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How to Get Your Romance On

It's the thought that counts — and can lead to action

You'll know that aliens have commandeered my body on the day you hear me say that romance is just for the young. I have been, am now and always will be a hopeless romantic.

Flower-covered bed, how to plan romantic getaways

Want to avoid that look of disappointment on Valentine's Day or similar love-related occasion? Plan a romantic getaway. — Martin Kreuzer/Alamy

And you know what? So is practically everyone else. Some of us hide it beneath a curmudgeonly exterior. Others are simply clueless about dates: We mean to do something special for Valentine's Day but seem constantly astonished when Feb. 14 rolls around.

What most people fail to recognize, I think, are those "random acts of romance" that make their partners true, not just seasonal, romantics. Anytime someone remembers something you like, for example, then gets it for you — that's a romantic act!

But these feats of memory don't need to be material. Remembering to ask your partner to sit closer to you, or taking his or her hand in yours at a dinner party, counts as an Act of High Romance.

You don't have to send roses — but if you decide to go the floral route, find out in advance what color blooms she or he prefers. The gestures that will linger in a lover's memory are those that prove you appreciate, and celebrate, your partner's uniqueness.

Some of you have observed multiple (my code word for "40") Valentine's Days together and will be perfectly content to commemorate the day with a box of chocolates (good ones, please) grabbed on the way home. But what if your partner has higher hopes for the holiday?

If you want to avoid a puppy-dog look of disappointment, you can't go wrong with a romantic getaway. I'm not talking about just the getaway itself, mind you: You're sure to enchant your partner when you reveal you picked a locale he or she loves — and that you've already done all the planning yourself.

If you're the logistically challenged type, here are some tips for pulling off that perfect romantic retreat:

Leave it to the pros. Call up that nice hotel downtown and ask for the concierge. Reserve a room and ask them to make it special. They've heard this request before, so trust them — they'll make it happen.

Be a local tourist. Find the highest-rated bed-and-breakfast near you; when you call to book your stay, get a recommendation for the best dinner spot nearby. Romance accomplished!

Cater to her whims. At least a few days before Feb. 14, contact a good restaurant that offers a catering service and order a meal to be picked up on Valentine's Night. Then enjoy an elegant dinner for two in your own home. (Just don't forget to put the candles in something secure!)

Exercise your recall. Think of your partner's favorite place (that you can afford) and book it. Again, you'll earn double Relationship Points for that most romantic act: remembering.

But what if you're the one with the impossibly inflated expectations for Valentine's Day? Turnabout is fair play here: That means you can show your love by making these plans yourself, then presenting them as a fait accompli to your not-always-forward-thinking partner. (Don't try this if there's the slightest danger of resentment, though.)

If you can't swing a getaway, consider these alternative ways of lavishing attention on your honey:

  • Send your partner to a local day spa.

  • Get a his-and-hers massage. Also known as a couples massage, this allows the two of you to hold hands as you both get worked on together. (Or, if you are saintlike, skip yours and give your honey a four-handed massage — ooh la la!)

  • Find a beautiful gift box and fill it with highly customized coupons for chores you know your partner especially loathes — or promise to provide something your partner would love: "Good for one sparkling-clean kitchen after dinner." "Good for one day of grumble-free shopping together at the store of your choice." "Good for one catered set of packed meals for your next hunting trip."

You get the idea: Give a gift so specialized it could only be inspired by love.

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