How To Keep Your Relationship Healthy During The Pandemic

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How to Maintain a Happy, Secure, and Functional Relationship Amid the Pandemic

How are you handling the the pandemic with your partner? If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably had your ups and downs as you navigated new stresses – and spent a whole lot of time in the same space during lockdown.

It can be difficult to maintain your relationship during this unprecedented time, but it’s definitely doable, especially with a few tips and tricks in mind. Here’s our best advice for staying happy together during the pandemic.

Keep Communication Healthy

Communication is the foundation of a relationship. When things get stressful, it can be easy to lose the healthy communication you’ve established and give over to your stress. To keep communication happy and healthy, consider a few key ideas.

First, keep communication collaborative. Use inclusive language and make decisions to be beneficial for the both of you. Psychology Today encourages listening to each other and giving your partner your full attention in order to ensure that you’re keeping your communication collaborative.

When a situation arises, remember that you aren’t the only one involved in the conflict. Your partner is, too! Coming to a resolution helps both of you, and not coming to a resolution can harm both of you.

Second, stick to agreements. Don’t flake on the agreements you’ve made with each other, no matter how minor they may seem. Even if it’s just promising to take the garbage out, make sure that you do it, no matter what comes up. Sticking to agreements proves to your partner that you’re still willing to go the extra mile for them.

Finally, avoid gaslighting. Instead of blaming your partner for situations outside of their control or manipulating them into doing what you want them to do, use healthy communication practices. Be open with your communication, and be clear with what you need and want. Stan Tatkin suggests having a plan for how to deal with conflict that may arise already at hand, so that you can avoid slipping into unhealthy habits.

Solve Your Disagreements

It can be easy to let arguments stew and sit, especially when you’re together for more time than you’re used to. It’s easy to let your own personal stress transfer over to your relationship. However, practicing keeping your couple bubble healthy is important.

To keep arguments from getting out of hand, quickly resolve the argument. This means once the conflict arises, sitting down and working through it. Make sure that you aren’t using negative language, and instead are expressing how you feel.

Have a plan with your partner for where and how you’ll work out arguments, so you can do so efficiently and effectively. Use “I” language, instead of “you” language, so that you’re making sure to express how you are feeling, instead of blaming or assuming how they are feeling.

And finally, remember to compromise. You’re not always right in every situation. In fact, you’re probably at least a little bit in the wrong. Practicing compromise on both sides will ultimately make both of you happiest.

Keep Things Fun

Times are stressful–don’t let your relationship be a stressor too. It may seem silly, but it’s important to keep things playful during stressful times in your life. Adding humor into the relationship helps relieve stress.

Using inside jokes, giving in to childish behaviors, and even roleplaying are all suggestions that keep communication playful. Additionally, plan COVID-safe dates together. This could be as simple as having dinner together and talking about your day, or as elaborate as planning a day-long date ending in a pillow fort movie night.

Explore quarantine date ideas, including cooking a meal together, doing a spa night, playing games, or tuning in to a concert livestream. Find a new way to connect with an activity that you will both enjoy. Don’t be afraid to revisit your childhood or teenage years for ideas to keep things fun.

It Can Be Hard, But It’s Worth It

Relationships can be hard to navigate during this pandemic, but it’s worth it if you care about your partner. Keeping communication healthy, resolving arguments quickly, and keeping things fun are all tips and tricks to maintaining your couple bubble during quarantine. Your relationship can ultimately help relieve much of the stress that accompanies this pandemic.

I Can’t Wait to Go on My Next Match.com Date (Said No One Ever)!

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Online dating can be like a black hole that sucks you up, spins you around, plays with your head and then spits you right out to try and figure out what just happened while recovering from your head injury.

Ok, fine, that description may be a little dramatic.

One can find a few upsides to online dating.

  1. You don’t have to hang out at the bar anymore (because the bar is now located in your phone).
  2. You can be choosy about who/when you want to meet.
  3. You can enjoy the never-ending buffet of choices in pursuit of your perfect girl/guy.
  4. Men and women are paying money to meet, so they must be Grade A (not!)

In my own experience, here’s how a Match.com boy/girl interaction typically goes down:

Guy scrolls/trolls online looking for a pretty girl to catch his eye.

Guy clicks on the profile, scans the profile, studies the photos and if the images excite him, he copies and pastes his generic, yet witty opener to girl.

Girl receives alert. If guy catches girl’s eye (out of the 20 emails she received that day), she will read his profile and scrutinize the photos to try and detect what’s ‘wrong’ with him.

