How to Handle Valentine’s Day When Your Wife Wants Out

With Valentine's Day coming up next weekend, lots of Haveners have been sending me questions like this one:

Dear Stephen,

My wife and I are separated… What should I do for Valentine’s Day?

We've been separated for 3 months now. We communicate regularly, but she’s still distant and she has said that she’s happier with the space than she was inside the marriage.

I spent the whole first month of our separation constantly texting/calling her and doing things that I now understand were pressuring her to come back.

I’ve spent the past two months giving her the space she wants and working on myself, while making the most of the few times we’ve seen each other.

I’ve made a lot of changes and I know that I’m a better man and husband than I’ve ever been.

My question is this:

Valentines Day When Youre Separated

With Valentine's Day coming up, I know I shouldn’t pressure on her or smother her, but it just feels wrong to do nothing… After all, every wife deserves to feel special on Valentine’s Day!

Is there anything I can do for Valentine's Day that shows my wife I still care about her and haven’t given up on the marriage, without pressuring her or smothering her?

What should I get my separated wife for Valentine’s Day? Anything? Nothing? Please help.

 - Unopened Chocolates

This is a great question, and as you continue reading, you're going to discover a compilation of all the advice I've ever given to men looking to make Valentine's Day special even when your wife wants out. 

Two Real-Life Examples of Great Valentine's Day Gifts For a Separated Wife

Let me start by giving you a couple examples of what a really good Valentine’s Day gift looks like in a separation:

Example 1. Dennis - IHOP Gift Card

A few weeks ago, a guy (let’s call him Dennis) emailed me asking for help getting his wife an anniversary gift… Not quite the same as Valentine’s Day, but still a special occasion.

We talked a bit about it via email and Dennis mentioned that his wife's favorite restaurant was IHOP.

Apparently, every year on their anniversary, they’d go to IHOP together and make it a date night.

This year, Dennis and his wife are separated and he knew that she wouldn't have any interest in going on a date with him. So, instead of pushing for their normal date night, he decided to buy her an IHOP gift card for her to use with her friends, and he offered to watch the kids for a night whenever she chose to go out and use it. She loved it and was really appreciative that he gave her a night out.

Example 2. James - Family Night Out

Another example…Last year for Valentine’s Day, a guy named James (who was separated from his wife at the time) arranged a family night out for Valentine’s Day. He got one of those funny Valentine’s Day cards for each of his kids and his wife, they all went out to a steak house and had a great dinner together, then they went to the mall afterwards.

It was a fun, lighthearted time for everybody, and his wife told him she really enjoyed the time together the next day.

As you continue reading, you'll learn 3 rules to help you come up with an equally awesome way of celebrating Valentine’s Day with your wife even though she wants out.

But first, let’s start at the beginning…

Should You Do Anything For Valentine's Day?
(yes, but here's why)

The first question we need to answer here is…

If you’re separated or if your wife wants out, should you do ANYTHING for your wife on Valentine’s Day?

Personally, my thought on this is that as long as you remain married to your wife, it is always a good idea to do SOMETHING to commemorate special events like Valentine’s Day, her birthday and your anniversary.

After all, every wife deserves to feel special and loved on Valentine’s Day, and celebrating these special days of the year is your duty as a husband.

I think that as long as you remain her husband, you should continue celebrating these special events.

“But wait, Stephen, I thought that you said in Manly Marriage Revival that buying gifts during a separation can put pressure on your wife, and in doing so push her further away from the marriage!”

Yes, you are absolutely right. If you’re separated, buying gifts for your wife without a reason will push her away 9 times out of 10.


In that context, we're talking about the guy who buy gifts in an effort to “convince” his wife that he’s a good husband.

And that brings us to the second thing to remember as you plan your Valentine’s Day commemorations…

How to Avoid Pressuring Your Wife
(hint: motivation is everything!)

Before you do ANYTHING for Valentine’s Day, you need to ask yourself two very serious questions:

  1. Do you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day because you love your wife and want her life to be better?
  2. Or do you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day because you think it will help convince her that you’re a good husband?

If you answered #2, there's a problem.

Motivation is everything!

If there’s something affectionate that you want to do for your wife – such as celebrating Valentine’s Day – and you look at your motivations and can confidently say that your ONLY goal is to make her life better, then that’s awesome! Go right ahead.

But, if you look into your motivations and deep down recognize that the only reason you're trying to be affectionate is because you're actually just trying to manipulate your wife's feelings about you, then you probably shouldn't do it.

Anything done with ulterior motives is almost always a bad idea.

The reason this is so important is because when you have those ulterior motives of wanting to control your wife, that’s what pushes her away. That’s what makes you look desperate. Desperation is what happens when you want control but don't have it… Desperation is what causes a man to beg.

