First Dates Are Most Likely to Lead to Marriage

If you want to form a lasting relationship, it might feel like there’s a lot of pressure on that first date. But according to a new study by the dating site PlentyOfFish, you don’t need to do anything extravagant with someone for you two to have long-term potential. In fact, of all the first dates people can go on, the most popular among now-married couples are the simplest.

The study, which included 1,100 former PlentyOfFish users who are now married, found that more than 65 percent of them went out for a meal or apps on their first date with the person who is now their spouse. The second-most popular date was going for a walk, followed by coffee or drinks—all minimalistic activities that make your conversation the main event. And, according to psychotherapist Katherine Schafler, that’s what makes these dates so effective.

“Less is more when it comes to first dates,” she says. “The less complicated the interaction is, the more likely it is for a potential partnership to emerge because you’re not distracted, leaving you more able to focus on the other person, how you feel around them, and whether an attraction is building.”

While there’s something to be said for [cute date activities] (http://www.glamour.com/story/dates-bring-you-closer), you might want to save these for the second, third, or fourth dates, when you’ve already gotten to know each other a bit more. Why? “When you choose big activities for a first date, it’s possible you focus a little more on whether you like the activity as opposed to the person you’re doing the big activity with,” Schafler says.

 

Some Modern Signs Your Relationship Is Getting Serious

Sometimes the best relationship advice you can get is the acknowledgment that relationships are always changing. The big signs that the bond between you and your partner is getting serious—you leave stuff at his house, she plans a weekend away for the two of you—still hold true. But what about the little in-between moments, when you’re not sure whether something means nothing or everything? Decades ago, you’d give a girl your pin or letterman jacket, or add them to your speed dial. But nowadays we’re left relying on more subtle cues. These 13 actions and behaviors are pretty good, very modern signs that your relationship might be moving to the next level.

1. You’re saved in each other’s phones.
I’m the kind of person who saves every single number forever. It’s why my contacts list is a trash heap full of the parents of kids I used to babysit and I will text the wrong Emily on the first try nine times out of 10. But for a lot of people, putting a name to a number is a big step. It’s the first step toward commitment.

 

2. You give them your Netflix/HBO password.
This is intimate AF. Anyone with your password could give it to anyone else or, even worse, f-ck with your to-watch list.

 

3. You wait to watch a show with them, and vice versa.
Deciding to wait on watching the latest episode of Westworld because you’d rather spend time with a new partner is one thing. Deciding to wait until you can watch it with said partner is a whole other. You’re changing your viewing schedule—truly a commitment. The most important thing when you’ve reached this stage is to make sure it’s a two-way street. If you’re dutifully waiting to watch the latest OITNB until your girlfriend’s caught up but then she spoils the latest This Is Us for you, hell to the no.

 

4. Your love is on Instagram.
Oh, you use Instagram to store and share pictures of whatever you’re into that day, and if your new maybe-boyfriend is in the picture, well, that’s just how it goes? We call bullshit. If he’s ’gramming you, it means he doesn’t mind other girls assuming he’s taken. And if you’re ’gramming him, girl, you are showing off and you know it. Not that everything a woman does is about a guy or her relationship to a guy. But Instagram is for bragging. This is such a fact that it might as well be in the Terms of Use.

 

5. You watch porn together.
Ain’t nothing like the real thing, but if you and your partner are into porn, showing them what kind of random/freaky/hilarious/personal shit turns you on is actually super vulnerable and shows a real level of comfort between the two of you.

6. You’re dead serious about personality quizzes.
It’s not going to work out if, based on your Netflix/pizza topping/lipstick color preferences, one of you is destined to live in Fiji and the other in Belarus. Take it again. No, take it again and this time don’t say you want just plain cheese pizza, what is wrong with you? Oh my. This got serious.

 

7. Deleting dating apps.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found The One, but if you’ve stopped searching, it definitely means something. If you’re not in an exclusive relationship, there’s no reason not to keep Tinder-ing to your heart’s desire (or your crotch’s desire, whatever you want). But ask yourself: If you like the person you’ve been seeing, why are you sitting on your couch staring at your phone instead of sitting on your couch staring at them? And if you found out they were doing the same thing, lookin’ around for some stranger, how would you feel? And then swipe right. Adventure awaits.

 

8. Texting during the day.
If it’s not about when you’re meeting up next and just about your random thoughts, your relationship is fully A Thing.

