According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, Americans spend upwards of $10 billion on for Valentine’s Day. And in true Valentine’s Day fashion, most of the adults surveyed were expecting to purchase candy, flowers, and/or a nice evening out for their partners. If you are one of those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, you might be thinking that these behaviors sound pretty familiar. The smell of roses and cologne will fill the air. Succulent wine and chocolate will dance on our tongues. We will go out dressed in our very best. Valentine’s Day truly is a day to indulge in some relational hedonism. But is the Valentine’s Day feel-goodery helpful for our relationships, or have we merely bought into a big consumer ploy? Although the answer to this question might be a matter of opinion, some research suggests that sensual pleasures – many of those that are heightened on Valentine’s Day – actually have a lot to do with feelings of attraction and relational health.
Everyone knows that Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, and you’d probably assume that couples end up expressing their love (or lust) for each other in ways other than giving gifts. In fact, the #1 gift that men want to receive for Valentine’s Day wasn’t really a traditional “gift” at all: it was sex (read more about the top-ranked gifts here).
We asked over 1,000 Americans (learn more about survey here) if couples should expect to have sex on Valentine’s Day, and if so, if that sex should be better than average (i.e., “extra special Valentine’s Day sex”) or if it would be the “typical” sex that the couple normally has. Overall, 36% of people expected to have better sex than usual, 27% thought they’d have typical sex (if you’re bad at math, this means that almost 2 out of every 3 respondents expected couples to have sex on Valentine’s Day), and 37% didn’t think that sex should be expected on Valentine’s Day.
Michelle Kaufman is a researcher that focuses on sexual behavior in the developing world. She globetrots regularly, engaging in ethnographic work along the way in order to inform the quantitative and qualitative research she conducts. Recently, Michelle visited Tanzania and investigated how people celebrate Valentine’s Day.
While in Tanzania last month, I asked everyone I met about Valentine’s Day. Do Tanzanians celebrate it, and how?
Who celebrates Valentine’s Day in Tanzania? First, Valentine’s Day is not commonly celebrated in Tanzania. Not surprisingly, it is viewed as a holiday for urban, wealthier people, and mostly for the youth. Those living in rural areas or those who are living day-to-day just trying to survive don’t give Valentine’s Day much thought (they are more focused on things like food, shelter, etc.). All my informants made it clear right away that this is a holiday for the well off with expendable income.
As part of the Relationship Science Month festivities, we teamed up with international online dating site, Elite Singles, to survey their members about all things Valentine's Day. The survey sample included participants from four different countries (UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand)! Here's a snapshot of findings from that survey:
What should you do to get ready for Valentine’s Day? According to YourTango, you should delete your ex-partner from your Facebook friends list. They have even designated a day for doing it; February 13th is Break Up With Your Ex Day, and this means deleting, blocking, untagging, and unfollowing your ex from Facebook and other social media.
It’s that time of year again. I’ve barely recovered from Christmas, and yet the stores have pulled out all the Valentine’s Day decorations and cards. When I spot the shades of red and pink at my local Target, I find myself silently groaning. Another gift to buy. Already. Again. Really?
When it comes to making Valentine’s Day plans, who’s in charge? Is it the guy’s responsibility? Or are women supposed to be the planners? According to the ScienceOfRelationships.com survey (learn more about this survey here), it turns out that most people think both members of the couple (in heterosexual couples) should plan the Valentine’s Day festivities (70%). If only one partner does the planning, most believe it’s the man’s job (27%), with very few people believing it falls on the woman to plan (2%). This makes sense: If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of relationships, shouldn’t couples work together to make sure they’ll both enjoy the day?
For heterosexual couples, just making sure that both partners reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse can be difficult. Achieving orgasm at the exact same moment (i.e., “simultaneous orgasm”)? That’s even more of a challenge. Why? Because the typical motion of penile thrusting does not seem to provide adequate sexual stimulation for many women. In fact, only about half of women report being able to climax from penile movements alone during sex and, even among those women, many of them report that they do not experience orgasm reliably.1 As a result, many women find that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse (e.g., with the use of one’s hand or a vibrator) or attempting different sexual activities is necessary to help them climax. However, it turns out that you may not need to do these other things if you can better align your own and your partner’s genitals during sex.
We all know that Valentine’s Day is a heart-filled holiday, but is it possible that seeing a heart changes how much you tip at a restaurant? In a study of over 350 restaurant patrons’, waitresses delivered the bill under one of three candy-filled dishes: square, round, or heart-shaped. Results revealed that more people tipped (the study was in France, where tipping isn’t necessarily automatic) when provided with a heart-shaped dish and tipped a higher amount compared to the other two shapes. If you work as a waiter or waitress, perhaps you can make hearts work for you throughout the year.
Guéguen, N. (2013). Helping with all your heart: The effect of cardioid dishes on tipping behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(8), 1745-1749. doi:10.1111/jasp.12109
One of the reasons people indicate that they ‘hate’ Valentine’s Day is because it’s too commercial. Indeed, the vast majority of our survey respondents indicated that some form of gift is expected (88%). So we wanted to know (a) how people prefer to receive their gifts and (b) what types of gifts they prefer.
I’ve received a gift on Valentine’s Day once in the past ten years. I wouldn’t consider my lackluster gift count so remarkable if I were perpetually single, but I have been romantically involved with someone on every single Valentine’s Day in the last decade! In contrast to my former partners, I derive a ridiculous amount of pleasure from giving people presents. Although I hardly need a reason to buy someone a gift (“It’s Tuesday? Cool; here’s the box set of Top Gear you said you wanted”), Valentine’s Day offers the perfect excuse for me to indulge my gift-giving fancy.
Editor's note: Relationship researchers and married couple Drs. Charlotte and Patrick Markey give us "his and her" takes on how to approach Valentine's Day gift giving.
I went to the mailbox this morning and found a turquoise blue catalogue amongst the undesirable bills and solicitations. On the cover, heart-shaped jewelry reminded me that Valentine’s Day was quickly approaching. I was tempted to strategically place this little blue reminder from Tiffany’s in my husband’s view -- on his dresser, in his briefcase, or perhaps on the kitchen island. But then, I found myself realizing I did not actually desire expensive jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Perhaps I was ill? Wasn’t I supposed to want something fancy?
If you really love, like, and/or are hot for your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, domestic partner, FWB, F-buddy, or that person you have a secret crush on, why not give him or her the gift of a relationship science this Valentine's Day? There's nothing like a little knowledge to keep your relationship going (or to start up a new relationship). Fforget the box of chocolates; the ScienceOfRelationships.com book is just the thing to give this year!
Editor's note: We are privileged to be able to share an excerpt from Dr. Bella DePaulo's book Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After. Ten of the chapters in Singled Out debunk myths about single people. This send-up of Valentine’s Day advice is from Chapter 5, which mocks the myth of “the dark aura of singlehood,” which dopily proclaims that if you are single, “you are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic.”
If you want to see fools rush in to provide well-meaning advice to hapless single people, buy a ticket for Valentine’s Day. One of my favorite examples appeared in USA Weekend in 2003, under the title How to survive Valentine’s Day without a sweetie. Here’s what it said...