He Said, She Said: Men Vs. Women on Valentine’s Day

Category: Men vs. Women Series, Weekly Columns

men-dont-have-a-clue-what-women-want-for-valentines-day he said, she said

I’ve gone off the charts with Valentine’s columns and Because I Said So comic strips this year. I guess I like the true contrast between men and women on their views of this holiday. Special friend Kim Tracy Prince wrote Girl’s Talk: A Woman’s Opinion on Valentine’s Day and I responded with Guy’s Talk: A Man’s Opinion on Valentine’s Day. My column for 12Most from last year is still getting tons of hits, reaching #1 for them this past week – 12 Most Classic Romantic Songs for Valentine’s Day. Finally, we’ll be sharing OUR favorite Love Songs at #DadChat this coming Thursday, February 14th.


But, in the spirit of our Men vs. Women blog series, I felt I should consolidate all of this material in one column representing the best and worst of this holiday from our respective gender points-of-view.

Basically, I assert that most men really fear, dislike, and dread Valentine’s Day. And, those words are the kinder ones we feel about it. Women, on the other hand, view this holiday as the litmus test for their man. My wife actually said to me the other day, in response to an argument about a money issue, “Oh, you don’t think I’m worth it?!” Classic woman’s words. Certainly not unique to my wife, I know.


I felt on hearing those words sort of like I feel when she asks if she looks fat in a certain item of clothing: I’m stuck in a lose-lose situation. I was irritated, to say the least, but then again money is one of our fundamental issues. There is nothing special about this to us, since most couples have money as one of their most common issues of conflict. The fact that I’m always right about money is irrelevant if she’s upset. I pay – literally and figuratively, regardless.

Kim’s column on what women feel about Valentine’s Day included these highlights:

~~ Our [boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/partner/wife] is a person who does not have a romantic bone in his/her body.
~~ It’s a socially acceptable reason in American culture to eat chocolate.
~~ We don’t have a [boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/partner/wife]. In the days leading up to and including Valentine’s Day, it suddenly seems like everyone we know is in a relationship, and every relationship looks wonderful and romantic.
~~ It’s the one day every year that we are encouraged to stop what we’re doing and express our love to the people in our lives whom we love.


My highlights on how men feel include:

~~ We men don’t like being set up to fail. Valentine’s Day – to us – is the quintessential lose-lose scenario and we know it.
~~ It only comes once a year.
~~ The pressure is simply too much. We want our women to tell us exactly what to do, what to buy, where to go, but they want us to KNOW!
~~ And to be very clear: It only comes ONCE a year!

So, I have a personal story about this Valentine’s Day and I bet it’s very representative of many couples. I felt initially like I handled it well by asking my wife what she’d like for Valentine’s Day. I reiterated to her that we’ve been on a minor spending spree lately and I’d hoped her gift requests would be moderately modest. She came back with a request for a designer handbag that she’d like for both Valentine’s Day and her birthday.

I held by breath and asked the price. To my shock, it wasn’t ridiculously expensive, though I’ll never get the whole thing women have for designer anythings, and I quickly and with relief said, “Go get it!” I was relieved. Off the hook at only about double what I’d like to have spent.


A couple of days later, I saw the handbag as we headed out. I asked if that was the one and she said, “Yes and No.” She said she chose a different one. I said, “Oh” and made the horrific mistake of asking what it cost to which she replied that it was slightly less than double the one she’d asked for. She went on to lecture me on what a great value it was since it was bigger and the prices are going up on these handbags and that she really needed the bigger one.

Ahhhh, makes perfect sense to me. So, I spent quadruple my budget for Valentine’s Day. Then I did the really perfect dumb guy thing and expressed some surprise and disappointment that she didn’t even ask me. She replied that I was diminishing her joy.

Yes, for us men, Valentine’s Day is lose-LOSE.

Note: Of course, this is all expressed from my point-of-view and I’m sure I’m missing salient facts and points that further demonstrate my male total lack of understanding about the importance of a handbag and how women – my wife – think. Well, duh…

Please read and/or comment on any of the other columns in the Men vs. Women series.

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  • http://twitter.com/TedRubin Ted Rubin

    Don’t get me started. Only saving grace for me is that it is my younger daughter’s birthday 🙂

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Go ahead @TedRubin:twitter – get started! 

  • http://twitter.com/harleenas Harleena Singh

    Hi Bruce!

    I bet my husband would agree with your point of view. As for me, I wonder what his plans are for this year’s Valentine Day! Hmm.. he knows it’s the litmus test. 🙂

    Good observations. Thank you.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @Harleenas:twitter – I’d love for your husband to weigh in?!

  • dadofdivas

    I am not the best at figuring out what to get, whether big or small, grand or subtle… it is always a challenge… I think what is important is that we at least make an effort!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Chris – ASK HER @DadOfDivas:twitter 

      • dadofdivas

        I don’t know if it is that easy… I think at least my wife wants me to be at least somewhat intuitive and creative

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Why not ask and see?

          • dadofdivas

            I did and she said that with our Disney trip we should not exchange this year

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            @dadofdivas:twitter oh-oh, now I’m worried. I think that’s woman’s speak for YOU’D BETTER COME THROUGH! At least get a card and flowers!

  • http://www.weareallnthistogether.com We are All in This Together

    I disliked Valentine’s Day when I was married. It seemed that I was the one that couldn’t get a clue.  Awww, the joys of being divorced and not in a relationship for Valentine’s Day!!  

