WELLNESS

VALENTINE'S DAY MIGHT AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH NEGATIVELY

Lovers, beware. Experts say that Valentine's Day ads can negatively impact mental health, particularly among men.

10.02.2022
BY WILHEMINA BOWEN
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Valentine's Day is an occasion for romance for many. However, behind the celebration of the supreme importance of love is a gold rush for marketers and mental stressors. The marketing tricks behind this holiday rely largely on the assumption that men are obliged to spend exorbitant amounts of money on romantic gifts. Otherwise, their partners will think less of them.

No one is safe. For those who are single, it shines a spotlight on their isolation. And for others in a relationship, it often holds them and their relationship to impossible standards.

Whereas men are typically portrayed as the providers of gifts, women tend to be portrayed as recipients. If such advertised expectations are not met, it can produce feelings of shame among men, disappointment among women, and general turmoil within relationships.

Blame it on patriarchy
Historically, Valentine's Day has been putting pressure on men as they are portrayed as stoic breadwinners and providers, thanks to the patriarch and toxic masculinity.

According to Dr. Andrew Smiler, an author and therapist who specializes in the mental health of men and adolescent boys, all of this create a disproportionate amount of emotional stress in men.

"It's a lot of pressure because if you don't do that, it is often interpreted as a sign that maybe you're not as invested in the relationship as you used to be or as you should be," he said to The Drum.

Dr. Jennefer Ho, senior clinical manager at Los Angeles-based Executive Mental Health, concurred with Smiler.

"Firstly, the ads may make single men feel distressed if they do not have a romantic partner. Secondly, men who are in relationships may feel that they have to make grand gestures and purchases to prove their love," Ho explained." The mental health impacts can include increased depression and feeling [as if they're not] good enough."

Additionally, due to all these expectations, men can experience anxiety as Valentine's Day approaches. They may worry about buying the perfect gift or their partner's anger if they do not meet their expectations.

What to do instead
Many of us are already struggling to live up to the ideals we see on TV, in advertising, and on social media, whether we are in a relationship or not. That's why days that are supposed to celebrate love and togetherness can highlight how different, alone or unhappy we feel.

In order to mitigate negative emotions, Smiler advises to begin thinking about and communicating what gift-giving actually means to us personally. Some might decide that it shouldn't be a priority, choosing instead to celebrate their relationship in other, less expensive but more fulfilling ways.

On the other end of the table, advertisers can also play an active role in changing the sometimes harmful cultural narrative which often surrounds Valentine's Day.

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