With Valentine's Day coming up, I've been getting a lot of questions from separated men who need help navigating the holiday of love. Usually the question goes like this:
"My wife and I are separated… What should I do for Valentine’s Day?
How do I pick a gift that shows I still care about her and haven’t given up on the marriage, but doesn't pressure or smother her?"
As you continue reading, you're going to discover...
Two Real-Life Examples of Great Valentine's Day Gifts During Separation
Let me start by giving you a couple examples of what a really good Valentine’s Day gift looks like during separation.
Here are two examples of real gifts given by real men to their wife during separation. Both of these gifts got a great response from their wife.
Dennis Gave His Separated Wife An IHOP Gift Card
Dennis emailed me asking for help getting his wife an anniversary gift… Not quite the same as Valentine’s Day, but still a romantic special occasion. Same rules apply.
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 were separated and he knew that she wouldn't want to go on a date with him. So, instead of pushing for their normal romantic date night, he decided to buy her an IHOP gift card for her to use with her friends. Then he offered to watch the kids for a night whenever she chose to go out and use it.
She loved it! She really appreciated that he gave her a no-strings-attached night out.
This was an awesome gift and his wife responded well to it. It didn't pressure her to spend time with him, but still allowed him to give her a very thoughtful gift. But honestly, even if she did not respond well to it, I would have told Dennis that he did a good job selecting his gift and that it was still worth giving.
The takeaway: Do you and your wife have a Valentine's Day tradition that you can augment to be non-romantic but still enjoyable for her? Find a way to give a gift that she appreciates, but that still respects the space she's asking for.
James Arranged A Family Night Out
Last year for Valentine’s Day, James was separated from his wife at the time. Instead of getting her a romantic gift, he planned a family night out for Valentine’s Day. He and his wife and the kids all went out to a steak house and had a great dinner together, then they went to the mall afterwards.
He also got funny Valentine’s Day cards for each of his kids and his wife, that way his wife wasn't the only one getting a card.
The next day his wife told him that she really enjoyed spending time with him!
This was a great gift because it was lighthearted, involved the whole family, and allowed him to demonstrate leadership because he planned the whole thing. James and his wife are back together now, so he must have done something right!
10 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for a Separated Wife
Now that we've seen a couple good real-life examples, let's start talking about 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, the more distant your wife is from the marriage, the smaller your gift should be and the more careful you need to be about NOT being romantic.
For example, if your wife is asking for divorce and you’ve been separated for six months, you should probably avoid anything even remotely romantic. In fact, there could be an argument for doing nothing (we’ll talk about when you should NOT get your wife a gift further below).
The more distant your wife is, the smaller your gift should be and the more careful you need to be about NOT being romantic.
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 have sex, then you might even be able to ask your wife on a date! Again, we’ll talk about when to ask your wife on a date further below.
The more unsure your wife is of the separation, the more likely you can 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. There’s an important difference in motives there.
With that in mind, here are some Valentine’s Day gift ideas:
Gift Ideas During Separation Cheat Sheet
This is a long post, so I made a quick PDF cheat sheet for subscribers with all the info nicely in one place.
Gift Idea #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.
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 hand write 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.
Gift Idea #2.
Pay Homage To A Valentine’s Day Tradition
Is there something that you and your wife always do on Valentine’s Day?
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.
Gift Idea #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.
Gift Idea #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.
Gift Idea #5.
Get Her A Gift From The Kids
I got this suggestion from a reader named Chris, and it's a great idea. This works especially well if you have young kids.
Instead of getting your wife a gift yourself, help your kids pick out a gift for your wife. While it's pretty standard for kids to get their mom a gift on Christmas, her birthday and Mother's day, not many kids get their mom a Valentine's Day present.
The key here is that you shouldn't get your wife a romantic gift from the kids... That would make your wife feel like you're using the kids to manipulate her. Instead, help the kids pick out a gift that THEY would give her just like you would for Christmas or birthday, and help them plan how to deliver it to her.
You can help them pick out a nice card, and perhaps you can opt to throw in a small gift from you too... Just make sure that the gift from your kids is the focus. Your gift should be something small and not too outside the box -- chocolates or an equivalent sweet snack would be fine.
Your wife will be delighted to receive a gift from the kids, and she will appreciate that you helped make it happen.
Gift Idea #6.
A Gift Card She Can Use On Her Own (e.g. Starbucks)
This is similar to Dennis’ example at the beginning of this post, except that you’re not getting her a gift card to anyplace with sentimental value. It’s all about what’s practical and what she likes.
Does your wife love coffee?
Get her a gift card to Starbucks.
Does she have a sweet tooth?
Get her a gift card to Andy’s or Cold Stone or whatever her favorite ice cream place is. Perhaps a local candy shop.
Maybe it’s not food she wants, but tech. stuff. A simple Amazon gift card could be a great gift, although it's a bit more meaningful if it's someplace she actually has to go out and use it.
This is a great non-romantic gift that has a lot of practical value. It doesn’t put much pressure on your wife, while still being a meaningful enough gesture for her to appreciate it.
Gift Idea #7.
Treat Her To A Couple Nights At An AirBnB Or Hotel
This one only works if you and your wife still live together. Chances are, she is always looking for more space, and this can be a great way to enable that for her without one of you moving out.
Book a reasonably priced AirBnB or hotel (don’t go over the top, something in a normal price range for what you can afford).
