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    How to Have a Better Relationship, According to Your Enneagram

    Let’s be real: Relationships can be complicated. The good news? They don’t have to be. Thanks to the Enneagram, we can show up as our best and most authentic selves in our relationships while better understanding ourselves and our other halves, no matter how different they are. And the result is deeper connection, mutual respect, and empathy. Grab your partner and read on to learn the strengths, differences, and motivations of each Enneagram type and find out where you fit. 

    Type Ones are great in relationships because they always have a sense of their priorities. It’s rare you’ll meet a Type One who doesn’t have a grasp on what it is they want in a relationship and where you fall in line with their other duties and identities. They’re also known for being faithful, helpful, and dedicated in relationships, meaning you can expect them to be all-in. 
    On the other side, Ones are known for being perfectionists, which can mean they’re critical and have overly high expectations of a partner. Type Ones should be aware of their expectations and work on finding a medium with their partner. Instead of expecting your partner to have the dishes done when you get home (without asking first) or wondering why they haven’t asked about your weekend plans yet, ask for what you want. I know, this goes against basically everything in your nature as a Type One, but unless your partner can read minds (we’re all jealous), there’s no way for them to know what you want and, in turn, meet your expectations. 

    The Helper is all about doing what they can for their loved ones. They know how to make you feel loved and appreciated, and they’re great at validating the feelings of others (even if it means doubting their own). 
    Because Type Twos are so focused on what the other person wants or needs, they often struggle to get their own needs met in a relationship. Instead of worrying about what your partner wants for dinner or how they’re feeling after a fight, ask for what you need. If your feelings were hurt or you feel like they’re not taking your ideas into consideration, this is your chance to tell them how you feel and exactly how they can support you too. A relationship goes both ways, and because a Two is so focused on their partner, they often forget to prioritize their needs too. 
    Twos can also be possessive at times, causing them to show an excess of love to their partner in an attempt to woo them or keep them in their lives. Talk to your partner about how they personally want to feel love (might we suggest the Love Languages test?) so you can give them exactly what they want too.

    If you’re familiar with Love Languages, Threes almost always feel loved through words of affirmation. They like knowing their partner is proud of their achievements, whether it’s something big, such as a promotion at work, or small, like finding the best new restaurant for date nights. Threes love to feel appreciated, and because of this, they enjoy giving to their partner too. 
    Because Threes put so much of their worth into their career, they often bring that into relationships. Talking about work over dinner, being absentminded when you’re together, and putting your work-related stress onto your partner can make your partner feel like they’re not as important to you as your career. To combat this, create work-free times with your partner. Much like some of us are with our cell phones (guilty), Threes can often be that way about their career. Give yourself two hours when you’re out to dinner or just catching up on Bridgerton where you occupy yourself with your partner. No work, all play. 

    Fours are known for being creative, but in relationships, they are playful, fun, and spirited. They are open to new experiences and love getting to share their creativity and passion with someone else. They are typically emotional and have a strong idea of who they are. In relationships, this means they’re romantic and intuitive. They love sending love notes, cards, and gifts to their loved ones, and they feel loved when their partner understands and compliments their self-expression (such as their art!). 
    In a relationship, a Four can be a little overbearing at times. They can be moody and have a hard time separating their emotions from their day-to-day lives. As a Four, it is important to remind your partner that they aren’t to blame for your emotions. Fours do not like being called overdramatic or being told they’re overreacting in a situation; therefore, it’s important to talk with your partner about your emotions instead of closing them off. You don’t have to be alone with your feelings!

    Fives love to approach situations with data on hand. They’re natural teachers who observe their surroundings and analyze situations deeply before committing or speaking up. Unlike Fours, they take time alone to process and understand their emotions before acting on them, which can make a partner think they’re uninterested or uninterrupted by a conflict (which isn’t usually the case). They have a thirst for knowledge and love to learn, making them a great companion for intellectual dates, such as going to new exhibitions, museums, libraries, and events in your city. 
    In their quest for knowledge, Fives can seem somewhat withdrawn or even contentious or irritated with a partner. While they are generally introverted and prefer to stay in, they can get frustrated when a partner always wants to pull them out of their comfort zone. Similar to Type Three, create times with your partner to discuss your lives without judgment. Your partner wants to know what you’re learning and what is interesting to you at the moment, so don’t be afraid to geek out about your latest project. They love that side of you too!

    We all know Sixes are all about commitment, making them perfect for long-term relationships. They’re loyal and feel content knowing their relationships are safe and secure. They can be introverted and extroverted, so they’re easy to open up to but also to have fun with. Helping others is important to a Six, and they feel irresponsible when they think they haven’t fulfilled that duty. They are also independent, so they’re able to do their own thing once in a while without worrying about their partner.
    Sixes are some of the most trustworthy people; however, they’re not quick to trust others themselves. This can make them seem self-conscious, nervous, and even defensive in relationships where the other person doesn’t feel trusted or accepted. Trusting another person is hard at first, but it takes being confident in yourself and your relationship to get you there. Spend some time every day focusing on building up your own self-confidence. You can’t be the best version of yourself with a partner if you’re constantly worrying about how you look or if they still like you (you look great, and, yes, they do!). Then, start building trust by allowing yourself to be vulnerable at times. Open up to your partner about your insecurities in the relationship, and discuss from there.

