More Information About 4 Signs Your S.O.’s Friendship Has Crossed a Line

rr3Part of a healthy relationship is respecting each other’s independence, including your friendships. But if a friendship of your partner’s—particularly one with another woman—seems suspicious to you, chances are that’s for a reason, says psychotherapist Barbara Neitlich, LCSW. But how do you know when your S.O. is just close with a friend and when they could be emotionally cheating?

Here are a few signs your S.O.’s friendship could be cause for concern.

1. They’re secretive.

If your partner’s not telling you a lot about what they do with their friend, doesn’t want you to hang out with both of them, or always seems to meet them in a private place, it’s possible they have something to hide, says Neitlich.

2. They compare you to their friend.

If your S.O. does this, says Neitlich, they might’ve thought about what dating their friend would be like. Comparing you to other women is also just generally not cool.

3. They always take their friend’s side.

If you’re unhappy with something your S.O.’s friend says or does, they should listen to you. Even if they don’t agree, it shouldn’t be a problem that you’ve brought it up. If your S.O. defends their friend at all costs, that could be a sign there’s something more than a friendship going on, says Neitlich.

4. They’re not confiding in you.

If your S.O. is getting more distant, not telling you about their life, or even saying they prefer to talk about things with their friend, it could mean that the emotional needs you would expect to meet are being met elsewhere.

If nothing feels wrong with your S.O.’s friendships, chances are you’ve got nothing to worry about. If something does, examine your own tendencies. Are you prone to jealousy, or is it this situation in particular that’s getting to you?

If things really do seem fishy, psychotherapist Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT recommends saying something like, “I feel jealous/hurt/insecure about how much you interact with ______. I’m not comfortable with such frequent contact and I think it threatens our relationship.”

How they respond could tell you a lot about whether the friendship is actually a problem. If they get defensive, that’s another sign they’re hiding something. Even if there’s really nothing more than a friendship going on, your S.O. should be eager to reassure you of that, help you feel more comfortable, and make sure no other relationship gets in the way of the one between you two.

Tips To Recognized a Financially Abusive Relationship

rr2I remember the first time my then-boyfriend asked me for money and I didn’t feel like I could say no. We were parked in the lot of a train station where he often picked me up. Since he’d recently quit a job he hated and was only working part-time, he needed extra cash for gas to keep picking me up and visiting me, he said. He’d calculated that half the cost of the drives he took for my sake came out to $20 a month.

Nobody other than a cab driver had ever asked me to compensate them for a ride, and the exchange felt oddly transactional for two people who had been dating for a year and a half. Plus, I paid for my own train tickets, which I thought made us even. But he said it would be hard for him to see me as much if I didn’t pitch in that monthly $20, so I did.

But it didn’t stop there. Every time we went out, some unforeseeable circumstance seemed to leave him broke. His boss was late with a paycheck, so I bought him lunch. He wanted to buy a new addition to his drum set while it was still on sale, so he needed more gas money. Sometimes, I asked him to pay me back. But when I brought it up later, he’d say he forgot about the agreement. When I really pressed him once, he said he already owed his parents and best friend money and needed to pay them back first.

We’d gotten together when I was in college and didn’t have spare change to lend him, so we’d always split everything. But now that I had a steady income that was higher than his, he seemed to expect me to finance our relationship—an arrangement I never agreed to.

When I confronted him about the pattern I was noticing, the conversation somehow ended with me apologizing. He told me I didn’t understand what he was going through because my family and I never struggled with money. He said accounting for every dollar we spent on each other was contrary to the notion of being in love, sarcastically suggesting we record everything on a spreadsheet and never get each other gifts. He told me how stressful his financial situation was and how important it was for him to take this break from full-time employment and explore his interests before jumping back into something he didn’t really want. After several conversations like this, part of me started to feel selfish, greedy, and ungenerous for making a big deal of a few bucks here and there. Yet the other part resented him for making me feel like that.
My first attempts at getting advice confused me more. A couple friends told me this was wrong because it’s a guy’s job to cover his dates. I didn’t believe in upholding that gender role. If I wasn’t on their side, I thought, maybe I was on his side after all.

At the time, I didn’t know much about financial abuse—when one partner controls the other through money. According to marriage and family therapist Colleen Mullen, Psy.D., LMFT, constantly borrowing and coming up with excuses not to pay someone back is one form of financial abuse. (It can also work the other way around, when one person supports another and tries to control all their spending.) Another sign of financial abuse, according to psychotherapist Karen J. Helfrich, LCSW-C, is that someone “acts in a manipulative or punishing manner when their requests for financial assistance are denied.” This can mean using “guilt, sympathy, or anger,” she says.

It was these emotions more than the borrowing itself that took a toll on me. Because I trusted him, I took his criticism to heart. I wondered what was wrong with me that made me unwilling to lend him money. I flip-flopped between being mad at myself and being mad at him. I constantly felt confused and distracted. I had trouble getting things done, binge-watching Friends episodes just to repress my frustration with him. I was scared my anger would destroy our relationship. I didn’t think I was allowed to be angry.

But when I opened up more about what I was going through, despite the nagging feeling that I was betraying my boyfriend by “telling” on him, my friends and family got angry for me. They validated my feeling that something wasn’t right—which I’d silenced when he was my primary sounding board. They let me know it was okay to keep the money I worked hard for, even if I could afford to lend him some, because my financial boundaries were my own to choose.

I realized it wasn’t even about the money. It was about my right to say “no” to him without feeling bad about myself. That’s what distinguishes a healthy relationship from a financially abusive one: Whatever the arrangement is, whether that’s splitting everything evenly or one person supporting the other, nobody should feel pressured into it.