Trust me, your wife will know your motives the second that she sees your gift.Women are very, very intuitive. I can guarantee you that whatever you end up doing for Valentine’s Day, your wife will be able to sense your motives. Even if the actual “thing” you do is the same, your wife can tell why you’re doing it.

3 Rules for Getting Your Distant Wife the Perfect Gift (without smothering her)


Okay, so let’s go back to Dennis’ example...

He bought his wife a gift card to IHOP, their traditional anniversary restaurant, and offered to watch the kids while she went out and used the gift card with her friends.

The other example was James, who celebrated Valentine’s Day with a family night out with his separated wife and their kids. James and his family had dinner and went to the mall, and it was a great time for everybody.

What do these two gifts have in common? They both follow these three rules:


  1. The gift is personal or meaningful
  2. The gift makes her life better or more enjoyable
  3. It does NOT put pressure on her

Let's look at Dennis and his IHOP gift card. This is a GREAT gift because it is...

  • Personal - IHOP is his wife's favorite restaurant
  • It makes her life better or more enjoyable - She gets to go socialize at a place she enjoys
  • Most importantly, it puts very little pressure on her - He wasn't getting her the gift card to use with him. He didn’t try and get her to go on a romantic night out with him; he just wanted her to have fun!

The end result is that Dennis got to show his wife that he knows what she likes, that he's willing to work to make her happy, and that he's willing to make sacrifices in order to do it (because she knows that he would rather go with her, and that the reason he gave her a gift card is because he knew she would have a better time without him).

Looking at James’ example of the family night out, again, we have similar reasons why this is a good idea…

  • No pressure - It doesn't put pressure on his wife because it's not a "date"
  • Meaningful - It's meaningful because it's memorable time with the kids
  • Enjoyable - It's enjoyable because she's free to have fun since she isn't having fun "with him"

So, when you are deciding what you want to do to celebrate Valentine’s Day, keep those three rules in mind.

Your gift or idea doesn’t have to meet all three of those criteria, but it should hit either #1 or #2, and for most men reading this, it MUST meet criteria #3 – no pressure on your wife.

Plan For It To Go Wrong (or for a negative reaction)

No matter what you choose to do… No matter how close or distant your wife is from the marriage…

There's no guarantee that Valentine’s Day will go over perfectly the way that you envision it.

And that's okay!

Remember that with any act of affection, you're NOT doing it because you want your wife to recognize that you're good husband…

You're doing it because you ARE a good husband and AS a good husband you want your wife's life to be the best it can be even if you don't get repayment for making the necessary sacrifices to make it that way.

This means if you have the right motives, there's nothing to be worried about.

How to Show Your Wife You Love Her

Because if you go into it with good, unselfish motives and you're really just looking to make her life better on this special day of the year, then you don't have to have any regrets even if she doesn't have the ideal reaction to whatever you do or suggest for Valentine’s Day.

In the end, do what you feel is right and do what you feel she will like - whether that's as small as a card or as big as a date night out, or as selfless as watching your kids while she goes out and has fun.

Whatever you do, check your motives beforehand and you should be good to go.

Real Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Your Distant Wife

Valentines Day Without Smothering Your Wife

Alright, we’ve spent lots of time talking about the mindset you should have for Valentine’s Day if you’re separated from your wife… Let’s finally dive into some specific gift ideas.

Keep in mind, it's up to you to use your own judgment to decide what your wife will respond to.

As a general rule of thumb, the more distant your wife is from the marriage, the smaller your gift should be and the more careful you need to be about pressure.

For example, if your wife is asking for divorce and you’ve been separated for six months, you probably want to avoid anything even remotely romantic. In fact, there could be an argument for doing nothing.

On the other hand, if your wife says she isn’t sure what she wants, but the two of you continue to flirt and perhaps even are intimate with each other, then you might even be able to ask your wife on a date... And either way, you can probably get away with the stereotypical Valentine’s Day fanfare – flowers, chocolates, romantic dinner – the whole shebang. Just make sure you’re doing it to show her a good time, NOT to convince her you’re a good husband.

With that in mind, here are some Valentine’s Day gift ideas:

1. Send Her a Card or Small Gift Through Snail Mail

Nobody ever gets handwritten cards these days.

If your wife is distant from the marriage, one of the smallest but most personal things you can do for your wife is simply send her a handwritten card through snail mail.

Obviously, you probably shouldn’t be professing your undying love for your wife, or using this card is an opportunity to beg her to come back or see things differently.

Valentines Gift Ideas for a Distant Wife

If your wife is distant, all you want to do with this card is show her that you haven’t forgotten about her, and that you hope she has an enjoyable Valentine’s Day. The fact that you took the time to actually handwrite a note and send it to her through snail mail will speak for itself.

