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Feel *Truly* Loved this Valentine’s Day and Everyday

by Marianne Navada

This Valentine’s Day, 40% of Americans “would love to receive” a gift and 25% plan to give one. But does receiving stuff truly makes us feel loved?

Mindful Consumption

Think before you buy. That’s the idea behind mindful consumption. With increased production capacity, ease in which to shop, credit, and disposable income, more than ever, we are piling up on our stuff. But mindful consumption refers not just to our personal purchases but it’s the gifts we give and receive.

The Marketing Gifting Map

In November, we start getting emails about what to buy loved ones for Christmas. By the end of December, we are apparently so stressed about the holidays that it was time to gift ourselves. Come middle of January, it’s what to get him or her for Valentine’s Day.

Why We Give and Receive

In our culture, gifting has become a way of expressing love. Some might get the warm glow that comes with gifting so we do it or we just plainly succumb to social pressure. Even though we don’t want to give or receive a gift, the social price we pay for not participating in this ritual is too high, so we participate.

Pressure comes in layers. Hearing stories from peers, family, or people we follow on social media can compel a person not wanting a gift to start expecting one, and one not planning to give a gift, give one.

Social pressure also happens because we expect certain reactions from people based on our action or non-action. This is how we think the rest of the world will judge us:

If We Didn’t Receive a Gift

I’m not loved enough. 
My partner is broke. 
I’m not a priority.

If We Didn’t Give A Gift

I’m cheap. 
I don’t love him/her enough. 
I’m heartless. 

The genius of social pressure is that people don’t have to say anything for you to feel this way, because it’s what you think people are thinking about you. In social science lingo, this is the looking-glass self. We form our identities based on how we think we are judged.

Do we want to give gifts because we get the warm glow or is the social stigma too high a price to pay if we don’t participate in gift-giving during Valentine’s Day?

A Scenario

If during a previous Valentine’s day we didn’t participate in the ritual of gifting, and we found ourselves explaining to people WHY that was the case, then we were pre-empting preconceived negative perceptions.

Of course, we are not exactly certain whether our perceptions are correct. This is all in our heads.

How Much We Spend

Consumers are projected to spend $20.7 billion this year for Valentine’s Day. The number of Americans who say they will celebrate on Valentine’s Day has decreased from 63% in 2009 to only 51% in 2019, but spending has increased from an average of $103.50 to $162.00 in the same years.

Source | National Retail Federation

Why Fewer People Are Celebrating, but Spending More

The spending increase accounts for Valentines’ day as no longer just a romantic holiday, but one that involves giving gifts to loved ones—think of Christmas without the religious affiliation. Consumers have started gifting co-workers, family members, and even pets. This is a sign of a successful rebranding of a global event. Why restrict the giving to one person?

Men are still the ones who do most of the spending on Valentine’s Day. One has to wonder if men feel more social pressure than women to give gifts.

Average Valentine’s Day Spending

Men: $229.54 | Women: $97.77

What Makes Us Feel Loved?

Although our culture constantly tells us that gifting is an expression of love, studies show that “micro-moments of positivity such as a kind word” makes people feel loved more than receiving presents. “Being compassionate during difficult times” is one that ranks high in people’s perception of feeling loved. In essence, we are sure that we are loved when we experience positive human interactions.

What separates gifting from human interaction as a way to express love is that it’s harder to show other people that we are receiving compassion, versus receiving tangible things.

‘micro-moments of positivity such as a kind word’ makes people feel loved more than receiving presents.

Source | What does it mean to feel loved: Cultural consensus and individual differences in felt love

There is nothing wrong with wanting to receive or give gifts to the people we love. What mindfulness encourages us to do, however, is self-evaluate when exactly our partners make us feel loved or when we feel that we are giving love. And if our feelings of love are organic or a product of pressure.

When exactly does your partner make you feel loved?

When exactly do you feel like you’re giving love?

Are your feelings of love organic or a product of the social ritual?

Answering these questions can tell us a lot about our behavior.

Remember that it shouldn’t take a holiday to make us feel extra special or loved. If it’s true for you that it’s the little things that make us feel loved, then you can achieve that Valentine’s Day feeling, everyday.

Dance and sing together spontaneously. Even if it’s in your living room.

Put off your cell phones and enjoy each other’s company.

Make dinner together .

Watch silly videos together, and laugh out loud.

Read song lyrics together.

Feel each other’s heartbeat.

Go for a walk or a hike. 

Give the gift of time.

Play boardgames.

Comb each other’s hair.

Whisper what you love about him/her the most into their ear. 

Commit to living.