What day makes people more anxious than any other day of the year?
If you answered April 15, you’re way off.
Even the IRS’ strangle hold on your wallet is no match for the grip Cupid has on lovers who want to please and delight their significant others.
If the approaching holiday has you sweating, you’re not alone. Many surveys show lovers can be out touch with what the loves of their lives really want for Valentine’s Day.
And the consequences of a bad Valentine’s Day gift aren’t pretty. According to one survey, as many as six million people have broken up with someone on Valentine’s Day.
A survey conducted by Bill Me Later Inc. and Ipsos Insight reveals that men really are from Mars when it comes to knowing what their sweethearts want for Valentine’s Day.
More than 90 percent of the men polled said they would be giving a hug as part of their gift. Only 13 percent of the female respondents, however, said they wanted a hug. Twenty-two percent of men who intend to give gifts said they would give lingerie, but only 2 percent of the women surveyed want lingerie.
Flowers, the most coveted gift on the female list of desirable Valentine’s Day gifts, ranked second on the male gift-giving list. However, jewelry, which was the women’s second pick for most desired gift, only rated fifth on the men’s list.
Does all of this discord between men and women’s visions of the perfect Valentine’s Day cause any relationship damage?
It certainly does.
The difference in gender perception is probably a more significant problem than people imagine, according to Carolyn Kaufman, a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor at Columbus State Community College in Ohio.
The commercial expectations for Valentine’s Day are focused on women's ideals of love, and not men's.
“That means men are forced to do things that don't say love to them,” she said. “In fact, for men, (these gifts) may just (be) cheesy."
But there are some who don’t feel the pressure at all. Take Dan Parks, president and creative director of Corporate Planners Unlimited Inc.
He prepares a gift and card for both his wife and daughter for each day in the month of February. Parks starts collecting cards in June or July so he’s got everything in place when February rolls around.
Gathering 56 cards and 56 gifts may seem like a Herculean effort, but not to Parks. For him, “It is truly a labor of love,” he said.
Kaufman said expressions of love are clearly in the eyes of the beholder. Spending time together, taking walks, kissing, candle-lit dinners, hugging, holding hands, and making love are all signs of love to men.
Women, on the other hand, are much more focused on seeing love in the tokens associated with Valentine's Day, like flowers and surprise gifts.
A conflict develops between how a man wants to express his affection, and how he's being told to express it. Kaufman cautioned that, “If he does what he's expected to do, it may feel fake or forced to either or both partners. And that's not romantic.”
If you want to avoid feeling let down this Valentine’s Day, try following these three tips from Dr. Paulette Kouffman Sherman, psychologist and author of “Dating From The Inside-Out: Using The Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart:”
1. If there is something special you’d like to do, be proactive and suggest it. Expecting him to read your mind is a set up for both of you.
2. Think of all the ways your partner is good to you. This should balance out your expectations around this one particular holiday.
3. Think of the legend of St. Valentine and the real meaning of Valentine’s Day. One legend says Valentine was a priest who served during the 3rd Century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young single men, Valentine continued to perform marriages in secret and was put to death. In another legend, Valentine actually sent the first “Valentine” after he fell in love with a girl while in prison. It is believed he signed the note, “From your Valentine.” St. Valentine’s focus was on his love for others, not on himself, according to Kouffman. So, choose to make this holiday romantic for your partner, instead of thinking about what should be done for you. This should take the pressure off.
Sherman added that it’s not the specific expectations around Valentine’s Day that matter, it’s feeling appreciated. “Let the other person know they matter to you in some way. And, also remember, one day does not signify the love given to you over the lifetime of your relationship.”