I will never forget the first Valentine's Day of my marriage, six months after Shirley and I walked down the aisle. It was something of a disaster. I had gone to the USC library that morning and spent eight or ten hours poring over dusty books and journals. It slipped my mind completely that it was February 14.
What was worse, I was oblivious to the preparations going on at home. Shirley cooked a wonderful dinner, baked a pink heart-shaped cake with "Happy Valentine's Day" written on the top, placed several red candles on the table, wrapped a small gift she had bought for me, and written a love note on a greeting card. The stage was set. She would meet me at the front door with a kiss and a hug. But there I sat on the other side of Los Angeles, blissfully unaware of the storm gathering.
About 8 p.m., I got hungry and ordered a hamburger at the University Grill. After eating, I moseyed out to my Volkswagen and headed toward home. Then I made a mistake that I would regret for many moons: I stopped to see my parents, who lived near the freeway. Mom greeted me warmly and served up a great slice of apple pie. That sealed my doom.
When I finally put my key in the lock at 10:00, I knew instantly that something was horribly wrong. (I'm very perceptive about subtleties like that.) The apartment was dark and all was deathly quiet. There on the table was a coagulated dinner still sitting in our best dishes and bowls. Half–burned candles stood cold and dark in their silver–plated holders. It appeared that I had forgotten something important. But what? Then I noticed the red and white decorations on the table. Oh no! I thought.
So there I stood in the semidarkness of our little living room, feeling like a creep. I didn't even have a Valentine's Day card, much less a thoughtful gift, for Shirley. No romantic thoughts had crossed my mind all day. I couldn't even pretend to want the dried-up food that sat before me. After a brief flurry of words and a few tears, Shirley went to bed and pulled the covers up around her ears. I would have given a thousand dollars for a true, plausible explanation for my thoughtlessness. But there just wasn't one. It didn’t help to tell her, "I stopped by my mom’s house for a piece of great apple pie. It was wonderful. You should’ve been there."
Fortunately, Shirley is not only a romantic lady, but a forgiving one, too. We talked about my insensitivity later that night and came to an understanding. I learned a big lesson that Valentine's Day and determined never to forget it. Once I understood how my wife differed from me—especially regarding all things romantic—I began to get with the program.
It is essential to cultivate a sense of romance if intimacy is to flourish in a marriage. But romance between a husband and wife is precarious. Like the flame of a lone candle burning in the wind, it can easily flicker and die. Your "flame" must be tended with the greatest of care—on Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year.
Just as selfishness is a sure marriage killer, an attitude of service and sacrifice—the "I'm Third" philosophy—is an indisputable marriage builder. Husband, I urge you to study your wife. What is it that speaks to her heart?
Are you providing that for her? Would she appreciate help with the dishes, vacuuming, or changing the baby's diaper? Should you be more romantic? Could you put off that weekend auto show so she can visit her sister? Maybe you'd rather go fishing on Saturday, but should you watch the kids instead so your wife can have a needed day out?
Jesus gave us a classic example of service when He washed His disciples' feet and told them to do the same for one another. Is it time for some symbolic "foot washing" in your marriage? Women are romantic creatures. God made them that way. Have you tried to understand that tender nature and sought to meet the needs it expresses?
Here's the personal payoff: If you as a husband will address this romantic longing, your wife, being a responder, will be drawn closer to you. You'll get the kind of attention and admiration you hope for. Try it!
From Dr. Dobson's book, Five Essentials For Lifelong Intimacy