That realization itself still wasn’t enough to get me to end a two-year relationship, though. I ultimately broke up with him during a fight over a shoe rack and a Nine Inch Nails concert. That’s a different story, but suffice it to say, sometimes you just need a straw to break your relationship’s back.

A few months later, I moved to New York and started dating a cute medical resident. One Saturday afternoon, he bought me a slice of pizza. Then, we went out for drinks, and I insisted on picking up the tab.

That’s when I realized, it wasn’t just the right to keep my money that I’d been longing for. It was the chance to offer it—freely and enthusiastically.

Tips to Have a Long Distance Marriage

rr1I recently visited a friend who was traveling back to California from New York to visit his wife and family over the weekend, as he has done for many months since he relocated to Manhattan for his job. Every time he’s back home in Los Angeles, his wife expects him to “be at an 11.” In other words, when he’s there, he better be there.

The trend of long-distance marriages is growing as more of us commute for our jobs, move for work and lifestyle opportunities, and marry people who grew up in different areas than we did. (There was a time when it was unusual to pair up with someone who you didn’t know in your immediate network.)

According to the Center of the Study of Long Distance Relationships, it is estimated that more than 3.5 million married couples in this country are apart for “reasons other than marital discord.”

So, how do you navigate so much time apart from your significant other? I spoke with a number of women and men in this arrangement that weighed in:

Remind Yourself of Why You’re Making the Sacrifice

Something that kept coming up in my interviews with long-distance married couples, especially the ones with kids, was that they had to check in with themselves regularly to weigh the pros of the arrangement so that they could get reinforce their difficult decision to be apart.

Cindy, who lives in New York City while her husband spends four to five months a year in Alaska for work, said that she originally had a “can’t do” attitude when they started the LDR last year. At the time she had two young kids and a newborn baby and struggled with the distance. Now she accepts the fact that this move is good for her family and regularly checks in with herself and her partner about it.

She admits, “I have to think about what the sacrifice we’re making is really for. He works seasonally, and this allows us to be together for the other six or seven months entirely. I constantly have to remind myself of this. I do struggle with it sometimes. I fantasize about my husband having a ‘regular’ job and seeing each other daily and having average life, but then I think about the last six months when we were together, and there’s no comparison.”

When you’re struggling with the long-distance arrangement, it’s helpful to make a list of why you are your partner are making the sacrifice. Chances are, there’s a good reason you’re apart.

Schedule Regular Visits—and Get Excited About Them

Desiree, who married Michael in September, has had a challenging time adjusting to her long-distance marriage since she and her partner lived together for three years prior to getting married. She always knew Michael may leave town to join the family business upstate, but wasn’t prepared for the loneliness of going to bed and waking up alone during the week. In spite of this, she feels that the relationship has brought her closer to her husband.

She says, “The upside is that absence does in fact make the heart grow fonder. We are both so excited when we are together because we miss each other terribly when we are apart. Seeing Michael at the end of the week is the highlight of my entire week. It gives me something to look forward to and I love planning little adventures for us to do during our weekends together.”

Geoff and Karen, who are long distance in Northern California, have to be apart most of the month because they both share joint custody of their children with ex-spouses. Between them, they have five kids and hectic lives, but make sure to plan regular weekends and some weeknights together, schedules permitting. “Every two to three months, we’ll get longer stretches: three-day weekends, family vacations, or work events and (incorporate) travel that can accommodate spouses,” Geoff says.

According to Cindy, “Having your next plan” is crucial for those in LDRs. She and her husband are already getting excited about their date nights next month in Alaska, when they will next see each other. Anticipating being together helps her and her husband reinforce their connection.

E-Flirt

So often in long-term relationships, we use our phones for very practical reasons, like to coordinate logistics and work out plans, but those in long-distance marriages also use their devices to flirt and connect.

In addition to sending sweet and funny texts during the day, many LD couples tease each other, sending provocative photos and racy or flirty messages. This is a plus of the long-distance marriage, since it’s easy to forget to pursue each other when we see each other every day.

Rather than wait until they are physically together, a number of the LD couples dine or watch a movie or television together over their computers on Skype. Geoff says, “Karen and I text a lot, talk on the phone, and sometimes have virtual dates by watching a favorite show ‘together,’ sharing commentary and wisecracks by text.”

Jackie, whose husband is oversees approximately half of the month, looks forward to the sweet texts she receives when she goes to sleep while her husband is waking up and starting his day. She says, “This way of connecting has actually brought our marriage to a different place. I miss him while he’s away, but these little daily notes make us feel like we aren’t a boring old couple…it’s like we’re actually fun again!”

While connecting digitally doesn’t replace being together IRL, technology has allowed people in long-distance marriages to thrive and connect in new exciting ways.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Daily communication is a crucial element in sustaining a long-distance marriage in order to avoid feeling disconnected or resentful. It’s essential to continue to check in with each other, so you know you and your partner know that you’re on the same page.

Cindy admits that it’s normal to “take turns” being frustrated by the long-distance arrangement. She says, “We try to tune in when the other is feeling a little down and be positive for them. It flip-flops. Of course there is occasional anxiety and you’re not going to have one person that is always strong. When [my husband’s] been down, I’m on top of it, and he does the same for me.”