 

9. Adding their family on social media.
First come the photo tags, then the inside jokes on the feed, and then suddenly you’re getting friend and message requests from her mom. Tread carefully. If you accept, her whole family’s going to be scrolling through your profile pictures. But if you decline, you might stop a good thing before it starts. Best to give it at least 24 hours between request and response to think it over, no matter the platform…though I guess there’s not much you can do if your Twitter or Insta aren’t locked. It happens!

 

10. You exchange phone passcodes.
My mom doesn’t even know my passcode, but mostly because I’m sure she’d accidentally delete all of my apps. When you give someone your passcode, it’s basically carte blanche to snoop. They say they won’t. But they might, and they probably will. And you trust them anyway!

 

11. It’s Facebook official.
Obviously, this is a big one. It might not seem like a milestone, per se, since it’s just about making the relationship public. But in a healthy relationship, going public means that you’re on really solid ground in private. Once it’s on Facebook, there’s no going back; randos from middle school will know about your relationship, and they might even notice when/if it ends. You’ll get comments and even questions about how you met, how long you’ve been together, etc. Y’all better be on the same page.

 

12. Making the other person your lock screen.
I read somewhere (OK, it was Tumblr) that the lock screen pictures of today are like the locket pictures of old: a way to keep a little reminder of a loved one with you at all times, for your eyes only yet prominently displayed, easily accessible, and always on hand. How friggin’ cute is that?

 

13. Sendin’ nudes.
Duh.

Some Signs of a Toxic Relationship with Your S.O.

Relationships can be full of playful dates, positive emotional growth, and a stream of sunsets and heart emojis. But unfortunately for many women, romantic relationships can also be major sources of negativity, stress, and a never-ending stream of drama. Even worse, a lot of the signs of a toxic relationships are tricky to spot, so people in one might not even be aware of it. “It’s easy to identify physical abuse but very difficult for a person in a toxic relationship to ‘hear’ abuse, especially if the victim was raised around negativity or criticism,” says Dr. Gloria Brame, award-winning sex therapist and best-selling author. “For them, toxic relationships are a norm. Learning the verbal/behavioral signs of an abusive/narcissistic personality is a critical learning skill for everyone who dates. It’s an issue I work on in therapy with depressing regularity.”

We asked experts to break down everyday relationship scenarios and tell us how they’re handled in a healthy relationship versus a toxic one. After all, identifying the problem is the first step toward doing something about it.

1. How they act when they meet your family

HEALTHY:

“A partner in a healthy relationship will see this as the glorious opportunity it is: A chance to get in good with the (possibly) future in-laws. They will prep for it, like they would if they were going in for an interview at their dream job,” says Emily Morse, doctor of human sexuality and host of the Sex With Emily podcast. “They will pepper you with questions beforehand, hoping to gather as much intel as possible: What is your sister’s husband like? What kind of gift should they bring for your parents? Do your folks like chocolate or are they more wine people?”

ADVERTISING

 

And when the day actually rolls around? “A healthy partner will be genuine, enthusiastic, and as interested in getting to know your loved ones as they were to get to know you. They will ask engaging questions, offer to help with the dishes, and treat you like the gem you are, reassuring your parents that you are in great hands,” says Morse.

TOXIC:

It may surprise you, but one of the best warning signs that you’re with a toxic partner is how they act the second you tell him or her you want everyone to meet—long before the IRL moment occurs. “A toxic partner is not worried about building a foundation with you and your kin. Instead of treating it like an opportunity or a symbol of trust, they will treat it like an unnecessary obligation,” says Morse. “From the moment you utter the words ‘My family would love to meet you,’ a toxic partner acts like you’ve just cordially invited him to a 24-hour shopping fest…on Black Friday…in a blizzard. They will take every chance they get to remind you what they’re giving up (‘I guess I’ll tell the gang that they’ll be one short for poker night, but whatever!’), not to mention how much you owe them for their act of generosity.

 

“A toxic lover takes zero interest in your family, choosing instead to spend the time on their phone, dozing off or complaining. They’ll answer your family’s questions with the enthusiasm of a fast food drive-thru worker, and ask no questions of their own. When the time comes to talk about you, they’ll do the opposite of building you up. Because nothing says ‘healthy relationship’ like telling your parents the story of when you got too drunk at an office party and he had to carry you up two whole flights of stairs.” In short, they’ll make a time as exciting as meeting the fam (or the peeps you consider your family) as treacherous as possible.

