The Hamilton Spectator

Is it time to cancel Valentine’s Day?


Valentine’s Day aims to “celebrate love,” but it may be doing more harm than good — for couples and singles.

I lead the Singlehood Experience­s and Complexiti­es Underlying Relationsh­ips lab at Simon Fraser University. My research focuses on understand­ing when single and coupled people can thrive and be happy, and why some people find their lives and relationsh­ips challengin­g. I have always been fascinated with society’s obsession with Valentine’s Day, given that it is often anticipate­d with dread by coupled and single people alike.

Each year, people spend billions of dollars trying to create the “perfect” day for love. Americans, for example, spent $26 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2023. Global data also show that the average person in the U.K., Hong Kong, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand spends $100 to $150 on Valentine’s Day.

Aside from the cost, people’s relationsh­ips can also get worse and couples can be more likely to break up in the two weeks surroundin­g Valentine’s Day. Why is Valentine’s Day harmful to relationsh­ips?

The exchange of gifts or promise of a perfect date night can place a lot of pressure on people. People may also experience disappoint­ment if Valentine’s Day doesn’t live up to their expectatio­ns. Photos and declaratio­ns of love on social media may also lead people to compare their relationsh­ip to “picture perfect” couples, which can also be harmful to relationsh­ips.

Valentine’s Day can also be damaging for single people. Single people may feel excluded from Valentine’s Day celebratio­ns, feel like there is something wrong with them, and feel pressure to find a partner. Research from my lab also shows single people have to deal with unwanted questions and comments from family and friends about not having a partner.

All of this is not to hate on love, but Valentine’s Day may be failing to recognize that love comes in all forms and in all kinds of relationsh­ips. How might we celebrate Valentine’s Day instead?

■ Every day can be Valentine’s Day.

Rather than focusing on grand gestures of love once a year, show your appreciati­on in small and meaningful ways more often. Our research on date nights shows that what you do on your date nights doesn’t matter so much, but being on the same page about prioritizi­ng closeness and intimacy even during everyday interactio­ns is what matters.

■ Everyone can celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Rather than focusing only on romantic love, reflect on all the different people in your life whom you love. Show your family, friends, colleagues, pets and community how much you love and appreciate them! My review of the research on singlehood suggests that broadening your conceptual­izations of love beyond romantic relationsh­ips will not only benefit you, but will create a society that values and accepts everyone.

So, whether you’re partnered or single, consider how to celebrate love in ways that are authentic and inclusive — today, tomorrow, the day after that, and sure, on Feb. 14, too.

 ?? CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO ?? Each year, people spend billions of dollars trying to create the “perfect” day for love, writes Yuthika U. Girme.
CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO Each year, people spend billions of dollars trying to create the “perfect” day for love, writes Yuthika U. Girme.

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