Since Cindy’s husband is in Alaska, which is four hours earlier than New York, daily communication can be a struggle—either she has to stay up too late or he has to wake up too early in order for them to catch each other. In spite of this, they are committed to communicating daily. She explains, “We’re always trying to find a good time to speak. When the kids get out of school, it’s mid-day for him and too busy at work. Recently, my husband said that he will wake up 3 A.M. when kids are getting breakfast just to say hello and then he’ll go back to sleep.” She too will disrupt her sleep schedule and stay up past her bedtime (at 11 P.M., midnight, or 1 A.M.) in order to speak with her husband.
They’ve decided it’s better to lose sleep than lose their communication and connection.

Geoff values the daily texts and calls he has with his wife Karen when they are apart. Checking in about daily routines and “calling when something important is happening, good or bad” is a must for them. For Karen and Geoff, being in regular touch has allowed them to successfully avoid drama. Geoff added, “(Drama) can be amplified by distance. There is enough drama in life already.”

There are obvious downsides and perhaps surprising upsides to being in a long-distance marriage. Sometimes we don’t want to admit it, but there are positives to spending time apart from our partners, assuming it’s not indefinite and forever. Having a ‘deadline’ when you will be together again was essential to all the couples I spoke with.

In Desiree and Michael’s case, they vowed to be together again in a year. In the meantime, she admits that the LD marriage has been a positive thing. “This whole thing is temporary and I honestly believe it is making us stronger,” she says.

Defuse A Relationship Crisis with One Simple Phrase

My husband came home from work the other day, completely stressed out. After a five-minute rant about how nuts his day was, he paused and I said the simple phrase, “How can I help?” Almost instantly, he visibly relaxed, said he just wanted to talk, apologized for getting worked up, and grabbed a beer. Crisis solved.

Thing is, I knew the conversation would end that way. “How can I help?” has been my go-to relationship phrase ever since I first learned it at a startup I worked for a few years ago. The company had a bunch of “—isms” they wanted us to memorize that were designed to help us be better coworkers. These phrases were inescapable at this job: Not only did we get them in the employee handbook and were encouraged to use them when communicating with our coworkers, they were also plastered all over the walls of the office, so you could get your —ism fix while waiting for your coffee to brew in the kitchen, peed in the bathroom, etc..

While most were kind of cheeseball (hello, “respond with urgency”), I found myself using “how can I help?” often at work. Eventually it followed me home, and now, I use it whenever my husband is upset, sad, stressed out, or angry—and it works every damn time.

I love “how can I help?” so much that I’ve raved about it to friends, who also use it in their relationships. But why is this simple phrase so powerful?

Because it makes someone feel that you’re in a situation with them, explains Mark Reinecke, Ph.D., chief psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “People feel they need help when their usual ways of coping with whatever the problem may be in life are overmatched,” he says. “They feel overwhelmed, depressed, and helpless. Asking ‘how can I be of help?’…it leads the person to feel that they’re not alone.”
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The way it’s worded is also crucial, since it’s inviting a blueprint for action, says Jocelyn Charnas, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan. “Saying ‘can I help?’ is a yes or no question with potential to shut down the dialogue, but ‘how can I help?’ opens up communication,” she says.

It also doesn’t make the assumption that you know how to fix things, which can be annoying when all someone wants to do is vent. “You’re not saying you know how to fix this, you’re saying you want to understand,” Charnas says.

So, when’s the best time to whip out The Phrase? Charnas says it really can be used in any situation when you feel that your S.O. needs sympathy and love. Reinecke also points out that it’s not just limited to romantic relationships—this is a good one to use in friendships, too. “Any situation where a person feels overwhelmed, that’s a good time to use it,” he says.

While “how can I help?” can take the guesswork out of what you can actually do to make things better, I usually just hear something along the lines of, “I’m good, but thanks for listening.”

Tips to Win Her Back

I have had many friends named Bill. At least six, maybe more. The second Bill was an extremely tall, pock-marked, mullet-headed semi-poet, with huge hands and a black-belt in some martial art which I can only remember now as kung-fu; a guy who liked wearing Army-Navy surplus clothes, who punctuated conversation with acidic stabs at overrated rock guitarists and sarcastic opines concerning the emergent proliferation of The Gap. It was a long time ago, and we must be forgiven our mutual pasts. But the second Bill was the most unlikely Casanova in the world. I would say he was in most ways an ugly guy — wiry hair, bad skin, bug eyes. Still, he won over women more easily than anyone I’ve ever known. It seemed to me that he got every woman he set his eyes on, and most upon whom I set mine. Straight-away, most times. Bad-boy animal magnetism, a lurching Tom Waits costume plus a legitimate passion for Rimbeau. Magic-time in the ’80s! I lived to see it: the guy got his, and then some.

Bill always said it was easy to win over women. He employed the salesmen’s tricks of seduction: solicitous attention, eye contact, pulses of wit, kindness, pointedly kind gestures, confident attention and punctuated curiosity, the assertion of strength accompanied by demonstrated humbleness of spirit. I know this, because the second Bill taught me that much. These were early lessons. I came to see that the real trick, the one thing he could not manage to learn himself, was how to win a woman back, how to earn love again once it was lost. Like this:

Don’t believe in your first shot.

A woman must be won over several times. The first time — driven by attraction, chemistry and illusion — is easy, relatively speaking. Sure, the stakes feel high. But you have to fail a few times before it works. And when you fail, you move on. Failure is something you can walk away from. That’s what Bill saw so clearly. The last time you win a woman over — the time you have to win her back, after having lost her — is the tough one. By then illusion has dried up and tricks have become transparent. This is the most honest moment of them all, or it should be. Now the stakes are clear: You’re on the outside, knowing what you have lost.

Don’t trade on your misery.

