More stories

  • in

    Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Mean the End of Your Sex Life—Here’s How to Keep It Going

    It’s well-known that a healthy sex life can help our physical and mental well-being. And yet, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing many couples to isolate apart or to social distance from prospective sexual partners, many of us are finding that our intimate lives are suffering. Recent research suggests that 43.5 percent of people have experienced a decline in their sex lives during the pandemic, with only 13.6 percent reporting improvements.But being single in quarantine doesn’t have to mean a total dry spell. In fact, many individuals are finding creative ways to get kinky, both alone and with a socially-distanced sexual partner. If quarantine has left you frustrated, then here are some ways that you can feel more fulfilled:

    Invest in a sex toy
    Early on in the pandemic, the NYC health department suggested that “you are your safest sex partner.” But solo sex doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have a helping hand—the sex toy industry has been booming during the pandemic, and now is the perfect time to find a toy that you love.
    Finding a vibrator that works for you is a highly individual choice that will depend on your own experience of orgasm. Do you prefer internal or external stimulation? How much pressure works for you? Do you live with roommates, or even parents, and need something subtle and on the quiet side? There’s so much on offer, and this handy guide can help you to figure out what to try first. Order online and stock up on lube for a totally socially distanced and pleasurable experience.
    READ: 8 Sex Toys So Mind-Blowing, You’ll Want to Gift One to Your BFF
    READ: The Top-Rated Sex Toys on Amazon

    Try out audio pornography or erotica
    Although pornography is a good way to get in the mood, the male-focused nature of much of the sex depicted can be conflicting and difficult to enjoy. Fortunately, a new wave of feminist pornography is re-centering the content that we get off to, focusing on female pleasure and a more sensual experience.
    There are plenty of porn videos out there that were produced or directed by women, but if you feel like trying something different then you might like to look into audio pornography. This intimate and sensory genre ranges from sexy stories to guided masturbation—perfect for if you need to use headphones in your current living situation. You and that person that you’ve been chatting to could even tune into something at the same time for a distanced and yet mutually-satisfying experience. 
    READ: Don’t Think You Like Porn? Try This Instead
    READ: Yes, I’m a Woman and I Watch Porn

    Source: Tessa Neustadt for ALLPRACE HOMES on The Everygirl

    Suggest some flirty phone sex
    With the rise of sexting, phone sex has taken a backseat over the last few years. But with many of us relying on digital communication for our work and social life, perhaps it’s time to give our thumbs a rest when it comes to our sex life. 
    Phone sex might feel awkward at first, especially if it’s with a new partner who you have yet to do the dirty in real life with. Test out what feels comfortable to you—you might be turned on simply by discussing your favorite positions. If you’re feeling more creative, you can describe your fantasies, and the things that you’d like to do with your prospective partner, once social distancing measures allow, and if you’re feeling really confident, describe what you’re doing to yourself right now and get them to do the same.
    READ: 7 Ways to Up Your Dirty Talk

    Take a dirty picture
    Although a sexy picture pinging up on their phone is great news for the recipient, this can also be an incredibly gratifying experience for you. If you’ve been spending all day in your pajamas, getting dressed up in your best underwear can be a total turn-on and boost your sexual confidence.
    It’s worth noting that sharing explicit pictures comes with a host of risks, and there are numerous examples of intimate images being used against women. If you choose to share a sexual image, think carefully about how you’d feel if it was shared with anyone other than the intended recipient, and only send content that you would be comfortable with others seeing. Protect your privacy by ensuring that your face and any other identifying features are not visible, and don’t feel pressured into sending images or footage if you’re not comfortable doing so and if the experience isn’t gratifying for you as well as for the recipient.

    Source: Jonathan Borba | Pexels

    Take the time to connect with someone
    The rise of digital dating means that encounters can be fleeting, and sex is readily available. Although this can be liberating, it also means that new and casual partners may be less invested in our pleasure. Relying on sexting, Zoom dates, and socially-distanced walks might be frustrating, but it can also give you the opportunity to connect with someone on a deeper level, to explore each other’s turn-ons, and to build sexual tension. By the time that you feel comfortable initiating physical intimacy, or even just exploring some distanced play, you might find that getting to know a new partner better leads to a sexier experience.
    READ: I Stopped Giving Out My Number on Dating Apps—Here’s Why

    Find a safe sexual partner
    For some of us, nothing beats the real thing, and in-person intimacy and sex can be important for well-being. There’s no way to guarantee a completely safe way to have sex during the COVID pandemic, but if you find that socially-distanced sex isn’t cutting it for you, then you should try and take all precautions possible.
    Make sure that you are having open conversations and setting boundaries with any sexual partner about what behavior is acceptable and what you are both comfortable with. If a new sexual interest lives alone and is following social distancing guidance strictly, then you may feel safe to stay over at their place. If you do so, make sure that you are following all government guidance on hand-washing, limiting contact with others, and following usual safe sex procedures to protect against all kinds of infections.
    READ: What “Finding The One” Really Means in 2020 More