    The adventurers of the Enneagram, Sevens are all about a party. They’re upbeat and positive, knowing how to find the good in most situations. They almost always seem happy and carefree, which can sometimes seem stressful to a partner who’s another type. 
    Although Sevens are the life of the party, they can also seem narcissistic and distracted in relationships. They have a short attention span, which is great for having fun but stressful for discussing issues in a relationship. We know it’s hard, but Sevens, you have to slow down. Allow your partner to get serious every once in a while. Being an optimist doesn’t have to mean you never discuss negativity or the stress and anxiety each other goes through. However, make sure you’re letting your partner speak up. While they certainly love your center-of-attention personality, they also want to feel understood and heard too.

    Eights are confident and outgoing, but this can also manifest itself as arrogance and competition. They are natural leaders who view life’s challenges as exciting, and they’re never afraid of conflict. When issues arise in a relationship, they’re the first to be honest and ready to discuss what’s going on with their partner. 
    A reminder to Eights: It’s OK to show your vulnerable side. Eights feel like they have to have everything together all the time, and they can’t share the tender side of themselves without getting angry or frustrated first. To make this easier, practice active listening with your partner. No more trying to come up with a response before the other person is even finished (as an Eight, I totally understand this!). Listen to your partner as they speak, and empathize with whatever they’re going through, no matter how big or small it may seem to you. You’ll be able to relate to them on a deeper level while also prioritizing some quality time.

    Nines can often be mistyped as Twos because they are overly accommodating in relationships and can be people-pleasers. However, what makes them different from Twos is their drive to keep harmony and peace in their relationships. Known as the peacemakers, they are active listeners and sensitive to other people’s emotions. 
    Nines will do anything to avoid conflict, which can sometimes cause situations to never reach a solution (the opposite of Eights!). Instead of your usual, speak up about what’s going on with you and your partner. Whether it’s about your sex life, someone forgetting to take out the trash, or something bigger, be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling and what’s going on. Remember that not all conflict has to be disruptive; there is such a thing as productive conflict. 

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    17 Unromantic Signs This Person Might Be ‘The One’

    Everything from the classic love affair in Pride and Prejudice to the will-they-or-won’t-they drama of Ross and Rachel teaches us that love is supposed to be extraordinary, make it impossible to sleep or eat, and always ends with a “happily ever after.” As much as rom-coms and the Twilight Saga would have us believe, romance is not actually always about flowers and love poems or grand gestures and public declarations when you find “the one.”
    In real life, the rom-com doesn’t end at the “I do” scene, but it keeps going: through paying bills and tax season, through toddlers and newborns preventing your sleep for days, and through terrifying health scares, boring daily chores, and deaths of the people you love.
    The one you choose to spend forever with is not just your personal romantic comedy—it’s the most important interview of your life. A happy life is about more than love letters and PDA, so you better make sure there’s more to your relationship too. Here are 17 signs the person you’re with might be “the one” that have absolutely nothing to do with butterflies, grand gestures, or romance.

    1. You don’t have to pretend to be interested in them or wish they would be more interested in you
    It’s likely that you and your partner will have many different interests—in fact, you should, or else dating another you would just be boring! You may not always be interested in their passion or hobbies, but you’ll want to learn more because you know how much it matters to them, and you’ll genuinely want to be able to share what they love. You also won’t have to pretend you don’t love broadway musicals as much as you actually do or feel like you can never talk about the latest fashion trends that you know your partner couldn’t care less about—they’ll want to love everything you love and talk about everything you want to talk about.

    2. Errands are kind of… fun
    Going to the grocery store, picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy, and cleaning the house are all part of the mundane routine we have to keep up with through the rest of our lives (sounds depressing, doesn’t it?). But when you do it together, there’s something inherently fun and enjoyable about the tasks that are usually mundane and tedious. Something about your partner makes even the boring feel fun and the average seem exciting.

    3. You don’t have to think twice about asking them for help
    Whether it’s to pick you up from the airport, unclog your drain, or give you advice on a problem you need their perspective on, you don’t have to think about asking your partner for help—you just do it. You trust their opinion, their advice, and their desire to care for you without having to question it for a minute.

    Source: @jessiebbernhardt

    4. They’ll pick up your slack without being asked
    Maybe you came home to your clean laundry that they just threw in with a load of theirs or they bought you a new face serum from CVS when you mentioned you ran out a couple of days ago. It’s more than just the household chores the two of you divide up—it’s the little things they don’t have to do but do just to make your life a little easier and your day a little better.

    5. You can share annoyance, anger, and doubt without worrying about their reaction
    There are absolutely no more deal breakers, and you know it—you can be in a horrible mood without feeling like they’ll think less of you or not want to be around you, and you know they’ll be supportive of your feelings before being defensive of their own if you experience any doubts along the way. You can be more honest with them than you’ve ever been because bigger than anything you’ll ever say or do, you both have a shared understanding that you’re in this life together.

    6. You both have your own thing
    Whether it’s Bachelor Mondays with the girls, painting classes, or hiking trips a couple times a year, you’re both supportive of the other pursuing their own interests and having their own time alone. Time apart doesn’t make either of you insecure, and you should feel like your partner supports you pursuing your passions over their own needs. Plus, you’ll be so excited to tell them about your time apart, whether it’s to rehash the latest gossip between your friends or what you learned in painting class (remember #1?).

    Source: Ron Lach | Pexels

    7. They’ll ask about your day every day
    Perhaps one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to be with someone who will ask about your day every day and—wait for it—actually want to hear about it. If the first thing they do when they get home or the first thing they ask when they call is “how was your day?” every single day, you’ve found one of the good ones. Trust me.

