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February 11, 2014 > The Best ValentineÕs Day Gift

The Best ValentineÕs Day Gift

By Anne Chan, PhD, MFT

ItÕs that time of the year some people absolutely love and some absolutely hate. Everywhere you look, stores are decked with hot pinks, crimson reds, and hearts of all sizes. Yes, itÕs ValentineÕs Day again Ð the day of passion that some dread with a passion, wondering what perfect gift they can get for their loved ones.

I have a suggestion for an out-of-the box, but one-size-fits-all gift that is great for any relationship. Anyone can give this gift Ð it wonÕt cost any money, you donÕt have to drive to a store to pick it up or even spend one second online to submit your order.

Before I reveal this gift, read the following scenario and see if it feels familiar to you:

Partner A: You said youÕd call me if you were running late! How many times have I told you that IÕd like you to call if youÕre going to be late??!!

Partner B: But my phone was dead Ð I forgot to charge it. What do you expect me to do Ð buy another battery so I can call you?

Partner A: You always have some lame excuse Ð I was waiting and waiting and you didnÕt even bother to call.

Partner B: Like I told you, my phone was dead Ð itÕs so typical of you to expect me to do something I canÕt do.

Partner A: How hard is it to call anyway? CouldnÕt you have called from your office phone? Why do you always have these dumb excuses?

Partner B: ItÕs not a dumb excuse! Why canÕt you understand how busy I am and I couldnÕt call you?

Partner A: So I guess IÕm not all that important for you Ð youÕre too BUSY to call me because itÕs not all that important, right?

Before you know it, this exchange becomes a full-fledged argument, peppered with yelling/name-calling/resenting/blaming/the silent treatment (pick your favorite arguing strategy). Sadly, something so little as a missed phone call can trigger an avalanche of anger, hurt, and pain that cascades into a major fight that might even last days.

If the above exchange feels familiar to you, know that it is common for couples to have these types of arguments, regardless of sexual orientation, age, and cultural backgrounds.

The good news is that there is something powerful that you can do that can calm an angry partner and prevent a fight from escalating (this technique works with friends and co-workers too). The secret is to listen, really listen to what your partner is saying. Do not give your point of view, do not give excuses, do not downplay what they are saying Ð just listen carefully to what they are saying, pay attention to what they are trying to communicate, and apologize for not being able to deliver what they needed.

For instance, in the above exchange, Partner A might have been worried or might have needed to feel reassured about being important. Understandably, Partner B got defensive, perhaps felt unappreciated and attacked, and then went on a blaming offensive. Had Partner B been attentive to Partner AÕs underlying needs, listened, and apologized, the whole exchange could have had a radically different result.

It is not easy to listen to a personÕs point of view, especially when that person is steaming mad and blaming you. But if you are able to withstand the onslaught and stay the course of listening without defending yourself or attacking your partner, you can create a means of communication that can lead to greater understanding and healing in your relationship.

Take a moment to ask yourself, ÒWhen was the last time I truly listened to my partner when he/she was upset at me?Ó

If itÕs been too long since you had a truly productive albeit difficult conversation, try listening without defending. This could well be the best ValentineÕs Day gift you can give. Remember, roses can fade, chocolates can go stale, but the gift of listening can last forever.

Anne Chan is a career counselor and licensed psychotherapist in Union City. She specializes in helping people find happiness in their careers, lives, and relationships. Her website is

© Anne Chan, 2014

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