There's a difference between giving a woman chocolates on Valentine's Day and presenting her with a piece of jewelry. And it's not just about the gap in price.
For most women, Feb. 14 signifies more than a commercialized day of candy, roses, and teddy bears. It's a time for evaluation of a relationship, much of which can have to do with the present a woman receives.
"Valentine's Day, especially for women, becomes a very sensitive time, because it's important they receive a gift that will match what they feel their relationship is. Women will gauge how much a man cares about her [by the gift]," says Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, a psychologist and author of the book Zen and the Art of Falling in Love.
Obviously, a diamond Harry Winston necklace or a Tiffany (TIF) engagement ring signifies that a relationship is heading toward or is in serious territory; however, not all special Valentine's gifts have to be in the four-figure or even three-figure range.
Personalized iPod Anyone?
Often, the most touching presents are ones that show the gift giver took time to think about the recipient's tastes, interests, and style. When asked what their idea of a perfect Valentine's Day gift was, 54% of women said "anything—as long as it's his idea," according to the 2007 Hallmark Magazine Valentine's Day survey. In second place: a romantic weekend (24%).
Creating a personalized twist on a classic gift—or even a modern classic, such as Apple's (AAPL) iPod—is simple to do yet shows thoughtfulness. Jessica Landy Raymond, party planning and trend expert for Evite, recommends loading up an iPod with a boyfriend or girlfriend's favorite music. Further that notion by choosing an iPod case your partner would flip for. Another electronic idea, perfect for a boyfriend, is a personalized Sony (SNE) Portable PlayStation. It can be decked out with favorite movies, television shows, video games, and photos.
Besides electronics—including the 16% who preferred a flat-screen TV—men's favorite presents include a romantic getaway, a date planned specifically for him, a card or Valentine, a gift card to a store he likes, or sports tickets, according to the Hallmark survey.
Within a relationship, if gifts are mismatched in terms of thoughtfulness or size, resentment can build, says Shoshanna. "It's important for a woman or man, if [she or he] feels the gift wasn't appropriate, to—in a gentle, loving way, without anger and without criticism—say, 'I really want to talk about this,'" Shoshanna says. She also suggests making it clear that the problem isn't about the amount of money spent, but rather about how it made you feel.
Valentine's Day is usually thought of as a couple's holiday, so it's often one of the roughest times of the year for the single crowd, especially if a single person's friends are all "coupled up." Hence, it's a smart time of year to do something for yourself—going shopping and buying something special or enjoying a delicious meal, says Stacy Kaiser, relationship expert and psychotherapist.
For those looking for a special someone, Valentine's Day isn't necessarily the best time to search, unless you're going online, says Kaiser, who's also a regular on the Tyra Banks and Greg Behrendt shows. She suggests that even critics of Internet dating should give it a shot because, even if nothing comes of it, at least you're getting out there and interacting with new people. "You have to do the work. It's like looking for a job. If you're not out there, it's going to be harder to find someone," says Kaiser.
And if that works, maybe next year a formerly single pal will be putting together a personalized PSP for a significant other.
Click here to see BusinessWeek.com's Valentine's Day Gift Guide 2007.