2. How you exchange text messages

HEALTHY:

Real talk, we all spend more time than is probably necessary texting our boo—and that’s OK! And yes, we also spend a decent amount of time getting into a riff or two via text—and that’s OK too. When things are going well, those SMS messages should reflect it. “They text you on a fairly predictable schedule and check their phones often enough that you can count on a text back even during busy times,” says Brame. Regular sexting can also be part of a healthy relationship. “They’re all hot and intense in text and when you hook up later, they are just as hot and intense about seeing you too!”

 

P.S. Research has found people who sext are more satisfied with their sext lives. Just saying.

TOXIC:

On the flip side, erratic texting patterns and negative, hurtful text content can be signs of a toxic relationship that isn’t on the right track. “In these kinds of relationships, you partner will] text when they feel like it, at random times, and more often than not, when they are bored or horny,” says Brame. “They don’t feel obligated to answer you until they ‘feel’ like it, which can be hours or days.” And regarding sexting? “They’re all hot and intense in text and when you hook up later, they’re more interested in gaming, drinking, or suddenly announce they’re going out with their friends.”

 

Since a lot of relationships blossom over early-stage texting, pay close attention to how the person’s texts and texting behavior makes you feel. “With a new relationship, you should feel like the person you are seeing is the one to check in, the one to ask about your day, the one to make plans,” advises Shallon Lester, author of dating memoir Exes and Ohs and YouTube sex and dating expert. Otherwise, if you feel like you’re always the one reaching out and showing interest in their lives, you may be unconsciously setting the foundation for an unbalanced relationship. If you feel this has been the norm for a while, you may be with someone who really isn’t ready to be in a caring, stable relationship. “Let them be super interested in you!”

3. How they act regarding your personal development

HEALTHY:

They support your dreams. And struggles. And #GirlBoss goals. “Healthy relationships promote the growth of yourselves as individuals and as a couple. You support each other’s interests even if you don’t share that interest. You actively explore things together as a couple that you both enjoy and add interest, fun, and vitality to your relationship,” says Megan Fleming, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City.

TOXIC:

“Toxic relationships are one’s in which a partner feels threatened or insecure about your hobbies and interests,” says Fleming. Remember that middle school crush who was furious when you beat them running the mile in gym? Like that, but on a much, much larger scale. “They might create drama whenever you choose to do something that doesn’t include them. They may implicitly or explicitly say you can’t see (a particular friend) or do (a particular thing). They make you choose between them and someone or something else. Ultimatums are a sign of a toxic relationship,” says Fleming.

4. How they act when they screw up

HEALTHY:

“Healthy relationships take responsibility for behavior doing 100 percent of their 50 precent,” says Fleming. “If you are in a healthy relationship, you and your partner take responsibility for your actions. Yes, sometimes we screw up and do things that hurt or disappoint our partner. Healthy relationships are those in which you both can own when you act badly and take effort to repair the connection.”

TOXIC:

Meanwhile, a stubborn reluctance to concede you’re at fault? You should take this kind of sign seriously that things might be off. “A sign of an unhealthy relationship is when your partner never admits [they are] wrong, doesn’t take responsibility for their actions or always needs to have the last word,” says Fleming.

5. How they act after a bad day at work

HEALTHY:

Just like there will be bumps in the road in your relationship, there will be crummy days when each partner has a rough time at work or school. “Everyone reacts differently to a bad day at work, no matter how healthy or toxic they may normally be,” says Morse. “The difference is in how they treat and behave with you. A healthy partner will be able to see that you are not the enemy, and will resist the urge to take their bad feelings out on you.”

If they choose to work out, take a walk, or read a book immediately after a not-so-stellar day, know that it may just be their way of coping, and it doesn’t mean they don’t want to share things with you. “They may not be ready to talk about it (now or ever), but they will certainly communicate that they’ve had a rough day and need a little space,” says Morse. “Whether they choose to share the details with you or not, they will eventually turn to you for comfort and will allow themselves to be comforted.”

TOXIC:

“A toxic lover will wield their bad day like a sword, lashing out at you with the slightest provocation. More likely than not, your partner will try to cope with their bad day through avoidant and toxic means: staying out all night, drinking, partying, or going off the grid completely,” says Morse. “If you live together and they do come home, they are not a person you want to be around. They may shut themselves in their room, refuse to talk to you or tell you what happened, and make you the clear enemy. How could they possibly open up to you about what happened? It becomes a matter of pride, and they would rather break up with you than let you see them in a vulnerable moment.”

