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ChrisJonesFebruaryMen are trained to dread Valentine's Day. We view it as sort of a second Christmas for women. In our bravado, we men have the audacity to say to our wives:

• Here's a card and some flowers. It's the thought that counts.
• Valentine's Day is so commercialized. Why do we need one day to remind you that I love you?
• If this holiday is about love, why don't you get me something, too?

I admit, I drank the Kool-Aid. I've made the excuses to not participate in Valentine's Day. As recently as last year, I fought the desire to feed in to the hype. Sure, we dined out, but I made it seem like normal date night. Why should I let the world tell me how to express love to my wife? She knows that I love her, I rationalized.

Then something changed one evening.

I stopped looking my wife for a second and started observing her. I watched her plan meals in her spiral notebook, scour the internet to make family calendars packed with fun field trips for the summer, cuddle with the children on the couch watching cartoons that she didn't care about, and listen to them talk about games she didn't understand. I felt ashamed of my diamond-studded heart. There was my bride — the mother of a son she bore me and one she inherited and loves as her own — being the embodiment of love.

I felt like a fool. I was a fool.

Sure, I express my love on a daily basis in word and action and I give her gifts sporadically throughout the year, but is it really too much for me to honor her on one day set aside to celebrate my love for her? Is my pride so thick? The problem I discovered was that I hated the expectation. Hated it, guys. But my wife expects to be showered with adoration on Valentine's Day. She expects to taken out to a nice restaurant and have my love displayed publicly. She expects to have photos to post of my gifts, our date and us displaying our love for one another. She expects it and she deserves it.

Here's what I learned and what I'll pass on to my fellow dads and husbands: Whatever actions or inactions we take on Valentine's Day are a full-blown expression of our love for her. It's the Super Bowl of romance. The rest of the year — much like a sports season — doesn't matter once you get to the big game, and this is the big one, guys. Either we're her MVP or we have to wait 364 more days for another shot at it. The choice is ours.

Let's play to win. She expects us to.

Chris Jones is the editor-at-large of Fredericksburg Parent. He's learning that loving the things his wife loves strengthens their bond.

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