I Polled My Guy Friends: Do Men Want Valentine’s Day Gifts?

Two months ago, it seemed everyone was on board with it being better to give than to receive. Yet as we turn the calendar from St. Nick to St. Valentine, it’s far more common to encounter dynamics of love that resemble a one-way street.

By Alina Clough2 min read
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Of those in relationships, men are more likely to give than to receive when February 14 rolls around. Many women avoid giving out of a fear of looking clingy or desperate, often feeling uncomfortable with the idea of what may feel like role reversal, but is this hesitation really warranted? Like any serious researcher, I called up the guys.

Is Valentine’s Day for Guys?

Not everyone thinks so. “Valentine’s Day isn’t for dudes,” one Men’s Health article argues, “It’s not even for couples. It’s a holiday that celebrates how much you care about your lady. That’s right, this is our day.” Another female writer for The Guardian agrees, saying, “Men act like helpless damsels in distress all year round, expecting women to pick up the slack. It’s not too much to expect one day of total goddess treatment.”

Turns out, some men agree. “I kind of think of it like Mother’s Day, honestly,” one said. “While I wouldn’t be weirded out by the girl reciprocating, I definitely look at it as my time to shine more than hers.” 

Still, most men responded overwhelmingly positively to the idea of a woman using the holiday as an excuse to show her affection: “[Receiving something] isn’t expected, but it’d warm my heart. I’d say guys would actually find it very nice.” Others agreed they weren’t holding their breath on receiving: “We don’t expect them, and it’s not weird if they get us something. In fact, it is really nice and unexpected if they do!” 

Some even mentioned that the one-sidedness of Valentine’s Day was a bit of a turn-off, saying, “I’ve always thought Valentine’s Day should be seen as more mutual than it is. Not that men should care about receiving gifts, but it’s like Christmas. Everyone should want to show they care.”

How Do You Know If You’re Overdoing It?

One of the biggest reasons women cite for not wanting to give to men is not wanting to look overbearing. While most discourse around this kind of desperation usually centers around men (including whether we’ve over-characterized chivalry as “simping”), women also struggle to balance being affectionate without being branded a “pick me.”

So how do you know if you’re doing too much? One guy offers, “If you’re really in love and it’s coming naturally, there’s no such thing.” A clearer line, though, might be this: The difference between desperation and truly showing affection is intent. Simping is done to win someone over; showing affection is what comes naturally when they’ve already won your heart. So while it’s fun and wise to let him pursue you, showing him love isn’t pursuing him. It’s just telling him his pursuit is working. 

“You have to give him feedback, otherwise eventually he’s going to move on,” one source elaborated. “When you’re treated exactly the same by women who like you and women who don’t, it’s hard to want to keep putting in that kind of effort, you know?”

Do Men “Only Want One Thing”?

If at this point you're rushing out the door for flowers, don’t. While blooms are high on women’s list of desires for February 14, men are still, well, men. According to YouGov polling, 1 in 5 men admit their top choice is something money can’t buy and best given in bed. But for ladies intent on underscoring the underrated value of non-sexual displays of affection, it appears the way to a man’s heart still lies through the same organ it always has: his stomach. 

“Look, chocolate is never uncalled for” was a near-unanimous sentiment from our small pool of survey respondents, with one admitting, “I don’t feel the need to receive anything, but if she gets me a giant bag of Kit Kats I’d be over the moon.” Even if some are in it for the gesture, they still admit they find food more enticing than traditional gifts: “I wouldn’t call flowers weird at all, but generally, I’d really prefer something edible.”

Closing Thoughts: Whole Lotta Love

If you’re debating stepping it up for him this Valentine’s Day, consider this your all-clear signal. Rest assured, he won’t find it clingy, and may actually take your positive feedback as a cue to pursue you more. Relationships shouldn’t be a one-way street, and everyone deserves to feel the cheesy kind of love only February 14 can provide. 

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