 

6. How they act when you have different sexual appetites

HEALTHY:

Mismatched desire is a common, but oft-undiscussed, issue in relationships. “Healthy relationships accept that you both might inherently have different levels of libido, and you work together so that your needs for both connection and physical intimacy are met,” says Fleming. In short: “Each of you are stretching out of your comfort zone and personal preference to find that balance.” (For some help on finding that equilibrium, check out what you should do if your sex drive is different than your S.O.’s) And if a healthy intimate life means not having sex right now? “A quality dude or gal will love that you want to wait. They’ll respect that you value your personal worth,” adds Lester.

 

TOXIC:

“Toxic relationships are ones in which one party demands sex when their partner isn’t interested, and equally toxic is to withhold sex or to be in a sexless relationship—unless that’s an arrangement that’s what you both consensually want,” says Fleming. Different libidos in relationships are normal; different levels of respect are not.

7. How they act after a fight

HEALTHY:

All couples argue. In fact, it can even help improve your relationship and help you establish better communication skills. “A healthy relationship partner will approach the fight as exactly that: a partner. This person will make every effort to see both sides of the conflict, making an effort to listen to your perspective and share their own experience without hostility. Afterward, they will apologize for their own part in it and offer solutions for how the problem could be avoided in the future,” says Morse. Everyone gets angry sometimes, but when you’re in a healthy relationship, your better half will work hard to improve whatever issue is at hand, and reinforce the fact that they they believe in you as a couple and want to work things out.

 

TOXIC:

“Toxic relationship partners are not known for their conflict-resolution skills, as they are generally unable to see their own part in a fight. And since this person has never been at fault for anything in their entire life, they will most likely go back and forth between total denial and apathy, with random bursts of rage,” says Morse. Needless to say, it’s a recipe for making you feel pretty damn crummy about things— especially if your partner uses a fight as an opportunity to refuse to talk to you or as a chance to withhold sex, attention, or affection from you, keeping the control completely in their hands

Some Mistakes Women Make with Online Dating Profile Pictures

So you’re ready to get out there. You’ve joined eHarmony, set up your profile, and now you’re looking for pictures. You realize all of your recent pictures are selfies, with friends or even worse – with your ex.

You try to cut people off in the pics or blur their faces, hoping it’ll do. But you don’t get a lot of messages from relevant matches. What’s the deal?
People really do judge a book by its cover. When it comes to your online dating profile, your photos are the cover, so choose wisely.

I teamed up with DatingHeadShots.com to find the most common dating profile image mistakes and how you can fix them – using my own images as real life examples.

1. Cutting People Out / Group Shots

The problem: According to eHarmony, matches who received the least amount of communication were those who included a very narrow portrait photo, where it looked as if they had clearly cut out the person next to them. If you choose not to cut people out, it brings up a whole other issue. Men are forced to figure out who you are in the shot or they begin making assumptions about who those people are, and it can lead to them losing interest.

The solution: Full body image of just you by yourself. Men are visual creatures and they want to see all of you. Here I am at a cancer walk a few years back. It’s one of my rare full body shots, but I had to cut my dear friend out vs. a full body shot taken by DHS.

2. Using Filtered Photos

The problem: You decided to go through your Instagram to find some photos and you sure do love that Valencia filter. Thing is, a study by the University of Connecticut showed that men viewed women with enhanced photos as more attractive but less trustworthy.

The solution: Go with a shot that shows your face clearly and without the filters.
Here I am at a wedding a few years back with lots of filters vs. an above the waste shot without the filter.

3. Not Smiling in Your Photos

The problem: A study by the University of British Columbia revealed that men were most attracted to photos of smiling women. This isn’t a huge surprise. Men both online and offline look for cues that you are approachable and a smile gives them an indication that you are.

The solution: Leave the sultry looks off of your dating profile and smile in your photos.
Here’s my mean mug selfies vs. a close up shot of me smiling by DHS.

4. Not Showcasing Your Real Personal Style

The problem: Most of us are not taking pictures every day. We leave pictures for while we’re on vacation or on the beach and then we wonder why we’re not attracting the professional man.

