Ironically, one of the most celebrated holidays in America is also one that is most dreaded for many couples. It’s as if the country is telling everyone to be romantic at the same time. When that happens, things that usually symbolize romance (flowers, candy, cards) become cliché. Jewelry commercials love to heap guilt with messages like, “If you REALLY love her, buy her this expensive diamond necklace. (Nothing says “I love you” like a credit card statement.) With all the hoopla of all the things you’re “supposed” to do for your spouse, it might be tempting to forgo any of the festivities. However, the holiday can also be used as a tool to help assess how your relationship is doing.

So, what does your spouse really want for Valentine’s Day? That depends on what he or she doesn’t already have. Here are 10 suggestions for both genders:

1. Touch

Yes, sex just might be the grand finale of the holiday, but we’re not talking about that… just yet. How often do you two hold hands, offer a hug and kiss or nice shoulder massage? If your only form of intimacy is sex, you’re missing something.

2. A Night off 

The stereotypical household features the wife making dinner for the family while the husband watches the news. While most homes do not fit that stereotype, there is usually one spouse that does most of the cooking, whether it’s because she’s usually home from work first or he’s the better cook. If you’re not usually the one hunched over the stove, make plans to do your part. Even for the simplest meal, there is something special about being able to sit back and relax while someone else does the work.

3. Non-TV Time

While there is nothing fundamentally wrong about watching TV together, too many couples fall in the rut of settling in for three hours of small screen time instead of engaging with their spouses. You married your spouse because you enjoyed doing things with him or her. What were those things? When was the last time you played a board game together? Went for a walk? Made cookies?

4. A Spruced up Spouse

Men and women both appreciate a spouse that takes the time to work on his or her appearance for the sake of the other. Yes, wearing a sweatshirt with a picture of kittens and matching sweatpants might be very comfortable, but the message that it sends to your spouse is ”I’m not trying… at all.”

5. Compliments

Nobody ever gets tired of hearing how much they are loved, how beautiful they are, how strong their muscles are or how good “that color” looks on them. Let your spouse know that you still think he’s hot.

6. A Conversation

The next time you dine out, make sure to sit across from your spouse instead of by his or her side. Try to focus on just your significant other. Keep the conversation going by asking questions — it shows that you are interested. Try to see if you can find that one question that you’ve never asked before.

7. Help around the House

No one wants to feel like they have to do “everything” to keep the house looking nice. Surprise your spouse by doing a chore that you don’t normally do. A clean toilet can be very romantic.

8. A ‘Thank You’

Where are your manners? When someone does something for you, even if they do it every week, say “thank you.” Enough said.

9. Help with the Kids

Whether your kids are young or older, be sure to not let your spouse be the “bad guy” or “good guy” all the time. Kids need to know that they can go to either parent when needed and that they need to respect BOTH parents.

10. Sex

It’s one the best perks of marriage, and yet we can get so busy to miss out on it. Don’t worry about making a big romantic affair – just have fun. Even if you’re “not in the mood,” do it anyway. It’s amazing what a little intimacy can do.

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