FEBRUARY 14, 1988: On our first Valentine’s night as a married couple, every restaurant was packed, so my husband and I ended up eating bar-b-que sandwiches . . .  in the car.

We were going to walk in the park afterwards, but it started raining, so we topped off our “celebration” with Heath bars from a gas station.

He apologized profusely.

Our first Valentine’s date was such a debacle, we laughed all the way home. Later, when I handed him my gift, he looked crushed.

He sighed and said, “Dinner was going to be my gift, but . . .”
“It’s okay,” I giggled. “Valentines can only go up from here.”
“I never know what to get for you,” he said. “Roses and chocolate seem so unoriginal . . .
What do wives actually want on Valentine’s Day?”

It’s a good question. And I’ve thought about it a lot, over the years.

Sure, I love pretty jewelry, fancy dinners and weekend trips (who doesn’t?). But honestly, what my husband gives me doesn’t matter as much as the feelings behind his gift.

I don’t think I’m the only wife who feels this way.

So, to help you guys who are searching for just the right gift this year, here are 14 Valentine’s Day gifts wives actually want:

1. Quality Time 
Your wife wants you to click off your phone, look her in the eye and listen to her. She’d like for you to ask thoughtful questions and to have a good laugh with you. According to author Gary Chapman, spending quality time together is one of the most popular love languages. (It’s my favorite.) Give the gift of quality time this Valentine’s Day. It will make your wife feel loved.

2. Appreciation 
Your wife needs to feel appreciated for who she is and what she does. So this Valentine’s Day, celebrate her accomplishments. Recognize her talents. Thank her for what she does for the kids and for others. The Bible says, “In everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

3. An Adventure with You 
A couple of years ago, my husband took me to Telluride, CO, on a snow skiing trip. (Yes, his Valentine’s gifts have vastly improved) Each day, we skied new areas of the mountain. At night we explored various types of cuisine. It was glorious. Your wife needs adventure, too. Share a hiking adventure. Run a race together. Explore a neighboring town. Go to a concert. Plan an adventure you’ll both enjoy.

4. Support 
Your wife needs to know that you’re squarely in her corner, so how can you demonstrate your support at Valentine’s (and at other times)? Here’s some ideas: speak up for her. Be her champion. Honor her in front of the kids. Give her a sincere compliment around other people. Use supportive language often, such as: “I’m on your side,” or “I’m here for you, always.”

5. To Be in Your Thoughts 
Valentines is a great time to do a little brainstorming about your wife:

    • What 3 things do you love about her most?
    • Which talents do you admire?
    • How does she make you laugh?
    • What’s your favorite memory of her?
    • How does she express kindness?
    • What has she done with excellence?

Think about these things (Phil. 4:8). Decide how can you express your appreciation. Positive brainstorming will prepare you to have a more meaningful Valentine’s Day.

6. A Clean House 
According to a report in the New York Times, the majority of men think they’re doing more around the house than they actually are. And often, women take up the slack. Not helping your wife can make her feel unappreciated and even resentful. No one likes to feel that way. So this Valentine’s Day, make your wife feel loved by taking over household chores.

7. A Re-Creation of Your First (or Favorite) Date
On our first date, we went to a friend’s farm and roasted hotdogs and s’mores over a bonfire. It was awesome. We’ve recreated that date several times, and it’s been very romantic (and super fun). As you relive your favorite memories, you’ll create even more favorite memories!

Our 1st date 10/31/86

8. Do Something on the “Honey-Do” List
Surprise her by cleaning the garage, hanging shelves, or whatever she has on her honey-do list. This demonstrates your love in a tangible way and it gives you an opportunity to shine. (To me, this is one of the best Valentine’s Day gifts wives actually want)

9. Grace 
Give your wife room to make mistakes. Has she done something frustrating recently? Valentine’s Day is a great day to let it go. Don’t lecture her. Avoid criticizing her. Be quick to forgive and quick to love. Release any grudges you may be holding. Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8) Since the Lord extends grace liberally, so can you.

10. A Love Letter
Words on paper can be read over and over again, so pour out your feelings in a love letter. Okay, did I just hear you groan? Listen, it’s not as hard as you think. Your writing doesn’t have to be eloquent prose—just keep it simple, and above all, write from the heart. Use the questions in #5 above as writing prompts, or click here for further help.

11. A Kid-Free Weekend
Like a car, every marriage needs gas and an occasional tune-up (and possibly, a jumpstart). A kid-free weekend away can do that. Of course, this takes effort and planning, but it’s worth it. Keep your marriage running smoothly—enhance your romance (for a list of date-night topics, sign up below or in the pop-up box).

Our 25th Anniversary–NO kids allowed!

12. Encouragement 
Your words on Valentine’s Day (and every other day) can either build your wife up or tear her down. The Bible tells us to “Encourage each other and build one another up.” (1 Thess. 5:11) I think this applies doubly to couples. Every holiday is a great opportunity to encourage your wife. And the more you encourage her, the deeper your connection will be.

13. A Morning to Sleep In
Jobs, kids, and a never-ending list of chores can wear anyone down. Give your wife a morning off. Get the kids to help you make breakfast and then serve it to her in bed. This honors her, and it involves them in doing something kind, which is a win-win for everyone.

14. Your Prayers for Her and with Her
Your wife needs your prayers! So let her know that you’re praying for her. But here’s something you can do that’s even more meaningful: pray with her. When you come before the throne of Almighty God, hand in hand, it’s incredibly bonding. Ask God to protect and strengthen your marriage. Ask Him to help you be a better husband. This kind of vulnerability draws you closer to the Lord and each other.

Your marriage is one of the most precious relationships you will ever have in this life. So don’t waste opportunities like Valentine’s Day—use them. You’ll be glad you did.

*”14 Valentine’s Day Gifts Wives Actually Want,” was originally published on Crosswalk.com