“When two people part it is the one who is not in love who makes the tender speeches.” —"In Search of Lost Time," Marcel Proust
My hope for you, gentlemen, is that Valentine’s Day will be a flawless victory. You’ll make all the right moves and just knock her pants off, for lack of a better phrase. You’ve got this! There are a few of you that I’m worried about, though. This column is for you. You’re the type of guy that, no matter what you do, something will go horribly awry with your planning. Did you forget to make those dinner reservations? The flower shop was out of roses? Maybe you slept through the entire day after taking too much cough medicine recreationally. Or maybe you just didn’t give a damn, and now, you suddenly find yourself needing to pretend like you do to save your relationship. Valentine’s Day may not be important to you, but I know someone (read: your girlfriend) who feels differently about it. Here are some ways to fix the situation after you screw up.
The quickest way to make her forget about how terrible you are at everything is to throw the ball back into her court with a dramatic, tearful proposal. This tactic works surprisingly well. Even if you’ve been a completely negligent, self-righteous prick for the duration of your relationship, there still exists a certain “magic” when a desperate man drops to his knees in public. No ring? Tell her you’ve got one on layaway at Belk. This moment isn’t about an actual proposal at all; it’s about creating a diversion from your Valentine’s Day screw-ups. You don’t have to actually marry her. Gosh, that would be terrible. All you have to do is make it seem like you really want to with an elaborate display on a bridge.
End the relationship
Alternatively, you can take the complete opposite approach from the one listed above and just very quickly end the relationship. This is called a “preemptive strike” and has been used in sitcom plots for years. She’s angry and waiting for an apology, but what she gets instead is unexpected. You simply put both of your hands up in front of your chest and say, "I think we’re done here." Then you turn and run as fast as you can without looking back. Of course, this is childish behavior. But it’s also crazy enough to work. The best reaction to any conversation with heated emotions is wild confusion. If you can observe your partner’s rising emotions, you have the ability to control them. At the very least, you have once again surrendered your turn, leaving them to make the next move.
Take pause, purchase a gift
This is the best approach. If a proposal and/or ending the relationship seem too drastic, you’re probably a very smart, rational person. We all have arguments with our significant others that lead to moments—sometimes days—of silence with neither of you wanting to give in. Like a homicide investigation, the first 48 hours after a major screw-up are the most important. First, you have to take pause and let the emotions settle a bit. When you are in, say, an emotional state of elevated anger, it’s nearly impossible to be a rational person. Your safest bet is to simply remove yourself from whatever is causing that emotional state. Then, it’s important to let yourself come to an understanding of why your emotions got out of control. Once you’ve realized that it was your fault—which it was, by the way—then you can assess how you will deliver a sincere apology. Bring an absurdly large teddy bear with you or some gaudy flowers to break the tension. If you keep humor and humility as your modes of operation, you’ll be fine. Good luck.
Be incredibly, violently hard on yourself
Dr. Phil would call this “playing the victim,” and, if you have no shame whatsoever, you should do it with every bone in your shameful body. Why? Because it works. If she gets angry with you because of something you did (or didn’t do) on Valentine’s Day, then you have every right to act like giant baby. Go to a bar, and drink yourself into oblivion. Make sure you leave dozens of slurring voice messages on her phone. Use key phrases like “I’m sorry” and “I’m such an idiot.” Drink more. Try to end up sleeping just outside of wherever she is. If she has a lawn, sleep there. Repeat this process night after night until she feels guilty and takes you back. If this tactic doesn’t work after a reasonable amount of time, switch to the third tactic of humor and humility.
Promise that you’ll “do better”
Any of us who have spent time watching shows like "Maury" and "The Jerry Springer Show" know that some women will put up with a whole lot of BS from the men they “love.” Of course, the men know this and will take full advantage of them until, for example, they appear on one of the aforementioned shows. I HATE that guys can behave like this and get away with it. But I also hate that women let them. Both parties are to blame. Despite all of this, the tactic still works. Many a heated argument have been soothed by making a quick empty promise. I’ve done this before, and every man who has ever had the pleasure of being in a relationship has, too. We apologize—sometimes without even knowing what we did or even why she’s upset. We do it because it works.
I hope your Valentine’s Day is fantastic.