New Realities for Valentine’s Day

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A new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, in partnership with Religion News Service, and reviewed in the Washington Post, shows that Valentine’s Day is still a big deal among Americans, whether young or old, married or not.  Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.  Many men say they will likely spend at least $100; men (60%) more than women (47%) plan to go out to dinner for their Valentine’s celebration.  Traditionally, a Valentine’s Day celebration does involve the couple going out to dinner or watching a romantic movie.

Surprisingly, the survey shows profound differences have developed between men and women regarding the ways that they view Valentine’s Day — specifically, the links between romance, sex, and money. Overall, those who spend more money on Valentine’s celebrations are more likely to say they will probably have sex.

Not surprisingly, men are more likely to link their Valentine’s celebration to sex (57% say they’ll have sex, compared to only 37% of women).

In an interesting — and very revealing — twist, far more couples say that an unsatisfactory sex life is an obstacle to a successful marriage or romantic relationship (54%) than say that different religious beliefs are an obstacle (3 in 10, or 29%) or that political differences cause problems (1 in 5, or 17%).  Even so, a majority of those who are religiously unaffiliated (57%) say they’ll likely have sex on Valentine’s Day, compared to 51% of Catholics, 48% white evangelicals, and 40% mainline Protestants.  Republicans (38%) are more likely than Democrats (22%) or Independents (29%) to say that having different religious beliefs pose a problem in their relationships.  Likewise, Republicans (25%) are more likely to say political differences cause problems than are Democrats (13%) or Independents (15%).

For religious groups, an unsatisfactory sex life is the biggest potential problem for couples.  The major exception to that finding is with white evangelical Protestants, who report that different religious beliefs pose as big an obstacle to happiness as an unsatisfying sex life.  Interestingly, men (61%) are more likely than women (48%) to identify unsatisfying sex as a major problem in their lives.

Couples are far more likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a new relationship (60%) compared to those in longer-term relationships (45% for those in 20-plus year relationships).

To paraphrase Ogden Nash, Valentine’s Day seems to be a matter of compatibility — with the ideal being a man who has income and a woman who is “patable.”


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