Relationship Stages – The Date Mix Dating and Relationship Advice for Today's Daters Wed, 21 Feb 2018 19:48:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Make Sure Your New Relationship Is Thanksgiving-Ready Tue, 21 Nov 2017 09:00:41 +0000 You might want to give your partner a heads up about drunk Uncle Jake.

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Oh, if there were ever a litmus test for whether a new relationship has staying power or not, it comes in the form of Thanksgiving dinner. It takes all the stresses of a vacation, a heated political debate, and holiday traffic, and throws in meddling aunties who like to point out that there haven’t been any babies around in a few years. It’s crowded, it’s loud, it’s warm and stuffy, it never caters to everyone’s dietary needs, and it’s almost impossible to go an hour without waking the beast of differing political opinions.

So how do you armor your fledgling and beautiful relationship so that the only carnage at the end of the meal is a bird carcass? Let’s talk through some dos and don’ts.

DO: Prep your date on the guest list.
More often than not, people like walking into a situation like Thanksgiving dinner with a little background info. Give them the rundown on the guest list—things like how many people will be there, who you especially think they’ll get along with, and roughly how the day will go. If the invite says dinner will be at 2:00, but you know your family well enough to know that you won’t be sitting down to eat until 5:00, point that out too, and maybe pack some car snacks for the drive there.

DON’T: Micromanage your date’s behavior.
Giving your partner a heads-up about sensitive subjects is totally fine; no one wants to ask the wrong question or trigger a weird cousin. But don’t take it too far. If you’re telling them not to do that thing where they make sound effects while they butter their rolls and begging them to take their piercings out, you’re keeping your family from getting to know the person you love. If you want the relationship to last, your family is going to have to get to know your partner (and the two of you as a couple) eventually. Trust that your significant other can navigate the social aspect well enough on their own.

DO: Ask ahead about anything you can help with.
If your parents are hosting and you’re going to be expected to dive in and get to work too, ask what kinds of things need to be done and what your partner can pitch in with. There is nothing more agonizing than being the “extra” and either being unsure about where to step in and offer help, or because you’re a guest, being forbidden from lifting a finger while everyone else pitches in. It’s awkward, and it feels like a test you’re failing. Letting your mom know that your girlfriend enjoys cooking, or that your boyfriend is an expert napkin folder will help your significant other feel included and give them a chance to converse with your family over a shared task.

DON’T: Abandon your date.
Slipping away to help haul in some firewood? Totally cool. Slipping away to play a two-hour game of flag football in the back yard? NOT cool. Leaving your date with a room full of people they don’t know can be agonizing, especially when they’re not comfortable enough to feel at home. Skip the ball game, or if you really want to play, ask your partner to join in, or at least make them a mug of cocoa and ask them to cheer you on for a little bit.

DO: Have a hard-out.
If you’re bringing a new boyfriend or girlfriend over for Thanksgiving for the first time, and this is the first time meeting your extended family, plan a time-frame that allows you to leave earlier than you would if you were flying solo. Excuses are easy—You both want to make sure you have time to visit her grandma, he has to get on the road because it’s a long drive home, etc. If things go great, you can always linger longer. If things go not-so-well, it’s a kindness to the person who may not be used to Uncle Bob’s bad jokes that you don’t sign them up for a long weekend of them.

This list should be a pretty good start for cushioning the blow Thanksgiving dinner can have on a new relationship. I can’t guarantee your date won’t embarrass themselves by spilling wine all over their possible mother-in-law’s new tablecloth, but hopefully by then you’ve told your mom they’re clumsy, and you’ve told your date that your mom gets all her tablecloths on clearance at TJ Maxx anyway. Either way, the best way to ensure that things go smoothly is to remember that your date is in alien territory, and do your best to make them comfortable. The fact that they showed up to spend time with your family for a major holiday speaks volumes toward their effort to get to know you better, and that alone is a pretty great sign.

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Could a ‘Beta Marriage’ Be a Better Marriage? Thu, 28 Sep 2017 08:00:02 +0000 Many are exploring the idea of a new kind of temporary marriage. Could it actually work?

