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...
Valentine’s Day is what it is. At its best, Valentine’s Day is a day where you can be a little extra romantic and take the opportunity to celebrate your relationship. At its worst, it is an overly commercialized “Hallmark holiday” with too much of an emphasis on chocolates, flowers, and pushy jewelry advertisements. Think what you want, but if you’re in a relationship, you should probably be thinking about what to get your partner.
You need a gift. You can read here about what to get or here to read about bad gifts to avoid. But how do you figure out how much you should spend on that gift? You could take a guess, ask a few friends, or you could do what we did and survey over 1000 people in the United States. (Click here for more details about our survey) Here’s what we found out...
Valentine’s Day typically serves as a time to show appreciation for that special someone in our lives or as an opportunity to take a relationship to the next level. It’s a time to celebrate love in all of its forms. But can it be a dangerous time for the health of your relationship?
Holidays can be stressful, but your relationship probably made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, and New Year’s in one piece. Congratulations! Valentine’s Day should be a piece of cake, right? Not so fast…
Wanna talk about your love life? People in China do. For the past year, I’ve been living in Shenzhen and working on a collection of true stories about love and marriage experiences since the rise of Communist China. Far from being viewed positively, romantic love often generates suspicion among the older generations and confusion among the young. This brief Valentine’s Day story, told to me by a charming twenty-two year old Buddhist woman, illuminates the clash of old and new ideas about love:
“The first time a boy kissed me, I was fifteen, and it was Valentine’s Day. He pretended to have a school question to ask, but instead he declared that he liked me. He pressed a rose into my hand, which I tried to refuse, stammering that I didn’t like him at all. I turned to go, but he pulled me close and kissed me! I wrestled my arm away and raced into my house, very flustered. After that, I hated him, thinking he was a morally rotten boy. I had never seen anybody kiss or hug in my hometown, not even married people, and nobody said, “I love you” either. I just wanted to cultivate friendships and avoid loving anyone, so I never talked to that boy again. If people in my hometown ever kissed like young lovers do in the cities, everyone would think they were degenerates, even today.”
There is a lot of pressure to impress your romantic partner with a fabulous Valentine’s Day date (I should know – Valentine’s Day is also my wife’s birthday!). If you decide to go to a fancy restaurant, how do you know which cuisine to choose? Should you go with spicy Thai or cold sushi? If you’re going to buy your partner a gift, do you choose something practical and imminently useful but unromantic (the Science of Relationships book?) or should you instead go with something useless but romantic (a stuffed teddy bear holding a satin pillow shaped like a heart with “Valentine’s Without You Would be Un-Bear-able” written on it?). Or, if you’re going to get your sweetie something, well, sweet, should you choose the heart-shaped box of chocolates that is the candy equivalent of Russian Roulette or should you buy some specialty hot cocoa?
*Wikipedia defines “middle age” as 41 – 60, so it must be true.
Everyone in a long-term romantic relationship has a story. Each of our stories is unique. Our story begins when we were 21 (Charlotte) and 25 (Patrick). We were both coming off other long-term, serious (or so we thought) relationships, and we really didn’t know what we wanted out of a relationship or what we could offer a partner. Now, 17 years and 2 kids later, we both feel pretty lucky that things have worked out as well as they have. Back then, we had no idea what challenges we would face or how we would help each other maneuver through them. We were young and optimistic, but there was so much we didn’t know.
Due to practice and a bit of research (it doesn’t hurt that we are both researchers who study romantic relationships!), we know a little more about relationships now. However, we are still never sure what to do each Valentine’s Day (see past reflections on this matter here and here). It seems like a holiday for “new lovers,” and we’ve known each other too long to feel “new” to each other. What are those of us approaching middle age and in long-term relationships supposed to do on this holiday?
Being the nerds that we are, we decided to review some relevant research to help answer this question, and we offer a few tips in case you find yourself in a similar predicament.
In my previous relationships, more than one partner on more than one occasion spat out the following emotional expletive at me:
“Your feminism has ruined you!”
I have explicitly self-identified as a feminist since my undergraduate days and enacted this feminism in my social and personal relationships. My strong feminist identification led me to to political activism and vocal critiques of women’s place in society.1 This created some tense situations in my twenties when I took pleasure in loud arguments about women’s issues and the importance of being a self-professed feminist. My close college friends and I named ourselves feminists, cursed loudly in public, flirted with insults instead of hair flips, gave one another dead roses for Valentine’s Day, and even penned a poster for our apartment that read “The Hairy-Leg Café” to play with the negative stereotypes of feminists we knew some of our peers held.2 For me, using the F-word as a proud marker of my belief in equality means that I hear subtle and not so subtle put-downs when I’m critical of sexual double standards, traditional heterosexual marriage, differences in pay and prestige, and who cleans the bathroom. I’ve been called a feminazi, dyke, man-hater, and ugly bitch by students, random men at bars, and peers when I’ve voiced my views. Fortunately, it seems that self-ascribing oneself as a feminist is not as argument-provoking or unfashionable as in the past. In fact, popular women’s magazines such as Glamour and websites like Jezebel.com claim that calling oneself a feminist is “The New Do.”3