Getting past men's Valentine's dread
By Jeff Elder
Knight Ridder News Service
By Jeff Elder
Wanna see grown men turn wide-eyed with dread?
Pssst! Hey, guys. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
Nothing unnerves men like a day of intimacy and price tags. Men suffer from an acute fear — amor-aphobia. They see Cupid, they get stupid.
"I feel very bad for men on Valentine's Day," says longtime therapist Connie Podesta. "It costs them money. They just want to please women, but women don't always know what they want."
So what should couples do?
"Have a very good, open discussion about what you want to do together," says Podesta, of Better Life Media, an online counseling network.
"Look, if it were up to men, there would be no Valentine's Day," says John Gray, therapist and author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."
The manly version of Valentine's Day happens a week earlier, Gray says, on testosterone-pumped Super Bowl Sunday.
But men understand they're supposed to do something on Feb. 14, Gray says.
So they approach it in a typically male way — as a chore, like taking out the garbage.
"Men want to feel successful," Gray says. "That's what testosterone is all about — accomplishing a task. They just want her approval."
But women typically don't like that rush — especially on a day devoted to emotion.
So a typical Valentine's Day discussion might go like this:
Guy: (Barging in) Whatcha wanna do for Valentine's Day, Babe?
Gal: (Taken aback) Oh! I don't know. Whatever you want.
Gal: (Thinking to herself) Surprise me! Or let's sit down and plan a perfect day! Or just do something that sincerely shows how you feel about me!
Guy: (Thinking to himself): This is stupid. Do we have any beer?
The communication breaks down, men feel like they've failed, and for many guys, Valentine's Day becomes about as much fun as tax day.
Slow down, fellas, Gray says. You can't demand to know her needs.
"Guys have just got to wait it out a little. Ask, discuss, be patient. You know what it's like when you ask her where she wants to go to dinner? It turns into a 15-minute discussion. She doesn't want to answer directly because she wants to discuss options and feelings."
After this moment of sharing (easy, guys), a guy can make a thoughtful, considerate plan. And women love that effort, Gray says. Because this shows he cares. He's put some thought into it. She matters.
For their part, women should respond by giving guys the approval they so badly need, Gray says. "If he makes an effort, give him a break! Respond positively! Sometimes just smiling makes him feel successful."
Couples might have an easier Valentine's Day if they remember Gray's formula: "Women like a man with a plan. Men like a woman with a smile."
Dr. Ava Cadell, a sexologist and author, says there are inexpensive and thoughtful things that men can do. For instance, you could make a video or DVD of yourself listing all the things you love about your partner.
Why go to the effort?
"If a guy communicates with his lover and is creative and thoughtful, he's more likely to get lucky on Valentine's Day," Cadell says.
Now those are terms a guy can understand.