You’re on the outside looking in, and it’s no fun. But, buddy, nobody gives a damn if you cry. Whining about all the things you miss doesn’t bond you to her in any fashion. If she’s happy about the break-up, then you are just showing a passion for nostalgia. And you shouldn’t. If she’s unhappy, then you’re amplifying what she already knows. And love, as we know, can hurt. Everybody knows that. So, don’t act like a hapless mope about it. You wouldn’t be on the outs if you hadn’t created some misery yourself. Stand up straight. Show that you will — both — survive. It’s an assertion that you have changed, or will change, and that’s probably what she wanted in the first place.

Don’t promise to change.

Because promise are cheap, and there is one certainty here: a bond was broken. Or else you wouldn’t be caught in this battle, would you? Just don’t turn over a new leaf, because real change demands time. Address the deficit — What was wrong? What did you neglect? What mistakes were made? — and then declare how you’ve changed.

Don’t get a present.

Forget gifts that make up for your behavior — make your behavior the gift in itself. Remind her who you are. Do a little inventory of your shared past. Find a way to demonstrate that again — show up, wake up, retool your skills. See yourself through her eyes, rather than panning everything through the sad glaze of your own. What were you good at? Where was your strength? What was her attraction for you? Women tend to declare themselves pretty clearly. Somewhere in your past, she said it — she told you what made you special. What did she love about you? Is that really who you are?

Don’t let someone be in love with a lie.

And don’t encourage them. If it isn’t who you are, do everybody a favor and move on. There are worse crimes than loneliness. That was what the second Bill never understood. It’s the only lesson he ever really taught me.

Some Signs This Relationship Wont Last After Cuffing Season

Heads up: We are now entering cuffing season. While the idea that you’d start a relationship just because it’s cold out is kind of funny, it’s a legitimate phenomenon that has its basis in evolution. (Really, think about when your past relationships started or became more serious…)

But Jocelyn Charnas, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan, says it’s not necessarily bad to start a new relationship because you want someone to cuddle with when the temperature drops—you’re human, after all.

“We enter into relationships for any number of reasons, regardless of the season,” she says. “Sometimes it’s because someone piques our interest, sometimes because we’re lonely, and sometimes because we’re trying someone on for size.” And right now, it’s because you want someone to cuddle with, since you so don’t feel like dressing up and bar-hopping when it’s cold out.

Licensed marriage and family therapist David Klow, owner of Skylight Counseling Center in Chicago, says it’s probably not the best thing to start a cuffing-season relationship, because you can be fooled into thinking it’s better than it actually is—and pass on chances to get to know other people during that time. That said, it happens… .

With that in mind, here are the signs you’re totally being cuffed, plus why this relationship is definitely going to be over in the spring:

• You had the DTR talk the same day you pulled your skinny jeans out of the back of your drawer. Granted, your butt looks pretty damn good in them, but still.

• You met last week and you’re already sharing a snuggie.

• You’ve been casual friends since May and realized you were “meant for each other” the day temperatures dipped below 65.

• You went apple picking together.

• Your 3 a.m. booty call now shows up for post-brunch sex…and also brunch.

• There’s suddenly a lot of shit at your place that isn’t yours.

• You have a standing Gilmore Girls date.

• “I know we only met last month but you should totally come home with me for [any kind of family holiday]!”…said no one in the summer, ever.

• You already know who you’re going to kiss on New Year’s Eve, but you had no clue two weeks ago.

• You’re making spring break plans with zero intentions of including your S.O.

If you suspect that you’re in a relationship solely because of cuffing season—and you’re not OK with that—it’s a good idea to talk things over to see where your S.O. sees this going. But if you know the deal and you dig it, by all means…

Some Surprising Signs You’re Dating a Legit Narcissist

A lot of us have called someone narcissistic for, say, talking about themselves too much or blowing off their significant others. But how do you know if you’re dating an actual narcissist, not just a selfish person? Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration, and a lack of empathy for others.” About six percent of people have this disorder, though many others have narcissistic traits.

“Narcissism should be viewed on a spectrum of mild to moderate to severe narcissism,” says marriage and family therapist Gary Brown, Ph.D., LMFT, FAPA. “To the extent that all of us have our own self-interests, we are, to a degree, narcissistic. The problem compounds when the narcissist falls under extreme type. They do not make good life partners.”

Here are some signs that your date or significant other is a bona fide narcissist:

1. They build themselves up.

If your date or partner is always the star of their own stories or makes themselves look like a hero, that’s a sign of narcissism, according to psychotherapist Alena Gerst, LCSW, RYT. In extreme cases, she says, “they may claim (and believe) they have close ties to celebrities, royalty, and high ranking government officials.” Your date nights should not feel like celebrity interviews.
2. They’ll never admit they’re wrong.

One characteristic trait of a narcissist, says Denise Limongello, LMSW, is that they won’t apologize. “Studies show that individuals who reportedly were involved with narcissists complained of never having received an apology for any mishaps during the relationship,” she explained. “Narcissism is often characterized by a lack of accountability for all wrong-doings.” Due to this trait, narcissists might get take offense very easily, says clinical social worker Karen Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. “Although they seem emotionally secure and confident, inside they are as brittle as glass, as empty as shells. Your job is to prop and fill them up, and they may get angry when you don’t.”
3. They shut down after fights.

Narcissists are notoriously bad at taking criticism, says Limongello. They might, for example, stop responding to your texts if you seem displeased with them. “While it can be normal to take some space from each other after an argument, a sudden, prolonged disappearance can be more unnatural and problematic than simply taking a breather,” Limongello says.