  • in

    Exes & Quarantine: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Thinking of Rekindling With an Ex

    Maybe it’s the alluring romanticism of The One That Got Away, or maybe it’s the lack of sex in quarantine, but if you’re thinking about getting back together with an ex, you’re not alone. Even though you probably broke up for a legit reason, human beings crave attachment and comfort. During a time that is so uncomfortable, it’s no surprise that you might be considering going back to what feels familiar, or maybe such a scary time has made you realize what’s important and who you want to have in your life. Plus, if you grew up believing that Ross and Rachel would end up together (were they on a break?) or that Big and Carrie were destined to be together (no matter how many times they broke up and got back together), you know that a breakup does not have to mean the end. But how do you know if you two needed to grow and are now ready to have a healthy, happy relationship, or if you are just tired of swiping through Bumble and endless dates over Zoom? Here are eight questions to help you decide if going back to your ex is the right decision for you. 

    1. Why did you break up in the first place?
    It’s easy to remember the highlight reel of all the good moments, but nothing ends without a reason. Since it’s easier to remember the good over the bad (nostalgia, you bastard!), you’ll most likely romanticize your past relationship instead of remembering the pain it caused you. The reality is that no matter what, we leave relationships for a good reason. Unless that reason is completely resolved (and you have solutions to prevent it moving forward), the same pain will sneak up again if you get back into the same situation. Instead of reflecting on the beginning and middle of the relationship (which is likely a supercut of happy memories), reflect on the end. 

    2. Have you truly forgiven your ex?
    No matter why you broke up, there’s probably hurt on both sides. You might have trust issues, insecurities, built-up resentment, or all the above. While you’ll need to talk through past issues before you decide to give it another shot (more on that below), you should not bring up those past issues in new disagreements that come up in the future. When you bring up past arguments during new fights, it’s just repeating the cycle that broke you up, and might be a sign you’re not really over what happened in the past. Forgiveness is a process. If you’re not there yet, hold off until you’re ready to forgive them, or ask yourself if your gut is telling you not to forgive them.

    Source: @missalexlarosa

    3. Did you have enough space after the breakup?
    Especially when you’re in the same social circle, work together, or just talk to each other frequently, you might not have had enough separation to get used to life without your ex. If you’ve been through breakups before, you know the hardest part of getting over the end of a relationship is often because that person was a part of your routine, like any other habit. Not having enough space from your ex prevents you from moving on because you never get a chance to break that “habit.”
    Sure, missing your ex could be a sign that you really should be with them, or it might be a sign that you didn’t give yourself the chance to move on. Try muting or unfollowing them on social media, or ask friends to make separate plans without your ex for a while. If you’ve already spent enough time apart where you should be moving on by now but aren’t, the relationship could be worth trying again. 

    4. Have you fully discussed the old issues?
    If you’re even thinking about rekindling the romance, first have a conversation with your ex about what went wrong and what you don’t want to repeat. Discuss relationship expectations, define your love languages, and talk about what trust and love truly mean to you. If your ex is quick to sweep things under the rug or act like it wasn’t a big deal, remember that even the smallest things led to the breakup; they are a big deal. Your feelings should be validated, and you should thoroughly discuss what didn’t work last time to make the relationship work this time. Not only should you make sure that the old issues are resolved, but you should also have a “what are we” chat like the beginning of any relationship. Be open about what you both truly want out of the relationship and make sure your values align. 

    Source: @missenocha

    5. Will you be OK with it if your friends and family are not on board?
    You think you’ve been through ups and downs with your dating history, but remember that your support system goes through the ups and downs with you. Your friends probably cried with you after the breakup, unfollowed your ex on Instagram, and told you how you could do better. Your family might be protective of you, so they’ll want to prevent the hurt you experienced the first time around. Even if you’ve gotten over the past issues with your ex, that doesn’t mean your loved ones have too.
    Remember that your friends and family have your best interests at heart, and probably only dislike your ex because of the experience you had with them. Understand where they’re coming from and listen to their advice. If you do decide to get back together, explain to your loved ones what is different this time around and your plan to avoid past conflict moving forward, but don’t expect them to be 100 percent on board right away. 

