If you had a chance to write a short description of your feelings for your partner on Valentine’s Day, what would you say? After all, proclaiming your feelings for your partner is the reason for the (Valentine’s Day) season. In the past, newspapers gave readers the opportunity to post a Valentine’s Day announcement (some newspapers like the Telegraph in the UK still offer this opportunity). This doesn’t happen so much any more (damn you internet!), but regardless of the medium, it isn’t everyday that you get to be nosy and see what people have to say about their relationships. That’s where relationship science comes in…
How They Did It
In this study, researchers basically just wanted to see what people were saying about their relationships around Valentine’s Day. To do this, researchers examined over 800 Valentine’s announcements printed in a major Canadian newspaper in Montreal between 2001-2005.1 Of the announcements, the researchers selected 100 from dating couples and 100 from married couples, with even numbers of male and female “authors.” Researchers meticulously coded each message for several key feelings: praise (e.g., “you are wonderful”), commitment (e.g., “love always and forever”), and fidelity (e.g., “you are the only one I love”). They also counted the number of times the author used the word love.
What They Found
Men and women were equally likely to post announcements, though those in dating relationships posted more than did those who were married. Valentine’s authors were more likely to focus on love and commitment than they were to praise or highlight fidelity. Men were more likely to include praise, but were less likely to express love, while women expressed love and fidelity more than men. Interestingly, married couples with kids were most likely to include praise but least likely to mention fidelity and commitment. Daters were less likely to include love and praise than were married couples. Dating men mentioned commitment a lot, but rarely focused on fidelity, while dating women included both commitment and fidelity.
What the Results Mean For You
These results can give you a basic idea of the types of messages partners want to send to each other. As you may suspect, several common themes (love, commitment, praise, and fidelity) emerged. It is fair to wonder how much being published in public influenced the content of messages. It is probably safe to assume that these messages were especially positive compared to what individuals may privately write or say to each other (“take out the damn trash!”). As a result, it may be premature to conclude that these types of announcements are a completely accurate depiction of what takes place in the relationship. So this Valentine’s Day, whether you announce your feelings for your partner publicly or privately, take some time to think about what kind of message you’re sending.
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1Gonzalez, A. Q., & Koestner, R. (2006). What Valentine announcements reveal about the romantic emotions of men and women. Sex Roles, 55, 767–773. doi: 10.1007/s11199-006-9130-z
Dr. Gary Lewandowski - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lewandowski's research explores the role of the self in romantic relationships with a specific focus on self-expansion. He has authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences and is a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.