Is he really that age? Is he living a secret life outside of his marriage? How old are those photos?

If there are any grammar or punctuation mistakes, she won’t bother to reply.

If the guy passes her initial profile scrutiny, she will employ her own witty, yet generic reply.

Connection made.

Witty email banter goes back and forth approximately 2-3x.

At some point the guy will ask for the phone number or the girl will provide it unsolicited.

Guy texts (as opposed to calling) first because:

  1. He’s scared.
  2. He likes to hide behind his phone.
  3. He thinks you may be too busy to pick up if he calls.
  4. He’s really not ready to go from online to offline. That’s too much commitment.

A week of texting goes on. Girl nudges guy to call. She wants to hear his voice. It will reveal a great deal about him.

The talk happens.

Girl judges boy. Boy judges girl.

Success. They are not repulsed by each other’s voices, tone, words, etc.

They plan to meet.

Meeting happens at local coffee shop or bar.

Nervous excitement on both sides.

Eyes meet for the first time.

Judgments brew internally. Do they really look like their pictures? Did they lie about their age?

Some witty, yet awkward banter. Some awkward silence.

If there is some semblance of chemistry both can exhale, but it’s no guarantee of a second date.

Both proceed to ask benign questions in an effort to keep the conversation flowing, yet to not poke too much (so as to seem like we’re in an interview).

Choose your own scary adventure:

  1. Guy reveals within the first half hour that he was arrested and spent 10 days in jail last year; and he could use my help to get his mugshot removed.
  2. Guy asks if he can call me before i go to bed ‘to help put me to sleep.’
  3. Guy tells me he lives in a bus and can easily bring his house to my house.
  4. Guy reveals that he is a prophet of G-d and is here to save humanity.

Yes, these are real scenarios that happened to me!

One hour is up. Girl cannot wait to abscond. Guy seems clueless.

Bill comes. Girl pretends to reach for her wallet.

Guy pays. If he can’t pick up the tab for a coffee or drink, he is ineligible.

Awkwardness prevails.

More benign chatter.

Perhaps a hug or kiss on the cheek goodbye.

Guy says I’d like to see you again.

Girl remains silent or nods ambiguously.

If she’s bold she will tell him that she is not interested in another date.

Guy and girl both understand the subtext. They will never speak again.

Guy and girl go home.

Rinse off.

Guy and girl get back online to find their next eligible candidate (and to block each other).

Repeat entire process with next candidate.

Girl realizes she’s had 327 bad online dates.

She cancels Match.com subscription and updates her social media relationship status to ‘already ordered 37 cats’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

35 Love Lessons Learned

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To all the men I’ve dated….thank you. Thank you for joining me on this rocky yet exhilarating journey in life and in the pursuit of love. Whether you were in my life for a day, a week, a month, a season or for years, I am grateful for every one of you. Because every experience with another human being teaches us something; and every person that passes in and out of our lives acts as a ‘mirror’; an irrepressible energy that requires us to be vulnerable about who we are and where/how we need to change and grow.

Some people help us learn important life lessons, some offer practical advice and some give us the gift of showing us what we don’t want in a relationship, but they all leave us with something.

After 20 years of dating, here’s what I’ve learned from the men who passed in and out of my life:

  1. Always be you. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  2. People cheapen talk. Put people on mute and pay attention to their actions.
  3. Love is a verb.
  4. Don’t rely on anyone to take care of you. Have your own thing going at all times.
  5. Have high hopes, low expectations.
  6. Love yourself first. If you can’t do that, you cannot be with another person.
  7. You will not even begin to peel away at the first layer of who that person is until after the first 90 days.
  8. There is a big difference between loving someone and being ‘in love’ with someone.
  9. Everyone has baggage. Know what/how much you’re willing to carry.
  10. Don’t ignore small red flags. Eventually they turn into red banners.
  11. Don’t stay at the fair too long. Leave before the ride starts to break down.
  12. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. It’s greener where you choose to water it.
  13. If they’re not texting or calling you, they aren’t into you. Move on.
  14. Don’t chase anyone. If they want to be in your life they will.
  15. Some will, some won’t, so what, NEXT.
  16. Listen more. Talk less. People will tell you everything you need to know if you just stop talking.
  17. Don’t fight dirty and throw the entire kitchen sink into the argument.
  18. You can always find at least one good thing about a date, a person, an experience. When the going gets rough, try to focus on what’s good.
  19. Be compassionate with everyone, even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
  20. We are all fragile beings and we all need love.
  21. Not everyone is capable of loving you the way you need to be loved.
  22. Everyone has pain. If someone breaks your heart, it probably has more to do with their own pain than with you.
  23. Don’t ever get involved with a married man. You are only sabotaging your own happiness.
  24. Always assume the person has good intentions/reasons before you accuse.
  25. Money doesn’t = happiness. Don’t compromise yourself for anyone or anything.
  26. People will always be who they are, until they aren’t. Believe them when they show you who they are.
  27. You’re a gift to anyone who is lucky enough to be with you.
  28. Seriously qualify your suitor before you let them into your life.
  29. Don’t hold onto anger, resentment or disappointment.
  30. Never look back. That’s not the direction you’re going.
  31. Not everyone is the marrying type. That’s ok.
  32. Your heart is elastic, it will heal.
  33. Never underestimate the power of good cry with a good friend.
  34. Confidence, ambition and drive are very sexy!
  35. You are love-able.

