For most people, Valentine's Day calls up images of flowers, chocolate, cards, candlelit dinners and other expressions of l'amour tojours. This Valentine's Day, a lot of people are wondering whether there are there differences between what young couples who are in love for the first time do compared to committed couples who renew their affections? And what about those who find first or second (or third) love later in life? You can check out the History of Valentine's Day in an article at the site, UC Davis Cultural News, February 2011. (UC Davis Health System Medical Interpreting Services). Or see the source of the UC Davis article, "History of Valentine's Day." It's at the History.com site. For businesses, it's a way to sell gifts from pearls and pajamas to cupcakes and cards.
Romantic feelings may be expressed with a Valentines Day gift or card or behavior. But is a gift expected? When the day rolls around, do people think about the difference between male and female relationships? And why is so much domestic violence breaking out lately on Valentine's Day? See, "Valentine's Day: Does 'V' Stand for Domestic Violence? " and "Do Domestic Abuse Rates Rise Over the Holidays?" But studies also show domestic violence decreases during holidays. See, "Studies Show Domestic Violence Decreases During Holiday."
So who buys the valentines--males or females when romance is in the air, here in the USA?
Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. Back in the USA, the first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap."
You can learn more about valentine greetings from the Greeting Card Association, since an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. The actual largest card-sending day is Christmas when an estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent.
In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. If you're interested in the history of Valentine's day, thousands of years ago in pagan times, the month of February had been the ancient Roman month of romance, explains the article, "History of Valentine's Day" at the History.com site.
Do emotions increase on Valentine's Day?
It turns out that very few studies have been conducted to track the correlation between domestic violence and the holidays. According to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV), most of the available reports addressing the prevalence of domestic violence during the holidays are anecdotal or opinion pieces where the dated cited often comes from an individual or one shelter’s experiences, notes the article, "Studies Show Domestic Violence Decreases During Holiday."
On the other hand in the UK, police police in Devon and Cornwall have warned of increased tensions leading to domestic abuse on Valentine's Day, explains the February 9, 2012 article, "BBC News - Police in Valentine's Day domestic abuse warning."
In more modern times, Valentine's Day includes secular, gift-giving, and romance, in the holiday's intent
In the Chrisitian tradition, the patron saint Valentine also is associated with the Catholic church which recognizes three martyred saints who lived in ancient Rome. The three saints all were named Valentine, or in Latin, Valentinus. One martyred saint name Valentine (Valentinus) served as a priest during the third century in ancient Rome.
The romance-connection began when Emperor Claudius II wanted soldiers to remain single so they could do a better job when ordered. He didn't like the idea of husbands with children being soldiers and missing their wives and kids at home. So he outlawed marriage for young men who would then be able to be soldiers with no strings/ties attached back home to pine over while far away at war or protecting the Empire in various parts of the known world. It would be fine for old men to marry and have children with younger women, but not with able-bodied young men who would be needed in the Roman army.
Saint Valentine, the third-century priest in ancient Rome
That third century priest, Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young couples, but in secret. Only Claudius found out what was going on and ordered the priest, Valentine be executed for the crime of letting young men marry (before they got to be old men).
That's one story. Other versions of the story suggest than the real reason Claudius had Valentine/Valentinus executed had more to do with Valentine being a third century Christian who also helped other Christians escape from Roman prisons where people were sent who didn't choose a religion on the list of acceptable religions then in fashion, which included emperor worship and paying taxes. After all when Christians went to prison in ancient Rome, often they were tortured or beaten, not just locked up.
There's another legend that says Valentine sent the first valentine greeting in person while he was in prison. Seems the story mentions that Valentine fell in love with the young jailor's daughter, never mind that Valentine was a priest. The young girl visited him during his confinement in the jail. But before Valentine met his fate dished out on the emperor's command, he wrote the girl a letter, (allegedly) where his signature read, "From your Valentine." That's why we use that commentary today, "From Your Valentine," as the legend goes.
Nobody knows the real story behind what Valentine wrote, but the moral of the story is that Valentine represents a romantic figure that's also heroic and sympathetic to romance, to letting young couples marry when they fall in love
By the Middle Ages, a thousand years after the era when Valentine lived, Saint Valentine still represented romance and lived on as one of the most popular saints in England and France. Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400). If you travel to the UK, check out the oldest known Valentine card on display at the British Museum.
