But fear not. On behalf of wives everywhere, I'm here to help.
The most recent advice I've come across was in the form of a "10 best" sort of list from Yahoo. The very first suggestion is an (ugly) floral display and a teddy bear that hugs. Unless your wife is a seven-year-old, I would strongly caution all men to disregard this. Do not get a fully grown, adult woman a teddy bear, unless she just had a baby or is expecting on Valentine's Day. Those are the ONLY exceptions. If your wife is anything like me, she has spent the last several years purging your home of unwanted stuffed animals. Just don't do it.
Next we move on to the ever popular perfume. If your wife has a favorite bottle, and you notice she is running low, by all means get her a new bottle. And wrap it nicely. It will show her that you notice her, and that is wonderful. If, however, your wife has never worn perfume in her life, and you see a bottle that looks pretty when you're walking through the last minute, I forgot Valentine's Day aisle at CVS...keep on walking. Do. Not. Guess. Scents are very personal. A smell that you love may smell like week old trash water to her.
And then we have the weird glass jewelry box complete with totally impersonal engraving. Think this one through. Does she have toddlers at home who will likely smash this gift into a million pieces? Does she even wear jewelry? Proceed with caution here. My husband would probably not be advised to purchase this. As much as I would love the thought, it would sit unopened in the top of my closet. Don't make your wife hurt your feelings.
I could go on systematically dismantling the dumb gift ideas that seem to be conventional internet wisdom, but I realize that's probably not very helpful. For those of you who need a little assistance showing your lady how much you adore her, I'm going to try to give you some better ideas for a successful Valentine's Day*:
1. Strap on an apron and make her favorite dinner. DO NOT ask for her help with the dishes.
2. If you have small children, handle the bedtime routine while she relaxes in a bath...with noise canceling headphones and her favorite bottle of wine. She'll be in a much more romantic mood if she doesn't have to read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 300 times. I promise.
3. (Warning: this one is very sappy...but girls love the sappy junk. You can thank Nicholas Sparks. He's ruined all of us.) Make a list of all the reasons you fell in love with her. Real reasons. Not "Your cooking tastes just like what mom used to make." In fact, avoid mom comparisons at all costs. This should be about her, and all the reasons she's special. Because she is. And you know it, even if you forget to tell her the other 364 days of the year. Throw in a box of chocolates for good measure. (Not the cheap waxy chocolate though. Go for the good stuff.)
4. Take the day off together. Couples massage at her favorite spa, wine tasting, walking through a book store. Whatever you like to do together, take the time to do it. Don't rush.
5. Jewelry. But nothing featured in a Kays commercial please. Nothing says you're one of a kind like buying her something that is mass produced and marketed during breaks from Nick Jr. shows and NFL games. Don't go for the children's birthstones either. Save that for Mother's Day. She was your Valentine before she was your baby mama. (In most cases.)
Lastly, the most important piece of knowledge I can impart: Do not ever, ever regardless of circumstance or necessity, DO NOT buy her a vacuum. I cannot be more clear about this. Nothing good will come of it.
Keep in mind, Valentine's Day is about love. It's not about the price tag. If your girlfriend is annoyed that you didn't spend a lot on her, but you took the time and found her something special that reflects how you feel about her, well...your girlfriend kinda sucks. (I'm not including wives in that statement, because in general wives just want to know they're still your girlfriend too. Wives are easy.)
*You know your wife or girlfriend better than anyone on the internet. Take these and all suggestions with a grain of salt. Just be sure any gift you get comes from your heart. Woman are very powerful bullshit detectors...especially on Valentine's Day.