If your pictures are suggestive, they’re going to attract a certain type of attention. If your pictures are you bumming on the beach or partying with your friends, they will attract a particular type of guy.

The solution: Dress to impress in your online dating profiles. If you’re not the jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, make sure your profile expresses that. Have your pictures reflect your personal style in all aspects of your life and the type of person and attention you are looking to attract. If you’re serious about finding love with the right man, make sure your pictures reflect it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so you might as well make it a good one.

Some Reason Men are More Distant in Relationships

Women immerse themselves in their romantic relationships, while men place their romantic partners on an equal but distant footing, according to research from Oxford University.

The study shows that, generally, women are more invested in their relationships than men and that their happiness and well-being is more dependent upon how things are going in their intimate relationships.

Is this a surprise to you? It’s not a surprise to me.

After all, who’s usually the one who recognizes when things in the relationship aren’t working too well? The woman. Who is it that typically seeks professional help for the relationship? The woman. Who is it that mostly spends time reading self-help books and going to seminars about relationships? The woman. But why is it this way?

Women are biologically wired as the nurturers. They’re the ones with the skills to anticipate the needs of their partners, take care of nurturing the relationship and do the problem solving when things have gone awry. Men are more biologically wired as the providers and protectors. It’s not that the relationship isn’t important to them; it’s just that they show it in different ways — by working hard, establishing a career, and maintaining an emotional distance.

You may ask yourself, “How can I change him? How can I make him more involved in this relationship?” I say, you shouldn’t — so don’t even try.

The simple fact is that men and women are different. 

They tend to have different benefits in relationships but they are both interested in intimacy. Young adult women tend to focus mostly on their need for connection. This manifests in having children, creating homes, and nurturing their intimate relationships. That’s not to say women don’t have careers. They do but most prioritize these connecting activities.

Most young adult males focus on their need for significance. They’re interested in making their way in the world and having an impact. This is not to say they don’t have relationships, start families, and create homes. They do, but their priority is typically focused on work.

This dynamic tends to shift in middle age as children leave home. Women believe they’ve invested and sacrificed for their family and now it’s their turn. They go back to school, change careers or develop their own businesses. At this same stage of life, men tend to realize their children are gone and they missed a lot. They’re tired of the rat race and feel ready for connection. So, in a lot of ways, men and women flip roles.

These differences make relationships interesting. Imagine if both of you focused on connection at the same time. You’d feel blissfully happy with each other … but nothing would get done. Similarly, if you are both primarily focused on significance, then you’d have financial success … but have little in the way of intimacy.

Recognize the differences. Embrace the differences. And appreciate what you both bring to your relationship (and don’t forget to tell each other of your appreciation). Allowing each person to embrace who they are and celebrating that will do the best job to increase the intimacy in your relationships.

Simple Ways to Raise Your Feminine Energy

You are a powerful, smart, and driven woman. You excel in your career, are a go-getter and a doer. You’ve honed in on your masculine energy to help take charge but you find yourself burned out, tired, and out of balance.

This is occurring because your feminine and masculine energies are out of balance. You see we all (men and women) need a balance of our feminine and masculine energy, but as career driven women, we often put our feminine on the backburner.

Why is feminine energy so important, especially in our love lives? It helps to ignite the attraction vibes that magnetize men and increases your clarity and confidence.

Being in your feminine is as easy as practicing your “CHARMS,” a powerful acronym I’ve created to help you raise your feminine energy.

C stands for CREATE.

Creativity fuels our feminine energy when we allow the creative process to simply let us be. To be creative is to let go of perfection and control because we are not attached to the final outcome. Our concern lies in our ability to express ourselves.

Practice being creative by creating something out of nothing or expressing yourself through art.

H stands for HAVING FUN.

A lot of the women I’ve spoken to want a FUN life, but when I ask them how they are having fun NOW I hear crickets!!

There is something magnetic about a woman who enjoys her life, has fun, laughs, and smiles. Her energy is contagious and you want to be around her, you want to enjoy life with her.

A stands for ALLOWING.

A woman utilizing her feminine energy has the ability to allow others in, to receive from others. She doesn’t need to do everything on her own. She knows when to ask for help and when to lean back and allow others to do for her.

Look for times at work, home, and with loved ones where you can allow and ask for help.

R stands for RELAX.

Relaxing is all about letting go and being in the present moment. Not allowing the to-do lists, the emails or notifications get in the way of simply being. When we are able to relax and be present, we are able to connect to everything around us in a much more profound way.

