By: Jenny Foughner 

Guys. I have a serious confession. I really, reeealllly love Valentine’s Day. Not because I enjoy overly sentimental greeting cards (vomitous) or forced displays of affection (ditto), but because I love having an excuse to be gushy and romantic with everyone I love (and, as people at least four cities will attest, anyone I happen to see anywhere on or around the day of St. Valentine). Now, you might be asking yourself, ‘but wait, why would she need an excuse to be gushy and romantic when she’s so clearly willing to be affectionate to the point of making complete strangers uncomfortable?’, to which I would answer, ‘well, friend, it’s because I spend most of the year in a state of extreme sassiness, which usually trumps loveygushy bliss.’ At this point you might decide to walk away, but no matter; I’d hug you anyway, because we are a mere TWO DAYS AWAY from my aforementioned most favorite of affectionate holidays.

I know that a lot of people hate a lot of things about V-Day, and I sympathize. I really do. But the unquestionable grandeur of this possibly fake holiday lies not in high fructose corn syrup-laden confections or giant doily hearts (although: rad), but in the way it reminds us, in between bouts of depression and mild alcoholism, to demonstrate to the people we love how much we love them. And it really isn’t limited to romantic love, no matter how many paper baby cupids your office manager staples to the walls of your company break room; V’day doesn’t specify who gets to be your Valentine or why, so there’s no reason to think you can’t make sweet Valentine love with 10 people or 50 people or, you know, the entire world.

Hyperbole aside, there are things to be learned from this weekend’s festivities that can, and should, be applied to your relationship at other times besides during the waking hours of February 14th. Showing a woman you care for her, especially when you’ve been together for a while, isn’t rocket science. It’s – wait! – Valentines-ence.

To wit: the little things you do on Valentine’s Day, like giving her impromptu massages, making her breakfast in bed, getting it on by candlelight, or surprising her with a sparkly/ lacy something-or-other, need not be relegated to a once-a-year shock-and-awe campaign; instead, they could, and should, become part of your romance arsenal year-round. What’d I hear recently? That you people are more romantic than we people? Okay. Prove it.

You see, women are all about details. (I’m told this has something to do with the number of rods and cones in our eyes, even though, to me, the term ‘rods and cones’ signifies something else altogether, but that is entirely unhelpful at this juncture, so: moving on.) We have an uncanny ability to attribute great meaning to even the smallest of gestures. In many cases, this can be frustrating, but when you want to get a lot of (literal and figurative) bang for your buck, it can definitely work in your favor. Here are a few simple, Valentine-spirational things that’ll up your game in no time, with, thankfully, very little effort on your part. Enjoy. And happy early grossly-overaffectionate-love-day!

Massage… everything

I’ll bet many of you already have the boob-and-tush-grazing massage in your bag o’ third-date tricks, but a lot of dudes forget about this gem once gettin’ busy becomes a regular occurrence. To females, massages are double-edged pleasure swords: they’re both thoughtful and arousing. Boom. You can’t argue with crazy truth like that. Don’t limit your masseusery to the shoulders, back or feet, though (please don’t forget about the feet!). Hand massages are unexpectedly sensual. And – ahem – other places also require regular massaging, the results of which are likely to be a returning of the favor for you from your very satisfied female companion. I’d elaborate, but my grandmother is probably reading this right now, so you’ll need to walk your mind over to the gutter without my help. Just this once.

Give her flowers, baubles or handwritten notes “just because”

For we ladyfolk, nothing quite compares to the joy of getting ‘just because’ gifts from the men we fancy, especially when there’s no chance it could be to apologize for something heinous they’ve done. Take flowers, for example. Even if you’ve picked them from your neighbor’s lawn on your way home, flowers are a timeless signifier of a man’s desire for his female counterpart, whether because plant life inherently suggests amorousness or because some cavedude brought a venus fly trap home to tinker with once and his cavelady mistook it for a special gift for her.

There’s no need to break the bank (unless that’s how you roll) or agonize for hours over the perfect ‘just because’ gift. In fact, that’s almost beside the point. Anything you give her, from a post-it note “I love you” to dozens upon dozens of roses, will make her squeal (whether audibly or just in her brain) and remind her that you really effing like her. The bar on this is pretty low, guys. Use it to your advantage, but make it count!

Gaze into her eyes and give her a big, fat compliment

Are you sensing a theme yet? There’s a reason Valentine’s day seems so cliché; it’s because it’s chock full of time-tested actions that have been proven to demonstrate love, lust, affection, and/or adoration, and, consequently, have been immortalized on celluloid for future generations to mock and scorn (unless they’ve discovered the secret to dating bliss, that is). You know that moment in almost every romantic comedy where the strapping leading gentleman pauses, stares at his delicate lady love interest, and delivers a line that goes on to become the way by which all future romantic conversations are judged? It’s time to inject some of that into your life, even if it’s as simple as telling her how beautiful she is or reminding her of a quirky thing she does that you just can’t get enough of. If you’re thinking it, say it.

Remind her that she’s on your mind, even when you’re not together

By now, I think you should know that all of the mumbo-jumbo about ‘connections’ and ‘togetherness’ and whatnot and etcetera and so on is very important to my people (women). Much like a ‘just because’ gift indicates that you occasionally think of your significant other outside of the bedroom, dropping her an email or sending her a text at random moments throughout the day establishes a connection beyond physical closeness, which is very, very important to her. It’s also quick, easy and, depending on your data plan, absolutely free. If you tend to get a little overzealous with things like this, then I suppose it’s best to limit yourself somewhat so as to avoid overwhelming her, but once you’ve reached a certain comfort level with someone, you’ll know how much, or how little, she wants to interact with you when you aren’t around.

Facilitate her relaxation

Everyone loves to be pampered, so when you’re feeling especially motivated to make your Valentine feel especially special, find a way to give her a break from the daily grind. If you have children, it could be hiring a babysitter and whisking her off for an unexpected date night, or – better yet – taking the kids for a day at the zoo while she does whatever the hell she wants to in the luxury of peace and quiet. If housework has become a point of contention in your twosome, suck it up and hire a housekeeper to clean your place a few times a month; you’ll be surprised by how much of a stress reliever it is for both of you. If your lady enjoys the spa, book a massage, mani/pedi, facial, or all of the above and treat her to a day of beauty. Cook dinner when she isn’t expecting it, or even just pick up take-out on your way home and surprise her with her fave foods. Any little thing that feels like an unexpected luxury will remind her that she’s your one and only, and, most likely, reaffirm in her mind how much she wants to pamper you right back.

Pick up some new tricks in the boudoir

Inevitably, couples in long-term relationships get into a sex routine (sextine?) that can, after a while, become tedious and boring. A sure way to show your woman that you’ve got her best interests in mind is to keep your game fresh; whether it’s dusting off that old how-to book or checking in on xtube to see what the kids are doing (except that one thing. DON’T DO THAT ONE THING. Please, for the love of all that is holy in this world), bringing some new moves into your nightly romps will not only impress her (you’re industrious! And surprisingly flexible!), but also show that you care enough about her satisfaction to troll the ends of the earth for new kama sutra poses. (Just know that she might become suspicious if your sextine hasn’t changed since the Reagan administration; you might want to preface your new and improved prowess with a word about how you wanted to find a way to blow her mind as much as she blows your… mind… so you don’t have to address the whole, “so… where did you say you picked this up, again?” conversation).

Oh, and by the way: theme the second of this whole shindig is “demonstrate thoughtfulness through words and actions.” That’s really the whole kit and caboodle right there.