The gift of love

WHETHER you're a secret admirer who's desperate to impress or simply trying to indulge your loved one, February 14 is officially the day to show you care.

WHETHER you're a secret admirer who's desperate to impress or simply trying to indulge your loved one, February 14 is officially the day to show you care. But it's not all hearts and flowers, as GABRIELLE FAGAN reports.

With Valentine's Day soon upon us, are you ready to turn your thoughts to love? Or does the thought of such a publicly romantic occasion provoke a pang of worry because you realise your love life is not all you might desire?

If the latter's the case you're not alone. Around one in five of us suffers from a lack of lust.

Yet many couples probably suffer unnecessarily. By addressing some of the common causes for that limp libido, they could reclaim the desire for passion and set their relationship on the road to recovery.

Toni Belfield, director of information for the Family Planning Association, said: "People are often not aware that sexual desire is affected by so many lifestyle issues such as stress, tiredness, worry about work, money or perhaps the fear of getting pregnant. All those things affect our mood and energy levels, making arousal much more difficult."

Men and women's attitudes to sex can also vary. A recent study found that 60per cent of women believe kissing is more important and fulfilling than sex.

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Toni agreed: "Sex is about talking, touching, being affectionate and supportive to your partner. All those things carried out throughout the year mean so much more than a bouquet of flowers or a bit of attention confined to one day."

So as well as buying a gift this Valentine's to spice up your love life, check out ways to keep your libido healthy - that could be the best present for you and your partner.

:: Sharing the same sex drive as your partner is rare. Every couple will experience high or low phases, so avoid blaming your partner.

:: Passion often wanes after childbirth due to tiredness, stress and fluctuating hormone levels and it can also lessen during the menopause. After both events it should slowly return.

:: If your desire for sex used to be higher - or has completely diminished - you may need to address the problem with your partner or seek professional help such as counselling.

:: FOR HER

If her iPod's her new best friend, she'll love Selfridges' red mini iPod case with heart cut-out, £8.95.

Slaves to style will appreciate a couple of cute additions to their wardrobe. Try River Island's fabulous red leather belt, £19.99, or Reger by Janet Reger's sexy marabou kitten heel slippers, £12, from Debenhams.

Memorise a few poems on the big day and you'll be in her good books - romantic bookworms will devour Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy, £9.74, from Love Reading (www.lovereading.co.uk).

:: FOR HIM

If he's your Superman, tell him what you really think with fun Super Lover key ring, £2.50 from Marks and Spencer. Or for a subtle touch, opt for Next's embroidered heart socks, £3.99, to provoke a smile every time he ties his shoes.

Speaking of underwear, novelty pants have gone all sophisticated. Indulge his undies drawer with some Thomas Nash silk boxers with heart print, £13, from Debenhams.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach so invest in John Lewis' sugar cookie mix, £6.

:: FOR BOTH OF US

Anonymity is sure to set hearts racing on Valentine's Day. Leave the card writing to Lover's Post (www.lovers-post.com). For £2.99, their team of Cupids will write the address in their own handwriting and post the card from Lover in Wiltshire so that it receives a 'Lover' postmark.

For a touch of spice flick through The Body Shop's Sensual massage book, £3.50, or swap Love Tokens, £9.95 from Firebox (www.firebox.com); each are stamped with a loving but light-hearted pledge.

Make your love sizzle in the sky with heart-shaped sparklers, £4.99 from I Want One Of Those (www.iwantoneofthose.com)

:: FOR HER

Practical Bridget Jones-style pants go out of the window for Valentine's Day. Treat her to lavish lingerie from Odille by Oasis Valentine's Day Collection. The Annabella Rose bra, £20 and matching G-string, £10 are sure to impress.

Chocoholics' eyes will light up at the sight of Prestat's mouth-watering chocolates in a handmade pink and gold heart box, £25, from Woolworths.

Or set her heart fluttering with Moschino Couture's fragrance with heart motif, priced £38 for 50ml EDT (stockists 01273 408 800).

:: FOR HIM

Inject some true romance into your love life with Ralph Lauren's fresh woody fragrance for men - the 50ml Romance EDT Spray is £29.99 from The Perfume Shop.

Keep him looking fine and dandy with some luxury additions to his fashion repertoire. A natty Strellson pink fine striped tie, £35, from House of Fraser is sure to go down a storm. Or for romantic walks in the country he'll love Iroco's pure Scottish cashmere woven scarf, available in red or gold for £35.10, from www.iroco.co.uk or call 0870 608 0852.

Make sure he has somewhere to jot down his loving thoughts all day long with a sterling silver Doodle Card, £35, from Links of London (www.linksoflondon.com).

:: FOR BOTH OF US

If a romantic night in is on the cards, pop a bottle of bubbly to start the proceedings - pink, of course. Selfridges has a limited edition Laurent Perrier Rose gift tin, £43.99, with two accompanying red heart-shaped leather coasters.

For the ultimate romantic escape to paradise, look no further than your bathroom. The deluxe Lover's Spa Kit, £24.95, contains all you need for a pampering session, available from Shop Box UK (www.shopboxuk.com).

And for a sweet you definitely can't eat, the sterling silver "I Love You" love heart from www.55max.com is a beautiful keepsake for £25, all boxed and wrapped to give to your very own sweetheart.

:: FOR HER

If you're planning to pop the question, or want the ultimate jaw-dropping gift for her, combine flowers and diamonds with the Marry Me rose from Kenneth Turner's Rocks and Roses. The Grand Prix rose costs £5 and Boodles diamonds start at £1,000 and go up to a whopping £1 million! Call 01442 838 181 or visit www.kennethturner.com.

Other gems for the jewellery box include Hot Diamonds heart pendant, £70, available from www.hotdiamonds.co.uk or Hugo Boss' stunning steel bangle watch, £255 (stockists - 01428 656 822).

:: FOR HIM

Ensure your man sparkles on your big night out with Thomas Pink's heart cufflinks, £65, from www.thomaspink.co.uk. And to guarantee he has no excuses to be late for your date, indulge him with a stunning D&G logoside chronograph watch with polished steel case, £160 from Goldsmiths (0800 849 5051)

No man can resist a gadget to play with and the ultra sleek Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200 digital camera, £205.99, will capture all those special moments together, available from Amazon (www.amazon.co.uk)

:: FOR YOU BOTH

Staying in is officially the new going out and the Ultimate Romantic Love Hamper, £74.99 from Valentines Gift, has all the trimmings (www.valentinesgift.co.uk).

If you think you make a picture-perfect couple, commission a funky portrait of your happy union. Simply send in a photo, choose a style and You Are Art create a lasting image for your wall. Prices start at £270, visit www.youareart.co.uk or call 020 7384 1113.

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