Dear un-Valentine: How you speak to your partner tells me more about you than the way you kiss

It’s Flora’s fault.

She’s sensitive, empathetic, and ruled by her heart. And she’s only 10, so her heart makes black and white rules. Wait. I’m telling this story wrong. I should have begun… never mind. Let’s start with Flora. And what Flora says is,

“But how can you like someone if you hate the way they treat their husband or wife?”

I’m not sure how to respond to that—I’m never sure how to respond to anything she says, really. And she goes on:

“I mean, how can someone be a good person if they treat the people they’re supposed to love badly?”

And I still say nothing, but I don’t need to, Flora is following her own train of thought, and she finishes:

“If you’re mean to your own wife or your kids or your husband—and these are the most important people in the world to you, the people you love the most—how will you treat me? If I’m a stranger, and you don’t know me at all, and don’t love me?

I would want nothing to do with such a person.”

And then she takes a carton of green tea ice cream from the freezer, and moves on to other things.

Meanwhile, her mother stands in the middle of the kitchen, phone in one hand, spatula in the other (I was making tacos—not that it’s important, but, you know, if you’re trying to assemble a full picture of the moment), and stares off into space, and ponders…

…that what Flora said should be true. Right? I mean—to flip it a little—that the way we treat the people we love the most should be the best we’re capable of.

Except it’s not, is it?

So often, the people we love best… they’re the ones who get the worst of us. Get treated the worst by us. Day after day after day…


There are three reasons for this ass-backward behaviour, I think.

First—when we love unconditionally and fully (or just a hell-of-a-lot, because most love is conditional, but we’ll talk about that another day) and are loved in return, we trust that love will be there no matter what. And so, when we trust, we let ourselves go. We snap, snip. We let our loves see us at our worst—and they still love us—and so we do it again… and again…

Second—husbands, wives, children, lovers, families—we’re together all the time, in each other’s faces. We rub against each other in the stress of hurried everyone-get-out-the-door mornings. We’re in each other’s faces in the I’m-too-exhausted-to-give-a-fuck evenings. We’re out of energy for politeness, manners. We snip. Snap. Again… and again… and again…

Third—we do it again… and again… and again… and then it’s a habit, and the majority of human behaviour and interaction is, simply… habit. And so… we do the nasty thing, say the mean thing again. And again. And again…

We say things to the people we love the most that we would never, ever say to more casual friends—to strangers—because, Christ, how unthinkably rude, cruel. Nasty.

We accept hearing/receiving these unacceptable behaviours from people who love us, because…

Actually, so here’s the thing, because—why, exactly?

Because they love us? And so it’s ok for them to treat us disrespectfully?

Because I love you, it’s okay for me to mock you? It’s ok for me to knock you down, undermine you, speak to you in a tone so disrespectful I would never, ever use it on a co-worker (not even that really, really annoying one)?

When Sean comes into the kitchen, I’m sitting in the middle of the kitchen, phone and spatula on the dirty floor, taco meat burning.

“What’s wrong?”

he asks, and I love him. I can’t put it into adequate words, so I put it into bad ones. And then, add:

“Do I ever speak to you like that? Ever?”

I don’t think I do, gods above and below, I hope I don’t, but does one ever hear oneself? Does she realize what comes out of her mouth? Does he know what he’s really saying when he says something so…

“Never. God, never, ever.”

(He’s lying. Because he loves me. I know that sometimes, when something he’s said or done triggers me, I react much less… kindly, tolerantly, lovingly… than I would had a less intimate-to-me person said or done the same thing. But I let him lie, in that moment, and I try to believe it.)

“If I ever do… stop me. Hard. The first time.”


As Valentine’s Day comes up—my third least-favourite faux holiday—lovers all through North America will be exchanging flowers, chocolates, and Hallmark-sanctioned expression of love and affection.

I refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I prefer to show that I love—and to be shown that I’m loved—every day. Mostly, in little things, you know what I mean, the tiny stuff: “thank you for doing the dishes, my love” and “I’m so sorry you had a lousy day” and “I missed you, come sit with me” and “will you do this for me, it’s driving me crazy” and “this poem made me think of you” and “I’m so happy you picked up cream on the way home” and also “god you look good today, I want to devour you” (delivered when I feel spent, exhausted, and so unsexy, and I’m pretty sure you’re lying, but oh-it’s-so-good-to-hear).

I choose to show that I love by how I talk to you. To him, to her, to them. The people I love best? They deserve me at my best—or at least… trying, conscious, aware, fostering, building.

And when I slip up? Call me on it. The first time. Hard.

Don’t let me treating you disrespectfully—because you love me, and I love you, and so it’s all ok—become a habit.

Because it isn’t ok to treat the people you love the most the worst.

Flora said so.

And she knows.

Happy un-Valentine’s Day.



NBTB-Dear un-Valentine

PS I have some un-Valetine’s Day presents for you. First, 15 Compliments for Your Valentine, Courtesy of  Erotic Artist Dorothy Iannone. Kind of awesome.