    6. Are you expecting your ex to be a different person?
    Sure, some people change, and we’re all growing (or at least, that’s the hope), but here’s the ugly truth: your ex is still the same person. If their actions caused the last breakup (like cheating, emotional unavailability, lack of effort, etc.) or just made you unhappy, remember that they’re still the same person, even if the situation or timing is different. If that is the case and you’re still considering getting back together, you should see a lot more change in your ex than just a promise that it will be different this time around. Bottom line, get back together because you’ve changed (like you’re now truly ready for a relationship), not because you’re hoping that they have. 

    Source: @taylranne

    7. Do you miss the person or just the companionship?
    Do you sometimes find yourself mindlessly dialing your ex’s number to share a joke you know they’d find funny, or thinking how much you miss the way they laugh? Maybe you miss their stories that went on and on or the way they held your hand when they could tell you were nervous. Or did you only start missing them when your last Zoom date sucked or since you’ve been feeling lonely while staying at home? Maybe you just miss having someone so much that you’re remembering only the good things in your previous relationship. It’s OK to miss those good things, but just because you miss them doesn’t mean they’re worth going back to. 
    With all the emphasis on being independent women (which we all are), we might sometimes feel ashamed to admit we just want to be in a relationship. But craving companionship isn’t a sign of weakness or dependence; it’s human nature (PSA: you can be a badass independent woman whether you’re in a relationship or not). It’s OK if you are a “relationship person,” but, at the risk of sounding cliché, there are other fish in the sea. And yes, that means fish who won’t give you a reason to break up with them in the first place. Rekindle the flame if you genuinely miss your ex, but not if you just miss the companionship. 

    8. How do you feel when you’re with them?
    It’s easy to get caught up in how you feel about them, but how do you feel about yourself when you’re with them? Feeling safe, secure, lovable, and like your truest self when you’re around your ex is a sign that getting back together might be the right decision. However, if you feel insecure, jealous, or they make you feel lesser than and undeserving, no amount of loneliness is worth feeling like that again. Remember that life isn’t Friends or Sex and The City. No one’s going to write the finale episode for you, and you don’t have season after season to figure it out. In the end, this is your life, and if your ex did not help you make the most of it back then, they’re not worth wasting time on now.  More

  • in

    I Stopped Giving Out My Number on Dating Apps—Here’s Why

    Swipe left, swipe right, roll eyes, and repeat. Girl, the wild world of dating apps is a strange place. On one hand, dating apps are a really cool way to browse a catalog of allegedly available people who may be good for the night or a lifetime depending on “how things go.” On another hand, dating apps feel like a trip down the rabbit hole into some weird Alice in Wonderland-esque universe where nothing makes sense. After what I’m realizing has been years of swiping, fishing, matching, hinging, meeting, dating, and failing, I’ve finally implemented some boundaries and standards to keep the weirdos at bay (thank God).  It may sound silly, but I stopped entertaining people for the sake of “what if.” You know what I mean: “what if he’s a nice guy?” or “what if these are just really bad angles in all of his pictures?” I gave up on wondering what if and dealt with what was. Most importantly, I stopped giving my number out on dating apps. 

    After years of swiping, fishing, matching, hinging, meeting, dating, and failing, I’ve finally implemented some boundaries and standards to keep the weirdos at bay.

    Frankly, I’m not comfortable with a bunch of strangers having my phone number. It’s important for me to maintain my boundaries and also protect my privacy. Giving my phone number feels like I’m handing out invitations to my private, more personal life. I don’t think men I don’t know should be able to know me in that way. Honestly, I’ve regretted giving my number out too quickly. Some people are only out to collect numbers and others have no serious intentions anyway. Giving my number out too quickly has sometimes made it difficult for me to discern the interest from the creepy. It’s hard to rid yourself of creeps once they have your number. I’ve experienced people I’ve blocked calling from different numbers. If I’d just left them on the app, ridding myself of them would have been a lot easier. Still not convinced? Before you fire off—hear me out.  

    1. I limit people’s access
    We live in a fast-paced, instantly gratified society where we all feel entitled to each other at the click of a button or the status of a delivered text, but no ma’am. Failing to give my phone number out allows me to limit not only who has access to me, but how much access they have. Setting this boundary means that only those I’m comfortable with will have immediate access to my time, energy, and attention. Everyone else will need to wait until I check my apps. I think it’s important to note that none of my app notifications are turned on either. I will see them when I see them. Limiting those distractions and setting this boundary helps me to remain focused on what’s most important to me. 
    Unfortunately, a stranger from the internet ranks pretty low on my list of priorities. Until someone earns relevancy in my life, they have none, just as I should not have any in their life. If a connection is there and interest grows, getting to know them will become more important and relevant to me. I think it’s a misstep to allow strangers from the internet to have that much space in your life. Yes, we are searching for our mates, but let’s not forget these people are literal strangers until proven otherwise. The desire for a companion should not completely throw you off your axis to the point you are allowing every person who swipes right an opportunity to be with you. And let’s be honest: many of the folks who end up in our inboxes are uninteresting, oddly sexual upon first swipe, or looking to line their cellphones with numbers they don’t intend on calling. We deserve better.