4. They twist your arguments around.

Narcissists will make themselves seem like victims even if they’re the ones who have done something wrong, says Limongello. So, when rehashing your arguments, they may have a tendency to rewrite history. “If you find yourselves routinely disagreeing on what took place in the past, your partner might just have a distorted reality and consistently experience himself as a victim,” she says.

5. They don’t know much about you.

The hallmark sign of a narcissist, of course, is that they make everything about them. If you start talking about yourself, they’ll find a way to relate your experience to their own, says Koenig. You’ll often come out of conversations feeling like you’ve learned a lot about them but the reverse didn’t happen. “When you bring up something personal, they snatch the idea away and run with it, leaving you feeling that what you have to say doesn’t matter,” she says. “Sometimes, when you’re around them, you feel totally invisible, and that can generate either despair or rage or both.”

Tips When You Regret Breaking Up

That old saying that “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” seems to apply particularly for exes. Sometimes, you don’t realize how bad things were until you’re no longer in a relationship. But then, there are the times you realize how good you had it…and think you might actually want them back.

In the latter situation, is it worth another shot, or is this longing for your ex just a fleeting feeling?

Beware “dumper’s remorse,” says Barbara Neitlich, LCSW, author of Stop Dating Like a Teenager. After a breakup, there’s usually going to be some part of you that wishes things turned out differently, even if you initiated it. When you’re not in the midst of the relationship, it’s easy to remember the good parts and forget the bad ones. But no matter who ended things, they ended for a reason. Feeling sad about a breakup doesn’t make it the wrong decision.

The important question to ask yourself if you’re feeling torn, says Neitlich, is “what would it truly be like getting back together again?” Would it actually be different, or would you just be dealing with the same problems that made you break up all over again? Answering that question honestly could spare you another breakup. Neitlich also advises making a list of qualities you like and dislike about your ex to see if the positives really do outweigh the negatives.

Too often, Neitlich sees people return to their exes because they don’t realize they can do better. They think every relationship has some major issues and no couple is perfect, so they’d might as well settle. It’s only by refusing to settle, though, that you can find what you really deserve. “Removing a bad relationship is the best thing you can do to set up the process of finding the right one,” she says.

On the other hand, psychotherapist Gary Brown, Ph.D., has seen the opposite happen. If you’re sure you’ve made a mistake and you want someone back and you don’t say anything, you risk “looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life and wondering if you let ‘the one’ get away without even trying,” he says. “I’ve seen too many people back off because they were too scared of rejection to go for it.”

Some signs that you’re experiencing more than just dumper’s remorse are that you can realistically imagine a future with your ex, you’re not just sad but completely devastated, and you truly want them at their best and their worst—not just an idealized version of them or the relationship.

You should also make sure your regret is lasting, not just something that pops up when you have to go to a party without a date or see your friends declare their love on social media. “Having regrets afterwards is often just a case of feeling lonely and missing the companionship,” says Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT. “It’s better not to get fooled by those feelings that may keep you in a relationship way too long when it really is not going to work out in the end.”

If you’ve considered these questions for at least a month or so and you know you truly want to reunite, Neitlich suggests asking your ex to meet up. Tell them where your mind was when you broke up, why you believe it was a mistake, and why you see a future for the relationship. It could also help to acknowledge that you understand this may put them in a difficult position, says Brown. Then, allow them time to think about it before giving you a response.

If you do get back together, know that it won’t be the same and you may have to work to get your partner’s trust back, says Feuerman. “You have already impacted that person’s sense of security in the relationship.” Brown recommends going to therapy to get past the issues that led to the first breakup.

So, if you’re missing your ex, wait a while and think about it before picking up the phone. If you truly believe in the relationship, go for it, but know you may not get the response you want and be ready to do the work necessary to revive the relationship.

Tips When the Relationship Is Great but the Sex Isn’t

In an ideal relationship, you and your partner are compatible both physically and emotionally. But if you have a lackluster sex life while everything else is great, can what’s lacking physically be made up for emotionally? And how much better can the sex get?

Prettyfrustratedtw is dealing with this issue right now. Her boyfriend is “extremely kind, thoughtful, and respectful” but has some insecurities that prevent him from wanting sex often, and on top of that, he struggles with premature ejaculation. Can relationships like this survive?

According to sex therapist Vanessa Marin, it all comes down to how willing you and your partner are to work on it. If you both are, there’s usually something that can be done. And if one of you isn’t, your relationship probably has bigger problems than sex.

Licensed marriage and family therapist and sex therapist Marissa Nelson says her clients usually see improvements if both partners are willing to open up about their sexual concerns and work through them as a team. Some people will avoid the issue altogether because they don’t want to hurt their partners’ feelings, and then they often end up avoiding sex itself.

There are all sorts of larger problems that can lead to sexual dissatisfaction, like emotional disconnect, body image issues, stress, and performance anxiety. Experts say that by talking about sexual problems within in your relationship or in therapy, couples can get to the heart of what’s underlying them.

Some helpful topics of discussion for couples who want to improve their sex lives, says Nelson, are “what they would want more of out in their sex life, what turns them on about their partner, what turns them off, how they prefer sex to be initiated, what goals they want for their sexual life together, and what each are willing to do and give to work on this.” Another good question for couples to ask each other is: “If I assure you that it’s safe to confide in me, what are the top three things about our sex life that you would share with me?”

Nelson recommends you devote a month to rediscovering your sexual relationship and trying new things. Remember there are no rules—for example, intercourse doesn’t necessarily have to be the main event, and orgasms don’t have to happen every time. Be creative and explore things you might’ve been afraid to try, and your sex life may hold more possibilities than you imagined.