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You met someone special, the relationship is working in ways you never even imagined it could, and you’re wondering what’s next. Do you move in together? Or, if you’re already living together, do you get married? Or maybe the idea of marriage seems somewhat scary for you. (It is “until death,” after all.)

But does it have to be?

What if you could try it out for a few years to see if it’s as good as—or even better—than how your current relationship works. What if you could create a time-limited marriage contract that you could renew or easily dissolve, without the drama and expense of divorce? Would you do it?

Many say they’d at least consider it. According to a recent TIME editorial by Jessica Bennett, millennials are overwhelmingly opting for what she calls a beta marriage. According to a PEW research study, more young adults are postponing marriage. As a result, they have more opportunities to have several committed relationships before they tie the knot. As one millennial told Bennett:

“Millennials aren’t scared of commitment—we’re just trying to do commitment more wisely. We rigorously craft our social media and online dating profiles to maximize our chances of getting a first date, and ‘beta testing’ is just an extension of us trying to strategize for future romantic success.”


Defining ‘successful marriage’

Entering into a commitment with knowledge and wisdom makes sense. So does planning for future romantic success, especially since having a successful marriage is what all married folks want. But, what makes a successful marriage? The only way many people define a marriage as successful is if it lasts “until death,” meaning once someone dies, success!—even if the marriage was an unhappy, angry, sexless, loveless, dysfunctional union.

So if the goal is to have a successful marriage, perhaps it would be helpful if couples defined what success means to them, what they will do to make it happen, and what they expect their partner to do based on their values and goals. And, let’s face it—a “successful marriage” is going to look different for people who have or want to have children, people who don’t want to have children, people who desire an open relationship, and middle-aged empty-nesters who are seeking companionship.

In other words, not all of us are looking for the same things in our marriage, even if we hope to have our marriage last. So defining why you want to put a ring on it and what will make your marriage a success is really important. And one way to do that is to create a couple-specific contract that would be renewable.


Not a new concept

As odd as it may seem, renewable and temporary marriages have been discussed for decades, centuries even. In some places in the world, they actually existed successfully. Temporary marriages date back to ancient times, practiced by Peruvian Indians in the Andes, in Indonesia, in Japan and in Islam, where it’s still in place today albeit not without its controversy. Trial marriages—similar to temporary marriage but entered into with a hope that the union will become permanent—were suggested as far back as the 18th century by Maurice of Saxony.

Ever since then, they have been periodically discussed and promoted by progressives, and in recent years some have even proposed legislation—a seven-year contract in Germany in 2007; a 10-year marital contract in the Philippines in 2010, and a marital contract of a minimum of two years in Mexico City in 2011.

None of the proposals were passed into law but, given that fewer people are getting married across the globe, according to sociologist Philip Cohen, if we continue this way, the global marriage rate will hit zero around 2042. If divorce still remains a concern for many, perhaps it’s time to take trial and temporary marriages seriously.


Could beta = better

Here are a few reasons why beta marriages may have advantages over “until death” marriages:

Goodbye stigma — There’s still a lot of stigma, shame, and judgment around those who want alternative marriages, such as open marriages, as well as divorce. If everyone had to personalize their marital contract based on their values and goals, that stigma, shame, and judgment may disappear, according to the late Nobel-winning economist Gary S. Becker.

Goodbye fear and inertia — Many couples stay together unhappily because they fear divorce and the related emotional and financial costs, want to keep access to their children, and sometimes just because of inertia. Couldn’t it be more romantic knowing that each person in the relationship is renewing their marital contract because they actually want to continue being together?

Goodbye complacency — The way many marriages work now, spouses can go years, perhaps decades, being neglectful or even harmful, or taking the other for granted without any accountability. How long would a couple go sexless—a common complaint in longtime marriages—if they had to come up with a mutually agreed-upon plan every few years? With a renewable contract, it’s going to be hard for couples to ignore things for too long because there’s a date that will require action; renew or not.