    2. There are so many other means of communication
    We’ve got Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, dating apps, letters, smoke signals, and pigeons for goodness sake! Thankfully, we’re living with brand-spanking-new technology that allows us to remain connected through something other than a phone number. Many apps offer video and voice chat right through the app. If a man asks for my number (and I’m interested in getting to know him), I offer to chat through social media, email, or the app we’re on. He either will get with it or get lost. If he gets lost, that saves me from days, weeks, or months of emotional chaos and mental exhaustion trying to interpret “mixed signals.”
    I can almost hear one of you asking, “Well, how are you going to go on a date if you don’t give him your number?” or “How are you supposed to get to know each other if you never talk on the phone?” I’ve got answers for you. I stopped giving out my number because I realized moving the conversation from the dating app didn’t make us any closer or progress the budding relationship any faster. In fact, it just led to a thread of text messages and missed phone calls until we fell off faster than we swiped. 

    3. Setting a boundary helps me see people clearly 
    Failing to give out my number has shown people’s character very quickly. Those without boundaries don’t want you to have any either. When I fail to give a man my number just because he asks for it, it allows me to see how he handles rejection and boundaries. There have been and will continue to be men who curse me out, ghost me, or try to slyly (or forcefully) manipulate me out of my boundary all because I politely declined. I didn’t need them anyway. Then, there have been men (and will continue to be men) who understand my boundary, respect it, and operate within it. Just that fast, I’ve eliminated some people who didn’t deserve me from my dating pool. Yes, there are plenty of fish in the proverbial dating sea, but I don’t need more fish—I need better ones. 

    They say doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. After years of operating without boundaries, I’m implementing them now. I don’t want a random text from a guy from Tinder in six months just because he’s bored; I want something meaningful. Everyone has their own dating strategy, and this is mine. Even if you don’t agree with my boundaries, it’s important for you to examine what your boundaries are. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Your dating strategy should support your emotional wellbeing, as well as protect you from people whose intentions you aren’t sure of. My dating strategy helps me to feel in control, empowered, and safe. So, I’m sticking to it.  More

  • in

    How Much Sex Should You Really Be Having in a Relationship?

    I once read that happy couples have sex once a week. So, when I was having more or less than that in a relationship, I started feeling like my sex life was wrong, and my relationship was doomed to failure. On to the next one, I suppose!Relationship comparison is so real. Whether you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and swooning over Peter and Lara Jean’s innocent and beautiful romance, or talking with friends and family, it’s easy to feel like you’re relationship isn’t what’s considered “normal,” especially when it comes to intimacy.  
    You’re supposed to wait three dates to have sex, one year to move in together, and two years to get engaged, and another year until you get married — all these arbitrary timelines are exhausting! Of course, we all want to be in the happiest relationship, but why do we have to follow the same timeline as everyone else? In the same vein, why do we all have to have sex the same amount of times in a week?! So, I looked into a few sociological studies and decided how much sex we really should be having if we want the best relationship possible.

    What the studies say
    Sociologists love studying couples almost as much as they love studying sex, so there’s tons of information out there on how often happy couples should be sleeping together. A 2015 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science studied 30,000 couples over 40 years. They discovered that having sex once a week was the perfect medium for couples; however, couples having more sex weren’t more or less happy, but couples having less did report being less fulfilled sexually.
    Another 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that the average adult prefers to have sex 54 times a year, which roughly equates to once a week.
    My personal favorite study on the subject comes from Carnegie Mellon University. This study split couples into two groups: Group A kept their sex lives normal, while Group B had twice as much sex as they normally were having. At the end of the study, Group B actually reported that the sex “wasn’t much fun” and that it started to feel like a chore. Go figure.

    So, what should we be doing?
    This Carnegie Mellon study got it right. If there isn’t a strain on your relationship, and your needs are both being met, why should we (or science!) question how often you should be getting it on with your partner?! There’s really no need to mess with a good thing. It’s easy to feel like your sex life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s (i.e. that one couple your BFF knows who has sex every night vs. the other couple you know who is perfectly fine going once or twice a month).
    Sexual pressure comes from all areas and reading up on study after study to tell you if your sex life is normal is pretty counterproductive. How often you’re having sex isn’t what makes a relationship “happy,” often sex comes when you’re feeling happy in your life. Stress at work, money troubles, or family drama all have a negative impact on our mental health and can decrease your libido. Just because you’re having less sex than your idea of normal doesn’t mean your relationship is bad.
    Whether you’re having sex four times a week and loving every second of it or you enjoy your time in the bedroom once every two weeks, your relationship shouldn’t rely on a number of to be considered happy. You get to decide what your normal is, not science this time. Anyway, normal is just a social construct to make us feel inferior to others, so to that, I say, good riddance with whatever the heck normal is. More

