Kick-start the romance

All right, Romeo. Think you're ready for Valentine's Day? Think again.

No matter how experienced you think you are when it comes to romance, there's always new material to learn. You may have already taken care of the chocolates and flowers, but here are a few practical suggestions from Dr. Gretchen Baldwin, a staff psychologist for Winthrop University counseling services, to take your relationship a step further this year.

3 Valentine's Day Do's

1. Turn off the TV: The key to a successful Valentine's Day is often the amount of time you spend with your partner. And time spent with the boob tube is often one of the biggest distractions from quality time spent with your lover. "Just turn it off for the day," Baldwin suggests. "Do what it takes to focus on each other." Besides, the writer's strike hasn't been over long enough for you to miss anything new.

2. Get to know each other: After a while, relationships tend to become less about sharing and more about co-existing, Baldwin said. Today, take a few minutes to get to know your partner all over again. Ask important questions during your date to re-connect. "Check-in with each other. Talk about your hopes and dreams," she said. "Take time to listen and really understand."

3. Be active: Sure, dinner and a movie would be fun, but an active date might be more meaningful. Baldwin suggests cooking a Valentine's Day meal together, playing a game or working together on a project. "Do some kind of activity that encourages time together where you're sharing and building a new memory," she said.

3 Valentine's Day Don'ts

1. Spend too much money: Spending hordes of cash on teddy bears and flowers might impress your Valentine tonight. But it isn't the best choice in the long run. Baldwin warns not to expect your partner to break the budget. Instead, couples should consider exchanging gifts inspired by memories and not money. "Sometimes the most meaningful gift is small and nostalgic," she said. "The gift of time and attention is the biggest thing you can give."

2. Criticize: During the course of your Valentine's Day conversation, there's bound to be the opportunity to fuss. Avoid it. Baldwin said couples can easily drift from discussion to arguments. So, for a change, keep the conversation positive today. "Take a break from criticism," she said. "Use (today) as a time to build each other up."

3. Expect a fantasy: A common pitfall on Valentine's Day is expecting a fairy tale, Baldwin said. It's good to treat your sweetheart to something extra, but don't demand too much. "It can be a special day, but don't set yourself up for a major disappointment by expecting everything you see in the movies," she said. "Companionship is what a relationship is based on, so just spend time together. That's what we all really want."

-- Adam O'Daniel