In a groundbreaking new study at New Jersey University, scientists have determined that the death of 99% of human relationships can be traced back to the exchange of “love coupons.”
Love coupons (also known as love discounts, love IOUs, or love gifts with purchase) are slips of paper, usually homemade, that act as gift certificates for acts that people in relationships previously gave of their own will, such as hugs, sensual massages, or emptying the goddamn dishwasher for once without complaining. They’ve gained popularity on Pinterest and in countless women’s lifestyle magazines as a means of resparking a dying relationship. Love coupons are not legal currency.
“The simple truth is, they do not work,” said Dr. Stephen Stefani, the chair of the committee on break-ups and separations at the university. “Either people don’t use them, or their partners become irritated when they do. They’re empty gestures, and they create resentment on both sides.”
The study surveyed a random group of one hundred adults of varying ages, backgrounds, and sexual orientations. All had been in relationships in which love coupons were exchanged. Ninety-nine of the participants were no longer in those relationships.
One anonymous female participant shared her experience. “I was having a really hard time making rent one winter, and I’d just spent a ton of money on Christmas gifts,” she said. “Why does Valentine’s Day have to be six f***ing weeks after the holidays? I thought love coupons would be cute and cheap. My girlfriend and I broke up ten days later. I ended up helping her move. I don’t even know why I made that one of the coupons.”
The study also examined the residual effects of cheap boxes of chocolate from the drugstore, teddy bears holding hearts, and lingerie left in the Victoria’s Secret bag, not even wrapped or anything. None were as detrimental to a couple’s stability as love coupons.
“They are truly the death knell of any relationship, and every relationship,” said Dr. Joyce Sisters, head of the economics department at NJU. “You can’t put a discount on something that’s free to begin with. Someone who’s been giving begrudging blow jobs for months is not suddenly going to be excited to do it because of a coupon. Trust me.”
“Tragically, there’s something about humans that keeps us always wanting more for less,” she added. “Even if it makes our consumer behavior illogical. It’s why I love BOGO week at Payless.”
Among concerns raised in the study were the issues of consent involved in the exchange of written permission for sex acts. “Consent may be given at the time the coupon is issued, but is it still there when the coupon is redeemed?” asked Dr. Cosmo Tipps, adjunct professor of Women’s Studies at the university. “I don’t know that that’s a given, and that’s why I’m hesitant to encourage these coupons. They create expectations that can be disappointing for both parties. Also, they’re stupid and they’re dumb and I hate them.”
An anonymous male participant agreed. “My ex-wife got me some of these right before our separation,” he said. “I didn’t really get it, to be honest. I think she cut them out of construction paper? One time I tried to redeem one and she snapped at me, all, ‘Not now!’ It was like, whatever, I didn’t even want to take a romantic bath together. I’m more of a shower guy. But then, Karen never understood that.” He shook his head and stared off into the horizon. “Karen never understood a lot of things.”
Still, not everyone in the study agreed. According to Jennifer Burlington, a participant who adamantly refused anonymity: “Whatever. I think they’re cute. I gave some to my boyfriend for his birthday last week and we’re still together.” [Ed.– As of press time, Burlington is single.]
Since the results of the study have been made public, Etsy stores and sex shops have seen a marked decrease in the sale of pre-made coupon books and sexy IOUs. “We can’t get them off the shelves,” said Josephine Chalmers, owner of Cupid’s Love Nest & Adult Video Store. “And we can get anyone off. That’s our motto.” She pointed to a sign behind the register: We Can Get Anyone Off: That’s Our Motto.
The fate of love coupons may be uncertain, but data has shown that sales still remain strong for songs written about girlfriends, boxes full of little slips of paper with things you love about someone, and special seashells you saved from that time you went to the beach, remember? The university intends to study the correlation between all of these items and sexually transmitted diseases.
For their time, participants in the survey received coupons for one free non-sexual back-rub.