  • in

    6 Fresh Ways to Spend a Girls’ Night In

    Before the world fell apart, my friends and I loved to play this game where we would plan a girls’ night out which, after a few drinks, would time and time again turn into a girls’ night in. As much as I used to love hitting the town with my girl gang pre-COVID, the nights in were the ones that would allow us the true quality time to catch up, laugh at old memories, and look forward to the future. Staying in with my friends is my favorite way to recharge, and while I love vegging out and watching our favorite cringe-worthy reality TV shows, I equally love hanging out with purpose. If there’s one good thing about quarantine, it’s the opportunity to slow down, catch up, and touch base with those closest to you (those being asymptomatic/also quarantined/COVID negative, of course!). Here are six ways to switch up your favorite Netflix binge-a-thon with your besties to foster new conversations, more ways to connect, and extra opportunities to belly-laugh. 
    1. Channel your inner Food Network star
    I consider girls’ night to be incomplete without some yummy, indulgent snacks, and while raiding the grocery store for Flaming Hot Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids, and/or cookie dough might be your first go-to move, opting for ingredients to pop in the oven can be just as magical. Whether you go the Betty Crocker route or start from scratch (I would do illegal things for this double chocolate zucchini bread), roasting your best friend’s ex pairs well with warm, gooey chocolate and is bound to bring your GNI to the next level. 

    2. Host a game night
    I. love. game. night. You could always go the traditional route with an instant, competitive classic like Life, Sorry!, Scrabble, Monopoly, or Settlers of Catan or you could opt for a game that sparks side conversations and is a bit more open-ended like We’re Not Really Strangers, The Voting Game, Hot Seat, Cards Against Humanity, For The Girls, or What Do You Meme (my personal favorite). Another favorite of my friend group is to invest in a huge puzzle and attempt to finish it before the wine runs out. So far, wine 2, puzzle 0.

    3. Get crafty
    Very rarely do I take the time to get crafty, but I love a good excuse to pretend that I’m Martha Stewart. Have your girls pitch in for supplies for a DIY project that can range from home decor and homemade beauty products (like these make-at-home face masks) to chunky knit blankets. You’ll leave girls’ night with more than just a mild hangover, a hoarse voice, and new memories—you’ll have a take-home souvenir, too!

    4. Turn your home into a spa
    Allow me to set this lovely scene for you: you and your gal pals, robes on, feet up, listening to serene music while enjoying the aroma of eucalyptus and peppermint from a nearby oil diffuser. Group manis and pedis are encouraged, but not required, as that would require someone to lift a finger and whether you want to exert the energy is absolutely your prerogative. Reset, recharge, and let the time with your friends set your soul alright.

    5. Make vision boards
    It’s never too late to set intentions for your future and making it visual with your girls by your side can be a whole other experience. You’ll need some sort of canvas, glue, markers, scissors, magazines, and a printer to get started. Pop some champagne, let your hair down, and dream about the future together. If crafting isn’t your thing, try opening up with your friends and asking about their big dreams and life goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama with friends, but looking forward and discussing the future will leave everyone inspired. 

    6. Write love letters to each other
    We did a version of this in the office on Galentine’s Day and it was quite the treat. We used brown paper bags with everyone’s name on them, threw in little handwritten love notes, and received plenty of words of affirmation towards the end of the day that made us feel so loved and appreciated. It’s a great way to show your friends that you couldn’t do it without them and, if you’re an emotional queen like me, to have an excuse to get a little mushy.  More

  • in

    4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Get Married

    Getting married is a big step—they don’t call it taking the plunge for nothing. The person you choose as a life partner will, in one way or another, affect every aspect of your life: your mental health, your peace of mind, how you get through tragedies and celebrate triumphs, how your children (should you choose to have them) will be raised, and more. The weight of these aspects of your life, not to mention the countless others you’ll share with a partner, makes the advice to “choose wisely” seem like an understatement. Still, the reasons we choose a partner are numerous and complicated. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you’ve probably heard your fair share of unsolicited marriage advice from the well-intentioned (or sometimes jaded) wedded people in your life. 
    It can be difficult to filter through this advice for nuggets of wisdom, and even more challenging to take an objective look at your own motivations and see them for what they really are. Sometimes, your real intentions are buried a few layers deep, and you need something to gently shake them to the surface for you.
    We turned to relationship experts to identify the most common reasons people choose to get married that can lead to relationship challenges down the road. But this list is 100 percent a guide; the person and reasons you choose for marriage are, ultimately, your choice. The goal is to help you make that choice a little more wisely!