Why Should Stop Dating the Wrong Kind of Guy

I was sitting at the prettiest date restaurant, out with a guy I’d met several days before at a mixer. He was sweet and upbeat, talkative and seemingly driven. I nodded along to his stories as I took bites of my pasta, methodically peppering him with questions while revealing very little about myself. Although I was technically there, I couldn’t force myself to actually show up for that date.

In the end, I hugged him goodbye and thanked him for dinner. When he texted me the following day, I told him that, although he was lovely, it was probably best we went our separate ways.

That would be my last date before a self-imposed dating sabbatical. There is no use dating while you’re numb.

I had been like that for months, emotionally battered after my last relationship and closed off to connection. Looking back one year later, my brain has blotted out much of the months I spent with my ex. I remember it hurt; I don’t remember all the details.

I recall a series of ups and downs, in which I felt completely inadequate as a relationship partner. I lost much of my self-esteem. I cried a lot. He was a fantastic liar, always changing his story so smoothly. He always made me believe in his intentions, before retracting his words and making me feel crazy for believing his previous sentiments would hold weight.

If you’ve ever dated a manipulator, you know what it’s like after you finally pull the plug. You hemorrhage emotionally, both from the wounds of a breakup and the wounds he created during your time together. That person always comes back, too. My ex would approach me whenever he saw me around—in a coffee shop, in a parking lot. Anywhere. He’d ask how I was, tell me “a lot had changed for him,” or that I met him “at a strange time in his life.” He would ask me to meet him again sometime, start over with purpose.

It’s easy to get sucked in by articulate charmers, especially if you have somewhat of a “fix it” or savior complex; Even after the breakup, you want to see true change in the person. You’ve invested. You want the reward. But after months of false promises, I knew not to go down that road with my ex.

When I’d kindly but firmly decline his invitation for dinner or coffee, as I always did, he’d find ways to press buttons that made me hurt all over again. One moment, it was “you were the best girlfriend I’ve ever been with,” and the next “we were never really together.” I’d smile, tell him I wished him well, and bite back the floodgates.

I always walked away feeling the weight of all the raw edges inside my body; wounds he’d cut open months before, aching and not yet healed. I let the pain sit inside me for a night, and then I’d try to block out all feeling the next morning.

After mindlessly throwing myself back into the dating pool in the immediate aftermath of the breakup, I decided to stop after that date in late July 2015. First dates left me feeling hollow, bored, and out of touch. I wasn’t ready. Not because I was still bleeding from the months of emotional manipulation, but because I’d slowly cauterized myself to emotions at all. I was numb to new prospects, and unsure what I was looking for.

For me, dating has always been about building a long-term connection—one that I had never been able sustain. I subconsciously started to recognize how exhausted I was. Historically, I’d tossed my energy at whatever my whims desired, and these characteristics—charming, confident, successful, witty—usually depleted me of my otherwise healthy self-esteem.

As I mentally leafed through the pages of that dating history, reflecting on the type of guys that I had chosen, a frightening pattern of similarities emerged. They’d all pursued me with strong initial interest. They were deep and perplexing, enticing since I loved a challenge. They were confident enough to break through my walls of busyness and fear, but their cocky attitudes eventually gave way to their deeply-rooted insecurities. They were engaging and charismatic, extremely smart and articulate. They also had an inability to care about someone for any length of time, or emotionally engage with a relationship in a healthy manner.
These men would retreat often, pushing me away, before returning with more promises about the kind of guy they were, sprinkling pretty words all over my tattered heart. I believed them, because there wasn’t another option; their behavior was all I knew, and everything I was conditioned to cope with. There was never any consistency. They always put themselves first. They were all narcissists.

For years, I’d been under the false assumption that this was “my type.” Must be. I always chose it. Only after taking inventory did I recognize that I had agency in that decision. Only I defined and chose my type, my type did not choose me, and I had the power to turn the tides. The one issue? I didn’t really know what I was looking for. So after months of trying to reorient myself, I finally asked my oldest friend for help.

Connor has known me for more than a decade. He has seen me through my ultra-nerdy high school years, and has watched me attempt to date for the entirety of my adulthood. “What do you think would make me happy?” I asked him one night during a heart-to-heart about dating, covering both his habits and mine.

His answer was short, to the point. “Super-outgoing and friendly is what I imagine for you—and that’s huge, because I feel like you don’t go for outgoing people,” he said of my brooding M.O. “Mature. Confident. I don’t see you with a smooth-talker, more of a legitimately good person.”

I went to bed thinking about what he said, letting those seeds start to take root. Legitimately good. Of course I wanted someone “good.” But did I actually look for that in practice, or just seek out recovering bad boys that I could rehabilitate toward some kind of “good-ish” end?

Sometime around Christmas, five months into my Year Without Dating, I realized what a relationship was supposed to be. I’d made mostly new friends since the spring—the breakup and a depleted post-grad friend group had required it. It also dawned on me that I hadn’t been called upon to “solve” any of their problems.

These friends built me up, and they never packed drama. I wasn’t creating five-step plans to help them end their toxic relationships, discussing them to death as they never followed through on their promises to leave. I wasn’t taking late-night phone calls to argue or vent. I just felt happy spending time with them.

It dawned on me that the same principle applied to my romantic relationships. Maybe relationships weren’t about fixing a person at all. Maybe they were about mutual support.

