, CA, asked Maryanne:

Last year my wife flipped out when I bought her lingerie for Valentine’s Day. The truth is, I still don’t know why. She just got angry and said “Isn’t it obvious?” and that was it. Any advice on what I get her this year that won’t set her off (and that we both can enjoy), which is what I thought the point of Valentine’s Day was?

Maryanne replies:

What a great question, Rob! It's good that you're asking yourself these things; some guys might have just shrugged and bought a different brand of lingerie this year and hoped for the best. I think you realize this is not the way forward, unless you want to spend your Valentine's Day being told off again.

So then what is the right gift? The best gift to give to each other is to get clear, well before Valentine's Day, on what each of you expects and what each of you is hoping for. Her reaction to your gift last year is most likely an indicator of a larger communication issue, and now that it's had a year to fester you want to clear the air before it leads to further resentment.

Begin the conversation with an open-ended question so that she does not feelcornered into a specific type of answer. "I love you and I know last Valentine's Day didn't turn out how either of us expected, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on what we could do to make Valentine's Day special this year." She'll either answer the question directly and give you some suggestions about things she'd like to do, which is fine, but more likely this will open up a discussion about what really went wrong last year, and this in turn will lead to a talk about what Valentine's Day means to each of you and how you would like to spend it this year. 

If you do find yourself in that deep conversation, stay on track by focusing on techniques for constructive and effective communication. Set yourselves up for responsible and mature conversation by using these guidelines to help you along.

State the reason you want to talk: "I'd like to discuss how we can have a special and memorable Valentine's Day."

Time it right: No woman want's to hear "I want to talk" as she's rushing out the door for work in the morning. As soon as you say those four little words, most women will want to talk right now, so choose a time that is not disruptive.

Set up rules for the talk: A good starting point is to take 3 - 5 minutes each to speak uninterrupted about whatever you want. You can talk about last Valentine's day, this Valentine's day, or whatever. Stick to I-messages and avoid blaming the other person. He might say "I feel anxious at how much guesswork is involved in this holiday"; she might say "I felt sad that you gave me lingerie when I was hoping for a night out on the town."

Repeat what the other person said: It's essential to confirm what you heard; take turns repeating what the other person said.Reveal what a perfect Valentine's Day would be: take a few moments each to tell each other what Valentine's Day would be like for you in an ideal situation. Be honest.

Play negotiator for each other: He might start out like this: "I've got an idea - meet me after work, I'll take you out for dinner and dessert, and then we'll go home and I'll give you a massage." She might respond with, "or how about this - you pick up a cake on your way home, I'll make your favorite dinner, and then we can eat cake together while giving each other massages."

Usually what happens when you focus on this type of communication where hearing the other person is the most important thing, what happens is that you come to the conclusion that you both want the same thing: to have a loving, romantic Valentine's Day and to enjoy being with each other. Relationships can be tricky and what each of us wants can change from moment to moment. So even if compromise means that you don't always get to do the specific thing you want to do, loving communication and mature decision-making means that you'll always have a great time no matter what you end up doing.

- Maryanne

by Maryanne Comaroto of Maryanne Live

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