    1. Are you getting married because you don’t want to end up alone?
    For someone who is afraid of ending up alone, I present this counterargument: What is scarier, ending up alone, or choosing to marry the next person who comes along simply because you’re tired of being alone—and they wind up being a terrible match for you? Both Erin Parisi, LMHC, MCAP, a licensed mental health counselor, and Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, PMH-C, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said that this is a common concern.
    Try not to let this fear get in the way of enjoying your current season of life or how you value yourself as an individual. The fear of ending up alone is rooted in how you’re judging and valuing yourself, and your value as a person is not determined by who you’re with. Take some time to develop yourself into who you want to be first, then find someone who is excited to be with you because you’re already living your best life.

    2. Do you feel obligated to get married?
    “Once a couple has announced an engagement, news spreads, wedding planning gets into motion, and it can feel like an unstoppable, runaway train. It can be easy to get swept up in excitement at first, and block out any negative, nagging thoughts a person could have,” Parisi said. “Even if a person does start to wonder if they’re making the right choice for themselves, they may feel like saying something would disappoint too many other people.”
    The thought of breaking your spouse-to-be’s heart, disappointing your parents, losing down payments, or feeling embarrassed about retracting an engagement on social media can create enough inner turmoil that pressures you to follow through on a marriage you’re not sure you want just to save face.
    Even before an engagement, obligation can take other forms, like family members telling you “your clock is ticking” or feeling as though you “owe” your significant other a wedding date because you’ve been dating for awhile. Even watching your friends get married can trigger feelings of obligation. 
    “I think that many people feel as though they ‘should’ be getting married when the other people in their friend group are getting married,” Parisi said. Not wanting to be the third or fifth or tenth wheel all the time can affect your reasons for choosing to get married.
    Obligation can also be subtle, such as thinking of marriage as a status symbol, or a point on a made-up timeline that must be checked off. 
    Whatever it is, getting married to prove something to someone else—or even to yourself—can lead you to choose someone you might not have chosen otherwise.

    3. Are you getting married for monetary reasons or financial stability?
    “There are other benefits that come with being married, like financial or healthcare benefits, or being able to follow a partner deployed in the military, that may lead couples to get married before they are otherwise ready to do so,” Parisi explained. 
    The reality is, marrying for reasons like these may cause you to overlook major value or personality differences, stick with someone who doesn’t want the same things out of life as you do, or who doesn’t have the same expectations of marriage as you.  

    4. Are concerns about your age making you want to tie the knot?
    “Plenty of people have an idea of how they want their lives to look at certain ages, and one of the milestones for many people is marriage,” Parisi said. “For someone approaching an age they’ve identified as the age they ‘should’ be married, being married may become more important than who they’re marrying.” 
    Age aside, your own mindset about getting married can also rush you down the aisle. “Feeling ready to get married and not wanting to wait any longer for the ‘right’ person can make you feel like the person you’re with is ‘good enough,’ even though you know you are settling in some important areas to you,” McBain said.

    It can be incredibly difficult to ask ourselves these questions, let alone answer them honestly. That’s because, Parisi said, we’re emotionally invested in our relationships, which means we might not be able to see the red flags that outsiders see.  
    Plus, none of us can see into the future! We all want to hope for the best and believe the future will unfold that way, even with evidence to the contrary. Many of us even believe that marriage will magically fix existing problems, but in many cases, getting married prematurely can make them worse. 
    McBain added, “There are often positive things about the relationship, even though there are negatives, too. It can be hard to figure out if those negatives outweigh the positives. There are usually emotions around not wanting to hurt the other person as well, as you typically care about them on some level at least.”
    But if you’re reading this list and something resonates with you, know that it’s OK if you still want to get married. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Parisi and McBain both recommended counseling, both by yourself as well as with your partner, so that you have a safe space to process these emotions and figure out the best next step for you, for both of you. 
    Parisi recommended that you continue to ask questions: “What would things be like if I didn’t get married right now and/or to this person? If I changed my mind about getting married, how would I communicate that, or how would I handle the responses from other people?” You’ll be able to more objectively assess your situation, so that if you ever decide that you no longer want to be in the relationship, you’ll already know what to do.  
    While thinking through questions like these might not seem like a very romantic idea on the surface, what’s more romantic than staying with someone because you want to, and not because you have to?  More

  • in

    10 Ways to Carve Out Alone Time When You Don’t Live Alone

    With the pandemic keeping us close to home—and close to roommates and partners—for the foreseeable future, many of the introverts among us are desperately seeking true alone time. With roommates and partners always around the [literal] corner, we’re looking for ways—any ways—to find time and space for ourselves, particularly when living in a small space. So, here are 10 ways to carve out that alone time you desperately need, even when you don’t live alone.
    1. Communicate that you need alone time
    It’s easier said than done, telling someone who you live with and enjoy spending time with, that, yes, you need to get away from them… or you’re going to lose it. But, communication is the ever-present key to successful relationships. So, break it to your partner, your roommate, or whoever occupies your space: I need alone time. Bring it up as you would any plan, “So, I’m thinking Monday evening I might schedule some quiet time to journal.” Emphasize that it’s a solo activity, not something you are going to do side-by-side. Keep it casual so your friend or loved one doesn’t interpret it as a referendum on your relationship.

