04/13/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Averting V-Day Disasters

Here it is again--that mysterious holiday where things so often seem to go wrong! What is it about Valentine's Day that makes it so tough?

The tips below have saved many of my clients' relationships from Valentine's Day disasters. I hope they'll work for you, too. They are a bit stereotyped, I suppose. But what is Valentines Day if not a celebration of the Masculine/Feminine poles in all of us?

FOR GUYS (or the Masculine Partner)
Maybe you're one of those valiant guys who keeps trying,
Or maybe you gave up long ago 'cuz you never could seem to please her,
Or maybe you just do the expected, pick up some roses at the Safeway and a card, or make restaurant reservations someplace fancy, and hope to get through the evening without disappointing her.

Women seem so complicated, and you just want to make them happy, right?

Read on, if you're any of the above, and this year you can be her hero.

V-Day is for celebrating the romantic, erotic side of your love. That means celebrating her femininity---letting her know that you love her as a woman, not just a friend, partner, or co-parent. Gifts and cards should reflect this. Your sentimentality and the recognition of her femininity are far more important than the size or cost of the gift. It must be thoroughly impractical! A bouquet of long-stem roses for $20 is better than the vacuum she said she wanted for $300. Trust me. Here are some specific ideas.

•FLOWERS WORK. Really. I once suggested to a guy that he send flowers to a woman he had fought with. His jaw dropped open. "That really works? I thought that was only on TV." Nope. We like flowers. We like some flowers better than others. For V-day we like extravagant flowers, usually red, especially roses or tulips. Of course, if you know your woman has a favorite flower, get that. GET A LOT OF THEM, or just one perfect rose, wrapped in tissue. Delivered is best, especially if she works somewhere where other people will see how great her guy is and how much he loves her.
• MAKE DINNER (or brunch) or reservations, but no big, heavy meals, if you want a romantic evening, or you may fall asleep (you don't want to fall asleep, do you?). Opt instead for small high-protein, sexy dishes, like tapas, oysters, lovely cheeses a plate of mussels, or something you can feed each other with your hands.
• JEWELRY WORKS but it is not necessary. If you are feeling flush, (conflict-free, please--no blood diamonds) diamonds are still a girl's best friend. Small is good.
• SEXY LINGERIE IS WONDERFUL (no flannels, please)... if she likes sexy lingerie. But if you have a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal, be certain that garter belt is a gift for her and not just for you. Some women get turned on by wearing sexy lingerie. Others find it annoying or embarrassing. If you don't know, ask her. It's ok to ask. If she likes it, and you don't feel comfortable choosing, maybe take her shopping (Not a gift certificate--go with her! I once had a guy take me lingerie shopping for great V-Day surprise, which turned us both on!). Or go to a good lingerie store with her size and/or measurements and color preferences. The sales women are good at helping men. And, unless you already know she's into that sort of thing, nothing too trashy, please.
• CHAMPAGNE IS GREAT (if she drinks). Splurge. Pink is best--French if possible. No NY State.
• POETRY IS GOOD, too--if she likes poetry (if you don't know Rod McKuen from Rumi, don't try this).
• LET HER KNOW ahead of time you're looking forward to the evening.Text her little messages, but nothing x-rated.
• HIDE HER CARD so she'll find it when she least expects (women really do like surprises). Just this once, get her the sappy card instead of the funny one, and see how she reacts.
• SEX IS VERY GOOD. Foreplay is terrific--c'mon, you know what gets her going.
• ENJOY HER and enjoy yourself, and let her know--yes, in words--how special she is to you.

It is really easy to be her hero--you probably already are--if you just take a little time to think about what she has told you she likes (she has told you, hasn't she?) ---and then BELIEVE HER. Women do communicate in words. If she says she wants or likes something, she probably does.

Wishing you a great Valentines Day!

FOR WOMEN (or the Feminine Partner)
We all know this holiday is rife with potential for disasters. Believe me, I've been there.
Here's how to have a great one, whether you are alone or with your sweetie.

If you are alone ---as I have been many times---celebrate love with your girlfriends. Have a special night in, if it is too depressing to go out and see all those couples mooning over each other. Play with the Tabletopics "Girls Night Out" cards ( Read poetry. Watch old Myrna Loy movies. But don't stay home alone eating ice cream and feeling bad about yourself. Crack open some champagne with the women you love, or even one special girlfriend, and celebrate how loveable you are.

If you are with a guy, or someone of the masculine persuasion, here are some tips to avoid strewing banana peels in his path and having the V-day from hell:

This is a holiday the feminine holds dear, which often makes the masculine quake with fear.

Why? It's not because men are insensitive clods.
It's because there is more potential for getting it WRONG--than at any other holiday, and men hate to fail with their woman.

Most women have expectations for V-day, and most guys just don't get it, so it looks like a minefield to them. They know they failed Mind Reading 101---so they can freeze up, fear they can't win, and give up before they start.... unless you make it safe for them to try to please you.

Here is the first thing you need to know, if you want to be happy and satisfied this V'day: Your lover wants to make you happy!

Any indications to the contrary are a mis-reading of the signs. Really--unless he is a sicko--that's what he wants. He just has trouble figuring out how to do it. Generally we women are more nuanced and complex in our desires than men. You have (from his point of view) a complicated set of needs and demands. You like one kind of flower at one time and another at another time. You like one restaurant one day, and another the next, while he is always satisfied with the same good steak or Boca Burger.

What's a guy to do? Here is what lots of guys have confided in me: He knows you have something specific in mind, and he has no idea how to read your mind to find out what it is. So he freezes like a deer in the headlights.

Poor fellow. Give him a break.

If there is something you must have, without which you will be miserable, let him know by whispering something sweetly in his ear like, " You know, it may seem corny, but getting roses for Valentines Day really makes me happy!"

He'll consider that a hot tip, and run for the roses (don't necessarily expect him to know that some flowers are better than others, though).

Maybe you like them delivered instead of at the door. You might say, " You know what really turns me on? Getting flowers at work! Ohmigod, I just love that!"

Whatever he does, after you have let him know sweetly--not like a demand--what you like, Let him win!

Then be happy with what he produces, and he is likely to want to produce more for you. If you reward him with a smile and a smooch for the Safeway flowers this year, next year he may send two dozen from the best florist in town. Be happy and he will feel like it is possible to make you happy (which is what he really wants) and he will try even harder. If you are disappointed, he is likely to give up and stop trying. Reward any step in the right direction with your glowing smile and he will want to go to the ends of the earth to see more of it.

This is far more important to him that anything you can get for him. He really doesn't care about that scented massage oil. He just uses it for you. Mostly he wants to be your hero. If you let him be, it will be the best V-Day ever.

And remember, the kind of Valentines Day you have depends on the kind of Valentine you ARE.

Wishing you hearts, flowers and great sex!