    8. You can look at them and, for no reason at all, they make you laugh
    The best friendships are the ones that make you silly for no reason at all—where you just can’t stop laughing, right? If you’re going to spend your life with someone, it better be the best friendship you’ve ever had. If your partner brings out your silliest self and can make you laugh at nothing, you know they’re going to keep you laughing when things get hard, boring, or mundane. Life should be about enjoyment—make a lifelong commitment with someone who brings out the most fun in you.

    9. Bodily functions don’t make you blink
    You should be able to complain about your heavy flow or let out an *accidental* bodily function post-Taco Bell without it feeling like the end of the world. In fact, when you start doing gross things like shave their back or have them pop your pimples (it gets real) and you’re still just as turned on by each other as ever, that’s when you know.

    10. You can talk openly about money
    Besides just being a crucial conversation to have with the person you’re going to be spending your life with, if you’re able to talk about such a tough topic, it’s a good sign that you trust each other. While nothing is less sexy than the money talk (except maybe shaving that back hair), if you can share your financial past, goals, and current habits openly and honestly and you two share financial values similar enough that you don’t go into anaphylactic shock when you hear about theirs, you probably have a pretty strong foundation.

    Source: Ron Lach | Pexels

    11. They call you out when you need to be called out
    “The One” will be the person who is fully dedicated to helping you live your fullest, best, happiest life. This means that they will check you on your destructive habits and hold you accountable when no one else would. They’ll be honest with you—for the sake of making you better, not for the sake of putting you down. They’ll also stand by you, encourage you, and support you when you’re working through issues or going through hard times without any judgment.

    12. Your PDA is less PDA-y
    You don’t necessarily need to go make out on a park bench like you’re teenagers or feel the need to post collages on Instagram with paragraph-long captions about your oh-so-perfect relationship to celebrate every monthiversary. Instead of overt PDA, you display affection by mere accident—exchanging smirks across the room or holding hands under the table. Instead of the public make outs, fondling, or displaying your love all over social media, you publicly tease each other, brag about each other’s accomplishments, and maybe steal a kiss or hug when you don’t think anyone is looking.

    Source: @sassyredlipstick

    13. Date nights out are great, but you have the most fun at home
    When you can sneak away for a night out, of course it’s fun to dress up and go somewhere new or exciting. But if we’re being honest and if we’ve found The One, the most fun “date nights” are sitting at home with a bottle of Trader Joe’s wine, laughing at The Office, talking for hours, or playing the same card game—again. The things that would sound boring to anyone else are the things you find yourself preferring over those fancy dates.
    Anyone can get in the mood for romance when fancy clothing and candlelight are involved, but when it’s just the two of you, with sweatpants and take-out, and it’s somehow the best night ever, you know you could do it for the rest of your life.

    14. You’ve developed your own language no one else can understand
    If your daily conversations are laced with inside jokes or you consistently refer back to movie quotes or moments that will have you both dying with laughter, this person will certainly have you laughing the rest of your life. You share more than the same life and relationship—you share the same humor, and that can make all the difference in the length of a lifetime.

    Source: @hikarimurakami

    15. At the worst times, you want them there
    For most of your past relationships or crushes, it’s likely that they’re the last person you would’ve wanted to be present when you’re hunched over the toilet with food poisoning or crying in your room with a bad panic attack—so embarrassing! But if this partner is the right one, you’ll find yourself calling them when you’re having a panic attack or wishing they were there when you’re really sick (and not just because you know they’d clean up your vomit). Maybe you’ve even considered putting them down as your emergency contact—you know that when anything bad is happening, you’ll feel more comforted and protected with them there.

    16. You don’t question or second guess how they act when you’re not around
    When a friend’s Bachelor/Bachelorette party in Vegas comes up, you don’t feel a pit in your stomach or worry they won’t behave; you’ll just be excited to hear the funny stories when they get home. You also don’t doubt that as nice and wonderful as they are to you is exactly how they act when you’re not around too. You believe with all your heart that however they act, out in the world—whether it’s to other girls or people they don’t have to be nice to like waiters or servers—they treat all other people with the utmost respect and graciousness and will always do you proud.

    17. No matter what mistakes you make or how bad you look, you know they’ll still think of you the same
    In the end, you can be your truest self knowing that’s the you that they love the most. You can make a mistake or say something mean, and they’ll still think the world of you. You can wear second-day leggings and not wash your hair for four days and know they’ll still look at you the same as when you’re in a fancy dress with a blowout. The most romantic moments of our lives are often what happens in the most unromantic times—the bad times, the hard times, the gross times, the lazy times, and the boring times. The One will still see you in those times just as they would in the best times.
    Find the person who loves you for exactly whatever you are—good, bad, grumpy, bloated, messy, scattered, anxious, unfiltered—and to use the quote from Juno that taught me the most about love: “The right person will still think the sun shines out your ass.” Now that’s romantic.

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    10 Date Ideas That Don’t Involve Drinking

    Abstaining from alcohol has become the new normal for many millennials and Gen Zers, with health and hangover-related issues key factors in cutting down. But with “going for a few drinks” a go-to first date choice, is it possible to enjoy playing the field if you’ve chosen a more teetotal lifestyle?
    Whether you’re cutting down on your cocktail intake, playing designated driver, or simply keeping dry-January going for a few months longer than planned, there’s no reason that your dating life should suffer. Try out a few of these date ideas for inspiration the next time that you and your Hinge match decide to go alcohol-free.

    1. Go out for dessert
    Going out for dinner on a first date can be slightly intense—if you don’t like your date, then there can be a lot of courses to get through. Instead, suggest grabbing dessert together for a low-pressure and no-alcohol chance to get to know your date better. After all, their choice between vanilla and mint chocolate chip might be a deal-breaker.

