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I got Gayla a couple of bracelets and a little heart-shaped mirror for Valentine’s Day this year. Maybe not the most creative gifts in the history of romance, but she seemed to like them. And at least I know with certainty that it wasn’t the worst Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever given her. That distinction belongs to a gift from a few years back.

That year, I had waited till the last minute to get a gift. I ran inside a Christian bookstore looking for just the right thing. I found a book I thought she might enjoy. Due to the trauma caused by this book purchase, I have blocked its title out of my mind, but it was something about how to be a better mom (In my defense, it was on a table of suggested Valentine’s Day gifts – but obviously the author paid big bucks to have it placed there, or maybe a male employee of the bookstore put it there). I guess I could have gotten a worse gift – maybe a weight loss guide or a book called “10 Ways You Are Just Like Your Mother.” But the gift I chose has to rank pretty low on the romance list.

When Gayla opened the gift, I didn’t get the reaction all men hope to receive for Valentine’s gifts – big hugs and kisses, along with exclamations that we are the most thoughtful, romantic studmuffins around. The reaction I got was total silence. And maybe a little smoke coming out of her ears. When she saw that her Valentine’s gift was a book about maternal improvement, two thoughts immediately came to her mind: I apparently only think of her as a mom, and I apparently don’t think she’s doing a very good job at it.

I learned several things from that Valentine’s Day fail. #1, I’m an idiot. #2, I need to make it very clear to Gayla that I see her first and foremost as my wife, and only secondarily as my kids’ mom, and especially on Valentine’s Day there needs to be at least some hint of romance and some reminder that I’m still crazy about her. #3, I need to love Gayla enough to think through the unintended messages that could be sent by my words and actions. I need to love her enough to put myself in her place, and ask myself, “How is this going to hit her?” #4, see item #1.

Guys, I sincerely hope your Valentine’s Day is more successful than mine was that year! And if you got your wife that book, please drop everything and find something else before it is too late!