Valentine Fails…

On Sunday a small Valentine’s Day gift arrived from my wife. As you will see from the picture below, while romance may not be dead after 30 years of marriage, it is more spiky than soft and sweet.

This got me thinking about what I will get my wife this year (any suggestions of a suitable response are welcome) and reminded me of the too frequent occasions when we men do not live up to our wife/girlfriend’s expectations of the perfect Valentine’s gift. We need to be careful not to surrender to our natural inclination towards practical, useable gifts; because practical is not romantic.

My least successful Valentine’s offering was 5 years ago, just a year after my wife had been very ill and had to retire early on health grounds. Being concerned for her health and knowing that getting a little regular exercise each day would help her recover, I encouraged her to join me on walks, with only limited success. Then as Valentine’s Day approached, I had a brainwave.

I researched online for the perfect fitness app, which back then appeared to be a quite expensive Fitbit, with its heart monitor, sleep monitor, pulse ox monitor and even better, it had a feature that would monitor how long the wearer was stationary and give them encouraging messages about doing something energetic. I even got my daughter to help pick one with a nice ‘plum’ coloured strap because I know my limitations, and appearance matters as much as functionality. What could go wrong?

Leaving early for work, I placed the gift and Valentine’s card on her breakfast tray before heading off for work, expecting to bask in her approval when I got home that evening.

Unfortunately, she had tried out the Fitbit during the day, and when I arrived home, she enquired with a smile that masked her irritation ‘What made you think I needed reminded every hour, on the hour that I was not doing enough exercise?’

Apparently, what I had thought of as helpful reminders of how to improve her fitness came across to a woman struggling to recover from illness as ‘Get off your ass, you fat bitch’. (Her phrase, not mine – she has a way with words.)

As we talked it became clear that she was justifiably angry at her body for letting her down and taking away the career that she loved, she no longer felt in control. My simplistic encouragement towards exercise was badly timed and some of that anger came my way.

In love and in politics it is better to talk through and laugh at our misunderstandings; we still tease each other about how far apart our perspectives were. Sometimes other people see a situation from a completely different viewpoint and taking time to see things from their point of view avoids unnecessary tensions. (A lesson for the DUP and Sinn Fein in Stormont?)

Do any of you have epic Valentine Fails? (Always wise to check with your partner before sharing.)


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