Goodbye contentious divorce — Even if you have a renewable marital contract, one or both of you may decide not to renew. While no romantic breakup is without its pain, having a contract may be less stressful because it will lay out the actions each of you would need to take—like going to marital counseling—and by when if problems arose that you couldn’t solve by yourselves. It would also require couples to figure out what would happen if one or both of you chose not to renew, such as how you’d split property, investments, furnishings, etc., in a more loving and fairer way than what typically happens when a spouse is facing an unexpected split. They just might avoid the expense and acrimony of divorce.

If that doesn’t make you think, consider this: 10 percent of first marriages don’t even make it past five years. Having a mutually agreed upon marital contract would at least mean that couples would be forced to have some important conversations about what they expect from their marriage.

And here’s a bonus—you don’t even have to be married to benefit from having a contract, as “How to Fall in Love With Anyone” author Mandy Len Canton writes: “Our contract addresses much of what must be negotiated in any relationship, especially when cohabitating. It begins with our reasons for being together… Our contract isn’t infallible, or the solution to every problem. But it acknowledges that we each have desires that deserve to be named and recognized.”

Would you want the same?

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How to Tell Someone You Love Them Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:00:45 +0000 What really matters when you're ready to say those three little words.

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As the founder of the company Love Notery, I’ve written love stories for couples at every committed stage of their relationship, from their engagement through their 10-year anniversary and beyond. In learning about how my clients fall in love, I always ask how they said “I love you” for the first time. And what I learned about how to tell someone you love them for the first time may surprise you. You might think that the first, “I love you” is said in a romantic setting—and it often is—but it also actually happens quite a bit during arguments.

It’s nerve-racking to say those three little words for the very first time. Will he reciprocate? What if she doesn’t feel the same way? All of these questions swirl around in your head while you have this unrelenting desire to express your love for your partner and when emotions are highest, like during an argument, those words can just pour out.

As you can imagine, saying “I love you” for the first time in the middle of an argument stops it straight in its tracks while each person considers the weight of those words and how they feel about what has just been said. Though saying “I love you” during an argument may be more common than you would think, there are also other more fulfilling ways to get this emotional declaration off your chest.

First, let’s address the timing issue.

When should you say, “I love you?”
Say it only after two months. Go on at least seven dates. Never say it first. These are only a few examples of some of the rules you may have heard about when it’s the right time to express loving feelings for your partner, and they all focus on timing. But the truth is that there’s not a specific right time to say “I love you” because the right time is when you feel it.

The better measure of when to say “I love you” is to evaluate how emotionally vulnerable you feel with your partner. Do you trust him? Does it feel good to disclose deeper aspects of yourself with her?

How you feel is the thermometer to tune into rather than any relationship “rules” you’ve heard of.

How do you say “I love you” for the first time?
Words without actions cannot adequately express your feelings for another person. When you’re ready to say “I love you” to your partner, carefully consider how your actions up to this point have reflected your feelings toward him or her.

If all you do is fight, “I love you” may be received by your partner with an eyebrow raise. If you’ve been building intimacy along your dating journey, then “I love you” may likely be received in a more mutual way.

How you decide to say “I love you” is best communicated when you two are connecting in a romantic way, and with eye contact and true sincerity behind your words. Make sure you consider who your partner is. Do they prefer romantic gestures in private for example?

Here are some ideas of intimate moments to say “I love you”:

  • Cuddling on the couch
  • On a romantic vacation
  • During a fireside chat
  • Holding hands while taking a stroll in the park or on the beach
  • While having breakfast in bed

After you’ve expressed your feelings, you may not have those feelings reciprocated at the same time and that’s ok. Each person has his or her own way to express their love and will do it on their own time. So long as the intimacy keeps building, love is growing.

Saying “I love you” and actively expressing your love has the amazing ability to bring two partners closer together. Over time, with more experiences and emotionally intimacy, your love for one another will go to new depths.

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5 Things to Make Moving In Together Easier Mon, 04 Sep 2017 08:00:47 +0000 Did you know 27% of couples argue about chores several times a month?

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Moving in together is an exciting step in a relationship, because you can finally ditch the overnight bag and spend quality time with your beau. What some couples don’t anticipate, however, is that cohabitating is a big transition. Open and honest communication can help you avoid common conflicts that arise but what are the things you should be communicating about? Before you pack up your first box, discuss these five things and this exciting time will be even better.

