SOME lovebirds clink champagne glasses over a romantic dining table, others shower a partner with presents — however you choose to do it, Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to show your appreciation!
But alas, not every gift presented to mark February 14 quite cuts the mustard — poorly chosen presents can result in disappointment, annoyance, or even offence.
At first glance, getting it right for our annual day of love appears straightforward — after all, the gift you choose simply reflects how well you know your loved one. It shows your intuitive insight into your partner’s likes and dislikes, and acts as a symbol of your genuine love, appreciation and respect.
Really, how difficult can it be?
Very, as Cork woman Lizzy Finucane, 28, discovered some years ago, when her Valentine’s Day went pear-shaped.
Lizzie’s then-boyfriend seemed to be doing everything right — not willing to take any chances of getting things wrong, he had asked her straight out what her heart’s desire was for February 14.
Lizzy, a waitress who now lives in the Bishopstown area, said she’d really love to have a vintage bicycle with a traditional basket on the front. But when she unwrapped her gift on February 14, she discovered that her boyfriend had given her an exercise bike.
“I thought he was giving me a message about losing weight and I was quite insulted,” says Lizzie, who recalls that she became quite upset at the time.
Shocked by his error — he had completely misunderstood what she had wanted a bicycle for — her boyfriend tried to explain: “He said that he thought I’d just wanted a bike to work out, and that he didn’t realise that I wanted a bike to get around on.”
She never used the exercise bike and later, after the relationship eventually broke up, she moved away and left it behind: “It turned into the most expensive clothes hanger ever, and I eventually left it behind me when I moved away from where I was living at the time,” says Lizzie.
Valentine’s Day hit the skids for Caroline Harrington when she received a box of chocolates… that had already been opened.
“It was my worst Valentine’s Day gift ever,” says the 21-year-old, based in Cork City. “ It was a box of Dairy Milk and it took all the good out of it knowing that someone — probably my boyfriend at the time — had been there before me.
“I don’t know why he gave it to me; I think it was supposed to be a joke, but seeing as he didn’t give me anything else it wasn’t really that funny.”
People do make mistakes with gifts — either they don’t know what a loved one would like or, like Lizzie’s boyfriend, they don’t listen properly.
Sometimes they don’t think at all. A friend of mine knows someone who thoughtfully gave a gift of a DVD titled Surviving The Menopause for Valentine’s Day: “I don’t think it went down too well,” my friend recalls now.
So we don’t always get them right, but can the wrong Valentine’s Day gift ruin a relationship?
It’s not quite that straightforward, according to relationships therapist Bernadette Ryan of Relationships Ireland.
Valentine’s Day is what she calls a “Hallmark celebration”, saying she would be hesitant to put couples under pressure about Valentine’s gifts.
Yes, she says, it’s a nice time to set aside for just you, the couple, and a lovely opportunity to show your loved one how much you appreciate him or her.
However, says Ryan, while a gift is a nice way to do this, it doesn’t have to be expensive and the focus should be more about “tuning into one another and about small gestures that are appropriate to the person involved”.
It should also be about good communication, she says. “I feel sorry for the men because they often end up buying hugely expensive flowers — St Valentine’s Day is like Christmas in February!”
Getting a Valentine’s Day gift wrong is not the end of the world, but it may be time to have a think if someone is consistently buying you “the wrong gift and if you are consistently getting the feeling you are not being listened to”.
Women are usually better gift-buyers than men, says Ryan, claiming this is because they take into consideration what the other person likes whereas men tend to buy gifts more impulsively.
Such behaviour can be reflective of how women are usually the guardians of the relationship, while men tend to be “more in the moment”.
“If men think things are going along well, they don’t feel the need to pay as much attention to the relationship as women,” says Ryan.
It is “the thought that counts”, says Ryan, but the quality of the thought is important, too.
Gifts without genuine care or thought, no matter how expensive or cheap, run a higher risk of failure, says Ryan.
Sometimes, she says, it’s far more preferable to spend time together than run around trying to buy a gift.
And remember, she adds: “Valentine’s Day is a lovely idea but it’s important to commit to your relationship for the whole year rather than for one day.”