Say goodbye to chocolate, roses and romantic cards, and say hello to tears, slammed doors and broken hearts.
The covers of glossy magazines and the good folks at Hallmark believe that, come Valentine's Day, we get all hot and bothered about romance and relationships. But it seems an increasing number of couples are using the holiday as a springboard to evaluate their love lives. And instead of making up or making out, some couples are breaking up and moving out.
"If you're going to be looking across the table at someone with candlelight and flowers, you ask yourself, 'do I want to skip this whole experience rather than do it with someone I'm not really committed to?'" asked Anna Zornosa, vice president of Yahoo! personals.
A new Yahoo! survey found that between the December holidays and Valentine's Day, people are more than twice as likely to consider breaking up than any other time of the year.
Some daters just don't want to fake the romance any longer.
Melissa, who asked that her last name not be used, is a 26-year-old woman who works in public relations. She lives in Danville, Calif. She said she experienced the Valentine's Day jitters firsthand. After meeting a guy last October, the romance picked up quickly. They had an "instant connection," she said. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas flew by, and they were together through it all.
But when the parties came to an end, so too did their lust for each other.
"Right after New Year's, everything kind of came to a halt," said Melissa. Not only did they lack common interests, she said, but they also held different views on pretty much everything.
Zornosa said that throughout December, daters in doubt really try "to hold on." They've already invested in gifts, invited their partners to the work holiday party and secured New Year's Eve plans. There's a "huge impetus," she said, "to give the relationship the benefit of doubt."
Then New Year's Day hits, and the real doubt starts trickling in.
Four out of 10 survey participants, who were members of the Yahoo! personals site, admitted splitting with their partner during the short period between the holidays and Valentine's Day.
Kim Roth, founder of ShouldIDumpHimOrNot.com, said that over the last month she has seen a flurry of posts from women contemplating their relationships on her Web site, which offers a place for posting dating dilemmas. Other members then weigh in with their opinions and experiences, and vote whether to dump the guy or not.
According to the Yahoo! survey, relationship anxieties are most often triggered by two factors: not having a shared view of the future with a partner, or simply feeling unfulfilled. Nearly 47 percent of respondents on the East Coast blame their breakup on feeling like they're in a relationship lull, compared with 35 percent of people on the West Coast, for example.
No matter what the reason for the split, though, Valentine's Day puts an added pressure on some lovebirds.
"If you celebrate it, then you're pretty much solidifying the relationship," Melissa said. "If you don't celebrate it, then you're kind of saying, 'I'm not that into you.'"
From flowers to dinner reservations, the gifts and events associated with Valentine's Day come with a lot of expectations.
"It's a holiday about love; it's an added element," Roth, 38, said. But based on her Web site's posts, it's not always the direct impetus for a split.
"I think it's a positive sign that people are re-evaluating themselves in a serious manner," said Kristina Grish, relationship expert and author of "The Joy of Text: Mating, Dating and Techno-Relating."
Several celebrity couples, for example, have already done some re-evaluating this year. Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz split in early January. Marilyn Manson and "Playboy" model Dita Von Teese also called it quits, as well as Drew Barrymore and Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti.
The breakup trend is even more prevalent among college students, who tend to hold on to their hometown sweethearts through the holidays, said Zornosa. But after returning to school, some quickly realize that they no longer want to be tied down.
But Roth warns not to let Valentine's Day "make or break the relationship."
"There are 364 other days to celebrate," Roth said. "It doesn't have to be that day."
If Valentine's Day is important to you, Roth suggests talking about it with your partner beforehand. This way, it's not a big letdown when the roses don't show up.
But sometimes breakups are inevitable.
So how do you know if the end is near? The biggest indicator is pretty obvious. You simply hear from your partner less. More than 62 percent of dumpers said they were very likely to avoid the other person when they were on the verge of calling it quits. About 31 percent said they would "spend one last great night together" before breaking up with someone.
If romance troubles are already in the air, Grish recommends saying something before Cupid's arrow hits on Feb. 14.
"You won't enjoy the evening, and you'll sit there with a knot in your stomach," she said. "And why throw down the cash on someone you don't care about?"
Roth agreed. "If you know in your heart that this isn't going anywhere, it's a hard day to spend together. And if you're going to spend it together, then you're forced to put on a show."
"Set that person free as soon as you feel that disconnect," advised Grish.
But just don't do it by text message.
The most polite way to break the news is to do it in person. Grish says firing off a pre-emptive text message or e-mail mentioning the need to talk is a good way to set the stage. This way "you're not blowing it out in 160 characters on a person's phone," she said.
No matter how it's done, breaking up is never easy.
Melissa wasn't happy about her relationship's demise, but says she wanted a "fresh start" for 2007.
The new bachelorette may not have a Valentine's Day date this year, but she does have other plans. "Right now I'm fully focusing on my career," she said.
Here are some tips for people breaking up, or thinking about it, from the Yahoo! personals survey:
Breaking Up With Someone Soon? Some Basic Rules to Follow:
Monday is the best day of the week to break the bad news. Sunday comes in a close second.
The worst way to break up with someone is to send an e-mail to the person at work or deliver the news through a friend or family member.
Breaking up with someone through e-mail or phone while they are at work is worse than doing the same thing while they are at home.
Get your act together before Valentine's Day. And it is best to avoid breaking up on his or her birthday.
Dumped Already? Some Common Ways People Get Over a Breakup:
The No. 1 way to take one's mind off the breakup is to get immersed in work (76 percent are very likely or will definitely do this).
Going online to check out new dating partners is another popular therapy.
Go on vacation (50 percent are very likely or will definitely do this).
Try to rewrite history and cut one's ex out of all one's photos.