The many unexpected sides of romantic love
Love can bring out both the best and the worst in people. Which way it turns depends on the best way to protect the relationship, say researchers studying the evolution of romantic love. Relationships are the most important factor affecting life quality and satisfaction. Yet, the underlying mechanisms of relationships are still relatively unclear.
"Love is not merely sexual desire nor a unique emotion but rather a motivational drive-like state," says Arthur Aron of State University of New York at Stony Brook, according to a January 28, 2012 news release, "The many unexpected sides of romantic love." Book's research involves the use of fMRI brain scans in understanding love. Recent research presented back in January 2012 at a conference of personality and social psychologists in San Diego, California, shed light into the role romantic love plays in the formation, development, and maintenance of close relationships.
The dark side of love
"From an evolutionary perspective, love binds romantic partners together for the long term and is associated with a wealth of positive relationship processes," says Jon Maner of Florida State University, according to the news release. Yet, love can also cause problems. "The more love one feels for one's partner, the more one has to lose if the relationship ends," he says. "It's all about protecting one's relationship." Also, you can check out the book, Relationship Science: Integrating Evolutionary, Neuroscience, and Sociocultural Approaches.
Maner's research team set out to investigate just how love may sensitize people to relationship threats. In three experiments involving 130 people involved in long-term relationships, the researchers tested people's responses to attractive rivals. In one of the experiments, for example, they gave participants the opportunity to blast attractive rivals with painful, but non-injurous, blasts of white noise. In another, participants reviewed mock profiles for a student dating service and could then belittle attractive rivals.
To compare feelings of romantic love versus sexual attraction, researchers primed some participants in advance by having them write essays about times they had strong feelings of love for their partners and had some write either neutral essays or ones involving a time about sexual attraction to their partners. In each experiment, researchers found that people primed with feelings of love for their partner behaved more aggressively and belittled their rivals more. "This was especially the case for people who were chronically jealous and who worried about infidelity," Maner says in the news release.
"Experiencing strong feelings of love their partner made them vigilant to the potential for infidelity and led them to behave aggressively toward attractive rivals," Maner says. "Thus, while love serves an important relationship function – and in that sense is a 'many-splendored thing' – it can also have a dark side."
The resourceful side of love
Another recent study looking at love form an evolutionary perspective found that even when a partner chooses to say "I love you" depends on a cost-benefit analysis of the relationship and what best protects it.
Across six studies, Josh Ackerman of the MIT Sloan School of Management and his colleagues found that although people think that women are the first to confess love and feel happier when they receive such confessions, it is actually men who confess love first and feel happier. They also found that saying "I love you" makes the man in a couple feel most happy if the confession occurs before the couple has sex and makes women most happy if the confession happens after sex.
"This work shows that our intuitions are not always correct," Ackerman says in the news release. "When and why we express romantic love are guided by deep-seated motivations that are best understood in an economic framework. Love confessions are akin to economic resources that people use to negotiate evolved romantic interests." The studies were published in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®
The health side of love
Researchers are also finding that love can play a critical role in the health of long-term relationships and of the couples themselves. Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah studies the multiple levels on which individuals in romantic relationships influence each others' moods and physical functioning. See, "The dating dilemma."
Diamond's research team studied 34 co-habitating couples and tracked their health and well-being before, during, and after a four- to seven-day separation. The tracking included testing the couples' saliva for cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. Physical separations increased cortisol levels and had negative impacts on their sleep and levels of positive interactions. "During separations, only lengthy phone calls appeared to 'stand in' for contact," she says. "The findings can contribute to our emerging understanding of the processes through which longstanding romantic ties are beneficial for our health." See, "Cupid under the microscope."
A press conference on this research "Of Love and Valentines: What Evolution and Neurobiology Tells Us about Romance" took place back on Jan. 28, 2012, at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). The society, SPSP promotes scientific research that explores how people think, behave, feel, and interact. With more than 7,000 members, the Society is the largest organization of social and personality psychologists in the world. For more information, you also can check out SAGE Publications. Or you may be interested in the abstract of another work of research by different researchers, "Contrary to Widely Held Beliefs, Romance Can Last in Long-Term Relationships, Say Researchers.'