VALENTINE’S Day: Some people love it; some hate it; others feel terrorised into acknowledging it, lest they be deemed curmudgeonly, unromantic souls.
Wherever you fall on that spectrum, however, there’s no avoiding Valentine’s Day.
It’s easy to argue that nothing could be less romantic than the obligation to make a grand (and clichéd) gesture of love on a designated day, and some might say it’s more romantic to surprise your partner with a sign of your affection on any of the other 364 days the year has to offer.
However, as many couples in long-term relationships will concede, spontaneous fits of passion can eventually take a backseat to work, kids, or taking out the bins, so why not join in the Valentine’s Day fun, and follow our top tips for squeezing some romance back into your relationship.
No, we’re not going down the school uniform fantasy route, but we could if that’s your desire. Remember how you complained in maths class that you would never need to use a Venn diagram? Well think again.
Shawna Scott runs sexsiopa.ie, an award-winning online sex shop, and she says the first tool couples should use to reinvigorate their sex life won’t cost them a cent: It’s their imagination.
“Both partners should make a list of things they want to try,” she advises. “Split them into things you want; things you would be up for if your partner wanted it; and things you won’t ever do.
“Then make a Venn diagram. The overlap is where you have common ground. Use that as a start point and work your way out. Try to push your boundaries.”
As well as opening the door to new experiences, talking about your fantasies and desires will stoke the embers of passion. And speaking of fantasies…
Not everyone is destined to be the next Anaïs Nin. Hell, not everyone can even be the next EL James. If you’re lacking in the imagination department, try reading Bare: Irish Women’s Sexual Fantasies (€14.99, libertiespress.com), and see if anything takes your fancy.
“Starting in the morning, and continuing throughout the day, do anything that makes you feel sexy,” says Shawna. “The more confident you feel, the more fun the sex will be, so, for ladies, wear lingerie you like, get a beauty treatment or a blow-dry.
“Spend the day thinking about what you’ll be doing that night. Sext each other and get yourself going.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re in a meeting or a queue at the bank, that will only make it sexier.
When date time rolls around, remember, you are not dessert. Crème brûlée is dessert, and if it’s included in your set meal, you know you won’t be able to turn it down. No one feels sexy after a big feed, so take the advice of sex-columnist extraordinaire Dan Savage and get amorous before you eat.
Lubricant is the simplest way to make sex more enjoyable for both parties, and Shawna feels it’s very underrated. “I think there’s a slight stigma attached to using it, like needing it means you’re not turned on, but that’s not the case,” she stresses. “There are many reasons you might need lubricant: Medication, hormones, ageing, stress. Also, slippery sex is just way more fun.” Oil-based lubricants are thicker, last longer, and are great for masturbation and massage, but they can’t be used with condoms. If that rules them out for you, try a thicker water-based lube like Sliquid Organics Natural (€15).
If you’ve never tried them, introduce sex toys. A thoughtful Valentine’s gift for beginners is the beautifully packaged Rianne S mini heart vibrator (€40). USB rechargeable, it’s cute, small and completely unintimidating, and you won’t be morto if airport security spots it in your carry-on.
Fifty Shades Darker is released on Valentine’s Day. Though panned by critics and BDSM enthusiasts, the series has inspired a growing interest in bondage. If your curiosity was piqued, try these handmade leather handcuffs by BS Atelier (€50). “If you’re new to bondage and don’t really subscribe to the darker stuff, these are nice and light and fun,” says Shawna.
The couple that plays together stays together, so try a couples vibrator. Shawna recommends Je Joue’s Ooh London (€80), a vibrating element with interchangeable silicon heads for her and for him; or, for the full shared experience, the Rianne S Duo (€95) is “one of the few couples toys you can both use at the same time.”
So, this Valentine’s Day fire up your imagination, stir your loins, carpe that diem, and give a gift that keeps on giving.