Calling all husbands: Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. What are you giving your wife?
For many of us, that thought means panic. Chocolate, flowers, earrings, bracelets, heart-shaped pendants, heart-shaped anything? All this stuff that guys know so little about.
What’s really in a woman’s heart?
You may have moved beyond the novice mistake of expecting to find beautiful, long-stemmed roses at the florist shop on the way home on February 14th (that was my first Valentine shock – all the bunches were wrapped and ready for other guys to pick up).
But twelve years later, Valentine’s Day still throws me into a shade of panic, and my first response is to get a bit self-righteous.
Why do women need these outward signs of affection, after all? She’ll know I love her even if I don’t get her something. Why did that early Christian martyr St. Valentine have to be killed on February 14th (which in medieval lore was the day that birds started mating) and take the place of Cupid in our popular imagination?
Then I remember: love makes the effort.
Even if I don’t get the best gift, even if the flowers are not the color she likes or the earrings are not the kind she will wear, I will put my heart in my hand and offer it to my wife through my gift. I will make the effort, take the risk, be the man she married.
I will offer her Chocolate from the Heart. Whatever gift I give, it will be from the heart.
Cor ad cor loquitur is the traditional Catholic formula. "Heart speaks to heart." The model is Christ and his disciple, in an intimate dialogue based on love, trust and honesty. Yet a husband is called to be a model of Christ to his wife. Remember St. Paul: "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for her" (Eph 5:25).
With this perspective, each St. Valentine’s Day is a reliving of the moment I proposed to my wife. As I give the gift from the heart on February 14th, I am open, vulnerable, offering my love for consideration, not sure if my beloved will accept it with the intensity that I intend.
After so many years, there is some routine to the ritual of gift-giving, and there are two children now to watch, and to learn. When I express love to my wife in this way, it can serve as a model for my boys on how to treat a woman. I am conscious (most times) of setting a good example.
But even as I go through what may seem like a routine each year at this time, there is still that mystery of self and other, that reaching across the open space to the heart of the beloved. Each time, as the gift is given, there is another year of life and love behind us, and shades of heartache and disappointment. I say with my gift – after these many years of marriage, and the more you know about me, for better and for worse, will you still receive this gift, which is my own self, into your heart?
It is a revelation, a spark of new life, the retelling of a long story of love, when my wife says with a smile, a whisper or a kiss that the answer is "yes."
So, husbands, you may panic and perspire this Valentine’s Day as you think of what to get her. Think of it as a good thing that you still care enough to worry if you wife will accept you, and that she still cares enough to accept.