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Well, I’m married and I’m stuck with it! lol…

  • Justin K

    I like this post! Very timely! I was just thinking I need to get my act together! And, that I needed to take my small son out to get something for my wife too! YIKES! It is very much a litmus test, I agree, though I think of it as a fiery hoop to jump through. Having said that, the Missus is generally very low-key about the whole thing. Maybe she deserves a designer handbag this year!  
    Justin- Writing Pad Dad
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    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @google-6da94f575394e5f709cbec11f822192f:disqus – the BEST thing you can do is take that outing with your boy – THAT is teaching him how to be a loving husband/man/son!

  • http://twitter.com/profkrg Kenna Griffin

    Never underestimate the value of a fabulous handbag. It makes her feel pretty. She feels pretty, she’s happy. She’s happy, you’re happy. Got it?

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @profkrg – NO!

  • http://twitter.com/ChattyProf Ellen Bremen

    Ugh! The most ridiculous Hallmark holiday! I have just become less enamored with V-day… I can’t help it. It almost seems like it is more about taking care of our children and what we have to do for their classrooms (which has become such a farce, in my opinion–going to Target and listening to the kids and their parents is hilarious). My anniversary is Feb. 24th, so that’s better to celebrate, I think, so we’ve just excluded Feb. 14th altogether. Though these days, with two exhausting kids, my DH and I are just feeling… well… exhausted :-). Maybe we need to plan a good V-day or anniversary when our kids are in college?

    I’m not sure what to say about the handbag. I recently had to give up both of my Coach purses for a $40-cross-body functional job from REI because I have a young boy who doesn’t listen and will run away from me. I need both hands free, so no more nice handbags for now. I think I’m jealous of your wife :-). Ellen

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I think this quote, from you, @ChattyProf:twitter is a keeper, “I have just become less enamored with V-day” – I like the irony of using the word, “enamored” when being critical of Valentine’s Day!

  • Jesse Moore

    I’ve always felt Valentine’s was a loser for men.  It’s one of those “go through the motion” things we just have to do.  I just bite the bullet and get red roses and chocolate.  That usually works.  

    I found the pic of the couple sitting under the tree, especially the hearts =)

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We soooo agree Jesse, but it is OUR JOB to do what pleases our woman!

  • http://twitter.com/Dr_Weberman Jennifer Weberman

    I think the way a couple approaches Valentine’s Day is a microcosm for their entire relationship. If a guy feels resentful of being made to do romantic things and “goes through the motions” to get it over with, there is no way to convince me that that doesn’t show up in the relationship all year long, not just Valentine’s Day. OR if a guy goes out of his way to “jump through hoops of fire” in attempts to avoid his wife’s wrath, again, present throughout the relationship. In other words, Valentine’s Day is not the problem. It just shines a bright light on what’s already not working.

    I personally do not celebrate Valentine’s Day in my relationship with my husband, but we’re on the same page about this. If HE liked the holiday (and I’ve certainly dated many men that do) then I would celebrate it to honor something that is special to HIM. And I would find the joy. I would expect my romantic partner to do the same for me, if something means that much to ME. If he can’t then the whole relationship won’t work, not just Valentine’s Day.

    My husband has seen every Twilight movie in the theater with me. And when he takes me he finds the joy – why? Because he knows it means so much to me. Likewise I have seen every Harry Potter movie with him for the same reason. It gives me joy to give him joy. I don’t have to understand why he gets joy from that. Its not important. And its not something to “get through”. Its something to savor with him.

    With that said, if you are a man that married a woman that likes to be lavished with expensive gifts, that can’t be something new. Surely you knew this when you signed on. Perhaps you like that aspect of the relationship? Perhaps it makes you feel “masculine” to be able to complain about how much your wife likes to spend “your” money. But whatever the reason – you CHOSE this relationship with your eyes open. So either do something about it or stop complaining.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thanks for the free therapy @twitter-434387174:disqus – you are completely RIGHT ON…I will say that when we’re dating, we all tend to put forth our best…and then, later, that may recede…just sayin’…

      • http://twitter.com/Dr_Weberman Jennifer Weberman

        Oops! Did that sound like therapy?! Yikes, sorry about that 🙂

        Your point about “best efforts” is very true. I also think that when we’re dating we can have a tendency to close our eyes to certain unpleasantries that become more troublesome later on when the high of “newness” wears off.

        Either way, I get to spend part of Valentine’s Day with you, which is always a good thing 🙂

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          @twitter-434387174:disqus – I liked what you had to say! 

  • http://twitter.com/MeghanMBiro Meghan M. Biro

    This is a classic post! The ultimate Hallmark Holiday is right. 

    Valentine’s Day should be a daily, weekly, monthly happening. SWAK. 

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thx @twitter-22634164:disqus – I hate V-Day more and more each year!

  • Pingback: Love and Kisses on Valentine's Day | Bruce Sallan Radio Show | Bruce Sallan()

  • David Weber

    Valentine’s Day is a crock of crap. It does nothing for me to be remembered on Valentine’s Day, nor do I get much of a lift out of remembering it.

    But I have a strong bias: I dislike ALL holidays.  ALL of them. The only exceptions are I like Passover (I’m Jewish) and Thanksgiving. One reason is that you really DO celebrate those holidays; they are not occasions or excuses for buying crap of all kinds, worrying about cards and so on.  The rest of the holidays on the calendar can go to blazes, for all I care.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Awww geee, @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – I had hoped YOU would be MY Valentine!