    2. Take a walk
    If you don’t feel like sitting across from someone for hours without a glass of wine to break the tension, then try a daytime date instead. A walk or hike is a good opportunity to chat with someone and to find out if they’re the active and outdoorsy type. If there’s ever an awkward silence then your surroundings should offer a good distraction, and there will be plenty of isolated spots for a quick smooch should the mood take you!

    3. Check out a comedy show
    I always balk at the idea of going to a movie theater or a show as an early date—after all, sitting in the dark in silence is hardly a great way of getting to know someone. As an alternative, a comedy show is a more interactive way of enjoying entertainment with your date, sharing interests, and having a fun evening together. There are usually plenty of breaks between performers to chat about your favorite jokes, and you could grab a (non-alcoholic) drink afterwards to get to know each other better. 

    4. Meet for a coffee
    OK, this one might be standard dating fare, but I’ve always been a big fan of a classic coffee date. It’s easy to fit into your day if you’re busy, low-pressure, and (most importantly) a chance to load up on caffeine. If you’re unsure about a suitor that you’ve swiped right on, then a quick coffee hour is an easy way to figure out any initial interest, and you can easily extend the date into something more substantial if you find yourself feeling loved-up over your latte.

    Source: Hasnain Babar | Unsplash

    5. Find a local food festival
    Whether you’re a foodie or otherwise, then checking out a food festival offers up a fantastic variety of things to do and see, alongside plenty of opportunities to sit and chat. If you live in a city or large town, then look out for local events and choose your favorite (I’m a big fan of anything cheese-related). Share dishes with your date for an ultimate romantic experience and a chance to sample even more culinary delights.

    6. Visit a museum
    Museums and art galleries are perfect for sparking interesting conversation, ideal for ensuring that you and your date have plenty to talk about. Better still, museums are an affordable first-date choice, with many encouraging donations rather than having a set entry fee, showing that original date ideas don’t always have to be costly. Take your date to see your favorite local artwork or explore a shared interest that you have to build a strong foundation for getting to know one another and finding common ground.

    7. Go for a dog walk
    If you and your date are both animal lovers, then bringing your pets along for a first date can be a perfect way to share your passion and see how your puppies interact. If you don’t have a dog yourself but would like a chance to help out pet-owners, then consider signing up for a dog-walking app. Dating aside, this can be a great solo hobby, and could be a fun thing to do in future with a dog-loving date.

    Source: Nate Johnston | Unsplash

    8. Share your favorite hobby
    Are you an avid rock-climber? An aspiring yogi? Someone who hits the driving range every weekend? Sharing one of your hobbies with a date is a perfect way to showcase your personality doing something that you love. Keep it fun and relaxed, and offer to let your date show you their favorite thing to do on a second date in exchange.

    9. Play mini-golf
    Bring out your competitive side by challenging your date to a few rounds of putt-putt. There are plenty of often extravagantly themed indoor venues popping up across the country, and although many serve alcohol, abstaining will mean that you can keep score and show off your swing.

    10. Go to an alcohol-free bar
    If you really do love going to a bar on a first date, then the good news is that the nightlife scene is catching up with the trend for going alcohol-free. Venues such as Sans Bar in Austin and Listen Bar in NYC serve up zero-proof offerings crafted by mixologists so that you can enjoy a cocktail whilst remaining booze-free. With new options opening regularly, it’s worth searching what’s on offer in your local area.

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    I Fell in Love With My Best Friend…and He Didn’t Feel the Same Way

    I sat next to my best friend on her queen-sized, bed, surrounded by a mass of pillows doing what best friends do best: heart to hearts.Her words stuck.“As painful as it was, losing that friendship wouldn’t have mattered if you hadn’t learned anything.”We were rehashing the loss of one of my closest friendships. My best guy friend. (Let’s call him David.) A guy who in the course of our three-year friendship I realized I was in love with.
    We laid out the details like a deck of cards. What had gone wrong. Mistakes made on both sides. The scars it had left. What I learned from it. How I was planning to let go and move on.I had done the unthinkable. I had written an emotional note to David ending the friendship. To top it off, I sent a text. A text saying I couldn’t be friends anymore. The emotional, disgruntled note came later when I felt the need to explain my text. (A note, might I add, that was written while I was slightly tipsy. Something I highly warn against: drunken notes, texts, smoke signals, or really communication of any kind.)
    Rewind to 2016 when I realized that I had feelings for my best guy friend. After three years of a great friendship — of long phone calls, of making fun of each other, of seeing each other at our worst, of challenging each other to grow, of rooting for each other, of me calling him to come save me — I realized I was in love, and it scared the crap out of me.
    What scared me was that I knew. I knew how I felt. I knew what he meant to me. I knew if I had to choose, I’d always pick him. It was that feeling that older, more mature couples talk about, “When you know, you know.”Pause. Yes, you read that correctly. It took me three years to realize I was in love with someone. So yes, a really long time. I sat on my newfound knowledge of my feelings for a month, hoping I could will them away. I didn’t want to be in love with my best guy friend because I was afraid of losing him, but even more so, I was afraid of being rejected.

    It took me three years to realize I was in love with someone.