Second, 3 Misconceptions that Ruin Great Relationships by Kelly Flanagan from The Good Man Project. It’s essentially an essay AGAINST the grand gesture and for… habit.

Third, my friends and I have been debating for the last god knows how many weeks whether love is what you feel or what you do, and we’ve been reading and arguing about, among others, these:

You’ve probably seen one or both pieces already. If you haven’t, they’re worth a read.

Fourth, Good Daddies Are Hot.

Fifth—the original title of this post was, “Dear un-Valentine: How you speak to your partner tells me everything about the type of friend you’ll be. And it tells me you’re a jerk, and I want nothing to do with you.” But I decided it was a little… wordy. Jane out xx

Good Daddies are hot

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds

I’m a wee bit cynical about most things. Not the least bit romantic about Valentine’s Day. But you know what? Good Daddies rock. Nothing sexier than a good Daddy. Carrying a diaper bag, changing a diaper, pushing a toddler on a swing, running behind a six-year-old on a bike, supporting the teenager through her first broken heart… good Daddies make the world go round. And they deserve a massive shout out.


To Ross, who can make Baby M smile no matter what, and who’s made sure his kids know all the words to Little Black Submarines.

To Bill, who looks for recipes and homeschool projects on Pinterest. And then, like, cooks!

To Richard, who knows how to talk and listen to his kids. No matter what.

To Carey, who’s so in love with his girls, it makes my heart sing every time I see it. ♥

To Chris, who said he’d never be the dad who posted about “that stuff” on Facebook… but is and owns it. Cause he’s so in love with his son.

To the other Chris, who was clinically the most qualified of us to be a parent… and as it turns out, intuitively and practically rocks at it.

To my third Chris, who’s the most amazing single dad one could ever imagine.

To Steve, who’ll do anything for his boys, even when they destroy all his nice things.

To Tyler, who can’t stop smiling whenever he looks at his beautiful daughter. Even when she’s trying to stab him in the eye with a steak knife…

To Norm, who likes to pretend he’s a tough guy but pampers his boys ever-so-tenderly. And hooks them up with the best hair cuts.

To Barnabas, who makes his boys the best weapons. And sets off firecrackers. And builds insane fires. But worries that  they might drown…

To Mark, who builds the best train tracks. And, of course, draws the best cartoons.

To Dave, who adores his little girls so much I already pity their future boyfriends. (And they’re gorgeous, so there will be a lot of those, Dave. Sorry…)

To Kelly, who takes his kids on the best adventures (and makes really great suppers).

To Adam, who hasn’t slept a night through in two and a half years. And knows it’s all worth it.

To Paul, who built a store with a killer play space.

To Ben, who turns off the Blackberry when he’s with his boys.

To Martin, who washes the dishes. Every single night.

To the other Martin, who’s never missed a game or tournament—if at the price of an awful lot of speeding tickets…

To Rob, who’s always made sure his girls know they’re the centre of his universe, no matter what’s going on with other relationships. And who knows the difference between an elf and a fairy.

To Garth, who knows exactly what he needs to do the moment he walks through the front door.

To John, who answers the phone when it’s one of his daughters’ numbers on call display–be it 2 a.m. or the middle of the most important client meeting, because it could be an emergency.

To all the rest of you, who change diapers, wipe snotty noses, fiddle with snow suits, look for lost mittens, run out for milk at 11:45 p.m., get up at 3:15 a.m.–and again at 5 a.m.–push strollers in slush, hold tiny hands when you cross the street, swear when you fiddle with car seats, make mac’n’cheese, PVR Blue’s Clues, take time for bed time, give out goodnight kisses and good morning hugs, and do the other million and ten things that good Daddies need to do.

And most of all, to my Sean. With whom I fall in love, all over again, every time he changes a diaper. Reads a bedtime story. Instals a mod for his Flora. Plays Munchkins, Stratego or Primal Carnage with his Cinder. Takes Ender for a long walk on the hill, even when the weather’s bad. Makes French toast for second breakfast and peanut butter and jam sandwiches for third supper. Builds a train track, fiddles with Mindstorms, or listens to stories of ponies and unicorns. Thank you, my love, for my beautiful children—and for being their most awesomest Daddy.

Ladies—if you’ve got one of these amazing dudes in your life, wear something skanky for his pleasure today. And make sure he enjoys it.

Gentlemen—underwear models, movie stars, super athletes, my ripped 26 year-old boy toy of a personal trainer—cute, gorgeous, symmetrical, whatever.  Eye candy’s nice, no question.

But there be absolutely nothing hotter than a good Daddy. 

Truth. You’re the stuff dreams–and better yet, the best quotidian moments–are made of.



Add a toast to the good Daddies in your life below. It’s Valentine’s Day. They deserve a shout out.  

Photo via Zemanta: Romantic Heart form Love Seeds (Photo credit: