My sweet Valentine

Sexpert Sue McGarvie on love and romance

For Sue McGarvie, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to move love, romance and sex back to the top of every couple’s list.

McGarvie knows a thing or two about the subject. She has been a sex therapist since 1992 and is best known as the host of Sex with Sue, the popular TV and radio phone-in show.

With people’s busy lives, days can be hectic and too often intimacy isn’t on the schedule. The laundry and walking the dog can easily nudge sex off a couple’s to-do list, but McGarvie sees Feb 14 as a chance to change that.

“I think there should be a day a month when you celebrate your love,” says McGarvie. “Unfortunately, a day a year is what we get.”

She jokes that gay men might be a little different in the sense that sex is always fairly high on their list, but adds that a lot of couples, especially those that have been together for a while, can feel that sex has become repetitive.

She has been active on various media projects related to sexuality and women’s health over the past decade. Love and Romance is also the name of McGarvie’s latest project, an inviting sex and novelty store on Rideau St. It’s a place McGarvie affectionately describes as “a Toys R Us for grownups.” She’d like it to be fun, playful and definitely not a place “you have to slink into.”

The fun and welcoming approach she has taken with her store reflects McGarvie’s own feelings about romance. With Valentine’s Day in mind, McGarvie let Capital Xtra readers in on some of the love and romance secrets she has harvested over the years.

She describes the basis of romance – that funny feeling she calls the “squoogies,” what couples want, the importance of newness in sex, how to have relationships that last, taking time out for your partner and even what to do if you’re single and don’t want to be.



In her mind, romance is about intimacy, fun and doing things that are a little different and special.

“And you tend to do that by creating atmospheres that allow you to be together,” she explains. “Whether that is lighting a candle – because everyone looks better in candlelight – whether it’s having a massage – which tends to be a two-person activity, not a five-person activity. The games that I have are not naked Twister, you don’t play them with a swinging couple that you go with, they’re intimate (I guess you can play them with a swinging couple and I’d be okay with that, but it’s about intimacy).”



McGarvie own personal sense of romance comes from many of the traditional elements. Of course, she explains, all those elements are not only cultural. They are also personal. What’s more important for her is what’s universal about romance. Namely, intimacy.


“I call it the squoogies,” McGarvie explains somewhat elusively. “It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you see your partner and you go, ‘Oh yeah.’ The butterflies, the connection, the intimacy, whatever you call it. I just happen to call it the squoogies. That’s a name that I made up.”

She describes that feeling as the main element of her Love and Romance store.

” I didn’t want it too closely associated with wham-bam down and dirty kind of sex. So there are no adult videos, no adult magazines, no pictures of orifices, no peep-shows, not anything like that in my store,” McGarvie says.

By contrast, her store has a 30-foot bar that sells aphrodisiac tea. The shelves are stocked with every kind of flavoured lube you could imagine, but you’ll also find bubble bath and body oils.

Things McGarvie describes as “obviously sexual but that are at the same time obviously a celebration of romance.”



It’s easy to see that McGarvie’s shop is a place for couples. Interaction – with emphasis on the action – is the operative word and the interaction is hot, steamy and one on one.

“I think that everybody wants the same thing,” says McGarvie. “They want to connect, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual couples.”



McGarvie suggests taking the opportunity on Valentine’s Day to do something different.

“You could change your hair, pretend to have a French accent for the evening,” she suggests. “Something that makes it different and fun and puts the energy that you would normally put into your housekeeping or your work into your lovemaking and your partnership.”

McGarvie thinks that sex is really great when it’s new. She claims that newness is especially important for men. “I think they are genetically predisposed to be attracted to things that are new and what I suggest couples do is to take important moments to be hot, or exciting, to just take the time; prepare a nice evening and a nice dinner and a hot massage.”

Of course, with Valentine’s Day, there is always the danger of celebrating love for only one day of the year and McGarvie acknowledges that. “Life interferes,” she says. But she counters, there are other occasions when you have the opportunity to check in with your partner – Valentine’s is only the most significant.

McGarvie has always encouraged people to tell the rest of the world how hot they are and make love more often.

“It usually pays big dividends (in a relationship),” she explains. “As a sex therapist, I would be remiss if I didn’t believe that and try to promote that.”



Statistics aren’t available for gay couples because the research just hasn’t been done, but McGarvie is pretty confident based on her own experience working with gay couples and the data available on straight couples that romance has a huge effect on the longevity of relationships.

McGarvie says the study results are clear: “The couples who have date-nights, and who take time to check in with their relationship are the ones that see their 50th wedding anniversary.” And as far as she is concerned, couples are couples.

McGarvie adds that those who take time and invest in their relationship also benefit the people around them.

“Everyone who is happily together is a gift to everyone around them,” she says. “When you meet couples that are really together, you just feel good.”



Of course, not everyone is in a relationship and Valentine’s Day can be a tough time for people who are single. McGarvie’s advice is to market yourself. Feeling hot and sexy isn’t just for couples. How you feel about yourself makes a difference when you are meeting people too.

“If you’re single and you’re happy then great and Valentine’s Day shouldn’t really bug you,” McGarvie argues. “But if you’re single and you don’t want to be single, then what we need to do is to come up with ways to make you feel happy and erotic.”

McGarvie says the most important thing is to not sit around and wait for things to happen.

“When people come to me and say, ‘Look, I haven’t met the right person,’ I tell them it’s hard,” she explains. “But I also say, ‘Let’s get you out and meeting people’ because there is nothing better for your self-esteem than some positive attention.”

Read More About:
Love & Sex, Ottawa

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