From meditation to massages, pick your favorite way to relax and do it for 30 minutes today.

M stands for MOVE.

Movement is about creating fluidity between your mind and body. It allows you to stay connected to your body and to clear your mind. It also serves our need to stay healthy.

Biologically speaking men are attracted to a healthy woman that they can procreate with. Don’t take this as a need to be slim and fit, it’s a need to be healthy enough to run around and ‘practice’ procreating, even if you are past that part of your life.

S stands for SHARE.

Sharing is where vulnerability begins. By sharing our truths and ourselves in an authentic way, your feminine energy distresses, lets go, and is able to sustain.

By practicing sharing with other women in your life, you will nurture your femininity and sharing with men will become easier for you.

In practicing your CHARMS, your intention is to:

  1. See how you show up and how you feel when you commit to self-care and accountability.
  2. Identify the things that make you feel more feminine, clear and free, so that you can add them into your regular routine.
  3. Figure out where you get stuck and which parts you struggle with so that you can continue to work on that aspect of your life

Woman Needs a Weekend to Herself

Unlike most college-aged kiddos, my sights were never set on studying abroad. I never dabbled with the idea of taking time off to backpack around Europe or do a gap year in Asia to find my zen. Instead, I was that overly high-strung type-A personality that began saving to move to New York from North Carolina from age 15, worked overtime to graduate early from college and made the 800-mile journey sans job or apartment. I knew where I wanted to build my life and that I wanted to be a writer, so I didn’t consider a passport as necessary as my metro card.

I stayed on the straight-and-narrow path of becoming an established writer until an emotionally traumatic breakup with a guy 8 years my senior threw me for a loop. I had been living in New York for just over two years, and while everything was still glimmering with hope and possibility, my heart was broken from so many failed promises. It was after a night of restless sleep and wrestling with mascara-stained pillow cases that I remembered the map of the world that I’ve hung in every apartment I’ve ever rented. Just like there was so much love I had left to experience, there was so much of the world I’d never stepped on.

I decided it was time to take a trip, all by myself.

And though my first voyage was domestic – to Puerto Rico – my yearly tradition of exploring the world independently has taken me from Cancun, Mexico to London and many more destinations. I’m still holding out for that magical man, wherever he might be, but in the meantime, I’m working on exercising my passport and thus, my world perspective by traveling as much as I can. If you’ve considered taking the first step on a solo trip, let me be the first to tell you: every woman (and every man, for the matter), should travel alone, at least once or as often as they can.

Here are some reasons why:

You make your own rules – and friends.
When I visited London, I badly wanted to shop for antiques in the historic, colorful streets of Notting Hill, so I hopped on the tube and navigated my way through the various connections. After finding an old necklace to call my own, I settled in at a cafe for some reading and coffee, and was greeted by a group of friends who wondered where I was from. And when I did that first trip by myself to Puerto Rico, a threesome of local medical students invited me to drink with them, telling me all of their stories from the island. And when I was in Mexico, meeting friendly strangers was never difficult, especially when you share an affinity for snorkeling or parasailing. When you take a weekend by yourself, you get to call the shots and build your own adventure. There are no time constraints and no deadlines to meet – you get to experience the culture and meet those who create it, without worrying about anyone else’s opinions.

You can splurge on what means the most to you.
I try my best to save costs whenever I travel anywhere, thinking the more I save, the more places I can check off my bucket list. But there are certain amenities and experiences that I want to have in every region I visit, and to me – the keeper of my wallet and financial decisions as a single woman – those things are worth the cost. I often upgrade my flight for a small fee (or with the help of a travel credit card) to sit near the front of planes so I’m last on and first off. I always bring back a souvenir that’s locally made and can be proudly displayed in my home. And I dine at restaurants that are highly recommended. While in Mexico, I enjoyed a luxe meal at Porfirio’s, where the guac had grasshoppers and the churros were brought out on a mini-truck to the table. And yes, while the decor was incredibly romantic, with rose petals floating in fountains, I didn’t feel sad to be alone. I felt thankful to have the experience and the delectable food in my tummy.

