I had an amazing Valentine's Day! My man went overboard with the gifts, affection, attention and love! Can every day be Feb. 14? No, really! I have a great man who loves me hard and I appreciate him, but he's not as romantic as I would like him to be. How do I keep up this romantic momentum in my relationship? —G.R.
Big congrats to you! I'm glad you had a great day. By the nature of what I do as a life coach and dating and relationship expert, people usually come to me when they're in crisis or need things fixed. Post-Valentine's Day, I'm getting a lot of stories from women who were disappointed on Tuesday.
Like all other holidays, Valentine's Day tends to let you know loud and clear where you stand with your significant other. Feb. 14 might be a "Hallmark holiday," but everyone knows it's a test. As you can imagine, no one's happy when a partner doesn't pass. I'm happy that your man did — and with flying colors, by the sound of it.
For the most part, Valentine's Day is when women are showered with gifts and gestures of romance. For men? Not so much. They know they're expected to go above and beyond on Feb. 14, and the ones who don't want any problems from their lady (or ladies, in some cases) aim to exceed expectations. I totally get why you'd want every day to be all about you and to be showered with affection, attention and gifts on a daily basis, but frankly, even on a weekly schedule, it's unrealistic.
Men put a lot into Valentine's Day, more than women tend to realize. It will be beneficial to your relationship if you manage your expectations when it comes to gifting. In 2012 Americans spent $17.6 billion on Valentine's Day, with the average guy expected to drop $168.74 on his woman, according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey. Those numbers are a new high over the past decade. Frankly, the average guy can't afford to do that daily or weekly.
But if what you're looking for is the affection and attention instead of the gifts, your odds are much better. Communicate with your man by asking for what you want. He gets a million cultural cues to know what you expect on Valentine's Day. But if you've been silent on what else you expect or would like from him, he's probably clueless, especially if you've seemed fine with the way things have been going in the relationship thus far.
Avoid criticizing him for what he's not doing, and use positive reinforcement to express how much you love it when he cooks for you, rubs your feet, cuddles up while watching a movie or whatever he does that qualifies as romantic to you.
Remember to keep the scales balanced in your relationship. Your significant other will be much more willing to do for you on a regular basis when he feels reciprocity. As much as you like random gifts, so does he.
You described your man as "great," so you should have no problem spoiling him. One of the best things about men is that most of them honestly can be as easy to please as they often claim to be. Cop a pair of tickets so he can watch his favorite team live, pick up something that goes vroom! from the nearest hardware store or just cook his favorite meal and have his favorite drink waiting for him by his plate. Attention to details will take you a long way in a relationship.
Also, pay attention to the ways that your partner may be showing his romantic side in his own ways. The male idea of expressing love (or, at the very least, affection) isn't always roses, candles and flowers. It's the things that most women take for granted. Men are showing love and affection every time they take out the trash, shovel snow, change a lightbulb, help you move, or plunk down cash or a credit card to pick up the tab for what you need or just what makes you happy.
So we're very clear: It's all a sacrifice. No one actually likes doing any of these things, but it becomes worthwhile because it makes a partner's life easier and makes her smile. That's love.
Most men who commit to a relationship genuinely care about their partner and place a high premium on keeping that person happy and maintaining the relationship. Folks get lax over time, of course, and both parties begin to take each other for granted. But know that your partner is most likely to go the extra mile when your appreciation is explicitly expressed. Never underestimate the power of acknowledging your mate's efforts and explicitly saying, "Thank you!"
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.