February 15, 1999 Vol. III, No. 10

Valentine's Day Advice: Don't Just Listen to the Florist

CSUN Professors Offer Wise Counsel on Keeping the Flame Burning Without Getting Torched

That box of chocolates may be half eaten and the flowers losing some of their bloom. But before the romance of Valentine's Day wears off, four Cal State Northridge professors have some advice to offer.

"Plenty of commercial interests tell us what we should be doing for Valentine's Day," said Jim Hasenauer, a communication studies associate professor who specializes in sex roles and communication. "Be suspect of their motives.

"Flower shops now talk about Valentine's Week, not day," he said. "That's blatant commercial exploitation at its worst-instead of one bouquet, it should be seven.

"If we want to please our Valentine," Hasenauer countered, "we should try to see the world through our Valentine's eyes, and figure out what would please him or her. Don't take the florist's word for it."

Communication studies professor Peter Marston, who specializes in the communication of romantic love, said one challenge facing lovers is how to celebrate a holiday that presumably honors a very personal relationship and at the same time is a cultural event.

"Friends and colleagues are likely to ask how one celebrated Valentine's Day, and so a considerate lover will keep this in mind and provide their partner with a 'good story' to share," he said.

Marston suggested balancing the personal with the traditional. If you choose to send flowers, write a sentimental letter or poem. If you choose to make your own card or gift, give it to your partner over a romantic dinner.

In being personal, Marston advised, be honest and specific.

"Rather than merely saying 'I love you' or drawing a big heart on a card, tell your partner specific things that you love or appreciate about them, or recall specific events that you remember fondly," he said. "One way to express the unique feelings you have for your partner is to prepare a list of 10, 20 or even 100 things you love about them."

Marston also suggested that in being traditional, one should be well-mannered.

"This is one day where manners really count," he said. "Court your partner. Don't get distracted by the mundane demands of everyday life. Be graceful and gracious. Strive to renew the first impression with which you charmed your partner on your first date."

But regardless of how you celebrate the day, family environmental sciences associate professor Richard MacDonald (right with four of his six daughters, clockwise from upper left, Shannon, 8, Schuyer, 8, Breegan, 7, and Ellspeth, 9) who specializes in marriage and family therapy, advised that you never lose sight of what is truly important-each other.

"We need to take time to reflect on what the people we love mean to us, and what we mean to them," he said. Valentine's Day is billed as a day for sweethearts, MacDonald noted.

But it's also an opportunity to tell all your loved ones, including your children, that you love them, and to teach the lesson that material things are not the most important things in life.

"My girls [six daughters ages 7 to 16] love to dress up and go some place special for breakfast or lunch, or to some place they really like," he said.

"I've taught them how to make coffee, and so on Valentine's and Father's Days, they make me breakfast in bed. It's not always recognizable, but it's food and I love it because it's their way of showing how much they care."

Regardless of how you celebrate the day, communication studies professor Elizabeth Berry, who specializes in communication between the sexes, urged that you keep your sense of humor. "That's what sustained me," she said. "I've been married to the same man for 39 years."

-Carmen Ramos Chandler


February 15, 1999

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