Chivalry’s legacy is alive and well, according to Gale Sigal, a Wake Forest English professor who specializes in medieval literature. “Human nature really doesn’t change that much,” Sigal says. From buying a woman dinner to opening a door for her, today’s courting rituals are rooted in medieval chivalry. During medieval times, the importance of love in a relationship emerged as a reaction to arranged marriages. For a change, men had to compete for a woman’s heart, Sigal says, adding that courtly behavior dictated certain roles for men and women that still exist to some extent today.
In two-income families, the stresses of work and parenthood leave little time to nurture a relationship. But, couples can keep love growing if they create a time to focus on each other, says Wayne Sotile, director of psychological services for the Wake Forest Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Sotile and his wife, Mary, co-wrote “High-Powered Relationships: Keeping the Flame Alive,” which will be released next fall. He suggests picking one night a week when all work is left at the office and the chores are left for another day. Couples should plan work-free weekends, too, he says. An extra benefit of a supportive, positive relationship is better health, adds Sotile.
Portrayed by the greeting card industry as selfless expressions of love, Valentine’s Day cards may often be something else, says Mark Leary, a psychology professor at Wake Forest. People also use cards for leverage in relationships ñ to maintain or enhance position ñ- knowing that receipt of a card increases the pressure to reciprocate, Leary says. We often send them to avoid negative consequences, too, he says. “A dissatisfied, unhappy spouse or lover may nonetheless give their partner a Valentine’s card (or candy or flowers) just to avoid the awkwardness that would result from not giving them,” Leary says.
The nation’s increased health consciousness is bad news for candy, but good news for florists, says retailing expert Ed Easley of Wake Forest’s Calloway School of Business and Accountancy. Valentine’s Day remains florists’ best retailing day of the year, Easley says. “Florists try to capitalize a great deal on the day because it is a tradition and something they know people look forward to,” he says. “Many people are shying away from candy because they are more diet-conscious, so you see a decline in candy and further increases in the floral business.”