It builds your confidence.
Likely my favorite part of solo travel isn’t even how I feel when I arrive, but when I leave. My last night, as I go to bed with the door open in Mexico, letting the waves rock me to sleep or overlook the skyline in London, in awe of it’s charm, I think of how far I’ve come as a person, as a woman, as a professional. The legs that get me to these destinations are my own, the journeys I go on are from my own savings account and doing. The dreams that I’ve made come true are due to my own hard work and spirit. The sense of accomplishment – and gratitude – is enormous when I pack my bags and look back on the hotel room one last time before hitching a ride to New York. It’s a reminder that while I might be single and I may crave a partner to share these experiences with, I’m damn proud of what I’ve created, without any man, any person, any help, at all.

And though he will come one of these fine, fine days, I hope I always have at least a weekend… just to myself.

If S.O. Started Saying I Love You Too Soon

When your S.O. starts saying “I love you” too soon for comfort, it can throw you a serious curveball. When your relationship has been going smoothly for awhile, it’s natural to assume the L-bomb is going to get dropped at some point. But when you’re not ready to meet them halfway, how are you supposed to react?

If you know your relationship is more of a casual thing for you, it makes sense to cut bait and move on before your respective feelings get any more mismatched. But if you actually like your S.O. (despite their apparent inability to read the dang room), things can get a little more complicated.

“It’s difficult because, especially in the early stages of a relationship, the pacing and timing is really critical,” says relationship psychologist Karin Anderson, Ph.D. “It’s so much easier and less awkward if you’re on the same tempo.”

While it’s tempting to pretend you didn’t hear it if your date says the L-word before you’re there, Anderson says it’s really better to acknowledge it right away. Jocelyn Charnas, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan, agrees. “You have to look at it this way: If you’re going to be in a relationship with someone, you have to be able to have difficult conversations with them.”

Anderson recommends trying something like, “That feels so great to hear and I’m really excited about this relationship too. I just want to keep things moving and keep building our momentum.” It’s also a good idea to throw in something like, “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m crazy about you and so excited about our future,” just to clarify where you’re coming from.

Whatever you do, don’t say “I love you” back if you don’t actually mean it. “If you do and you don’t mean it, you’re introducing dishonesty into your relationship,” Anderson says. “To outright lie is a horrible idea.”

Of course, your S.O. is going to want to hear those three little words back at some point—something that becomes painfully obvious when they keep saying them to you. How much time do you have before you need to make a move? Charnas says there’s no set timeframe for this, but it’s a good idea to take stock of your own feelings and why this particular “I love you” made you feel uncomfortable. It could be that it feels inauthentic—maybe your S.O. said it after only a month of dating, which makes you question whether those feelings are for real.

But it also may simply be that you’re moving at a different pace and express yourself emotionally in a different way. “That might make somebody more inclined to say it earlier, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she says. It just might feel a little awkward for a bit.

If you feel like things are solid otherwise, Anderson says you shouldn’t feel pressure to cave and start saying “I love you” too soon for your liking. “A new person shows up in your life and they’re suddenly supposed to be your everything…that doesn’t honor the rest of your life,” she says. “You can rush a good thing. Take your time.”

 

Get Out of A Relationship When You Feel Trapped

Relationships are meant to provide a sense of security, comfort, and companionship, though this hasn’t been the case for Reddit user, beautyinmel. She took to the blog in this post to seek advice about feeling trapped in her relationship with her partner of 7 years. She explains, “He is very possessive and obsessive. Throughout high school, I wasn’t allowed to go out with my girlfriends without letting him know; he comes over every Saturday from morning until late night so he can be with me all day and that continued until now.” She goes on, “I feel very very suffocated in this relationship. He likes being in control and I feel like I’m obligated to tell him/bring him anywhere and anything that I do.”

As if a relationship this controlling, unhealthy, and emotionally abusive isn’t difficult enough, her mother is also a steady source of pressure keeping her from ending it. She explains, “[My SO] gave me a promise ring in front of my parents and my mother accepted the ring before I could even say anything.” And once she finally broke up with him, he told her mother—who then called her repeatedly to tell her she was making a “the biggest mistake of [her] life.” And she has done this before. “She did the same before and she actually fell ill and I went back to him with guilt.”

