Roses, bears and chocolates hover near cash registers and check-out lines in nearly every store and gas station, allowing forgetful partners on their way home from work a last ditch effort to throw a few bucks at Valentine's Day.
But beyond the lace trim, truffle-filled, red shrink-wrapped goodies, area marriage counselors say Valentine's Day can offer the chance for valentines to truly connect without spending money blindly on trinkets and trophies.
The key is to first understand the difference between what men and women need in relationships, said Terry Lusher, counselor at Encouraging Words Counseling in Lewisburg.
He explained that women need to feel loved, understood and secure.
"A woman want to feel attractive, desirable and like her man really gets her and really listens," he said.
"One of the biggest things women tell me is that they want to feel understood and accepted. They don't want men to throw gifts, money or sex at them. On Valentine's Day, if a man comes home with roses but has not been meeting her needs the rest of the year, those roses may get thrown at him," he said.
Men are on another page completely, he explained. Their top need in a relationship is feeling respected.
He explained women can go a long way to meet their partners' needs by beginning to tell them they respect their partner more so than verbally only expressing their love.
"You can ask a woman, instead of saying 'Honey, I love you' to say, 'I really respect you,' and see a completely different reaction from a man," Lusher noted.
A great Valentine gift for a man could be something that allows him to pursue his passions or interests, like holding down the home and letting him have that weekend fishing trip.
Likewise, women value having face time and time to talk with their mate. A romantic evening could even start by meeting at a coffee shop for a chat or taking a scenic drive together.
Hamlet Smith, counselor with Life Strategies in Beckley and Fayette, also stressed that Valentine's Day can be a key time to put away the wallet and meet your partner's needs with things money can't buy.
First and foremost, he stressed the importance of showing gratitude in a relationship.
"Start your day by telling your partner what you do appreciate about them. It's easy and cheap," he said. "Sincere praise can be one of the quickest ways to get to your partner's heart. I understand there are issues that frustrate you about your special someone, but use this day to reinforce what's right in your friend."
He also stressed that really putting thought into a gift is more important than its cost.
"Some of my best Valentine gifts have been purchased from the dollar store. Take the time to highlight something in your romantic history or think a character quality of your special someone and accentuate it with a simple gift," he suggests.
We live in a stressful and busy world. Smith's tips give options to create a happy Valentine's Day by staying in and watching a movie together or cooking a homemade meal together.
"Nothing says 'I love you' like time spent together. Push your responsibilities back and give the gift of time."
And regardless of what your mate conjures up for the big date tonight, accept their attempts to connect, he said.
"Maybe you're not married to Don Juan. Don't expect an overnight transformation into a Fabio-inspired love story. The fact that they tried is good enough," Smith concluded.
Encouraging Words Inc. can be reached by phone at 304-645-5355 or 304-256-0095. More information about Terry Lusher and his counseling center is available online at www.encouragingwordswv.com.
Life Strategies Counseling Services Inc. and Hamlet Smith can be reached via phone at 304-252-7526 or online at www.lifestrat.com.
All my single ladies and man-friends:
Valentine's Day can be a great chance to meet your own needs and pursue activities you love.
Terry Lusher, of Encouraging Words Counseling, explained that no one can meet the needs of their partner before meeting their own needs.
And that mean loving and respecting yourself.
Hamlet Smith, of Life Strategies Counseling, said the most important thing to do is be yourself.
"If you are a dog person, go to a dog show or teach a class or coach. You are more likely to connect with someone who shares your interests if you are pursuing what makes you come alive," he said.
Think about going out with other singles on Valentine's Day or sending flowers to other single friends, he suggests.
"Remember, a beautiful attitude about life is very attractive."
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