This year, women want to be showered with gifts, but not of the floral or heart-shaped variety.
Jenna Walsh, an account executive in Boston, is looking forward to some special treatment this Valentine's Day, but, she's not interested in flowers, champagne or chocolate.
"If I could have anything this year, it would be nothing more than a heartfelt 'thank you,' since it's one of the many things men have difficulty communicating," she says. "I don't think there's any material gift that could show that kind of appreciation or maturity," she adds.
The grim economy has many couples rethinking their priorities, and plenty of women are seeing the holiday as a chance for their lovers to express their true feelings, not just the contents of their wallet.
But with 2009 spending on Valentine's Day expected to reach $17 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, gift-givers may be giving the wrong things. Historically, Americans spend roughly $1 billion on chocolate for the big day and exchange 190 million Valentine's Day cards. A night out, candy, flowers, gift cards and clothing are the five most-given gifts.
In fact, many women want things a partner could easily provide but might never guess.
Lauren Warthan, in Austin, Texas, fantasizes about breakfast tacos served to her in bed.
Along similar lines, Helen Gregory in Brooklyn, N.Y., wants "a kiss and a cup of coffee when I wake up."
Alex Nichols of San Francisco wants a little pampering from her partner--a facial or massage. "With the economy in the toilet," she says, "I just can't afford to splurge on myself."
And Amanda Lazaro of Waltham, Mass., would really love a homemade gift from her husband. "It could be a tacky card or a beaded necklace. No expensive gifts or dinners this year."
For other women, words speak louder than actions.
"What I really want for Valentine's Day is a card that doesn't just have my fiancé's signature but actual words [explaining] how much he loves me, why he loves me, why I make him happy," says Erica Rios, of PR firm GolinHarris in Costa Mesa, Calif. " I don't need a lot of money spent on me."
Meanwhile, Marissa Hermo of New York City would like her partner to let her "talk for a few hours and really listen" to what she has to say "without judging" her.
Others like Jocelin Engel wish their partner would simply say "I love you."
Although women feel frustrated nearly every year--they often end up feeling let down on Feb. 14--it's not always their partner's fault. Jerry Shapiro, who teaches counseling psychology at Santa Clara University in California, says it has something to do with women's reluctance to communicate their expectations to their partner.
The silence can leave men anxious and desperate to please--knowing they will almost certainly disappoint. "Valentine's Day is like an IRS audit for guys," he quips. "You know you're going to lose something. You just hope it's not a major organ."
The problem, according to Shapiro: Women think that if they have to spell out what they want, that gift somehow doesn't "count." But he emphasizes that, like women, men don't mind-read very well. "They're often genuinely confused when they see the disappointment on women's faces."
Marilyn Kagan, a psychotherapist and author in Los Angeles, says couples should use this holiday as an opportunity to strengthen their relationship together. The tough economy, with money and job concerns, may make one partner less inclined to be romantic. But Kagan suggests taking a chance and speaking out.
"Ask for one thing you want emotionally or physically," she says. For example, tell him you were proud that he trumpeted your recent promotion to friends and would love it if he did more of that. "Focus on those things that will benefit both of you as you experience the pleasure of giving and receiving."
Speaking out about your wishes may bring relief to both sides of the relationship. Of course, your partner could ask you what you'd like. But maybe that qualifies as a Valentine's Day wish too.