7 Science-Based Tips for Valentine’s Day from Dr. Gary Lewandowski

People’s opinions about Valentine’s Day run the spectrum from it being an arbitrary “Hallmark Holiday” to it being a special day that allows you to celebrate your relationship and your partner. Regardless of what you think about Valentine’s Day, celebrating it is practically unavoidable. To help you better navigate this February 14, here are some science-based tips:

1) The Power of Hearts  If you’re a waiter or waitress, or in any other type of tipping based profession, you may want to harness the most ubiquitous Valentine’s Day symbol of the all—the heart. A study of over 350 restaurant patrons, found that people tipped more when there was a heart-shaped dish for tips compared to when the dish was square or round.¹ And really, who doesn’t “heart” higher tips?

2) Plan A Night Out  According to a recent national Monmouth University Poll which interviewed over 1,000 adults, found that when those in a relationship were asked what they would prefer doing for Valentine’s Day, most (40 percent) indicated that they would like a “night out on the town.”

3) But Not Just Any Night Out  Couples should take advantage of any chance they get to date or have a ‘night out’ together, but their relationship will benefit more if what they do is new and interesting. Research shows that these activities help you grow as a person, which improves relationship quality.² As much as it may seem unappealing to try something new (‘What if you don’t like it?’), take the leap. Your relationship will thank you.

4) Money Can’t Buy You Love  According to a poll by ScienceOfRelationships.com, respondents said that you should spend a minimum of $26 and a maximum of $159 (with an average of $134) on Valentine’s Day. Before you set out to hit the top end of that range you should know that recent research shows spending a lot of money on expenses like weddings and engagement rings don’t help relationship quality, and in fact are associated with more relationship problems such as more divorce.³ The takeaway? Spare your wallet and perhaps spare your relationship too.

5) Skip the Expensive Jewelry  The same Monmouth University Poll also found that only one in five people would rather have a gift than going out or doing something with their partner. Of those wanting gifts, only five percent said they wanted expensive jewelry. Now, if only we could get the message out to all of those jewelry stores spending money on radio and TV commercials!

6) Choose Your Gifts Wisely  When getting a gift for your partner, how important is getting the right gift? As with most things, the answer is “it depends.” In this case it depends on whether your partner is male or female.4   When buying for a guy, getting the wrong gift can spell trouble for the relationship, while good gifts made guys more positive about the relationship. However, if you’re buying a Valentine’s Day gift for your female partner, getting her a undesirable gift may actually make her feel more similar to you and increase her positive feelings about the relationship. Interesting, right? Well, if women care a lot about their relationship they may protect it by deciding they are happier in order to compensate for the bad gift.

7) Know When to Break-Up  If your relationship isn’t going well and you’re thinking about a break-up, don’t end things on Valentine’s Day. In the same poll by ScienceOfRelationships.com, only two percent of respondents said breaking up on Valentine’s Day was okay. Instead, the majority (69 percent) preferred that you break things off ahead of time. In any case, if you’re in a bad relationship you should find a way to get out of it because when respondents were asked, “What is the worst way to spend Valentine’s Day?” a whopping 63 percent said “in a bad relationship.” Being single on Valentine’s Day is better than being in a bad relationship.

Want to learn more about Valentine’s Day? Check out www.ScienceOfValentines.com

To learn more about what science has to say about relationships, check www.ScienceOfRelationships.com where you can join millions of others who read hundreds of short engaging articles about nearly every relationship question you may have.

Dr. Gary Lewandowski is a professor and department chair at Monmouth University in the department of psychology, and director of the Relationship Science Lab. He spends his life using data to scientifically analyze the way relationships work.

Dr. Lewandowski will be a speaker at TEDxNavesink 2015: Accelerators. His talk, “Breaking-Up Better: Why Break-Ups Don’t Have to Leave You Broken,” will help participants learn how to deal with a break-up.

1Guéguen, N. (2013). Helping with all your heart: The effect of cardioid dishes on tipping behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(8), 1745-1749. doi:10.1111/jasp.12109

2 Aron, A., Lewandowski, G. W., Jr., Mashek, D., & Aron, E. N. (2013). The self-expansion model of motivation and cognition in close relationships. In J. A. Simpson & L. Campbell (Eds.) The Oxford handbook of close relationships (pp. 90-115). New York: Oxford University Press.

3 Francis, A. M., & Mialon, H. M. (2014). ‘A diamond is forever’ and other fairy tales: The relationship between wedding expenses and marriage duration. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2501480 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2501480.

4 Dunn, E. W., Huntsinger, J., Lun, J., & Sinclair, S. (2008). The gift of similarity: How good and bad gifts influence relationships. Social Cognition, 26(4), 469-481.