Valentine’s Day: Finding connection in your relationship beneath the roses and chocolates.
This year Australians will spend an estimated 485 million dollars celebrating Valentine’s day1. The average couple will spend $108 dollars, cards bought at supermarket checkouts to a $350,000 Lamborghini. The most common gifts bought are flowers (47%) followed by chocolates (29%) and sex toys (7%).
Australians celebrate Valentine’s day in ways as varied as the varieties of flowers and sex toys on offer. For some, the day is forgotten before the rose has wilted and the chocolate eaten. For others, it is an important day that involves elaborate planning and high expectations. Whichever route a couple takes, there are many psychological factors that can lead to a happy or horrible valentines day – and even breakups. Below are some research examples of those factors that may guide you and your valentine towards a successful day.
Know your Partner
The old adage ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ is unequipped to deal with the variations of identities and partners in 2023. However, the sentiment that opposites attract, may be worth considering. Often people will be attracted to someone who has a complimentary personality to them, especially in terms of raising a family and living a fulfilling life. Comedian Bill Burr says ‘Every relationship has the person that will tie the trash bag and then leave it slumped against the counter… and the person that actually takes it out’. The main takeaway is: taking the time to consider what you know about your partner may prove invaluable. Consider how they tend to communicate their wants and needs, not how you would like them to communicate. Are they clear about what they want?
Love Languages Test
A commonly used relationship tool is the Love Languages test. The test does not have a consistent level of validity compared to other psychometric tests 2, however, when taken with a grain of salt it can be helpful. The test will identify your preferred method of receiving love and for giving love. These are gift giving, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service and quality time. Although it has inconsistent statistical support for its validity, many couples do find it helpful in remembering their partner may operate differently from them.
A psychometric test that is highly supported by research is Attachment Styles. An attachment style is developed in childhood and informs how you respond to intimacy. It is a complicated paradigm but in short people can be avoidant attached (distancing themselves from those who show them love), anxious attached (wanting constant reassurance that they are loved) or secure attached (a healthy balance of engagement and distance in their relationships). A recent study found that Valentine’s day enhanced the perception of those in a relationship for those with secure or anxious attachment styles3. However, those with avoidant attachment style are more likely to experience a decrease in relationship satisfaction or a desire to invest in their relationship on Valentine’s day. So, if your partner feels overwhelmed by overt displays of commitment, you may want to hold off on the roses.
Similarly, another study found that personality traits can influence how we react to Valentine’s day4. Those with a high level of neuroticism tended to pre-empt and experience a more negative experience of Valentine’s Day. Those who are high in extraversion tended to pre-empt and experience a more positive experience of Valentine’s Day. There might not be much you can do to combat this. However, lowering your expectations of the day might help if you or your partner tend to be more neurotic and introverted.
Breaking up on Valentine’s Day
A study found that during the week of Valentine’s day, couples were more likely to break up compared to a typical week5. However, this was found to be more frequent in couples who were already likely to break up soon. If you find yourself in this situation and need support, please feel free to reach out to one of our many relationship expert psychologists at The Three Seas.
Overwhelming studies seem to suggest that our individual differences in personality and psychology make a huge difference in how we experience and anticipate Valentine’s day. Although there is no right or wrong way, it is important to try to cater any ideas you have to suit you and your partner. Finally, behind the Lamborghini and the chocolates, Valentine’s day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of your relationship and express that to your partner.
- Valentine’s Day set to bring $485m spending boom as lovers celebrate their freedom https://www.roymorgan.com/findings/valentines-day-set-to-bring-485m-spending-boom-as-lovers-celebrate-their-freedom
- Surijah, Edwin & Septiarly, Yashinta. (2016). Construct Validation of Five Love Languages. Anima Indonesian Psychological Journal. 31. 65-76. 10.24123/aipj.v31i2.565.
- Chopik, W. J., Wardecker, B. M., & Edelstein, R. S. (2014). Be Mine: Attachment avoidance predicts perceptions of relationship functioning on Valentine’s Day. Personality and Individual Differences, 63, 47-52. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2014.01.035
- Hoerger, M., & Quirk, S. W. (2010). Affective forecasting and the Big Five [Article]. Personality and Individual Differences, 49(8), 972-976. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.08.007
- Morse, K. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2004). How do holidays influence relationship processes and outcomes? Examining the instigating and catalytic effects of Valentine’s Day [Review]. Personal Relationships, 11(4), 509-527. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-6811.2004.00095.x