    2. Wake up earlier
    It’s the secret introvert parents have been employing for years. If you get up before everyone else, you can grab a few minutes of peace and quiet to yourself. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier, make a cup of coffee, read a book, or even catch up on Instagram if that’s what fills your cup.

    3. Set up agreed-upon spaces during the workday
    If you’re an introvert, being on Zoom calls all day can you leave you starved to recharge. Add in an ever-present partner and there’s no solace. Do what you can to carve out your own designated spaces during the day and you’ll find yourself basking in those quick breaks between meetings when you can grab a few moments alone. And, yes, I get it: my husband and I live in a small condo, so I know it’s not always as easy as running off to opposite ends of the house, but even a division of bedroom/ living room can do the trick.

    4. Take a daily intention-setting walk
    Put on your mask and get out of the house. It’s good for the soul to get some fresh air, plus, it gives you an excuse to slip away from everyone. But, don’t simply walk, make it a time when you can reconnect with yourself, set intentions for your day, and assess where you are right now. Put on an inspiring podcast or the new Taylor Swift album and enjoy your best company: you.

    5. Incorporate quiet movement
    Yes, working out is an awesome way to spend time on your own. However, if you’re looking for a way to exercise and recharge, think about incorporating intentional, quiet movement like yoga into your routine. Plus, chances are slim that a roommate will crash your daily restorative and meditation session in the way they might join in on a virtual Zumba class. I mean, it’s just a bit more awkward to invite oneself to a dimly-lit, quiet room than a workout with a pounding playlist, right?!

    6. Be intentional about your alone time activities
    Look, if you need your alone time to consist of catching up on Bravo, you do you! Just be intentional about it. Don’t find yourself with precious solo moments and then wonder where they went. If you’re a planner, write down exactly what you plan on doing with your time alone. Keep a note in your phone of the books you’d like to read next time you’re enjoying an introverted afternoon. Or, rediscover Pinterest and make a “Me Time” board with recipes to bake, topics to journal, plants to parent, or movies to watch.

    7. Practice solitude within a crowd
    One of my favorite ways to find quiet moments alone is to find myself in a crowd. You’ve probably heard melancholy messages of being alone in a mess of people, but you can also find a sense of peace and solitude when surrounded by strangers. I love going to the Farmer’s Market or a bustling (socially-distanced) park all by my lonesome and enjoying the freedom to slowly stroll about, taking it all in.

    8. Create morning and evening rituals… and shut the door
    Now’s the time to start indulging in that 12-step skincare routine. Maybe you pick up a bubble bath and book habit. Slather on a 10-minute face mask. Light a candle and write down your intentions for the week. Explore your spirituality through reading and spirituality. Slowly sip your evening tea and savor the aroma. Whatever your pampering or relaxation routine might be, make it your morning or evening ritual. It’s an excuse to shut the door and escape from the world for just a bit.

    9. Get into bed earlier
    On the opposite end of wake up earlier, you can also get into bed earlier. Leave your partner or roommates in the living room after dinner and head back to your bedroom, even if it’s still light out. Brew a cup of tea, then crack open that book you’ve barely been able to put down.

    10. Set up weekly happy hours or date nights
    OK, you might still be worried about the hurt feelings that you’re convinced you’ve left in the wake of #1. So, to prove that you still love their company, set up a weekly dinner or date night. Maybe it’s a Friday evening cheese board or a Saturday afternoon cocktail experiment. Perhaps one of you tries a new recipe each week and cooks dinner for the group. Or, you even instate a biweekly book club to discuss all the reading you’re doing by yourselves. Whatever your new tradition looks like, your roommates or partner will have an easier time accepting your introverted request knowing that you also love spending time with them, just so long as you get your alone time, too. More