So with the dawn of 2016, I actually started to think about what I needed in a relationship—not what I wanted or was instantly drawn toward, but the qualities that would make me feel safe and supported. I looked for times I felt that way, or saw authentically supportive gestures in real life. I observed the many men who passed through my life, from family members to guy friends, friends’ boyfriends to work acquaintances.

I have noted every time my dad gets the car door for my mom, 30 years into their marriage. I appreciate the way my friend Mike boosts his girlfriend Jordan’s sense of independence during an incredibly busy time in her life. I like the way my best friend’s boyfriend makes an effort to engage in her life, with her friends and her interests. I like that one of my guy friends always silently does the right thing simply for the sake of doing it, not because he’s going to get anything in return. His yes means yes; he follows through on his word. I warm whenever he notices I am selling myself short or subtly downplaying my accomplishments. It reminds me that I am the sum of my positives, not the essence of my last mistake.
I have taken mental snapshots of all the qualities that make a genuinely good man—the things that would create a stable and positive relationship. These images have slowly started to replace all the old memories of my exes, the flashes of hurt, the anger so hot it had branded me a victim of my own unconscious decisions.

I’m not going to be that girl anymore. I hadn’t chosen my type, but I’d allowed my type to choose me. Time and again. Everyone tells me that I need a confident guy, but it took me years to understand what that looks like; I had always let a guy’s false persona confuse me into believing it was genuine. It was just a shield for the insecurities he projected upon me.

In reality, confidence is quiet. You have to open your eyes and acknowledge it. It does not beg for attention, and it won’t settle for less than it deserves. It does not prey on anyone, or put another person down. It is always positive energy. And it’s not easy to find, especially if you’ve spiraled into a cycle of dating narcissists who bleed you dry and forced you to keep putting your walls back up.

Walls exist for a reason. With all the guys I had dated, part of those walls never really crumbled. In this day and age, where egalitarian marriages are verifiably happier and we’re looking for our true equals, you have to ask yourself about the guy who always comments on the walls and blockades you put up. Are you just the next challenge? What are his motives for breaking them down, and why are your walls still so high months after meeting someone?

Sometimes, it’s instinctually unsafe to let your guard down. I think we are predisposed to place walls in front of the guys who would hurt us. Maybe dating is always a gamble, but take note of the guys who literally scare all your senses. Sure, it’s a rush. But your walls will never fall. These men will toss grenades from afar, haphazardly amassing damage as they force their way into your life. A healthy relationship won’t follow

I’m looking for the guy who creates an atmosphere where it’s OK to take my walls down. It’ll be quiet, less emotional, and probably a whole lot more fulfilling in the long run.

I haven’t seriously dated anyone since my last ex-boyfriend, and I’m okay with that. As the saying goes, “It only takes one.” I’m more than willing to wait for the person who quietly brings positive energy into my world. I may not know what he looks like, but this time, I’ll know exactly how he’s supposed to feel: calm, peaceful, and safe.

Information About Couples Decided to Have Babies Before Getting Hitched

These days, the idea of waiting until marriage to have kids seems a little outdated. Now, a number of people have kids when they feel it’s right for them—whether or not they have a ring on that finger.

Marriage rates have been on the decline in recent years, and the average age educated American women are marrying is at an all-time high of 27 years old. (This may not sound “old,” per se; but it’s jumped seven years since the 1960s and four years since the 1990s.)

One reason for the shift is the fact that we’re now more self-sufficient and not relying on men to “complete” us in order for our adult lives to start. Today, we get married not necessarily because we need to, but because we want to.

At the same time, women today are more aware of their fertility than ever as many have seen friends and family struggle to get or sustain a pregnancy. (One study showed that egg freezing went up 400 percent in the last year alone.) Women may wait for marriage, but may not take the same time to delay having a child(ren).

These couples fell for each other and decided to say “I do” after becoming parents:

Alix and Matt

How they met: Alix and Matt met online. Matt messaged Alix and seemed more genuine than the other messages she was getting from single guys. He asked her questions, showing her that he had actually read her profile, and asked her out for a drink one night after work. The dinner led to ice cream, “then dating, then moving in together, then baby, then buying a new home, then wedding,” according to Alix.

Getting pregnant: Alix got pregnant when she was 37. She says, “We weren’t opposed to having children, but we were both older and were still undecided. Well, it was decided for us about three to four months after he moved in with me. One day I wasn’t feeling well and did extremely poorly when we went snowboarding. The next day when we woke up, Matt asked me how I felt and I said ‘pregnant.’ I made us go to the store together to get a pregnancy kit and we both read the instructions together. Pee on stick. Wait two minutes. If you’re pregnant, a pink line will show up. Got it. Into the bathroom I went. I was a little worried about his reaction since we JUST moved in together. I opened the bathroom door with the pee stick in hand and Matt asked, don’t you have to wait two minutes? I said, ‘not if you’re pregnant!’ and held up the stick to show him that pink line. Matt had the biggest smile on his face.”
On the decision to get married: Alix and Matt were both married before and didn’t want to get married again unless it felt “right” and not due to any sort of obligations…like getting pregnant.

“After we found out that we were having a baby, we both agreed that we were happy with the way things are and didn’t want to change a thing,” Alix says. “We loved being with each other and welcomed the life and family we are creating together, why mess with it? When our daughter was about eight months old, Matt surprised me with a marriage proposal. When he gave me the ring and said that he felt like it’s the right time because he felt like we are so in love with our life and each other and he wanted to be able to call himself my husband. I couldn’t agree with him more. Getting married was not important to us, but it just felt right and we wanted to celebrate our love and our little family with a wedding. It was really awesome to have our daughter as our flower girl.”

