It’s that time of year again when the shops are full of hearts and flowers, chocolates and cards. Has Valentine’s Day become just another shopping festival or is it worth celebrating? And what do women really want from their loved ones? HILARIE STELFOX reports
WATCH out next week because Valentine’s Day is not just the biggest romantic event of the year, it’s also a key time for relationship breakdowns.
And this, says psychologist Sarah Jane Robinson from the University of Huddersfield, is because so many of us have high expectations from the special day that, quite simply, can’t be met.
“Valentine’s Day has become a bit like Christmas,” she says. “It’s very commercial and there seems to be a huge amount of pressure that it should live up to our expectations. When it doesn’t it can highlight the cracks in a relationship. There is research that says there is an increase in relationship breakdowns on this day.’’
She added: “It can make people think ‘actually I don’t want to leave a note on your pillow saying I love you’. It can push them over the edge.”
At its best, however, Valentine’s Day can be an occasion to cement a loving relationship.
“It offers couples an opportunity to take time out and re-affirm their feelings for each other,” says Sarah. “But you should be acknowledging and validating each other regularly, not just on this one day.”
Gift-giving has become a custom on February 14 and, it would seem, most of us stick to the traditional chocolates and flowers.
In fact, red roses are still the most popular gift of all.
Florist Janine Sully, who runs The Greenhouse from her home on Bradley Road in Huddersfield, says she has ordered 750 red roses for the run-up to Valentine’s Day.
“It’s always a bit of a gamble because there are the men who forget until the day itself, so you never know how many you’ll need,” she explained.
“When men come in for flowers we always try to persuade them to have something different and more up-to-date but they really want the red roses.
“And women want to receive them, especially if they are from a new love.
“One woman said to me that she was really disappointed to get tulips because she thought she should have roses.”
Janine, who has been a florist for 28 years, said her largest-ever romantic bouquet was an arrangement of 150 red roses, but some men opt for a single stem.
“A dozen or a single are the most popular choices,” she says.
Chocolate sales also climb dramatically. At the Lollipop Tree confectionery shop in Almondbury, owners Gillian Starke and Donna Farrand have noticed that among their customers men tend to buy chocolates for their partners, while women buy sweets such as licorice, midget gems and boiled sweets for men.
Donna said: “This will be our second Valentine’s Day in business here and we have been surprised by how busy we are. We didn’t think we would be able to compete with the supermarkets but people are coming in for something a bit different.”
And how much will lovers pay for a sweet treat for their other half? The answer is anything from a few pounds up to £35 for a box of 60 chocolates.
Lovely though it might be to receive chocolates and flowers, is this what women would choose for themselves? I put the question to Sarah, who is a principal lecturer in psychology. “What do women really want?’’ she said. “What do men want? Freud, after 30 years of research still didn’t understand what women want.
“I think women tend to have romantic expectations. Stereotypically they want breakfast in bed, flowers sent to work and a nice meal. Men, I suspect, would like to wake up in the morning and find that Valentine’s Day had been cancelled!” Sarah added: “My partner would like to sit and watch the sports channel all day with me sitting beside him and not complaining. That would be something that he wants.”
Her own Valentine’s Day is likely to be a low-key event. She is currently on maternity leave after giving birth to a second daughter, Honor, and says what she would value most would be the chance to wallow in a hot bath and get an early night.
“Times are tough at the moment for many people and they don’t want to be spending a lot of money on one day,’’ she said. “Thoughtful gifts are the most appreciated – those connected with your personal tastes.
“But if women don’t want to be disappointed they have got to communicate better with their partners. Men are not mind readers and probably feel really anxious about what to get.
“Both women and men like to be listened to and women want to feel that they are special. It’s like the Rihanna song with the line ‘Make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world’.”
Her advice to anyone choosing flowers or chocolates is to personalise the gift “or it can be seen as an easy road.”
But what about sexy lingerie, another traditional choice of gift from men to their partners?
“It’s not something I’d want to see,” said Sarah. “You see a lot of men wandering around looking for underwear on Valentine’s Day but that’s a gift for them and most women would look at it like that.”
You have been warned.
We’d like to hear your Valentine’s Day stories – the best or even the worst you have experienced. The winner of the most entertaining story will win a luxurious makeover at the Vanilla Salon in Aspley – hair colour, cut and conditioning, manicure, eyebrow shaping, facial and make-up worth more than £150.
We’ll feature your stories on this page.
To enter, send your story to: Hilarie Stelfox, Features, Huddersfield Examiner, Pennine Business Park, Longbow Close, Bradley Road, Huddersfield HD2 1GQ, or email email@example.com
Don’t forget to include your full contact details.
Hairdresser and partner at the Vanilla salon in Aspley Jane Prentice, pictured below, believes that actions speak louder than cash.
“I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to show someone you care,’’ she said. “You can just cook them a lovely meal, some real comfort food to help them relax at the end of a busy day.”
But if money is no object then Jane recommends a surprise weekend away or a day at a spa.
“I like a surprise,’’ she said. “My boyfriend always does something for Valentine’s Day. We’re both keen walkers so he’s taken me away to the Dales. It’s the thought behind it that counts.
“Doing something special shows that you are thinking about each other and taking care of each other.”
Carla Woodhead, pictured below, account manager for cosmetic company Lancome in Boots, Huddersfield, says: “Flowers and chocolates are lovely but the flowers die and the chocolates are soon gone. I like to get something that lasts a bit longer, like a fragrance.
“Because I work for a cosmetic company, which has its own fragrances, people think I have enough, but I like to try those from other cosmetic houses for a change.”
What would she recommend men buy for their partners?
“I think most women would enjoy having some really good skincare products or something from their favourite skincare routine that they perhaps wouldn’t want to splash out on themselves,” said Carla.
THE St Valentine who gives his name to the modern celebration on February 14 is thought to have been a Roman priest who angered the Emperor Claudius and was executed in AD 269.
He is said to have been persecuted for his Christian faith and when the emperor Claudius failed to convert him to Roman paganism his fate was sealed.
Other versions of the story say Valentine performed illegal marriages between Roman soldiers and their sweethearts. At the time Claudius ruled that young men made better soldiers if they remained single.
Further embellishments on the tale have Valentine curing his jailer’s daughter of blindness, falling in love with her and then writing her a note on the eve of his execution which was signed ‘From your Valentine.’
Until the Middle Ages, however, it seems there was little connection between Valentine and romance. Historians believe that the reason his name became connected with a special day for lovers is because the date of his martyrdom, February 14, falls in the middle of the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia which celebrated fertility.
The poet Geoffrey Chaucer mentions the saint in a poem of 1382 in which he wrote: “For this was St Valentine’s Day when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”
And it was the Victorians who really embraced February 14 as a day for lovers, producing cards such as the one shown, and keepsakes for couples to send to each other.
But for all hispopularity, StValentine was removed from the Calendar of Saints by Pope Paul VI in 1969 due to lack of information about him.
But his festival is still celebrated by the church in many parts of the world.