  • in

    How Going Vegan Changed My Relationship With My Partner

    It was just another lazy weekend at home, as my partner and I decided to watch a few documentaries on Netflix, where we stumbled across The Gamechangers, and afterwards, immediately decided to cut out animal products altogether and go vegan. After a quick chat about our intentions for this new journey, we looked at each other for reassurance of our decision to go vegan for our health and the environment, not knowing whether this would bring us closer together or completely starve us. Whatever the outcome, we would be changing our lifestyles together. Going vegan was never in the plans for us. Before going vegan together, we ate what we wanted, which usually came along with some pretty unhealthy choices. With both of our families also being from the South, we were used to home cooked meals full of an obscene amount of butter, salt, meat, cheese, and starch. We were no strangers to turkey necks in a pot full of greens, big helpings of BBQ ribs, hot dogs and hamburgers at each cookout, and three-cheese baked macaroni and cheese. The benefits of veganism usually skate past or disproportionately don’t make it to the Black community due to the lack of access to healthier food options in many of our communities and the African-American diet overall, even with more and more African-Americans adopting a cleaner diet faster than many other demographics. My partner and I took our new journey day-by-day and started to recognize some of the benefits veganism had on our relationship, shifting the way we viewed food and each other. 

    We work out together more 
    Before, working out together was very sporadic for us. In between work schedules, making time for friends and family and scheduled events and outings, our workouts together would be few and far between.
    Transitioning from working out a day or two every week to multiple times a week wasn’t an easy transition. Holding each other accountable to make time to work out, even after a long shift at work, helped push us mentally. When one of us was tired, we tried to push through and compromise where we could. 
    Since making our collective health a priority and going vegan, working out together became another way we showed our commitment to our wellness—and each other. We both kept the same goal in mind: to be better from the inside out. That meant to make sure not just only one of us was active, but that we both stayed active and made it a point to fit working out into both of our schedules. 
    Instead of a chore, working out to complement our new vegan lifestyle consisted of fun activities like hiking, taking walks on our local trails, biking, and in-home workouts when our schedules got too hectic. In a way, going vegan gave us the push to be better to ourselves for ourselves, and each other. 

    Our sex life improved 
    One unexpected change we noticed instantly after going completely vegan was that our sex life improved in a way that gave us extra energy and stamina. When our eating habits changed to mostly plant-based foods, our libidos and sex drive followed, a welcomed change we both benefited from!
    Before committing to a plant-based diet, my partner and I ate what we could get our hands on between our busy schedules, which usually came in the form of a pre-packaged meal or from a fast food restaurant. Those meals usually consisted of heavy forms of proteins and carbs, which put us in the food coma, and thus, making time for sex would take the backburner. 
    As our meals got more plant-based, we noticed we felt lighter and full of more energy after a meal than sluggish and sedated, giving us that extra “boost” we needed in the bedroom. Having energy for sex now was a great improvement from where we were before, passing out after most meals and only sustaining ourselves enough for quick sessions in the bedroom. And since we made the change in our eating habits together, we both saw—and felt!—the difference. 

    Source: rawpixel

    We cook with and for each other 
    Changing up our eating habits to eat more plant-based came with a whole new way of looking at food and how and what we cooked on a daily basis, and since we were going vegan together, planning dinners, meal prepping, and date nights became a team sport. Whereas before when one of us would get the other some food on the way home, with a different type of diet, we became more mindful of what we ate, and cooking together became more frequent and fun. 
    We started to plan our meals together to make sure we both were eating well and staying full throughout the day. Cooking dinner together became even more fun, as we browsed through Pinterest, vegan cookbooks, and scoured the internet to find new ways to cook our favorite meals, and helped each other in the kitchen. Once we found our new favorite vegan recipes, my partner quickly went from my sous chef to the head chef, taking the reins in the kitchen and whipping up meals for the both of us. As we stayed committed to this new way of eating together, we stayed in the kitchen longer and cooked as a unit instead of making two separate meals that could accommodate both of our appetites. 

    We take more accountability for each other’s wellness 
    Before switching up our eating habits, caring for each other’s overall health wasn’t exactly second-nature. Besides the regular annual doctor’s appointment and daily multivitamins, our health wasn’t exactly top of mind. Going vegan helped us be more attentive to what goes in both our bodies, holding ourselves accountable for making changes to better our overall health. 
    It was no longer about whether I or he was eating well; we both took accountability for each other’s eating habits. We gave each other more grace and patience as well. When meal prepping wasn’t an option, we made an agreement to continue our vegan journey, even while away from each other. This included checking in on each other and giving each other permission to eat how we wanted to. There were some easier days being vegan and not-so easy days where we craved our favorite seafood restaurant, but we remembered why each other’s health was important and gave each other grace when necessary. 

    We now know that changing our eating habits by going vegan was the push we needed to help sustain a healthy relationship from the inside out. Changing up years of eating habits didn’t come naturally overnight, but we had each other as motivation, and as a result, our accountability to each other, how we made time for each other, and our love for food—and each other—grew.  More