Dawn and Dean

How they met: Dawn and Dean met at a pub after being “dragged out” by friends for someone’s birthday. Dawn remembers, “We barely talked at the pub, but I thought he was handsome and sweet so I got his number from a mutual friend. We met up the next night and it was an amazing date! We talked about marriage and children in the beginning of our relationship….”

Getting pregnant: Dawn said, “We both wanted kids soon and we both didn’t care if we were married. We talked about when we wanted to start trying and got pregnant first try! We weren’t engaged yet when we got pregnant, but we already knew we wanted to get married. We had a boy, Ryley, and he’s 2 months now.”

On the decision to get married: Six months after Dawn and Dean started dating, Dean moved into her apartment. “We started talking about marriage then. We got engaged on Christmas Eve when I was already pregnant. He wanted to ask before we got pregnant, but he wanted to have the ring first…,” Dawn said.

On babies and marriage: Dawn admits that she and Dean feel that having a child together is more of a commitment than getting married, especially now these days when (so many) marriages come and go.

She concludes, “Our relationship evolved quickly, I think, because we wanted the same things—house, kids, marriage. I guess we were at the age when we met where we were completely ready to have kids and didn’t want to waste time. I didn’t want to wait to start trying. I have a girlfriend who couldn’t have kids and you hear about people trying for years! The marriage part could wait….and now Ryley can be part of our wedding.”

Of course, having a baby isn’t easy. For those who are considering having baby with a partner before marriage, keep in mind that everything changes when your child arrives—literally everything.

According to Pam Jordan, PhD RN and the developer of the “Becoming Parents Program,” “It seems as though the relationships that are doing the best and the relationships that are doing the worst decline the most once a baby enters the picture. With the ones that are the best, it’s so hard to believe that everything was so good and then we had this baby…”

Because you’re not legally bound with a marriage contract, Jordan is concerned that some may bail on their responsibilities. “Becoming a parent is the ultimate loss of control and it’s a very different challenge,” she says. “Couples should sit down and talk about realities of parenting. Someone needs to care for this baby 24/7. It’s very easy to scapegoat your partner when all the changes happen.”

Jordan suggests asking yourself why you want to have children. She says, “Children are not convenient. They’re very expensive. These couples must objectively evaluate what becoming parents will do to them. They should figure out who’s going to do what. There are a huge number of questions they should be discussing…”

Finally, Jordan recommends that if you’re entering parenthood with a partner that you’re not married to, you should take the time to ask yourselves big questions like:

How do you see your life unfolding in the next five years in terms of work and family? What role do you see yourself and myself playing in the child’s life?

In many ways, having a child together is a bigger step than marriage. So, it’s essential to communicate your needs, goals, and expectations before taking the step of co-parenting together, whether or not you’re married.

As Alix says, “Having a baby is probably the biggest test to see if the relationship can survive. It was hella stressful and everyone was sleep deprived. We just kept communicating and kept helping each other out (teamwork, as we’d say). I believe that our relationship got stronger as we embraced parenthood and marriage.”

Tips to Get Laid at a Wedding This Summer

Summer is here and chances are your schedule is full of weddings this season. If you’re single and looking, weddings are a great place to meet people attending without a plus one.

According to my single 35-year-old friend Kirk, weddings are an excellent place to pick someone up. In his words, “Weddings mean dancing, flirting, a vibe that’s downright exuberant, and the two greatest words in the English language: Open Bars. At a wedding, no one is thinking about work, studying, or having to wake up at 8 a.m. It’s not even really reality—it’s like a one-day vacation.”

Whether or not you’re seated at the “Singles Table,” there are many ways to meet other guests flying solo.

These days, many weddings have their own event hashtag for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat….and any other social network that’s popped up since I wrote this sentence.

Using social media to scope out other guests is a great way to do a little research under the radar. Unless it’s set to private, you can sniff around a person’s profile and figure out if he or she may be available. Then, you can use the same hashtag to connect, online and/or off.

Chime in on the person’s Instagram and weigh in on his wedding pictures, shout the person out on Twitter and/or introduce yourself to the person(s) you’ve spotted virtually and let them know that you enjoy their updates and thought you’d say “hi.” Then, see where it goes.

Dressing for (a little bit of) attention

The point of dressing for attention is not to totally upstage the bride or wear anything too outrageous, but research shows that you’re more likely to stand out in colors like red and pink. According to scientists at the University of British Columbia, women tend to wear these colors when ovulating, which suggests fertility and makes them more attractive to the opposite sex.

In numerous other studies, red has been shown to increase attention and attraction. The key is not to overpower your audience with too much of the color (so you may want to skip bold red lips and make your makeup a little softer), so people know that you’re confident, but approachable.

Great accessories, like a nice hat for an outdoor wedding, will also attract attention. But really, any accessory that stands out is a good excuse for strangers to initiate conversation.

Asking your friends to play matchmaker

Do a little research on the guests you should look out for before you arrive at your friend or family’s wedding weekend. Trust me, the bride and groom are hoping connections will be made on their special day.

If the people getting married are too tied up to focus on playing matchmaker, ask the mother or sibling of the bride or groom if they have suggestions of who you should meet. They likely know a number of the wedding guests and who may be available.

After sniffing out potential eligible guests, you can introduce yourself to them by saying something simple like, “X thought we should meet, so I wanted to introduce myself.”

So, take the time to meet new folks while romance is in the air. You never know, connecting with someone new at a wedding could turn into a super fun summer fling or even the beginning of your own wedding story.