So, what are beautyinmel‘s options? Here’s what Reddit users had to say:

“[Your mother] should have protected you, and instead she has essentially enabled your abuser. I suggest that you cut the both of them out of your life and talk to your campus health centre about what your options for counseling are. Your adult self has literally never known a life without your abuser being a part of it – it makes sense that this is insanely difficult to break free from.” — asymmetrical_sally

“You’re going to have to be tough on your mother. Every time she talks about him just say ‘I am not discussing (ex) with you’ then change the subject. If she tries to go back to talking about (ex) then leave or hang up and block contact for a day.” — Panda_Pandamonium

“Break up with him regardless of your mothers wishes. She can’t control your love life and she shouldn’t. I would advice you to break up over text, because with him being manipulative, there is always a risk he talks you back into staying with him, when you do it in person – usually I don’t think it’s fair to break up over text, but you should be selfish in your situation.” — Illkickyourmom

“You say he refused to accept the break up. But that’s not how break ups work. Break ups are unilateral by nature, they aren’t agreements both sides come to, or negotiations where one side has veto power. Once any party in a relationship decides it’s over, it’s fucking over. No matter who accepts or doesn’t accept it. Repeat this fact if questioned, block communication from your ex (or filter it so that you have records), tell him to stop contacting you otherwise you will consider it harassment and seek appropriate recourse, then follow through.” — illinoiscentralst

“Notice how he got rid of the people in your life that would support you if you two broke up, and kept the people that wanted you to stay together.” — kayina

“If you have any friends you can confide in about this I’d suggest doing that as well. Relationships that long term, especially controlling ones, can be hard to extricate yourself from at the best of times and if you can’t rely on your family to be your support network you gotta find it somewhere else.” — Kweevs

“Stay strong. Keep reminding your mother that no adult should feel tied to a decision they made at age 13. Keep reminding yourself.” — MrsKravitz

Bottom line: There is no easy way out of an abusive relationship, or recovering from a damaged relationship with a mother. But as these Reddit users suggest, finding the strength to remove yourself from these unhealthy situations and surrounding yourself with supportive people are the best (and most necessary) actions you can take.

 

Your S.O. Through Tough Times

Most relationships start out pretty great: You’re happy together, you complement each other, and your lives are going really well…until, suddenly, tough times hit.

Maybe your partner has a sick family member or is dealing with their own illness, or maybe they were recently laid off from their job. Whatever the reason, grappling with those kinds of upsetting life events can be a BFD for a relationship, especially if it’s one that has never been tested.

So, what are you supposed to do? Licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago, says it’s important to remember that you’re in this together. “When someone we love is hurting, it hurts us too,” he says. “Caring about someone means that we become invested in their well-being. When they are going through a tough time, we want to be there with them, and it can cause us to deal with similar issues of loss ourselves.”

Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist Joseph Cilona, Psy.D., agrees, noting that it can be “very challenging” to help your S.O. through tough times. “Feelings of frustration around seeing a loved one struggle and feelings of helplessness are not uncommon,” he says.

Jared DeFife, Ph.D., a psychologist and relationship counselor in Atlanta, says that it can be tempting to try to brush things off or see it as your partner’s issue, but that won’t help anything.

Unfortunately, go-to’s like “everything will be fine!” don’t quite work in these kinds of situations, but DeFife says it’s perfectly OK to say that you have no idea what to say or how to make things better. “In fact, it’s encouraged,” he says. Listening is actually underrated, DeFife says, and switching into “fix-it” mode can bypass what your partner may really need, i.e., someone to talk to and a shoulder to cry on.

Cilona says that even just being there can help. “One of the most challenging aspects of facing serious stressors, challenges, and problems can be feeling alone,” he says. “The knowledge that there is support available if needed and someone that cares and understands the difficulties in and of itself can be extremely helpful.”

And while it may seem obvious, Klow says sometimes the best thing you can do is tell your S.O. that you’re there for them and you’ll get through this together. If your partner wants to talk it out, it’s important to listen. Klow also recommends sharing stories of similar losses you’ve suffered (if you have them—if not, just listen). And, while you shouldn’t necessarily try to cheer them up, try to help them find a perspective and provide reassurance.

Cilona notes that everyone deals with stress differently, so it’s a good idea to ask your partner what you can do to help, and to do it often. “One of the best ways to help is to be direct and ask specifically and frequently what helps and what doesn’t,” he says.

It’s also important to keep in mind that what helps you get through a tough time may not work for your S.O. “You may love talking things out, but your partner may need space to process in their head,” DeFife says. “Or they might feel better socializing the night away, even if being around others during a time of stress sounds like a total nightmare to you.”

Whatever it is, repeatedly remind your partner that you’re there for them and that you’ll get through this together—and you will