Esther Perel, the best-selling author of Mating In Captivity, is TED Talk-famous for her clear-eyed insights about sex and love, and her non-traditional ideas about modern marriage. So, she probably finds Valentine’s Day to be overly commercial and outdated, right?
“Holidays force us to mark time and acknowledge something,” Perel says. “We can be cynical and talk about commercialization, but every holiday is commercialized. We don’t stop doing Christmas. It’s a good idea, on occasion, to celebrate your relationship and who you love.”
So, if you were veering towards just going through the motions this Valentine’s Day or, worse, dismissing it altogether, don’t be such a whatever-the-Valentine’s-equivalent-of-Scrooge-is. Perel has a few common sense tips that will remind your partner why they fell so hard for you that procreation seemed like a good idea in the first place.
Make It Non-Consensual
Generation Xers and Millennials live in an age of nonhierarchical gender dynamics, which is mostly good because now everyone experiences the joys of diaper changing and overnight feedings. But in matters of romance, Perel believes you sometimes have to look backward to move forward. “The consensual mode is so prevalent: ‘What do you want to do? What should we do?'” she says. “If she can let go, she’s in heaven. So, say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ Marking time is a ritual, and rituals aren’t negotiated — they’re performed.”
Keep It Simple
Perel tells the story of a husband who wanted to do something special for his wife (in this instance it was for Mother’s Day, but just go with it). He began designing something on his computer and got so into it that the holiday came and went and a month later he still hadn’t given her anything. “It was sweet, but he got so carried away that he forgot the purpose of the thing. Simple goes a long way, and it doesn’t take much to buy flowers,” she points out.
“Marking time is a ritual, and rituals aren’t negotiated — they’re performed.”
Dinner Dates Are For Amateurs
“Do something that makes you feel young,” she says. “Don’t go out as parents, and don’t do something typical. Take bikes out, do something fun that you haven’t done in a while, so that you don’t just sit and talk and look at each other.” Easy for her to say — she hasn’t been sitting on that impossible-to-get reservation for 6 months. But Perel’s not a pro at this stuff for nothing: If you’ve got a dinner planned, here’s how you blow her mind with it …
Write Her Something (But Not On A Card)
Seriously. A Valentine’s Day date has to contend with plenty of cheesiness, so don’t let some guy who’s paid to be cheesy write your thoughts for you. Perel says there is no more powerful gesture than to write something down about your relationship and then, before the first drink is served, read it out loud to your partner. “It changes the whole thing,” she says. “You took time for me, you thought about me, you’re telling me. This is the marking — the dinner is irrelevant. Write something that gives the dinner meaning, and read it out loud.”
Need tips? Talk to these guys.