1. Determine your reasons for moving.
Before you decide to cohabitate, you should discuss your motives for doing so. Is it more convenient to split the rent? Do you already spend all of your time together anyway? These may seem like logical reasons for moving in together, but misalignments can create cracks in your relationship.

“It’s important to consider the reasons you’re moving in together, says Rich Santos, SheKnows expert. “It’s not the moving in together part, but the reason behind it that seems to be the driver of whether cohabitation has a negative effect on a marriage.”

That’s why, at this time, you should also clarify your expectations for the relationship and what this move means. For some, moving in together is convenient, but to others, cohabitation means the relationship is moving forward. Psychology Today calls couples who live together with differing views on the relationship’s future, “incongruent non-engaged cohabitors.”

It may be uncomfortable to talk about your future, but it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page before you move in together, split the cost of new furniture, and start building a life as one.

2. Divvy up household tasks.
This may not seem like a big deal but based on a survey, 27% of cohabitating couples argue about household chores several times a month. You don’t need to make the same chore chart you had as a kid, but it’s important to discuss delegating household tasks before you move in together.

If you simply assume one of you is responsible for a certain task, like cleaning or doing the dishes, you may grow resentful of the other person who isn’t helping around the house. Designate responsibilities (you do the laundry and I’ll clean the bathroom) or create a system to rotate tasks so you each help with everything.

3. Take inventory.
When you move in together, you’re combining two apartments into one living space. Even if you’re moving into a bigger space, you may not need to move everything from each of your current places. Long before you call the moving company or load up your car, take inventory of both of your belongings—Will you keep his couch or your loveseat? What will you do with the extra bed? Do you need both TVs?

Talk about these things ahead of time so you don’t waste time or money moving unnecessary items. Determine decorative changes as well because your styles may not be the same. Agree on where you’ll put artwork, decor, posters, and collectibles.

4. Don’t treat your significant other like a roommate.
All technicalities aside, yes you’re sharing a room, but don’t treat your boyfriend or girlfriend like any other roommate. “Once your lover becomes your roommate, it’s really easy to let things get way too comfortable,” according to Rose Surnow from Cosmopolitan. “You nest, you get cozy, you stop leaving the house and the next thing you know, you’re friends without benefits.”

Instead of letting romance fall to the wayside, take advantage of living together to woo each other with refrigerator notes, breakfst in bed, movie night dates, and more.

5. Focus on saving.
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to have the money talk. Even if you’re not combining all your finances, you should be on the same page about saving and spending when you move in together. Based on a recent survey, money is the number one cause of conflicts between couples. Seventy percent of couples fight about money more than they fight about chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and what’s for dinner.

To avoid this sore subject, sit down together and plan your budget. Determine your income and expenses and track your spending with a tool like this simple budget calculator. Not only will this help you cut down unnecessary spending and pay off debts, it will also help you save money as a couple. More savings means you can both be more financially stable and will be able to plan for things like trips and bigger purchases.

When you’ve discussed these difficult but important items, you can focus on moving, setting up your new space, and loving the space you’ve created as a couple. Don’t forget to enjoy the process—moving in together is an exciting step in your relationship.

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The Exclusive Relationship Talk: How to Handle It Mon, 19 Jun 2017 08:00:47 +0000 How to tell someone you want to make it official.

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Being exclusive is trickier nowadays, since daters are bombarded with an almost endless amount of options thanks to dating apps and can be reluctant to settle down. So when you’re ready to be exclusive how do you go about having the ever-allusive exclusive relationship talk?

Despite the shift in dating culture in a general sense, one consistent part of any long term committed relationship is…

Having ‘the talk’.

People often shudder in fear and dread whenever someone he or she is seeing says, “We really need to talk.”

“About what?” they asks almost pleadingly.

“I’ll tell you later. It’s about us. It’s serious.”

The ominous vibe of having “the talk” makes most people recoil in fear and do anything to avoid it. Whoever is pressuring the other to have the talk is generally going to be the one disappointed. Now, I’m not saying you can’t ever have the talk and that it’s a horrible idea. All I’m saying is to be careful about how you bring it up. Don’t bring it up as if there’s a serious situation or problem (as if aliens are invading and you must have a talk about what strategy to deploy).

