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Make It a Valentine's Day to Remember

Expert advice on how to make this holiday extra special and keep it going all year long

Transcript from the chat with Dr. Pepper Schwartz on Feb. 8, 2011.

Question from Bonnie: How do I get my husband to remember me on Valentine's Day?

Pepper Schwartz: Bonnie that's a good question. Wishing and hoping won't get you what you want. You are going to have to be a little bit active on this until you establish a pattern. Drop him a note or an e-mail and tell him that Valentine's Day is coming up and you would like him to create something for the both of you, and you are available for consultation if he wants it.

True, he didn't remember it himself, but if you give him a week's notice, it will feel good when he does come up with something.

Question from Raymond: My wife loves Valentine's Day, but I'm out of ideas after 38 years. We live in Arizona. Any suggestions?

PS: Have several couples over for dinner, make it a potluck and have everyone make a special Valentine's Day dish. Plan it together and decorate it in a Valentine's Day theme. Or, go to the video store together and rent some romantic movies and pop a bottle of champagne when you watch them. Check out my Valentine's Day column for more ideas.

Question from Sally: It's no fun being single on Valentine's Day. What do you suggest for single ladies —-  or even those men folk?

PS: I've been single on Valentine's Day and I know what you mean Sally. But it doesn't have to be a bummer. What I would do is get together with my single girlfriends and we'd have a dinner party with lots of wine and end up feeling very grateful for our friendships and our lives. Sometimes we'd have a spa day. It's amazing how great you can feel when you get your toes done!

Question from Linda: Is writing a love letter to my deceased husband morbid? My friends think I'm crazy, but I want to wish him a happy Valentine's Day.

PS: No Linda, I don't think it's morbid. I think it's touching and I understand why you would do it. When you talk to your partner, even when they are not there, you remember and celebrate the relationship you had. Why not embrace that feeling? When you celebrate Valentine's Day, just don't let the love you feel, keep you away from seeking companionship with other people eventually.

Question from William: Hi. My question for upcoming Valentine's Day is this: How best can I perpetuate the love I intend to show my wife year round?

PS: Oh, William, we love you for that question! I think the easiest and best way to do that is to have at least one dinner a week — home or out — where you celebrate your relationship by having an alcoholic or nonalcoholic toast to each other.

If that's not possible, then perhaps just an e-mail at least once a week that says I love you and I'm grateful for our relationship. Just these little rituals make a huge difference.

Question from Barbara: I'm from your hometown Pepper. Love Seattle! I just started dating someone. What are the wrong moves/things to say this Valentine's Day?

PS: Hi Homey! Great question Barbara. First tip: Don't say the dreaded "So where's this relationship going?" Just enjoy it and be warm and close. Listen more than talk and stay lighthearted. On Valentine's Day it is probably wise to let him be the one to say anything that intimates a deeper love, etc... Don't be upset if he doesn't say anything "meaningful," sometimes people want to resist the pressure of having to do anything significant on Valentine's Day.

Question from Thom: My girlfriend has been hinting for a pair of shoes. Is that a good gift for Valentine's Day?

PS: Hi Thom. Some questions make me glad I'm not a man, because I think it would be really hard for a guy to pick out shoes for a lady. I guess if that is what she wants, go shopping with her, but give her some indication of what you think is a reasonable amount to spend on shoes. You might be shocked at how expensive women's shoes can be. In fact, if you are not feeling good about spending substantial cash, you might want to pick out a different gift. A pair of diamond studs might be cheaper!

Comment from William: When I buy my wife a dozen roses and a box of candy, she literally berates me for having spent money we don't have. I have to raid the cookie jar to do it, since we have no money because we're unemployed.

PS: William, it doesn't have to cost anything. Go take a ride out in the country or explore a town you haven't been to. Go to the zoo or window shop art galleries. Do any number of things that simply celebrate your relationship. You are giving each other the gift of time and the fun of looking at things together. Your big splurge could be sharing an ice cream sundae, or a couple of hot dogs at the park. But make it a date and it might be the best Valentine's Day ever.

Question from Bashful: There's a man at my work who just got divorced. He's depressed. As a recently divorced lady, should I approach him about it?

PS: Let me be clearer Bashful. Are you concerned about his depression? Or are you wondering about his status? If it's the latter, just ask him out for coffee and get to know him. That could go a long way to modifying his depression. It's natural, however, for people to feel depressed when they've ended a significant relationship. Often it helps to meet someone new. But remember that someone who is recently out of a marriage, and still sad about it, may not be ready to start up a relationship with you.

Question from Marion: Are oysters really an aphrodisiac? Am considering serving to hubby on February 14th.

PS: Marion, the answer is yes and no. Yes, oysters have a lot of zinc. And some people think that's an aphrodisiac. But even if it is, he would probably have to eat the entire oyster bed to get any results. On the other hand, some people find the texture of oysters very sensual. So that eating them together might be a turn on.

Comment from William:  I love your responses here.

Comment from Mary: I play bridge on Valentine's Day.

PS: Mary, I think you know what my reaction is going to be: Not too romantic! Might be a lot of fun, but it seems like an odd choice for Valentine's Day. How about doing it with a bottle of champagne and eventually going out as a couple for dinner or a movie? At least do something about love.

Question from Bud: It's too cold to go out for V-Day. What can I do for the wife?