lessons

Rules of Engagement: Ten Tips for Fighting Fair in Relationships

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The beginning of every new relationship feels like you’re floating on a rainbow candy cloud of endorphins. You’re both on your best behavior; and that’s easy to do because you’re starting with a clean slate. There are no past resentments or hurts – yet. However, in the course of everyday life, conflict inevitably arises and the rose-colored glasses through which you perceive your new love will fall away; and when reality does set in – and you discover that like you, your partner is a perfectly imperfect human, we want you to be equipped with some important rules of engagement to help you and your partner fight fair.

  1. Have empathy. Don’t forget that you’re fighting with your chosen partner, a fellow human with a fragile heart. Take extra care to find positive ways to disagree and to compromise.
  1. Find a neutral spot that’s not in a public place because fighting in public is uncomfortable for everyone. When you feel an argument boiling up, do yourself a favor take 5-10 deep breaths while reminding yourself that you are an adult and you are capable of ‘putting a lid on it’ until you and your partner are in a private setting.
  1. No degrading language or name-calling. We are not in grade school and name calling/degrading language only contributes to the erosion of your relationship over time. Before we speak we need to evaluate how those words will echo throughout the relationship. Remember that we have teeth and lips – two partitions – to help us choose our words carefully. Words have energy and once they are released they can never be taken back. There is an old saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ and this couldn’t be further from the truth. We can heal from physical injury, but the negative energy that is transferred with our negative words never fades. Don’t fight dirty.
  1. Do not ‘kitchen sink’ it and throw in every grievance. Remain focused on the issue at hand. When you bring in every other grievance you’ve been harboring you take the present issue off the table and dive into a sea of chaos and traps and exhaustion. Neither of you can win when one is on constant defense about issues that are simply not relevant to the current moment.
  1. Do not talk about breaking up/divorce. One argument does not a failed relationship make. Arguing fairly in relationship can actually help you grow closer to your partner. But if you keep threatening a break-up or divorce you’re planting a seed in your partners mind that you can’t be trusted to stick it out when times get tough. It’s just like the boy who cried wolf. Watch your words carefully so that you earn the reputation of someone who does what they say they are going to do when they say they are going to do it.
  1. Do not yell. This goes out without saying. If you find your voice getting higher because you feel like you aren’t being heard, once again, take 5-10 deep breaths and remind yourself that any message you need to relay will be received with more understanding and empathy when you speak softly. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘it’s the tone that makes the music.’ Did you know that only 7% of what we hear comes from our words? The majority of how we interpret/receive a message is via tone and body language. Don’t yell.
  1. DO not use ALWAYS and NEVER statements. No one person ALWAYS or NEVER does/doesn’t do something. It’s just not accurate to declare that any person is always a certain way. We are extraordinarily dynamic, ever changing humans who process thousands of thoughts each day. We can sometimes be a certain way, but we’re not robots and you can’t count on us to always behave a certain way, so please NEVER do this!
  1. Don’t go to bed mad. When we sleep our dreams assist us in trying to work out the issues/events of the day. Don’t take negative energy to bed, where your dreams can play all sorts of mind games with you. Let go of the events of the day when the day is over. Release all anger and resentments. If you hold on too tightly to that stuff, it will eventually manifest in physical dis-ease.
  1. Pick your battles carefully. If you’re always looking for a fight you’re probably better off staying single. You must accept that your partner will inevitably annoy, frustrate and anger you some of the time. He/she will say/do things that will make you want to hit them upside the head and rip them a new one. Don’t do that. We’re all sensitive and perfectly imperfect people. Most of us are trying our best to say/do the right thing…but we don’t always get it right. Remind yourself that not every battle is worth fighting. If you can learn to let annoying/frustrating behavior roll off your back, you will be a happier person in general and your relationship will feel more like a peaceful respite from the crazy world we live in.
  1. Practice the 72 hour rule. Before I learned this critical lesson I would get mad at my partner, and in the heat of the argument I would declare something that would have inexorable consequences for our relationship. I did this because I wanted to ‘stick it’ to him and make him feel as much pain as I was feeling in that moment. Over time I’ve learned to walk away from arguments to avoid saying something I will regret and to minimize any collateral damage. As the argument gets further behind me (this usually takes about 72 hours) my feelings/emotions simmer down and I can make better/logical/rational/mature decisions. Implementing the 72 hour rule allows you both to cool off and then re-approach the issue with a cool head and more compassion for yourself and for him/her.

