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Valentine’s Day Gifts That Send the Wrong Message

The right gift will make your special someone feel loved, adored, and cherished—these on the other hand… not so much.


By Stacey Marcus, Reader's Digest

An envelope full of money

“Valentine’s Day is about showing the person you love that they are special, unique and that you care about them,” says Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great and professor at Oakland University in Michigan. “It is not about spending a lot of money or grand gestures,” she notes. So guys, take note, forgo an envelope full of cash—even if you’re heart is in the right place and you want her to buy herself something nice with the money—and pick an outfit from her favorite designer or go shopping together.


A vacuum cleaner

While you may think that buying the latest super-suction vacuum cleaner will make your partner’s life easier and their house cleaner, you are sweeping what’s important under the rug. “If you haven’t seen your partner because they have been working late, get them a gift that says ‘I miss you’ or ‘I want to spend time together’ like a class you can enjoy together,” says Orbuch, who is also known as The Love Doctor®.


Smoothing serum

If you’ve noticed that your partner looks tired and maybe a tad older, resist the urge to buy them a potion to plump and polish fine lines. While your intention may be to brighten your partner’s day, it’s all too easily misinterpreted that you don’t like the way they look. “A gift card for a massage or facial is a lovely way to pamper your Valentine” notes Amy Brackman of LuxeBeatiQue, a salon in Swampscott, Massachusetts.


An expensive gift

“Sending a gift that is based on a dollar amount rather than something personal from the heart will send the wrong message,” says Orbuch. What you are saying by buying an expensive gift is ‘I spent a lot of money,’ not necessarily, ‘I love you.’ Take a step back and observe your partner for a moment and really see them and think about a gift that would show them that they are really important to you, she advises. Surprising your partner with thoughtful little notes and mementos scattered around the house shows them that you took the time to think about them.


Tickets to a game for your favorite sports team

If you think you will score by giving your Valentine box seats to your favorite sports team, reflect on who you really love. Valentine’s Day is not an excuse to splurge on high price tickets to your dream team’s final game in the series, rather it is a reason to think of an activity that you can share that you both enjoy. Be a good sport and think of a team event you both enjoy.


Yellow roses

While red roses are a symbol of true love, yellow roses connote friendship and symbolize that you view the relationship as platonic. The color yellow may be sunny, but if you meant to tell someone they are the love of your life, sending yellow roses may cloud the message.


Gag gift

Do you really think that whoopee cushion is going to make you a funny Valentine? If you want to send the message that you think your relationship is a silly romance, go ahead and buy the fake lottery tickets, but if you truly want to win in the game of love, get your partner a gift that shows you know what makes their heart go pitter patter.


Sexy lingerie

Often lingerie is a gift for the giver, who fantasizes about seeing their partner wearing the sexy little wisp of nothing, not necessarily the receiver. If you’re looking to spice up your love life, that’s all well and good, but make it a separate conversation and don’t use February 14 as an excuse to buy something you like. Instead, buy her something she can wear and enjoy outside the bedroom like a small piece of jewelry.


A self-help book

Your partner may have confided in you that they are anxious, want to drop a few pounds, or need to be more assertive at work. If they are sensitive about an issue, Valentine’s Day is not an ideal time to press that bruise. Instead, opt for a gift that will help build their confidence, like a killer new handbag or a sharp tie.


A box of candy

A box of candy may be a go-to gift for many romantics, but if your partner is watching their weight, the chocolates do not send such a sweet message. “A gift of a healthful cooking class respects your partner’s goals and sends the message that you are there to support them,” says Orbuch.


Anything political

If your Valentine votes red and you cast your ballot blue, your Valentine’s dinner would not be a good venue to talk politics or give a red rose with a message written, “Love trumps hate.” Instead of painting the night with politics, sign up for a paint night and share a canvas.


P.S. I love you

As a footnote, remember to seal the deal with some true affection. If you leave the gift on the table then immediately check your phone, the message is loud and clear that your partner is not a priority. Show up. See you partner. Listen to their words. “Valentine’s Day is not about money, flowers or candy. It is about the words you write in the card or the what you say to your partner. It’s the simple things that matter,” notes Orbuch.
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