'I've finally figured out how to love a woman'
With three marriages under his belt over the past 40 years, James Daniels says he has finally figured out "how to love a woman".
With the international day of romance approaching on February 14, the 58-year-old former Christchurch man shared his thoughts on relationships and love.
Daniels married his first wife, Sue, in a ceremony in New Brighton on February 3, 1973. He was just 17 and his pregnant wife was 16.
Friends were shocked with his quick nuptials.
"Not many people got married quite so quickly after finishing their schooling. Hell, the holidays hadn't even finished," he said.
Their baby daughter was born shortly after.
However, eight years and a second daughter later, the marriage fell apart. Daniels and his first wife separated.
"I had not grasped the fact that men no longer ruled the roost. Women were being empowered and female expectations within relationships had changed through the 70s," he said.
"While I struggled with that outcome I eventually got over myself."
Within six months of ending his first marriage, Daniels had met his second wife, Nikki. The pair were together for 11 years before also divorcing.
"I left that relationship with regret, half the assets and a son," he said.
"After 12 years of being essentially single - apart from a couple of significant relationships - I finally met my last wife."
Daniels then met Diane, with whom he had attended North New Brighton Primary School many years before.
"While I remembered the name, I hadn't had anything to do with her at school."
She had spent 11 years overseas and had two young daughters. The pair married in 2005 within 18 months of meeting.
"It's heading for being my longest marriage!"
Daniels said he was now happily settled in his third marriage.
"[Diane] now benefits from the fact that I've finally figured out how to love a woman," he said.
"Maybe there is such a thing as 'third time lucky'."
Daniels said there were two common denominators from each of his weddings - himself and his best man.
"Stuart Lockie has been my best man three times."
He had "no regrets" from his two failed marriages, but had realised that "relationships require two equal partners".
"Relationships and respect start with the same letter for a reason. Create and conserve trust within the relationship."
He shared his best advice from his three marriages - that there was a "difference between love and lust".
"Lust can transmute into love, but not every time," he said.
"You can learn how to love."
Daniels said he made peace with his first wife before she died of cancer and now enjoyed a "good relationship" with his second wife.
In fact, he would be spending Valentines Day with his second wife, with whom he was staying while completing some work in Christchurch.
"I will give Nikki and her partner sufficient alone time before retiring early," he said.
His current wife would be staying in Auckland.
Restaurants, florists get ready for big day
Canterbury men yet to organise Valentines Day plans will have to get in quick - restaurants and florists are already filling up ahead of next week's big day.
February 14 is a day of romance as lovers around the world celebrate St Valentine's Day.
There are many myths and legends surrounding who St Valentine was. In one of the most popular, Valentine was a prisoner who fell in love with the jailer's daughter. Before his execution he wrote her a love letter signed 'your valentine'.
The day is believed to have first taken on romantic connotations in the 14th Century when poet Geoffery Chaucher wrote a poem about Valentines Day to commemorate the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard III.
"For this was on St Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate," the poem read.
Critics have assumed he was speaking of February 14, however this is an unlikely time for birds to be mating in England.
This year the big day falls on a Thursday and preparations in Christchurch are already in full swing.
Dux Dine manager Joel Christian said the restaurant was already almost fully booked for Valentines night.
"We're busy pretty much every night, being a new restaurant, so it's not that much of an anomaly for us."
Cook 'N' With Gas duty manager Jai Bakshi said about 30 people had booked for the night so far.
"It's a very busy night for us. We have a few more tables but they're filling up quickly."
The restaurant had not planned anything special for Valentines Day but Bakshi said they would be setting up "lots of tables for two".
No 4 manager Barnaby Wylie said they had not had many bookings yet but expected interest would pick up this week.
"We've had hardly any but boys are pretty unorganised. Last year at this time we'd had no bookings and the day before it went crazy. We're expecting a very big night."
They would have pink bubbles on special for the ladies, Wylie said.
Orders for bouquets for the big day were also pouring in, with florists around the city rushing to fill orders.
Citywide Florist owner Gina Parker said the store had already received more orders for flowers than last year.
"It looks like it's going to be a big day this year. We've got one girl starting preparations for all the orders already."
Red roses were the most popular options, along with chocolate items.
Victoria Nelson, of Victoria Florists, said roses were still the most popular option.
"Any kind of roses do well. We also do bouquets with just a few roses in the middle for those who can't afford a whole bunch. We have a range of options."
She expected a lot of men to come in at the last minute.
"They're pretty forgetful and then they all rush in."