He Chose a Summer in the Hamptons over LOVE!

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As fate would have it, I met a man twenty years my senior; and while I was hesitant about the extremely large age gap at first, my concerns started to melt away as I began to fall in love with his warmth, strength and kind heart. He treated me like a man should treat a woman – and I liked it and I liked him.

One of many things I liked about dating an older man was that he was past the stage of being intensely focused on his career and he was financially very stable. This meant that he had time to spend with me and money to spend on doing fun and exciting things together. He started calling me his girlfriend and asked me if there were other guys in the picture. I told him I would not be dating others because I wanted to see where this would go. He was pleased.

After three months of hanging out, going on his boat to the islands, checking out cool local events, eating at fabulous restaurants, meeting his friends, going to charity events, parties, tennis tournaments, etc. I was starting to believe that there could be a future with this man. He was kind, loving, generous, thoughtful, strong, smart, well liked, confident and I enjoyed every moment we spent together.

This man has a younger brother who is a billionaire and who lives a very glamorous life in NYC and the Hamptons; and whose inner circle includes the who’s who of the rich and powerful. Every time my beau spoke of his brother, it was obvious that he yearned to be ‘seen’ and included in his brothers jet setting life and to ‘fit in’ with his brother’s friends.

As talk turned to making plans for my beau’s upcoming birthday in April, I noticed a palpable shift in his demeanor when I suggested that we do something together. He clearly felt uncomfortable as he explained that he was thinking about going up to NY for his birthday and that I probably didn’t want to join him because his sister in law is such a hard ass. This explanation didn’t sit well with me, but I let it go.

A few days later my much older beau told me that he can see himself falling in love with me and having a future together; and then asked me what happens when he’s old and sick and I’m still young and vibrant? Would I take care of him? Would I change his bedpan? When I told him I didn’t know what the future had in store for us, and that I wanted to take one day at a time, he started to grasp onto things I had said that he could use to demonstrate that our age gap was too large and that this relationship couldn’t actually work. It was a complete 180 degree turn within the span of an hour. He went from talking about a future together  –  to this cannot work at all – and my head was spinning.

Later that day he told me that I made him feel old and that he felt uncomfortable introducing me to his friends because they assumed he was my ‘sugar daddy’. Which was so far from the truth.

He asked me if we could have dinner the next day and ‘talk’, which I interpreted as ‘the end of the line’ talk. Of course I was right, but when he finally came clean and expressed his real reasons for breaking up, I was completely flabbergasted.

He explained that he had met an older, wealthy woman who owned a home in NYC and the Hamptons (whom he had been seeing prior to meeting me). With his birthday and summer on the horizon, he wanted to spend the summer in the Hamptons with his brother/family; and the only way he could enjoy himself in the Hamptons is if he attaches himself to this woman who has the Hamptons house and knows all the right people and parties to attend. He further explained that he couldn’t lie to me or to her and thus had to break it off with me.

He acknowledged that he was using her to ‘social climb’ and that he didn’t have the same feelings for her as he did for me, but that spending the summer in the Hamptons was more important than finding love and a partner in life. (I should mention that he never married and he’s nearing 60!) He admitted that his priorities are warped and that he knows he will regret his choices later on, but nonetheless, he’s going to continue on this superficial path, use this poor woman for her house and her contacts and enjoy his summer in the Hamptons. He began to tear up and I laughed out loud because his crocodile tears were almost comical. Here he had a chance at having something real and someone to love, but in the end his desire to mingle with the ‘cool kids’ won over his heart and I got dumped in favor of spending a summer in the Hamptons.

I kid you not. This really happened.

 

Texting and Dating. Do the ‘Write’ Thing: Part Two

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The advent of the smartphone and the Internet means that we now lead two lives: our ‘real’ life and our ‘phone’ life. Many of us treat our devices like an appendage, keeping them within easy reach at all times so that we can check in and out of our real life and phone life throughout the day.

