It’s that month again.

Does your heart leap at the prospect of astonishing your partner with a date that will set their world on fire? I didn’t think so.

All that pressure to be romantic focussed on one little day can feel like more of a burden than anything else. You can sulk all you want but declaring that you don’t believe in the whole consumerist conspiracy rarely gets you off the hook unless your beloved shares that same philosophy.

It is possible that you are so romantic all year round that your partner feels sorry for the poor schmucks who are waiting for their annual dose of hearts and flowers. But by following these sizzling suggestions, next year you might actually achieve that goal.

1. Think outside the box (of candy)

Take the road less travelled. As I mentioned in my post on how to buy awesome holiday gifts, one of the keys to giving gifts is to think about what your partner appreciates as opposed to just giving what is traditional or expected. While my personal opinion is that one can never get enough flowers, I would far rather receive a back rub than a box of candy. More appreciation and less money spent. It’s a win-win. Plus you always get points for appearing to have put some thought and effort into what to get, even if you might not succeed in procuring the perfect gift.

2. Express yourself

If you feel like saying, “Screw you, greeting card manufacturers. I’m not your bitch,” go right ahead.

You don’t have to buy a card if you don’t want to. However, you could make one. If you’re a parent you can steal ideas (and crayons) from your kids; it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, the deployment of well-intentioned yet artistically challenged art skills can be pretty charming. Of course, you could always delegate by commissioning a card from your nearest kindergartener if you don’t want to do it yourself. You can even dispense with the whole card completely and write a poem or a letter of appreciation instead. But not a virtual one and certainly not a Valentine’s Tweet, please.

3. Check please

While it’s traditional to go out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, who really appreciates paying through the nose for a set meal in a very over-crowded restaurant? I’d certainly rather go there on another night when the choice of reservation is better than either 5pm or 9.45pm — perched precariously on a high top which is what I was offered today.

4. Budget bistro

Just because you’re on a budget, doesn’t mean you have to give up the idea of a romantic dinner. How about cooking instead, maybe even together and splurging on a really nice bottle of wine? You don’t have to worry about driving (or parking).

Can’t cook? Not a problem. Have you ever thought about hiring or bartering with a friend to do it for you instead? If you know another couple, you could even do a trade off where you guys take turns cooking, serving dinner and doing the dishes for each other.

5. Afternoon delight

You always hear relationship experts tell you that you need a date night, but after a long day of work plus kids and by the time you have been out to dinner and movie, sleep is probably the big S on your mind. Avoid this issue by changing your Valentine’s date night to daylight. Pick a weekend day and if you have children, arrange play-dates or hire a sitter to take the children out of the house for at least three hours. With the house to yourselves, take advantage by having a romantic indoor picnic together. To spice things up even more, how about taking things into the bedroom? Bring a blindfold and take turns feeding each other for a taste test to rekindle all your senses.

6. Strangers in the night

This is quite the fire-starter, especially when you have been together for a long time and/or are married. Arrange to meet at a bar that neither of you have been to, a hotel bar is ideal for the purpose of this exercise (plus it gives you extra options about what you do next!).

Without discussing any details beforehand, you are each going to invent an alter-ego, complete with name, age, etc. Venture outside the box a little and experiment playing the role of someone who has a little different lifestyle to your own. For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom, you might pretend to be a traveling sales executive and power dress in heels and a business suit – perhaps with racy lingerie underneath.

When you arrive at the bar, pull up a stool, order a drink and wait to be approached by a handsome, mysterious stranger. Play hard to get or flirt like mad, the choice is yours – what’s even more fun is when the guy on a business trip sitting next to you is eavesdropping on the conversation and just can’t believe what he’s hearing – especially when you decide its time to leave together!

Hack Valentine’s Day

It’s hard to conjure romance on demand. You would think that the better you know somebody, the easier it would get, but conversely it often seems that the longer you have been together, the harder it is. Added to the fact that we are all so busy and pretty tired, pulling off the date of the year on a school night can seem like a tall order.

But fear not, my lovelies. You came to the right place. Try these suggestions and you will hack Valentine’s Day; in fact you may just find the romance lasts all year.

(Photo credit: two valentine’s paper hearts via Shutterstock)

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