It seems like some guys took our advice about Valentine's Day gifts a little too literally (either that, or these guys are relationship geniuses).
Entries in valentine's day (30)
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.”
Now that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, you may be worried about picking out the perfect gift for your partner. Is it something he will like? Will she be disappointed by your efforts? And how is a partner’s response to your gift related to thoughts about the future of your relationship?
This seems like a straightforward question. Gifts reflect how well you know your partner and signify if you have similar tastes in things (and there’s lots of research showing that similarity predicts liking and attraction); if I pick something for you that you like, it is a signal that we are compatible. But as with most things in life, it’s not that simple…
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.
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.
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.
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?
It is customary to do something special with your partner on Valentine’s Day to celebrate your relationship. Have you planned what you are going to do? You can go with the standard commercialized gifts like chocolates, lingerie, or overpriced roses. Or, perhaps you plan on simply spending some time with each other. If you go that route, rather than the trite dinner and a movie, you may want to consider doing something together that will actually make you and your relationship better.
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.
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?
- How to improve your relationship this Valentine's Day
- Are Valentine's Day card messages supported by science?
- Why you should keep your Valentine's Day date warm and heavy
- Should you dress in red on Valentine's Day?
- How to make the most of your senses on Valentine's Day
- Why are people motivated to give gifts to their partners on Valentine's Day? (hint: it's not just to get sex)
- Get your Facebook profile ready for Valentine's Day
- Valentine's Day gifts: He said/she said
- How is Valentine's Day celebrated in China?
- Need a Tip For a Sexual Position This Valentine's Day? You've come to the right place.
- Is candy a good Valentine's Day present?
- Tips for single people on Valentine's Day
- Does buying a crappy Valentine's Day gift for your partner hurt (or help) your relationship?
- Is your relationship at risk this Valentine's Day?
- How do same-sex couples view Valentine's Day?
Several years ago, I read a journal article in which the researchers reported that individuals who had recently fallen in love had higher levels of cortisol than did individuals in long-term relationships or those in no relationship at all. Importantly, high levels of cortisol can eventually weaken the immune system and undermine physical health. Admittedly, this finding baffled me. If chronically high levels of cortisol can be bad for health, then how does that explain the overwhelmingly positive impression people have of being passionately in love? I’ve yet to find a Valentine’s Day card that reads, “I love you so much that you make me susceptible to pneumonia.”
Relationship researchers are in high demand on Valentine's Day. Here are a few more TV appearances by members of the SofR team from the last couple of days:
- Dr. Tim Loving on KEYE from Austin, talking about Valentine's Day and relationships (see our write-up of this research here)
- Dr. Gary Lewandowski on KMTA in Omaha, discussing self-expansion and marriage (take the quiz here)
- Also see here and here for some of Dr. Jennifer Harman's recent interviews.
SofR's Dr. Jennifer Harman, our book, and SofR are featured in the Smithsonian's blog. Click the link below for the full article.
Next stop....The New Yorker.
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…