On Valentine's Day husbands will arrive home with chocolates, roses, lingerie and images of wild sex dancing in their heads. As wives everywhere unwrap their gifts, they'll be thinking, "So what's in this for me?" Far from being that romantic holiday as depicted on the cards, Valentine's Day has become another time for men to place more expectations on women.
The evidence is in: women are working harder than men. Most are still being paid less for their work outside the home. They are likely to be shouldering more of the burden of household and child rearing responsibilities than men. Women in the workplace continue to face sexism, spoken and unspoken. They are often exhausted by the expenditure of energy trying to combat the sexism they face without appearing petty or bitchy. Their work day is almost never over when they arrive back in their homes. Adding insult to injury, Valentine's Day becomes an opportunity for men, in the guise of romance, to obligate their wives to sex when what their wives really want is time to relax, sleep, and have their houses cleaned by someone else. Therefore, for so many women their understanding of Valentine's Day sex is just one more task that she is expected to perform.
For many women Valentine's Day does not bring out romantic feelings, instead, it ignites anger and frustration. Valentine's Day seems to benefit men while requiring women to smile as they accommodate the desires of another man one more time. Women, at home and work, continually face the challenges of men who demand much and don't give enough in return. While it is claimed that it is a holiday for women it doesn't take much to see that it's the men who get what they want, while women are wanting.
Wouldn't it be great to rewrite the meaning of Valentine's Day to a holiday that truly benefits women? The following are 10 rules for men that could transform Valentine's Day into a holiday women can enjoy and maybe make them feel loved.
1. Gifts are fine but they should be something that she really wants. Not a gift a man wants a woman to want.
2. Rather than entering the home with expectations of romance and desire, ask your Valentine what you can do to lighten her load. (This should be something that is built into marriage every day -- but certainly try it on Valentine's Day.)
3. Clean the house, and do it well. Don't do it in a manner that will predictably cause her to think that she never wants you to do it again because it was really half-hearted.
4. Do the laundry, and do it well.
5. Make dinner or make reservations. This should be a night your wife doesn't have to cook.
6. Offer to take over all household duties for the evening so that she can take a long bath, read a book, watch her favorite TV show, etc.
7. When you get into bed, let her sleep if you can see that's really what she wants. Don't try to manipulate her into feeling guilty because she is not receptive to the idea of sex just because it is Valentine's Day.
8. If sex is what she wants, try to put the focus on her and what you know is pleasurable to her. (If you don't know what is pleasurable to her, that's a sign of a real problem in your sex life.)
The way to a woman's heart is to show her that you are thinking of her and her needs not you and your needs. Relationships that keep the focus on the other person's needs when trying to "gift" them generally end up being the most romantic relationships. And sometimes, the most sexual relationships.
Jill Bley, Ph.D., has provided marriage and sex therapy as a therapist in private practice for 30 years. Dr. Bley is keenly aware of the issues women face as co-founder and co-director of Women Helping Women/Rape Crisis Center and lecturing on various aspects of female sexuality, battered woman syndrome, and intimacy across North America.
Robert B. Barr is the Founding Rabbi of Congregation Beth Adam and one of the founding rabbis of OurJewishCommunity.org. Barr is known for challenging assumptions while blending creativity and intellectual honesty to give voice to contemporary Jewish thought for over 30 years. His podcasts can be heard on iTunes.