February 14th, the day of chocolates, roses and heart-festooned greeting cards, is upon us once again.
If that sentence made you groan, you're not alone. Almost half of Americans describe Valentine's Day as "overrated," according to a 2017 survey. Still, another 43 percent called it "romantic," indicating some serious polarization surrounding this day celebrating love.
Valentine's Day itself does not get a lot of love in the scientific literature, but a few scattered studies hint at why it inspires hate. See if any of the reasons to hate Valentine's Day ring true for you.
1. You're a rebel
In marketing, there's a notion called "resistance theory." Basically, if people feel like they're being asked to comply with a prescribed, prepackaged behavior, they're unlikely to do so.
Valentine's Day is ripe for resistance, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Business Research. It's not a religious holiday, so it's perceived as corporate and consumerist, a way for businesses to stick their money-grubbing noses in your personal romantic business. According to surveys, diaries and e-diaries collected between 2000 and 2006, people feel a strong sense of gift-giving resistance surrounding Valentine's Day, even as they feel obligated to get something for their significant other. The sense of obligation killed any sense of meaning that came with the gift-giving. In response, many participants enacted monetary limits on gift-giving. But 88 percent of men in relationships and 75 percent of women did still gift something, the researchers found, though often the gift was a handmade item or home-cooked dinner. [13 Scientifically Proven Signs You're in Love]
Valentine's seemed to bum out those in new relationships and single people the most. Eight-one percent of men and 50 percent of women in brand-new partnerships reported feeling obligated to give gifts. Meanwhile, some singles became particularly incensed with the marketing surrounding Valentine's Day.
"I would like to extend a warm thanks to Hallmark, the official sponsor of Valentine's Day, for reminding me that without a significant other, how truly worthless my life is," one single participant wrote, as the researchers recorded in their study.
Notably, Valentine's Day isn't the only holiday that fills people with angst over obligatory gift-giving. A 2013 Pew Research survey about Christmas found that the top things Americans dislike about Christmas all have to do with consumerism: A third (33 percent) hate the materialism; 22 percent hate the expense; and 10 percent loathe the crowded stores.
2. You're not comfortable in relationships
Regardless of relationship status, Valentine's Day may be particularly cringe-worthy for those who avoid intimacy. A 2014 study surveyed coupled-up individuals online about how Valentine's Day impacted their assessments of their own relationships. The researchers focused on a concept called "attachment," which is rooted in research on parent-child interactions. People who are attachment-avoidant try not to become too intimate with their partners and tend not to offer much emotional support.
Attachment avoidance turned out to be key for how people experience their relationships in the context of Valentine's Day. The researchers had people take online surveys on Valentine's Day and on a random day in April about their relationships. Some of the surveys were accompanied by banner ads with romantic (though not explicitly Valentine-y) themes. The people who were both low in attachment avoidance and reminded of romance with a banner ad reported a boost in relationship satisfaction and investment in their relationships on Valentine's Day.
Without all of those ingredients, meh.
"One of the main messages from the paper is that Valentine's Day actually doesn't make a difference" for most people, study author William Chopik, a social scientist at Michigan State University, told Live Science.
And for people high in attachment avoidance, even throwing Valentine's Day and reminders of romance at them didn't make them feel more into their relationships.
For the researchers, these findings explained some previous conundrums surrounding Valentine's Day. Some previous research had found that anniversaries, holidays and birthdays helped glue couples together, they wrote. However, other studies had suggested that, on the contrary, weak relationships are especially prone to go down in flames around Valentine's Day, Chopik said. A person's individual attachment style could determine whether V-Day casts a rosy light on a relationship or sinks the whole thing. [The 6 Most Tragic Love Stories in History]
"For better or for worse, recurring relationship events provide opportunities for people to think about their relationships," the researchers concluded.
3. You're being a little melodramatic right now
Then again, maybe Valentine's isn't such a big deal after all. Whatever you're feeling about it right now might simply evaporate come Feb. 14.
A 2010 study of emotional anticipation asked participants to report how they were likely to feel about Valentine's Day in mid-January. On Feb. 16, the same participants were again asked about Valentine's Day, this time reporting how they actually felt about the holiday.
Across the board, participants overestimated how intensely they'd feel about the holiday. Daters believed they'd feel more positive about Valentine's than they actually did. Non-daters thought they'd feel more negative. In fact, after the day passed, it turned out that both daters and singles felt about the same on Valentine's.
Your personality might clue you in about whether your pre-V-Day emotions are likely to track with how you'll really feel. The researchers found that extroverts tended to view their future emotions through a rosier light, while people with anxious, neurotic tendencies tended to expect to feel particularly bad about Valentine's (especially if they were single). It turned out to be true that extroverts did report feeling better about Valentine's after the fact than neurotic individuals did, but both groups still overestimated their emotional response.
So the next time you pass a display of roses or see a commercial hawking diamond rings, take a deep breath and remember: This Valentine's Day, too, shall pass.
- 5 Ways Love Affects the Brain
- How Do I Love Thee? Experts Count 8 Ways
- 5 Ways Relationships Are Bad for Your Health
Originally published on Live Science.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.