    So what did I do? I hard-core stuffed those emotions, deep, deep down in a dark tunnel that no one could find. I worked out to avoid feeling. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? The feelings were still there. They didn’t go anywhere.In the midst of my attempt to avoid reality, a friend gave me some words of wisdom. She told me that perhaps the first step is to acknowledge what it was. I had been running, stuffing, and avoiding for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. As we sat, talked, and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.
    “Being honest about your emotions and being vulnerable won’t destroy you. In fact, it’ll only make you stronger.”
    One crisp, clear L.A. night with a glass of wine in hand, I took my phone to my apartment’s deck, and I made the call. With shaky hands and a trembling voice, I said the words that I had been trying so hard to bury: I have feelings for you. Fast forward to present day: the love that I expressed to my best guy friend turned out to be unrequited. He told me while he had felt the same way before, he didn’t think we were a good fit. It was my biggest fear coming true in real time. Falling in love with someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed; I felt confused; I felt exposed; I felt stupid; I was hurt.
    We tried going back to being close friends like we had always been, but it didn’t happen that way. The phone calls stopped. The witty texts stopped filling my inbox. We saw each other once more in 2016 when we both were home. My heart wasn’t ready. I thought I could be his friend again, but my heart was still hurting. So when I got back to L.A., I sent him a text and said I couldn’t handle being his friend right now. He sent me a thumbs up emoji. We haven’t spoken since.

    When I got back to L.A., I sent him a text and said I couldn’t handle being his friend right now. He sent me a thumbs up emoji. We haven’t spoken since.

    Guess, what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. It didn’t kill me. While awfully uncomfortable, I am still here. To be honest, it was relieving to just be honest. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon. Once it was pierced, it all just came out.I fell in love with someone and that love was not reciprocated. OK. That’s what it is, but knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. Oh, most certainly it hurts like all hell, but if it was love, of course the loss of it is going to hurt.Years later, I surely don’t have all the answers. I still miss David at times, and I wonder why he didn’t feel the same or why he didn’t choose me. I miss our friendship the most. There’s so many things over the last three years that I’d like to share with him: my job layoff, my freelance career, my crazy roommate stories, my trip to Italy, my half marathon. Yet, when I find myself on the train of thought headed to the past for too long, I kindly take my ticket and head to the exit door.
    I know now that I am enough, with or without this person. Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough. I am enough, just as I am: imperfect, beautiful me.

    I know now that I am enough, with or without this person. Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough.

    I am finding that part of being an adult and an overall emotionally healthy human being means allowing yourself to be real and vulnerable. While there are a lot of things I would go back and do differently, I am proud of myself for having the courage to be vulnerable. I am proud of myself for voicing my feelings. I am even proud of myself for saying I wasn’t ready to be friends yet because I wasn’t. I know now that that’s OK. I only wish I would have had that conversation in person and not sent a text. It deserved more care and so did he.
    Yet, I can show myself grace because I had some growing to do, as we are all in process, imperfect human beings. In 2016, I was a hot mess in more ways than one. I didn’t value myself nor my voice. 2017 saw a lot of growth, a lot, and boy was it painful. I grew to be more confident in my talents and gifts. I came to get to know and actually like the woman I saw staring back at me in the mirror. I learned to say no, to set boundaries with other people, and to make self-care a priority. 2018 allowed me to put those lessons into action and I gained a thicker skin. In 2019, I hope to only go up from here.

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    I Online Dated the Entire Pandemic—Here’s What It Was Like

    A mere week or so before quarantine began, I finally felt ready to start dating again. An abusive relationship, a negative self-image, stress, life changes—it all kept me single for a while. But just before the pandemic, I downloaded all the apps, took some good selfies, updated my profiles… and then I had to figure out dating during the pandemic.
    Fast-forward a year, and I’ve spent the entire COVID-19 pandemic online dating (spoiler alert: to no avail). When I was stuck at home watching every Netflix show that existed or trying to learn a new hobby, my phone was near, picking up all my little matches across the city. I’ve had quite the go of dating throughout the past year—here’s a peek into my process and what I’m taking away now that I’m vaccinated:

    The Apps I Use
    I’m bisexual and use way too many dating apps. I use Bumble for meeting men, Hinge for men and women, and Tinder and Her for women. I feel like I get the best results this way. But of course, I have favorites: Bumble is the easiest interface and has been the most helpful throughout the pandemic because they have options to put what your comfort level is around COVID dating, and I find it helpful to be able to see the person’s political affiliation. If that’s not important to you, then it doesn’t matter, but it helps me weed out people that I simply know that I won’t mesh with romantically. I want to love Her, but I simply never meet anyone, and I have this horrible fear that every single person I speak to is a catfish because I’ve met an odd number of catfishes on there in the year I’ve used it.

    Spring 2020
    The first couple months of the pandemic, I had apps on my phone but I didn’t put too much stake into it. I’d swipe if I got really bored watching TV, but I couldn’t imagine meeting someone and having to talk to them for an unsure amount of time before we’d be able to safely meet. I remember telling my mom that I was worried my dating life would get put on hold for a few months (lmao) because I couldn’t see a “reason” in online dating while I was stuck at home. For everyone, this time period was so isolating and confusing, and those emotions aren’t conducive as a foundation to build a relationship on.

