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Why men should care about Valentine's Day
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If you're anything like us, you may well hate the very mention of Valentine's Day. For men, this isn't a day for celebration, it's a day for trepidation.
That's because it can seem that whatever you do, it's not enough. And it's because you have to feign romance on a cold, drizzly Tuesday in February (it's a work night, for goodness sake). And it's because you can sense the glee of local florists and restaurateurs as they welcome you in and add a digit to their prices.
And let's face it, it's because you might forget it altogether.
So bah humbug to Valentine's. But despite the commercialisation of the whole thing, and despite your natural and justifiable reservations, there are some very good reasons to care about Valentine's Day. Here's what every man should know about the "most romantic day of the year" (not).
Why Valentine's Day is important (to her)
Life can be mundane. Romance can get lost in the everyday grind of work and responsibilities. So to many women, Valentine's Day feels like a beacon flashing in the dark days of winter. It's a chance to rekindle a few romantic fires. It's an opportunity to feel special, loved and wanted.
At least that's what an American survey of over 2,000 men and women found. It discovered that 55% of women 'loved' Valentine's Day, compared to just 38% of men. It's also worth noting that 75% of the women had never forgotten Valentine's Day (and that includes the years when they were single, remember).
So women value Valentine's Day, even if you don't. Which begs the question, why?
What is Valentine's Day all about?
There's no doubt that every company with anything pink, fluffy or sweet to sell bigs up Valentine's Day because of the opportunity it affords to cash in. But that doesn't make it a meaningless day of pointless consumption, apparently.
"Valentine's Day may be a commercial money making idea, but it also taps into the evolutionary drives that keep couples together," says sexual and relationship psychotherapist Paula Hall, relationship expert for matchmaking site Parship.
It can seem overly commercial, but there's nothing wrong with giving your partner what she wants
Because at heart Valentine's Day shouldn't be about spending cash, it should be about spending time. Cards and presents are only symbolic of the fact that, today, or this evening, or for the next hour, she has your undivided attention. Apparently, women are hardwired to love that sort of stuff.
"Evolutionary theory tells us that women need to feel safe and protected in their relationships and one of the most important ways men can demonstrate that is through giving women their full attention," says Hall.
"When we focus on our partner, we're showing them how important they are to us, we're saying we care for you and are looking out for you. We're demonstrating our priorities and saying - 'at this moment in time, nothing else matters to me'."
Why do we give flowers on Valentine's Day?
All of which is fine and dandy, but if all that our partners want is our attention, why do they sulk when the flowers don't arrive?
It's true that, when women in relationships gather by the water cooler on the morning of the 15th and discuss the previous evening, they want to have something to say (and "I had his undivided attention between EastEnders and the football" isn't going to cut it).
To some women, though by no means all, boasting about huge bouquets or expensive restaurants is a way of advertising the fact that they've bagged themselves a high-status man. Subconsciously or not, that's what some women are looking for.
Paula Hall also thinks the rituals of Valentine's Day - including the flowers and chocs - tap into another deep-seated need. "Another aspect of evolutionary psychology is that women are in competition for the best men," she says.
"Whether they're consciously aware of it or not, they're tuned in to any rivals that might be waiting in the wings. So when your woman gets the biggest bunch of roses at the office, or is able to spend the 15th retelling tales of passion and romance, not only does she feel safe in your love, but she can also be confident that any competitors who are listening will give up."
In other words, from your partner's perspective Valentine's Day is a way of adding to the sense of security that all relationships need. No wonder women think it's important.
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Your partner will - subconsciously - enjoy the security of bragging to her friends about your efforts
It needn't cost the earth
Nevertheless, you don't have to spend a lot to give your partner, and your relationship, a loving boost on 14 February. As Hall says, a night of passion and romance can achieve everything that expensive treats will - and often a whole lot more.
In a nutshell, your girlfriend probably wants Valentine's Day to be special. She probably doesn't care if it's expensive or not. So buy her a card and make her a meal. Give her a slow and sensual massage. Or - if you're that way inclined - by all means take her to the very best restaurant in town. The important thing is that, whatever you do, you focus your attention solely on her for the entire evening (and let's face it, she'll probably make it worth your while).
There's a caveat to all this, however. Romance shouldn't just be for Valentine's Day. If you don't do enough of the loving stuff for the rest of the year, your Valentine's efforts are likely to ring hollow.
So make Valentine's Day special in any way you like (just do make it special), and then let the Valentine's feeling bubble to the surface at other times, too.
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