Instead, you’ll find yourself in a much better position if you bring it up in a positive way and in a positive context.

Quick Tips for Having the Exclusive Relationship Talk:

  • Bring it up when the other person is in a good mood and you’ve had fun together.
  • Bring it up when it fits in naturally with your conversation.
  • Don’t exaggerate the seriousness of the conversation.
  • Don’t make the talk seem ominous or scary or like something to deal with or worry about.
  • Warning the other person that you want to have a talk and then not telling him or her what it’s about isn’t as good of a strategy as simply saying you want to talk and then proceeding to start the conversation right then.

How to Tell Whether You Should Bring It Up

Ask yourself… what’s the nature of your relationship with this person? Have you ever mentioned the future and casually (perhaps even playfully) asked him or her what you two are to each other? Has this person ever said he or she doesn’t want a relationship?

If someone specifically says he or she doesn’t want a committed relationship, listen. My suggestion is to not have the talk if someone has explicitly stated that he or she isn’t exactly looking for commitment. Why would you set yourself up for disappointment?

Trust me, I know how confusing relationships can be. But the truth is that if you really think about it, collect your thoughts, and take a deep breathe you’ll probably know whether it’s time to have the talk or not.

More often than not, we end up trying to force someone who isn’t looking for commitment to say, “Yes, let’s be official.” Whatever the label you give your relationship may be, recognize that just because a man calls himself your boyfriend or partner does not mean he’s going to act like it. Or that just because you and your new girlfriend have changed your Facebook status to “n a relationship” that you’re magically going to get what you want from him.

The quality of your relationship matters more than how and when and if you have the talk.



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6 Things That Change When You Get Married Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:00:44 +0000 By being with someone else, you may find your sense of self.

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Marriage is one of life’s milestones, marking a major change in a couple’s life.  Which may be why some delay marriage longer than others. They may not be ready for all that the married life brings. Besides the obvious things like changing names, gaining in-laws, joining bank accounts, what other changes can couples expect when they make the move from being boyfriend and girlfriend, to husband and wife?

Here are six things that change when you get married that you may not have thought of:

1. Shift in Identity.
The social expectations associated with marriage alter the way that partners think about themselves. “Assuming the role of husband and wife is one of the most important social roles,” says University of Massachusetts psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne. “In studies, husbands and wives place their family identity as the most important aspect in their sense of self.”

2. Feeling Grounded.
Many couples report a sense of calm and relief knowing that they’re no longer alone once their vows are said. There becomes a feeling of security and a true partnership says parenting exert, author and CEO of, Lyss Stern.

3. Spiritual Reconnection.
After an engagement or marriage, many couples become spiritual and return to the religions of their youth, says licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer. “[Couples] become profoundly grateful for having found their life and soul mate and desire to reconnect to their God or religious community.” Couples also feel more connected to their families and childhood friends.    

4. Compromising.
“You will suddenly realize how good you get at negotiating,” says Stern. “Every decision, whether it’s about finances or family, is made with both people in mind.” Compromising is crucial when building a future together. “We must move out of the self-absorbed stage into a mature place of selflessness,” adds Hokemeyer.

5. Lust to Love.
In the beginning lust fuels the relationship and is often mistaken for love. “For the love to last, it must transform into respect and appreciation for the wholeness of the other person,” says Hokemeyer.  For the long-term, these feelings transcend time, physical beauty, and health and financial stability.

6. Sex Needs.
The frequency and intensity may change over time, both for the better and the worse. (If you let it.) Hokemeyer says of married couples, “Both partners are now able to feel more confident in their relationship and in their bodies. This opens them up to the opportunity to explore their sexuality on a deeper and more intense level.” It’s crucial couples maintain that passion and desire in the relationship.

As the experts are clear to note, many couples don’t expect how truly different being married feels. For those hesitant to make the lifelong commitment, Whitbourne says examining where those feelings come from may reveal whether or not you’re really ready to take the plunge.

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