We can be engaged in an enthralling conversation with a friend over a wonderful meal at a bustling restaurant, but the moment we hear that familiar ‘beep’ notification, we’re drawn to pick up our phones like a moth to a flame; and without hesitation we pause our ‘real lives’ to check what’s happening in our ‘phone’ life.

For single people in search of a romantic connection carrying a smartphone is the equivalent to carrying a 24/7/365 singles bar located in the palm of their hand. Singles can spend a few moments on any number of dating apps, swipe right a few times and find themselves with an endless supply of romantic options to explore in their phone.

Texting is the new ‘first impression’ and initially it’s all the other person has to go on to determine whether you’re a creeper or a keeper. To help you amp up your phone world/texting game, here are our critical do’s and don’ts when texting and dating.

A Good text vs. a Generic text

A good first text should include a thoughtfully crafted message that’s friendly, flirty, concise and specific to the recipient. A ‘hey you!’ ‘Wassup’, ‘Whatcha up to?’ text is generic and shows little thought or effort. It tells the recipient that you’re lazy and dull and she/he isn’t very important to you.

Your text messages are all that a person has to go on as you are shaped in their minds; and these snippets of banter can have a profound effect on how this person forms an impression of you. There is big difference in the romantic success of the man who texts something personal and genuine like:

‘Hi Angela, great to ‘meet’ you. We’re going on a date this Saturday!

Vs.

‘Hey, Wassup?’

A good text message should include something personal (like a callback to the last engagement) along with an invitation to something specific at a specific time. 

The Waiting Game

How long should we wait in between texts? Does texting back right away make you seem desperate and less appealing? We all know we’re glued to our phones so why do we play these mind games? Do we seem more attractive to people when we come off as a little distant or disinterested?

We’ve become conditioned to expect immediate gratification over text and feel uneasy and anxious when we don’t get the quick response. Some say they wait to respond because they want to keep the upper hand and/or appear busy and important. Others understand that by holding back they become more attractive to the other person. By not being ‘present’ on your phone you increase your ‘presence’ in the other persons mind. It’s a mind game, but it’s also a powerful way to build attraction.

There is no rule of thumb when it comes to how long to wait. Some say wait ten minutes, some say double the amount of time since his/her last text, some say 1.25x while others subscribe to no more than 3 minutes. And some just find this whole notion frustrating.

The Endless Back and Forth

How many times have you found yourself engaging in clever, witty banter with a new Tinder match that you’re excited about, only to watch the flame burn out and fizzle into nothing? It’s easy to hide behind the texts on your phone and get sucked into endless banter that never leads to a real world interaction. Texting is the perfect vehicle to negotiate real world meeting times and places; it’s not for ad nauseam useless banter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Sexting

Today almost everybody has a high quality camera and video recorder in their hands and sexting is a timeless tradition that has evolved as technology advances.

Don’t risk looking like a douche by asking for naked pictures or making explicit sexual comments/innuendos too early in the interaction.

Do use sexting when you’re in a relationship to help you share and/or maintain intimacy over long distances, initiate foreplay and allow each person to share his or her needs and fantasies.

Just be sure you use a service like Snapchat that offers self- deleting messages. You never know where those photos can end up after the relationship ends.

Calling v. Texting

If you ask a young person how they feel about using the phone to initiate contact, the most common response is that they get anxious at the thought of a real world conversation with people they don’t know. They’re more comfortable behind their screens because they grew up in the digital age. Ask a middle-aged person the same question and you’ll get a different answer.

The older generation views the phone call as an important medium to help build rapport and establish a comfort level that helps to move the relationship from the screen into the real world. Woman often separate the ‘men’ from the ‘boys’ when initial contact is made via phone because it demonstrates courage and maturity. Women want to hear your voice and gauge your ability to have spontaneous conversations. A phone call is also flattering and makes us feel special.

The Importance of Grammar & Spelling

Bad spelling or grammar is an immediate and major turn off for men and women. You can be the most attractive, funny and smart person who ever existed, but if you can’t spell or punctuate correctly you will come across looking like a bozo. It cannot be overstated how important it is to check spelling and grammar when texting! 

No matter how many romantic options we have in our phones, we should always remember that there is a human being behind them; and this human being is wired to seek out ‘real’ life connections with other humans. Texting is a terrific tool for modern dating, but it cannot compare to connecting and getting to know people in person. We’re much better off putting our devices down and spending more time connecting with people in the ‘real’ world.