PS: OK Bud, Baby It's Cold Outside. I don't know if you know that song, but when I hear it I think of warm fires with fleece wrapped around me, watching old movies and finger foods. I also think of cooking together, particularly baking so you can lick the bowl! Or maybe splurge on special foods, wines or boutique beers. I think you can make it very special by creating a little nest that you don't ever want to leave.

Question from Sandy: What do you do for Valentine's Day?

PS: Well if I can, I do some kind of getaway. I'll take any kind of speaking gig, if it is in a warm place, and ask my guy to go with me. Sometimes, I like dressing up, which we don't do very often and going out for a date to a special place. I'm also a big fan of going out early, so we are not too tired when we come home to give each other some extra attention as lovers.

Question from L.S.: What is your stance on acting out our fantasies? Any suggestions?

PS: Well L.S.,  these are your fantasies. I can't tell you how to act them out, but I think they are just fine, as long as they are mutually interesting.

My favorite story of a couple acting out their fantasy is when a husband came dressed to the door as a chauffeur and took his wife for a ride, with her sitting in the back seat as a customer. Then after a lot of seductive talk between them, they went back home and had a passionate evening.

Question from Billy: I got tickets to the basketball game for Valentine's Day. A really good one. How do I get my girl to come with me?

PS: OK Billy, does she even like basketball? If she's not a big fan, you'd better bookend this game with some pretty romantic stuff. Start it with a great gift — roses or something special for her. Hold her and show her affection during the game, and then take her out someplace nice afterward. Your overall goal here is to help her associate basketball with affection and pampering.

Comment from Martin: I'm not looking forward to Valentine's Day. It's the first without my wife.

PS: Oh, Martin, that is hard. Don't leave yourself alone. Get together with some friends and go do something. It doesn't matter if it's bowling, poker, a movie or a hike. Whatever it is, make sure it keeps you busy. Embrace friendship and the joy of being alive and just get through the day the best you can. You might find that being with friends helps you feel better about life in general.

Comment from No More: I hate being single this time of year.

PS: Hey, No More, we might need an attitude change. It is tough being single on this day, but use it as motivation. Get out there and find somebody to spend time with and enjoy. It is never too late for love. I have two friends in their 80s who recently found new love and are surprised at how passionate the relationship is. Get out there. Even this Valentine's Day and go to a singles' gathering or volunteer in a charity you care about. Join a new organization or try online dating. Use it as a beginning to find companionship.

Question from June: What's a good movie to watch with my husband on Valentine's Day?

PS: Well June, I am prone to chick flicks but some husbands are not. But I like both versions of "An Affair to Remember" and AARP's Movies for Grownups has some good suggestions. I also like Something's Gotta Give with Diane Keaton. If you want a good friendship movie I recommend "The Bucket List."  And "When Harry Met Sally" is a favorite. The classics are always good. You can't go wrong with Casablanca.

Comment from William: "Love is in the Air" with I forgot who…Bucket List for sure.

Question from Tom: I cook for my wife for Valentine's Day. This year though I've arranged for a catered meal. That should earn me some points, right?

PS: Way to go Tom! I'm going to show this one to my guy — just as gentle hint.

Question from Nancy: I like to volunteer on holidays. It takes my mind off things. Is that healthy or am I delaying the inevitable?

PS: Nancy I think that's a wonderful idea. I think whenever one is feeling a little down and you go out and help others you realize the satisfaction of giving, and also are grateful to be in the position of the giver rather than the needy. However, if this is a form of escape for you, either from your husband or from seeking companionship, then maybe it's a good time to think about changing that situation. It's always better to deal honestly with yourself. Ask yourself what is it that you need and aren't getting, and what to do about it.

I think it is perfectly acceptable to do something for others on Valentine's Day but it's particularly satisfying to do that as a couple. So if that's something you would like to be doing, think seriously now about how to make that happen.

Question from Charles: I can't be intimate with my wife because of health problems. What can I do?

PS: Charles, I think you can be intimate, but not in the traditional ways. Intimacy is far broader than just having intercourse.  Kissing, touching, stroking, holding hands and finding other ways to please each other can all be wonderful substitutes of how you were in healthier days. We all get "skin hunger." We need to be touched, we need to be held. I think if you reapproach your wife with touching, hugging and kissing it will be great for the both of you.

Question from Toren: My former boyfriend — from many moons ago — contacted me on Facebook. Our relationship didn't end well. What should I do? I'm now single, but still remember how he hurt me.

PS: Toren, I understand you hesitation, but that was then, this is now, and I bet you have both changed a lot. Some people do gain wisdom and self knowledge over the years. He may not be the same man that hurt you so badly. If he acknowledges it and feels badly about it, I would give him a second chance. Don't shut him down before you know who he is. So I'd be open.

Question from Sharlene: I saw an article about singles cruises. Is that really a good way to meet people?

PS: I think single cruises can be fun. But I would go with a friend, so if you don't meet someone special the two of you can have a great vacation anyhow. Check out this article by Peter Greenberg on singles cruises.

Question from Meg: Does coffee really hurt your sex drive?

PS: Actually, quite the contrary. It keeps you up. I actually did a poll among my friends. The coffee drinkers won hands down. But seriously, caffeine is a mild stimulant and should not interfere with your sexual ability.

Comment from William: Excellent advice. I'm learning so much here.

PS: It's been a pleasure talking to you all. I hope you will go to my column on Making the Most of Valentine's Day and follow me on Twitter @pepperschwartz.  I also encourage you to add your Valentine's Day ideas to our ongoing conversation on things to do on Valentine's Day at Naked Truth.