News just out suggests that the credit crunch is having a very negative affect on romance these days. In a recent survey nearly three quarters of people expect their finances to become more stretched due to the current economic situation. (Why they needed to conduct a survey to find that out is beyond me!) When asked what costs they may cut down on in order to save money, many people pointed towards areas traditionally associated with romance.

38% of people interviewed said they would be prepared to cut down on romantic weekends away. Of course this is a great excuse for those who would never dream of going on one anyway. “I’d love to take you away love, but, well….the recession! You understand, don’t you?”

44% of people said they would consider not going for meals with their partner and 36% said they would be prepared to spend less money on flowers. Again I have to wonder how many people were getting flowers regularly from their partner. Obviously all of the above are linked with romance and are not necessities so, naturally, would be the obvious luxuries that should be dropped in difficult financial times; but does it mean that romance is dead because of it? Surely it should just make us more creative in how we approach it. If this were not the case it would also suggest that romance is only the domain of the rich and yet people manage to fall in love in slums as easily as they do in more affluent sectors of society. So, maybe romance isn’t in as much trouble as they would have us believe after all!

Staying with the survey for a moment though; one of the really interesting findings was that women are more likely to do away with these expensive romantic gestures in order to save money. While this might imply that men are therefore more romantic than women, I would suggest it only proves that most women do not link romance with money. While there will always be our gold digging sisters in the mix, the majority of us are happy with the little things. Most women would prefer the smaller gestures on a more consistent basis rather than the grandiose on Valentine’s, birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas only. Of course all of this has to be taken in the context of love and romance. If you are with your partner for the money well then a whole other set of rules apply. You need at least a diamond creatively concealed in a spoonful of caviar or hiding around the neck of a bottle of champagne in order to confirm the ‘love’. I’m talking here about the ordinary people like me.

When it comes to love and romance isn’t time the more important ingredient over money? While I have always appreciated presents, chocolates and flowers, time is infinitely more valuable and more fun. In my experience you can’t talk to or laugh with a bunch of flowers. Indeed you could take this argument further and say that during a boom people are so busy making hay while the sun shines that they are inevitably cash rich and time poor, thereby ‘buying’ romance at every turn and ironically, cheapening it in the process. In a downturn time is spent rather than money and the gestures are, funnily enough, often worth so much more. It is certainly a paradox. There’s a gorgeous song by Neil Sedaka that sums up this romance and money paradox beautifully. It’s called The Hungry Years and you should root it out if you’ve never heard it. Basically it is the story of a couple who started out with nothing and then achieved everything they wanted materially but lost each other in the process, hence the title ‘I Miss the Hungry Years’. The chorus goes like this; “I miss the Hungry Years, The once upon a time, The lovely long ago, We didn’t have a dime, Those days of me and you, We lost along the way”.

To quote Neil Sedaka: “Those days of me and you” cost very little when you think about it. What girlfriend, wife or mistress (well maybe not mistress. Most of those fall into the cash category mentioned earlier and again I stress this without judgement!) wouldn’t prefer a handmade card, a meal prepared unexpectedly, a personally penned poem, even a badly painted picture over an expensive Hallmark offering. If you think about it these are the items you would probably stash away in a box for sentimentality’s sake over their shop bought cousins. We don’t want to stop buying flowers completely as we need to keep all flower sellers in business, but smaller bunches of less expensive blooms are just as effective as that exotic flower garden wrapped in plastic.

While weekends away are always great, why not spend a weekend away at home? Go out for lunch and dinner. Take in some sights locally; you’d be amazed at what you don’t see in your everyday rushing. Stroll along a beach or a wooded path at your leisure. The best thing of all is that you get to sleep in your own bed safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to be woken up in the middle of the night by revelers in the corridor coming from the wedding that’s also being held in the hotel where you are trying to enjoy a romantic weekend away! (Also you don’t have to be out by 12 noon on Sunday morning.)

In the boom it was easy to spend your way into the heart of someone else. I agree that spending money is fun and not without its merits but it can also be incredibly distracting and blinding. I often wonder if those relationships that are currently breaking down supposedly because of money pressures, were ever really that strong in the first place? If money was the only glue at work it was doomed from the start.

The credit crunch hasn’t killed romance at all. If you ask me this Valentine’s Day will be the most romantic in many a year. Without a lot of money to spend people will have to be creative. And besides, who wants romance only on Valentine’s Day. Romance should be attempted by all age groups at any given time and very often; throughout the year in fact. It keeps us all smiling and despite the surveys, costs very little. 

Happy Valentine’s Day.