    Summer 2020
    But then, once outdoor dining opened up, I started seeing my friends again, and being outside in the real world didn’t feel like a death sentence to myself and everyone I know. I started using apps a little bit more, but meeting was really difficult. One aspect of COVID dating has been constantly having to worry that this new person you’re bringing into your life has the same thoughts around COVID that you do. It’s one thing to worry my partner won’t like the same music taste as me or prefers to stay in instead of going out, but with COVID, I’m worried I could be bringing someone into my life who could get myself, or worse, one of my close friends or family members sick. And that’s a risk I haven’t been willing to take for almost anyone this pandemic. So, this involves a lot of weeding out.
    First, you have the COVID deniers. My friend saw a guy whose literal bio was “COVID is a hoax,” which actually is probably helping people to make sure to swipe left real quick. I’m horrified of meeting someone who doesn’t take wearing a mask seriously or is going on wild vacations or simply just has very different views and boundaries around COVID from how I do. This worry has caused me to not meet up with tons of people on apps in the last year because I can’t risk hurting someone just so I can have one hot date.
    But there are also the people who *only* want to talk about COVID. Their opener and every message after is about how their sister got COVID and gave it to all of her friends and might give it to three sets of grandparents and how you think we’ll never go back to living normal lives ever again. It’s bleak sh*t. I am already worrying about 3897237 things at all times, including COVID—I don’t need it to take over my messages too.

    Fall 2020
    After months of swiping, I actually met someone. But because of COVID, I was hesitant to do anything in person. Turns out, this guy explained that he was regularly tested for COVID through his job, and after a 10-day quarantine, we hung out. I was uncomfortable and nervous the first hour or so; I was already preparing to quarantine again so I didn’t accidentally get someone else sick. That all said, when it went well, I planned our second (and third) date immediately to “limit the exposure.”
    It was a whirlwind of a romance, but ultimately ended in him making up this elaborate lie that he had a secret job in the government and had to move that very night. All this to say, I felt pretty defeated after that for a couple of months. I finally meet someone in the pandemic, and it was all so fleeting. Dating in the pandemic feels like a constant push and pull: you put in tons of effort and get excited about a match, all for it to end and you’re alone again. Pre-pandemic, rebounds were a little easier; I had a whole office full of friends to see every day and I made regular visits to see my family. The loneliness of the pandemic really got to me in those moments when I realized the simple act of meeting one person gave me so much serotonin (and then how easy it was to all go away).

    Spring 2021
    There’s been a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel recently, though. As soon as people I know started getting vaccinated, it felt like maybe there was hope for in-person dating soon. This made me, and I’m sure other people, get a little more into their apps. Instead of closing it and not swiping again for days every single week, I’m using the apps more consistently, and I’m getting more matches too.

    How I’m Using Apps Going Forward
    I was lucky to get vaccinated recently. Although this doesn’t make the entire pandemic go away, there is finally some hope that, eventually, we’ll get to meet up in person and maybe even take our masks off! For so much of the last year, there were a lot of communal feelings about what was going on. At some points, it was all hope and excitement that things could get better soon (i.e., in the beginning when every week it felt like maybe we’d be going back to work in a few weeks), but other times it felt extremely bleak and sad (such as when I officially started saying that I didn’t know if I’d ever go back into work). And in a time of hopelessness, I think dating felt that way too.
    I can’t lie and say that I’m not pumped for the first person I meet out in the world again. It’s so much easier to tell context and interest and connection in person, and not having to wait hours for someone to respond sounds like heaven. But I also know that online dating is the way of the times and the future, and people will likely still populate apps like crazy, even once the pandemic is over. More

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    25 Romantic Dinners to Make at Home This Weekend

    You might feel a little tired of your own cooking now that we’re nearly an entire year into staying at home, but date night cooking—especially with your partner—is way different than your run-of-the-mill weeknight dinners. Add candles and dancing in the kitchen, quick kisses and a cozy dining setup, and it all of a sudden feels like flirty fun instead of a tedious chore you’re just trying to get over with. Whether you’re the world’s greatest chef or usually more into ordering takeout, cooking together can make it feel more like an ~event~. Yes, it might be different from your usual V-Day plans, but that’s part of the fun.Pour a glass of wine or mix up a batch of your favorite cocktails, turn on your favorite music, and dive into one of these recipes for 25 romantic dinners to make at home this weekend.

    Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

    Source: Foodie Crush

    Source: Supper with Michelle

    Source: My Name is Yeh

    Source: What’s Gaby Cooking

    Source: Supper with Michelle

    Source: Whisk It Real Gud

    Source: Drizzle & Dip

    Source: The Salty Marshmallow

    Source: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

    Source: With Salt & Wit

    Source: Sweet Tea + Thyme

    Source: Sweet Potato Soul

    Source: Host the Toast

    Source: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

    Source: Chungah Rhee | Damn Delicious

    Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

    Source: Drizzle & Dip

    Source: Whisk It Real Gud

    Source: With Salt & Wit

    Source: The Salty Marshmallow

    Source: My Name is Yeh

    Source: Foodie Crush

    Source: What’s Gaby Cooking

    Source: Sweet Tea + Thyme More

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    The Best At-Home Valentine’s Day Plans

    No matter if you’re newly dating, recently single, have been in an LTR relationship for a decade, or if the longest relationship you’ve ever had is with your work wife, Valentine’s Day is historically stressful. Pricey menus, overbooked restaurants, or the shame of being single? No, thank you. And don’t get me started on that awkward phase when you just started seeing each other and aren’t sure if you’re at the buying-presents level or if you should keep it casual (for reference, I started dating my boyfriend around Valentine’s Day years ago. He got me a nice bracelet, and I got him a joke golf ball holder that looked like a pile of poop).It’s true: Valentine’s Day can kind of suck. But not this year! We’ve dealt with a hellish 10+ months and a crazy increase in stress, so we all deserve a little extra love on February 14. No matter what your relationship status says on Facebook, here are the best at-home plans to make your Valentine’s Day stress-free, enjoyable, and special. Overpriced restaurant menus and depressing nights alone need not apply.