Then you have two options:
You and the kids go stay in the Air BnB overnight… Tell your wife she is free to come with, but she is also free to have the house to herself for the night.
Offer for her to go stay in the Air BnB while you hold down the fort at home. This is probably the preferred option because it gives her privacy and the freedom to spend the night however she wants in a place that’s not filled with marital memories.
Again, the goal here is to give her exactly what she wants. She’s been asking for more space, now you are giving her exactly that, even if only for a couple nights.
You don’t have to do this on Valentine’s Day… You can do it the weekend after or the weekend before if that works better. That would make it a lot easier to give her more than one night and allow her to actually make use of the alone time.
Note, this probably isn’t a great idea if you suspect your wife is having an affair. No sense enabling her any more than she already is.
Gift Idea #8.
Framed Pictures Of Her & The Kids (or just the kids)
Chances are, most of your nice pictures of your kids include both you and your wife. Your wife may not have many, if any, nice pictures of the kids that don’t include you.
Take fifteen minutes to pick out some photos of your kids from your phone or Facebook, and have them printed at FedEx or Walmart or whatever works best for you.
You can get perfectly functional picture frames at the dollar store, or you can splurge for something a little nicer at your local craft store.
This is a great way to show your wife that you accept the separation and accept that she is building a life without you. And remember, showing her this acceptance is a win-win, because it both prepares you for the worst AND is your best chance of opening her heart up to reconsidering divorce.
Remember, proving that you accept her wish to separate is a win-win. It both prepares you for the worst and it's your best chance of opening her heart to reconsidering divorce.
You can either have these pictures come from you, or you can include the kids on the ‘From:’ line too. A joint-signed card and present containing these pictures would be a great way to keep it non-romantic but still very heartfelt and touching.
Want to take it one step farther?
Set up an appointment for your wife to get photos taken with just her and the kids. Again, this will give her photos she can take with her and enjoy into the next chapter of her life, whether that includes you or not.
Gift Idea #9.
Classic For Any Wife: The Pedicure or Mani-Pedi... A Massage Works Too
This is another great gift because it’s relaxing AND it’s something your wife will do by herself.
Not much needs to be said here… If your wife likes this sort of thing, this is definitely one to consider.
Just like the gift card idea above, this is one she can schedule on her own time and enjoy by herself.
You can tell her, “I know this has been a stressful time, and I just wanted to give you something as a friend, not as your husband, that would help you relax. I hope you can just enjoy this and take your mind off everything for an hour.”
Gift Idea #10.
Want Romantic? Mixed Flowers & Her Favorite Candy
Don’t do roses and a box of chocolates. For one, it’s cliche and she won’t feel like you’ve put much thought into it. For two, it’s too overtly romantic… She will feel like you’re not hearing her that she’s not interested in the marriage.
Although any flowers and candy risks being too romantic during separation, at the very least you can get that first concern out of the way by doing MIXED flowers (irises, tulips, something less cliche) and instead of a heart-shaped box of chocolates, get her favorite type of candy or gourmet candy. Keep the presentation casual and friendly. For example, Kalee loves English Toffee, so a small bag of gourmet English Toffee for about $10 would be great.
The point is, you don’t want to be extravagantly romantic, unless you have a very, very “soft” separation… The more open your wife is to reconciliation, the more romantic you can be. You know who you are.
Wait, Let’s Back Up...
Should You Do Anything For Valentine's Day If You're Separated?
Now you have a bunch of gift ideas for a separated wife, but before you do your Valentine’s Day shopping there’s on important question we need to answer…
If your wife wants out, should you do ANYTHING on Valentine’s Day?
Yes… Most Of The Time
For most men going through separation, my advice is to continue doing something to commemorate special events like Valentine’s Day, her birthday and your anniversary, even if that something is small and non-romantic. I believe celebrating these special days of the year is your duty as a husband for as long as you remain in that role.
After all, every wife deserves to feel special and loved on Valentine’s Day, even if just as a friend. You may not be able to make her feel romantically special and loved, but you can still show her some thoughtfulness.
Doesn’t Giving Her A Gift Cause Pressure?
“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 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.
How do you make sure that your Valentine’s Day gift does not put extra pressure on your wife?
And that brings us to one last thing to remember as you plan your Valentine’s Day commemorations…
How to Avoid Pressuring Your Wife On Valentine’s Day
(hint: motivation is everything!)
Before you do ANYTHING for Valentine’s Day, you need to ask yourself two very serious questions:
- 1Do you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day because you love your wife and want her life to be better?
- 2Or 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.
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. Valentine’s Day is NOT a time to “convince” your wife to give the marriage another chance.
Any Gift Given With Ulterior Motives Isn’t Really A Gift
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.
Motivation is everything!
Common Questions About Valentine’s Day During Separation
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.
Or you could go to a movie. Or go get yourself a massage or something.
Or maybe there is a hobby you don't usually have much time for. Make Valentine's Day your hobby day and have some fun!
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.
Have Kids? Make Valentine’s Day All About Them!
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.
That will wrap up my updated guide for celebrating Valentine’s Day during separation!
Don't forget to download the bonus cheat sheet. If you're already a subscriber, go ahead and enter your email, you won't be subscribed again.
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.
Much manly love,
Gift Ideas During Separation Cheat Sheet
This is a long post, so I made a quick PDF cheat sheet for subscribers with all the info nicely in one place.