04/12/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why His Valentine's Gift Matters

Perhaps one of the most memorable (in a bad way) Valentine's Day gifts I ever received was from a boyfriend who decided to commemorate the special occasion by giving me a stuffed animal. I nearly burst into tears.

Not just because after years of dating, I was hoping this might be the moment he stepped up with the ring. Not just because a stuffed animal seemed a bit cheap from a man who frequently dropped a million dollars on a piece of art. But because it was a stuffed monkey.

Don't get me wrong -- I like monkeys, but it struck me as unromantic, and yet a heartbreakingly authentic expression of how much this fellow cared about me, which turned out to be: not very much.

I was reminded of this incident when I recently re-read Rule #12 - "Stop Dating Him if He Doesn't Get You a Romantic Gift for Your Birthday or Valentine's Day" -- certainly THE most controversial of the 35 commandments that constitute The Rules, by Ellen Fein & Sherrie Schneider.

In retrospect, I realize that if I had followed that rule -- as crazy as it may seem to some -- I would have saved myself so much heartache, as Mr. Stuffed Monkey followed up that lackluster Valentine's performance with another two years of breaking up, making up, and generally sucking the light out of my soul.

Does it matter what your boyfriend (we're talking dating here, ladies, not married relationships) gets you for Valentine's Day? Is there predictive significance in the choice of his gift? I believe there is. Whether there should be -- or not -- is a separate question. A man may hate the institution of Valentine's Day as an irrelevant commercial distraction -- but when dating the woman of his dreams, he will choose trying to make her happy with a romantic gesture over standing on principle.

In my practice as a dating coach, I have seen time and again how men unconsciously express their true feelings about the woman they are dating in the type of gift he gives her. And again, we're talking the type -- not the cost. I have more hope for the client whose boyfriend writes her a poem or buys her a $5 pair of earrings or lacy underwear, than for the one dating a big spender who gifts his gal with a pricey blender or iPad.

Here's how the authors of The Rules put it:

Flowers, jewelry, poetry and weekend trips to the country are the kinds of gifts given by men in love. Sweat suits, books, briefcases, toasters and other practical gifts are the kinds of things men give when they like you, care about you (like a sister), but don't really want to marry you.

Why does it matter? Because time is woman's most precious, non-renewable resource -- particularly if she aspires to find a life partner and possibly start a family. If she's wasting time on a man who doesn't share her goals, who may be adept at saying all the right things, even as he's hoping for something better to come along, then the sooner she realizes that he's NOT the man for her, and moves on, the better.

I remember the early days of dating my current husband, wondering -- will he make the Valentine's Day Rules hurdle? There were cultural differences -- and financial constraints -- but I was doing bootcamp Rules on him, and knew if he didn't come through, I'd cut him loose. He catapulted into my heart, with an orchid plant and a bottle of champagne. A few months later, he came through with the most important gift of all: an engagement ring.

If you're anxious about this upcoming Valentine's Day - or simply tired of being single - then try a free ten minute consultation, by signing up at