Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Mahzad Hojjat is the co-editor, with psychologist and Professor of Psychological Health Duncan Cramer (Loughborough University, England), of Positive Psychology of Love, which explores how the areas of close relationships, such as love, friendship, social support, and forgiveness relate to positive psychology. With Valentine's Day this Sunday, Dr. Hojjat explores the connection between Cupid's holiday and relationships.
How important are holidays such as Valentine's Day to relationships?
MH: Holidays, as celebrated cultural events, are quite important to relationships. Research suggests that couples often use such annual commemorative occasions (including anniversaries) to maintain, restore, or even boost their romantic relationships (Dindia & Baxter, 1987). Valentine’s Day, as a special day dedicated to love, is especially significant and often acts as a helpful reminder to pause and reflect on one’s relationship and partner.
Is Valentine’s Day more important to men or women?
MH: Even though men are generally shown to be more romantic than women, Valentine’s Day appears to be more important to women. Women tend to give and receive more Valentine’s cards/gifts and even wear red to celebrate this special holiday (Ogletree, 1993).
Can Valentine’s Day help improve relationships?
MH: Absolutely. Couples can take this opportunity to let each other know that they care and are committed to the relationship. Indeed, research suggests that such recurring relationship reminders are likely to enhance perceptions of relationship satisfaction and investment for most people (Chopik, Wardecker, & Edelstein, 2014).
Can important dates like Valentine's Day put strains on relationships?
MH: Yes. Holidays such as Valentine’s Day can put some relationships at risk. In particular, some studies suggests that such holidays can act as a catalyst for relationships that are already on a negative trajectory (Morse & Neuberg, 2004). Some studies have documented a higher break up rate around Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day may create a context in which one’s partner or relationship would appear unappealing in comparison with others. Such negative perceptions may lead to lower relationship satisfaction, and eventually to the dissolution of the relationship.
What advice do you have for couples on Valentine’s Day?
MH: It would be useful to find out the expectations of your partner for such holidays as to avoid negative consequences for the relationship. Also, even though it is always nice to give and receive cards, flowers, or chocolate, research suggests that doing enjoyable activities together is an important way to keep the romance alive for the long haul.
What is one important lesson of positive psychology for romantic relationships?
MH: Positive psychology is a recent movement within the field of psychology that focuses on the positive functioning of individuals and relationships. Naturally, love is a positive force that we all desire and has a central role in what makes life worth living (Hojjat & Cramer, 2013). The three essential components of love include, passion, intimacy, and commitment (Sternberg 1986; Sternberg & Hojjat, 1996). Relationship satisfaction tends to remain high when partners work hard to be each other’s best friends (intimacy), keep the romance alive (passion), and stay committed to the relationship (commitment). Just like a garden, relationships need to be lovingly and continuously maintained to stay healthy.
About Mahzad Hojjat
Dr. Hojjat received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology and Personality in 1998 from Yale University under the supervision of Robert Sternberg. She has researched and taught seminars on various topics within the field of close relationships for the last twenty years. Her research interests include romantic love, relationship conflict and satisfaction, betrayal and forgiveness in friendships and romantic relationships. In addition to "Positive Psychology of Love," she has a number of publications in the field of close relationships including a co-edited book with Robert Sternberg, entitled Satisfaction in Close Relationships (Guilford, 1997).