T.O. intimacy expert Shan Boodram’s best Valentine’s Day advice

As an intimacy expert on Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle, a love specialist on her podcast Lovers and Friends and an author of the definitive guide to relationships Game of Love, Toronto’s Shan Boodram knows what she’s talking about when it comes to love. Ahead of the holiday of romance, she’s giving us her best tips for handling all the challenges that come with Valentine’s Day.

Why can Valentine’s Day be so hard sometimes?

Traditionally, Valentine’s Day can be a passive holiday for most women. Either you’re single and wait to see if someone will ask you out, or you’re coupled and wait to see if your partner can read your mind. This formula can often set people up to be disappointed on a day that should be filled with love and gratitude. However, I think it’s encouraging to know that this is changing: people are either taking the initiative and making the first move to set up their Valentine’s Day plans, or they’re opting to celebrate the love that they have for other people in their life, like friends. More and more people are participating in Gal-entines (or Pal-entine’s!) Day celebrations and some would even prefer to celebrate these types of relationships than the romantic ones in their lives.

For single Torontonians, what are some ways to make this love season fun but not disappointing/disheartening?

Research from Bumble has found that a majority (67 per cent) of Canadian respondents feel more self-conscious about being single at some point during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, so this is completely understandable. However, when it boils down to it, Valentine’s Day is a holiday to celebrate love. So, shine a light on your most important relationship, and the only relationship you have 100 per cent control over: the one you have with yourself.

From spoiling yourself with a nice spa day or a well-deserved luxury item to establishing boundaries and knowing what your sexual wants and needs are, self-care can take many forms. Not only is self-pleasure pleasurable, but understanding your preferences can also help you feel increased sexual agency and greater control of your connections, which can lead to safer and more empowered relationships.

Additionally, self-love isn’t only limited to those who are single! Self-love is crucial to any relationship, so shower yourself in love no matter where you are in your dating journey.

This holiday can be an opportunity for long term couples to reconnect — what are some ways to accomplish that?

The easiest way to reconnect is to revisit. Ask yourself: what have we done in the past that was meaningful to us? How can we replay a cherished memory that reflects our love story today? If sentimental is not your thing, try creating a new memory based on something that your partner has mentioned they’ve been dying to experience.

Are you pro-gifts or pro-experiences (or both!) for Valentine’s Day?

I am personally pro gifts – which reminds me, I have to get something for my husband, Jared! A gift is great, especially for busy people who can’t plan a whole ordeal. It saves you time, plus it can stand the test of time. A few years ago, I got Jared a pearl necklace for Valentine’s Day, and every time I see him wear it, I reflect on why our love is worth celebrating. My husband is also a really great gift giver, and since we don’t do gifts for each other over Christmas anymore (it became expensive, especially with the kids’ gifts!), Valentine’s Day is a lovely make-good.

For Valentine’s Day, what would you choose: staying in or going out?

We went out on the weekend since we were invited to some fun parties, so I’d love to stay in on Valentine’s Day and spend Feb. 14 as a family. As mentioned earlier, Valentine’s Day should be a celebration of love – any type of love – and it’ll be my youngest daughter’s first Valentine’s Day!

For those just starting out in a relationship, what’s the best way to avoid the pressure that comes with this holiday?

In an early relationship, you might feel tempted to get a showy or expensive gift, but before purchasing, consider whether that gift would be reciprocated. If not, remove it from your cart and look for something small but thoughtful. This can be anything from tickets to a movie that they’ve been talking about time and time again, or a small gift, like a paperback book that features one of their favorite hobbies or interests.

If you’ve just started seeing someone and you aren’t confident that you want to acknowledge Valentine’s Day just yet, opt to celebrate the platonic love you have in your life instead, or spend the day showing yourself some love.

What’s your advice for anyone who feels pressure to have sex on Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day certainly has a lot of buildup and pressure. This pressure isn’t only to have sex – it’s to have the best sex. To alleviate this, I recommend:

  • Have an open conversation about it with your partner – and use situational comedy to your advantage because the idea that we are all supposed to eat loads of chocolate and steaks and then have cirque-du-soleil sex is ridiculous. Let them know that you’re feeling this societal pressure because they may be feeling it, too. As soon as you admit it, you can laugh about it and start fresh.
  • Don’t feel like you need to pull out all of the experimentation cards on Valentine’s Day. If you and your partner want to try out a new position or two, do it! However, if you’re not into anal or bondage, and you’ve never shown interest in either before, don’t feel like you need to pull out all of the stops. Feel free to stick to the tried-and-true and be OK with that, too.
  • Choose clothes that you feel confident and sexy in. The old saying carries some weight: When you look good, you feel good. Whether getting a brand-new outfit to wear on a night out on the town or purchasing that sexy set of lingerie you’ve been eyeing, wear something that makes you feel good.
  • And if you’re not feeling it, don’t force it! If you truly don’t feel like having sex on Valentine’s Day, you don’t have to! Decide to have sex tomorrow, next week, or whenever feels best for you. Plus, trust me: it will be a million times better when your heart is in it.

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