    Order a hosting box to upgrade your night in
    If you’re looking to make your night special but don’t have the time (or energy) to figure out how, why not order everything you need straight to your door? Pass the Salt elevates your night in by delivering a box based on your needs and your night. Complete with seasonal cocktail fixings, tablescape accents, conversation-starters to help you reconnect, a playlist to set the mood, and an on-theme movie night rec in case your date night turns into movie night (it always does, right?). The best part? Pass the Salt works with small artisan brands and family-run companies, so not only will your date night in be filled with unique accents and interesting pieces that no one else has, but you’ll feel good about what you buy. Your significant other will be so impressed! 

     
    Have a picnic
    Because what’s more worthy of a romantic holiday than a picnic? If it’s warm where you live, enjoy the weather by spreading a picnic blanket in the backyard or nearby park, and enjoy dinner (and a bottle of wine) sitting under the stars. And if you live by a beach, lake, or forest? Even better. If it’s too cold outside, DIY your own picnic by lying a blanket on the floor in the living room. Make it extra cozy with a lit fire or candles, and enjoy a romantic evening that will feel more special than your average night in. If you’re long-distance, mail your partner candles, order pizza on Postmates (for both of you), and send over a Zoom link so you can have the same experience together from miles away.
     
    Relive one of your favorite trips
    After almost a year of staying at home, Valentine’s Day might feel like just another milestone cooped up at home. The answer? Bring vacation to you. If you had a magnifique trip to France a couple of years ago, look through pictures, play French music, and cook some croque monsieurs. If you were planning on taking a beach trip this year that got canceled, make some piña coladas and put on a sundress. You can also recreate the trip you’ve always wanted to take together: make sushi if you’ve both been dreaming of visiting Japan, or set up a DIY poker table to transport yourselves to Las Vegas. And if you’re in different locations this year, reminiscing about experiences and reliving happy memories will make your Facetime date feel more special. 
     
    Recreate your favorite restaurant or hotel at home
    Do you miss fancy date nights out? Get takeout from your favorite date-night restaurant (bonus points for supporting local businesses), or mix it up by ordering a few different kinds of food for a buffet of all your favorites (eggplant parmesan and spicy tuna rolls? Yes, please!). Light candles and get out a nice table cloth to create a romantic atmosphere. Make it extra special by dressing up in nice clothes or even just spritzing on your nice perfume. You’ll feel like you’re at a fancy restaurant, but without the expensive prices and sometimes weird food (who likes escargot, like really?). Oh, and if you miss romantic sleepovers at hotels, change your sheets, hang up fancy robes in the closet, and leave all distractions outside of the bedroom. 

    Create your own spa experience
    Breakups are never easy, especially when the month of love comes along to remind you. The fix? Put all your energy and love into self-care with an at-home spa experience. First, set the atmosphere. Dim the lights, light candles, diffuse essential oils, turn on relaxing music, and put on a cozy robe. Stock up on all the luxurious products you love, whether it’s a CBD bath bomb or a high-quality hair mask, and get ready for a full day of pampering. Take a bath, indulge in dry brushing or exfoliating, give yourself a facial massage for relaxation and de-puffing, and finish off with a manicure or pedicure in your favorite color. End the night with a glass of champagne or a cup of tea.

    Have breakfast in bed
    Sure, breakfast in bed is typically for mornings, but why not make it a nighttime thing? Breakfast for dinner is always fun (scrambled eggs, anyone?), and eating it in bed (with a mimosa or two) will feel like you’re at a luxurious hotel or on vacation. Trust me, you’ll be thrilled you don’t have to go out for date night when you’re relaxing in pajamas, eating pancakes, and bingeing Sex and the City for five hours straight (without anyone telling you to change the channel). 

    Do all your favorite traditions for yourself
    If you love typically love Valentine’s Day, carry on with all the same traditions. But this year, dedicate the traditions to the most worthy relationship: the one you have with yourself. Buy yourself your favorite flowers, indulge in a fancy box of chocolates, or treat yo’ self to that splurge item you’ve been wanting. Write yourself a love letter, cook your favorite meal, and light some candles for some romantic NSFW time (thank god you don’t need two people to orgasm, am I right?). While it may sound cheesy and feel silly, spending the money, time, and energy on yourself that you would normally spend on someone else will remind you that self-love is truly the best kind.

    DIY a wine and paint night
    Wine and painting classes are all the rage these days, so why not recreate them from the comfort of your own home? Order some cheap canvases and paint supplies online, look up a Youtube video for step-by-step painting, and pour a couple of glasses of wine for your friends. You’ll have a lot of fun, get your creativity on, and maybe even come away with new portraits to hang up in your homes (or you’ll laugh at how bad they turned out, but either way, it will be a great time). 

    Host a tasting
    Since you can’t take a girl’s trip to Napa Valley this year, bring Napa Valley to you. Host a simple wine tasting by sampling a few local wines (#supportlocalbusinesses), or get more detailed with cheese or chocolate pairings. Don’t forget an Insta-worthy cheese board, which is always a crowd-pleaser. And if you want to step up your game, create cards for the titles or origins of each wine, the different notes in each sample, and what foods they pair well with (so bougie). If beer or whiskey is more your friend group’s style, sample a few different types for a DIY flight. Pair with pretzels and beer cheese or takeout from your favorite brewery. This is your important reminder that a box of chocolates pairs well with just about any alcohol. 

    Bring the sports bar to you
    If your group of friends is more the “screw Valentine’s Day” type, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun on February 14. Forget the fancy foods and elegant wine; opt for something a little more casual and enjoyable by turning your home into your favorite local sports bar (every friend group has one). Turn on a pre-recorded game, ESPN Sports Center, or any past-season highlights to set the scene. Grab some beers and make (or order) all of your favorite bar appetizers like wings, pizza, or onion rings. If the night breaks out into a game of good old-fashioned beer pong, we’d call you genius. Loungewear attire required. 