If you think your wife would be receptive to it, you could also consider sending her a small gift of some sort. Maybe a bottle of wine for her to enjoy, or a box of gourmet chocolates, or something unique that only you would know she'd like.

Again, even though these could be considered “romantic” gifts, if you do them with the right motives – if you make it about improving her life rather than “convincing” her you’re a good husband – then you can do this without having any regrets, no matter how she reacts.

2. Pay Homage to a Valentine’s Day Tradition

Is there something that you and your wife always do on Valentine’s Day? (outside of the bedroom!)

Is there some sort of tradition or inside joke that you have shared throughout your marriage?

in Dennis’s example, he and his wife always went to IHOP for their anniversary. So, he found a way to pay homage to that tradition without actually doing what they normally do.

If you and your wife have any Valentine’s Day traditions that you won’t get to do this year because you’re separated, see if you can figure out a way to give her a little taste of that tradition without actually going all the way with it.

3. Family Night Out

We already talked about James’ example, so I don’t need to say too much here. Basically, just plan a family night out and invite your wife to come with you. This is NOT a time to “talk”, and it’s not a time to try and woo her. It’s about having fun and getting quality time with the kids, nothing more.

4. Give Her a Night Out While You Watch the Kids

Especially if your wife is the one who normally watches the kids, or if you’re separated and the kids live with her, then this is a great way to show your wife that you want her to be happy without actually coming out and saying it. Offer her to go out and have a fun Valentine’s Day with her friends while you watch the kids.

When You Should NOT Get Your Wife Anything
for Valentine's Day

You need to use your own judgment, but there are some cases where doing nothing is actually the best way that you can show your wife that you respect her and care about her happiness.

For example, if you have already put a lot of pressure on your wife during your separation and she has asked you to stop, then doing nothing and simply leaving her alone may be the best way to show her that you're listening.

Or, if you KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that your wife would just get angry with anything that you do, then just give her space and let the day go by.

Again, this is something that you need to judge for yourself.

Ask yourself, “Is the best way that I can make my wife’s life better to actually do nothing and just let the day go by?”

If the answer is yes, then it should be pretty obvious what you need to do. 

The good news is that you can still celebrate Valentine's Day on your own.

When Should You Ask Your Wife to Go On a Valentine's Date?

Dennis and James both knew that their wife would NOT be willing to go on a date with them. They knew that proposing a date night out together would be too much pressure.

Neither of their wives were at a point where they were willing to openly work on the marriage, and so a “romantic” gift or date together was out of the question.

Valentines Day Date


What if your wife is still willing to go on dates with you? Maybe she is open to seeing the marriage improved just as long as SHE doesn't have to do any work to improve it. Or maybe she’s going to counseling with you to figure things out.

If this is you, by all means, consider planning a special date night for your wife in typical Valentine’s Day fashion.

Just remember... Everything we said about motives still applies.

Even if your wife is willing to work on the marriage, even if she’s willing to go on a date with you, the date should NOT be about you showing her what a good husband you are. It should be about having a good time, enjoying each other’s company, and just generally making your wife feel beautiful and loved.

Even if you fall in this category, you should still do your best to adhere to the 3 rules we talked about in this post... The difference is that you can be more romantic and get better quality time with your wife.

Going to Be Alone on Valentine’s Day?
Treat Yo' Self!

if you’re separated and you’re going to be spending Valentine’s Day alone (even if you got something for your wife), then you should treat yourself to something!

This time of the year can feel really lonely if you let it, so try to plan something fun, relaxing or just plain enjoyable for the day.

If it’s just going to be you, perhaps you could go hang out with your friends or family.

Celebrating Valentines Day Without Your Wife

Or you could go to a movie. Or go get yourself a massage or something.

Some of you younger guys could spend the day playing video games, or otherwise indulging in a hobby you rarely have time for.

Or, if you want to REALLY make the day a memorable one, go find somewhere to volunteer your time and help others who may be lonely on Valentine's Day.

If you’re going to spend Valentine’s Day with your kids, but not your wife, then make the day all about them. Plan fun activities for them, and just do whatever you can to make them feel really loved and valued. Perhaps you could plan a trip to a local arcade, or you could plan out a Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt. Play games, have fun, spend time together…

Basically, if you can’t have the Valentine’s Day you want with your wife, get the perfect day you want with your kids.


Hopefully you have a better idea of what you should do for Valentine’s Day if you’re separated or if your wife wants out. I suggest that you go back and re-read the section about 3 Rules for Getting Gifts Without Smothering Her, then go ahead and start brainstorming some different options for what you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Either way, I wish you the best of luck and always remember to stay focused on what you can control.

Much manly love,
 - Stephen