Here we are at that time of year again—romance is in the air, Valentine’s Day gifts and cards are all over stores and the online world is buzzing with search queries by nervous boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives looking to find the right way to show their significant other how much they care about them. No matter how much love they feel inside, some people just aren’t that romantic and don’t know how to show their feelings in a way that will impress their loved one and melt their hearts. There is no shame in looking for help when it comes to romance—we all have much to learn about love and the many different ways of expressing it.

Couple kissing during sunset

In fact, those more experienced in the ways of love, veterans of 10+ years of marriage, will tell you that the more you get to know someone the more you are aware of the fact that there is a vast sea of things you don’t know about love and relationships, a sea that can easily drown those who are unprepared. Luckily, planning a great romantic Valentine’s Day date is something that you can research and prepare for, even if you are lacking in the romance department. Here are several somewhat generalized steps that work across the board and will help you create the perfect romantic experience for your loved one.

1. Develop your strategy well in advance.

The worst thing you can do is to wait until you only have a day or two until Valentine’s Day and then start frantically throwing together some sort of gift and trying to find a restaurant that isn’t booked solid. Give yourself enough time to plan the date and think about all the little details that make the difference between a pretty good date and a heart-melting super-date. Reservations need to be made pretty early on since good restaurants can be booked a month in advance and you’ll want to do some shopping at least a week earlier to avoid the holiday rush. If you already have a plan you will also be a lot less stressed out when the actual day comes.

2. Prepare all the little things first.

Apart from making restaurant reservations or ordering a gift online pretty early on so everything is ready by Valentine’s Day, the most important thing you should focus on are the details or finishing touches. A card, or better yet, a fancy love letter is something you can work on for about 30 minutes a day in the week leading to V-day, and you can also start working early on things like:

  • Candles
  • Massage oil
  • A romantic music playlist
  • Cute boxes and gift wraps
  • Flowers and chocolate
  • Sexy lingerie or role-playing costumes
  • Small gift basket items like perfumes and soaps

Romantic gift basket

Having these important items ready a few days in advance will allow you to focus on more important things come Valentine’s Day, things like making sure your date is having fun and that everything is going smoothly and according plan.

3. Craft the perfect gift for your loved one.

There are a whole bunch of generic gifts out there, but try and avoid clichés and focus on something your significant other really cares about. You can use standard Valentine’s Day gifts like heart-shaped items, teddy bears, flowers and chocolate as part of gift basket, but be sure to include something related to the activities, ideals and concepts your partner holds dear.

4. Dining out vs. preparing a romantic dinner.

Each of these two options has its strengths and weaknesses, so the right choice will depend on the person and the situation. Dining in a fancy restaurant will require you to make reservations well in advance and will cost you quite a bit, but the atmosphere and the meals are truly incredible. On the other hand, a home-cooked dinner is much more personal and allows you a lot of creative freedom, but unless you know your way around a kitchen, it can easily turn into a disaster. Whatever choice you make, you should give some thought to the choice of food and focus on dessert—all bad jokes and stupid comments about your partner being as sweet as chocolate aside, sugary snacks do actually cause hormones related to feeling pleasure to be released by the brain and will leave a wonderful taste in your mouth.

5. Dress to impress.

This point is very important. Whether you are a young couple just starting out your relationship or mature lovers who have gone through the good and the bad and stuck by each other for years, being presentable is a major part of showing that you care about another person.

James Bond looking cool

Although some may link this to basic primate grooming rituals, the fact is that trying to look your best shows the other person that you care about how they perceive you, which means that you are being emphatic and trying to please them. Of course, looking handsome as hell will also help ignite the passion between the two of you.

6. Make it a whole-day, multi-tiered experience rather than just dinner.

Start off the romantic experience by meeting up a bit earlier in the day—for couples living together this means starting the day with a nice breakfast in bed—and going through a set of fun, romantic activities before eventually heading off to dinner and ending the day in the expertly decorated bedroom. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on hot air balloon rides across a valley, horseback riding or similar Hollywood clichés. It can be as simple as doing something you both enjoy, visiting a location where you first met or shared a special moment together or trying out some activities you always talked about, but never got the chance to do.

7. Set up the perfect mood using correct lighting, decoration, music and scents.

Chances are you are going to be ending the night somewhere quiet and private—back at your place or the hotel room if you’ve gone somewhere special for the occasion—so you are going to need to set the mood just right. You can use scented candles to provide romantic lighting and create a tantalizing aroma, or set up some beautiful decorations (think hearts, flowers, stuffed versions of her favorite animal, decorative pillows, etc). It’s best to set everything up early in the day so that it won’t take more than a few minutes get ready once the time comes (you should tell your date to wait a couple of minutes before coming up to the room so you can light the candles and make minor adjustments).

8. Prepare a relaxing and exiting experience for your loved one back at the house.

Once you have everything set up and ready, you will want to focus on making your partner feel good. This is where things like massage oils, wine, chocolate, fruit, music and comfortable clothes come into play. Have a romantic activity planed and give each other a few minutes to slip into more comfortable clothes before moving things to the next level. Slow dancing, followed by a glass or two of wine and some sweet snacks like cream-covered strawberries and chocolate-based desserts, then slowly transitioning into a massage on the bed seems to work wonders for just about anyone.

Setting the mood

9. Have some fun in the bedroom and explore your erotic fantasies.

This should be a very special night for the both of you, and after all the fun you had during your Valentine’s Day date, romantic gestures that brought you closer together and the gradual erotic build up in the privacy of your home, you will be eager to fall into each other’s arms and give in to your desires. Take this opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level and explore your erotic fantasies. Be very open with one another and discuss your turn-ons. Don’t be afraid to engage in some role playing or other activities that your partner may enjoy, but take things slow and make sure you are both comfortable and happy with how things are going.

10. Get up the next morning (or early afternoon), make breakfast and put on a romantic movie.

Your Valentine’s Day date doesn’t end the moment you hit the hay after your romantic night. The morning after, or whichever part of the day you manage to get up at, should be a natural extension to the exiting romantic experience of the day before. Make a tasty breakfast, spend some time on presentation and serve it to your partner in bed. You can put on a romantic movie and enjoy it with your food and as you cuddle up together, forgetting about life’s woes for a few relaxing hours.

There are certain things that can be applied to most people across the board when it comes to romance and great dates, but keep in mind that we are all different in some way and try to create the perfect Valentine’s Day experience based on your partner’s character, preferences and lifestyle. Use these tips as a good template, but be sure to customize some parts based on what you know about you significant other.

Valentine’s Day is approaching once again, and people all over the world will be scrambling for gifts to give their special someone. 10 Valentine Ideas You May Not Have Thought of

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