    Have a party for one
    Because you don’t need to have company over to have a dinner party, plan a special night in for just you. Hang up string lights, make some mini appetizers, pop the nice champagne, turn on jazz music, and dress up in your favorite dinner-party attire. Why should you dress up your home (and your OOTD) just for other people? After all, celebrating yourself is the best possible occasion to bring out the nice silverware. Oh, and if your idea of a “party” looks more like beer kegs and loud music, why not throw one at home for yourself? A beer keg might be excessive (no judgment, either way), but pour yourself a cold beer, turn on the playlist that makes you want to dance, and snack on your favorite party food. Rager for one, please!

    Movie marathon
    For a special night at home, don’t settle for the same Netflix show you watch every night (Bridgerton can wait until tomorrow). Switch it up by planning a special movie marathon. Watch as many movies as you can get through of your favorite franchise like Harry Potter or Star Wars, or pick a genre you love (’80s teen movies or historical dramas are both classic choices). Get all your favorite movie snacks, put your phone away, and snuggle up in your coziest sweats for a movie marathon. The best part about being solo with no one else to disturb you is that you can fantasize about Mr. Darcy, John Cusack, or Gal Gadot all night long (whatever tickles your fancy). 
     
    Create a self-love night
    Not to sound like a broken record, but the most worthy kind of love is self-love, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not. Spend February 14 getting to know yourself, wooing yourself, caring for yourself, and prioritizing yourself. Plan out a schedule in advance of all the things you want to do to practice self-love. For example, revisit a childhood hobby, make a playlist of all your favorite songs, create a vision board, make a list of what you love most about yourself, cook an indulgent meal you love, and watch your favorite movie. For some more reflective self-love, try journaling prompts dedicated to getting to know yourself better, or squeeze in as many activities as you can from our Self-Love Challenge. 

    What are your Valentine’s Day plans this year? More

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    You Don’t Need a Better Half—and This Is Why

    We’ve all seen it, whether in someone else or in ourselves: a woman (or man) falls in love and, somewhere along the way, forgets themselves and fades into half a person. Someway, somehow, the wants and needs of another human being becomes more important than their own. They disappear into themselves or, more accurately, disappears into the new romance, not to return until the initial sense of magic fades.Falling head-over-heels in love is an exhilarating and exciting feeling, one that’s all too easy to get caught up in whenever we’re lucky enough to recognize the sensation. But while love and partnership can be amazing if you want to have those things, they should never come at the cost of your own sense of self.
    We are a generation raised on the words: “You complete me.” Romantic movies and media have shaped the way we regard and celebrate love. We see the language everywhere: Other half, better half, soulmate. In this world, love is seen not just as a wonderful part of life, but an achievement necessary to reach a level of full, complete humanity.

    We are a generation raised on the words: You complete me.

    Frankly, I hate this idea. You don’t need a “better half” because you are not half of a person. You are a whole person. A healthy relationship isn’t made of two broken, incomplete halves becoming one. It’s made of two wholes, both fully formed with their own plans and dreams and ideas, choosing to navigate the world together. And here’s the kicker: holding on to yourself after falling in love won’t just make you happier down the line—it will also make you a better, more honest partner.
    I’ll be the first to confirm that staying in a successful, working marriage is more difficult work than any job I’ve ever had. The people my husband and I were when we married five years ago are not the people we are now, and we’ve had growing pains as our new goals and plans shifted us together in some ways, and apart in others.

    Holding on to yourself after falling in love won’t just make you happier down the line—it will also make you a better, more honest partner.

    Long-term commitment is never easy, and it’s compounded by the fact that, in the early stages of a relationship, we work really hard to make it look like it is. In those magical first few months and years when your partner can do no wrong, we ignore personality traits that will bother us later (and disguise our own bad habits that will later reemerge), put our own goals on hold to make more time for our partners, and generally change ourselves in ways that make for really blissful short-term relationships and really difficult long-term ones.
    Remaining fearlessly ourselves: the good, the bad, the trying-to-untangle-headphones-while-you’re-in-a-rush ugly, might scare off more than a few potential partners who never would have worked out anyway. It might make the initial phases of dating scarier and more vulnerable, and it might make it seem more difficult to find someone special in the first place. But then you can rest easy knowing that the ones who stick around are the ones who are truly compatible with the real you.

    Source: Polina Tankilevitch | Pexels

    Some things to remember:

    1. Remember your goals
    While it’s natural for your goals to fluctuate and change as you re-envision a shared future with someone else, remember that it’s OK (and necessary) to have goals that extend outside of your relationship. You owe it to yourself not to get complacent after settling down.

    2. Make family and friends a priority
    When you start a new relationship, it’s too easy to leave your family and friends in the dust. As you start seeing someone new, double your effort to maintain connections with loved ones. Ask yourself, “Am I saying ‘no’ to them more than ‘yes’?”

    3. Have your own hobbies
    You don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. I will repeat: you don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. You might like reading while he or she prefers video games. You might be an outdoor person while he or she likes staying inside. Sure, these things can help you determine if you’re truly compatible or not, but it’s perfectly healthy for aspects of your lives and interests to exist independently from one another. It’s far more important to be honest and supportive of each other than it is for you to both like camping. I promise.

    Do you change at all when you start a relationship or is this a non-issue? Start a discussion in the comments! More