I Met My Boyfriend First But All My Friends Got Married Before Us

What I learned while waiting to get married until it felt right.

A woman at work just got engaged, and so did I. We were chatting about wedding plans, comparing rings, and eventually started talking about how we met our fiancés. She said she met hers this past November, and it was love at first sight. They were in a relationship by December and talking about marriage by February. I told her I started dating my fiancée nine years ago.

“Nine years?” She said, shocked. “That’s a really long time.”

And it is. It’s definitely not the norm to be together that long and still not be married. We were always happy, we were always in love, we just weren’t married.

And it drove me nuts.

It’s easy to give yourself a complex

Over the years I’ve seen so many friends tie the knot, and boy, was I jealous. I’d suffered through a million Facebook engagement announcements and had to drag myself to countless bridal showers.

At weddings I’d count on my fingers how many more years my boyfriend and I had been together than the bride and groom. And judge them accordingly.

At every wedding my boyfriend and I attended together (and there were a lot), I’d wonder why it wasn’t him and me up there in the fancy white dress and suit. Maybe, I thought, there was something wrong with us. Were we not as happy as I thought? Were we just compatible enough to want to be together, but not to make a big commitment?

It would have been different if we actively didn’t want to get married, or didn’t see ourselves together in the long-term. It would have been different if we weren’t right for each other.

But that wasn’t it.

We knew couples that got married with way more problems than we did. (One couple we knew got divorced within the year.) So then, I wondered, what was the holdup with us?

It’s hard to wait until the time is right

Sure, we were young. We met in high school, so by the time we’d been together three years (a reasonable time to get married) we were only twenty, and still busy with school. By the time we graduated from college, we were, well, just out of college. We’d both moved back in with our parents and were struggling to find jobs. Planning a wedding just wasn’t realistic.

It wasn’t like we hadn’t talked about it. We had, and usually decided we wanted to save money to have a bigger wedding (and honeymoon) later, or that we wanted to wait until I was done with grad school.

I knew it was reasonable to wait it out, let the right time come. But reason didn’t stop me from un-friending co-workers when they posted engagement pictures online. I mean, how dare they?

I’d spend my time at sorority sisters’ weddings perched by the bar, drinking too many flutes of champagne, unabashedly wrinkling my bridesmaid’s dress.

I Met My Boyfriend First But All My Friends Got Married Before Us

It’s easy to second guess yourself

Of course, the feminist in me struggles with this.

It’s embarrassing to look back on drunk-crying over cake, complaining that it should have been us on that cake topper, but the truth is, it was difficult for me. Even knowing my relationship was healthy and happy, I wanted what my friends had.

I felt like I was missing out on something that I deserved more than others, and it was a struggle to keep my friends.

Maybe some of the stress came from peer pressure. Everyone and their mother had been asking me when we’d be getting married since our second anniversary. And it was getting old.

Any time a good-natured friend would elbow me and say “you’re next” I’d force a smile and hope they couldn’t tell I was mentally punching them in the nose. But the more they pressed, the more my inner voice asked why we were waiting.

The question poked at my brain until eventually I realized: we simply weren’t ready.

I Met My Boyfriend First But All My Friends Got Married Before Us

The wait is hard, but worth it

Maybe that was hard to grasp when I watched my best friend try on wedding dresses, and maybe it didn’t make sense when I caught five bouquets in a row, but the truth is, it just wasn’t the right time yet.

We’re a pretty conservative couple, and it’s not our style to rush into things. We only spend the money we have, and we’re careful. We won’t even try a new restaurant before scrolling through all the reviews on Yelp. It’s not wild or whirlwind-romantic, but it’s us.

It wasn’t that we had a problem, I’d just managed to find the right guy about five years early.

And, when I think about that, it makes me feel really lucky. Now that we’re finally engaged, at 26, we’ve already spent almost a third of our lives together.

We know everything about each other, we have countless memories and thousands of pictures, which, I think, is a great start to the rest of our lives.

Loved this story? Read more about unconventional committed relationships on Love TV.

How to Take Wedding Photos That Slay

5 tips for insta-worthy engagement and wedding photos.

Recently, the internet has been enthralled with a newly-married couple’s wedding photos. These pictures are intimate, full of happy-tears and close-up shots of true love. Perfection!

I’m engaged and I keep thinking about how badly I want my wedding pictures to turn out this nice.

So, I’ve compiled all my best tips from my own engagement shoot, other photo sessions, and even advice from my favorite photographers to make sure you (and I) can have viral-worthy couple photos.

Guess you could re-wear this 😍 dress as a Cinderella costume… 😘👑📷: @3photographytoronto

A post shared by A Practical Wedding (@apracticalwedding) on

Check out photos from the same venue

A great way to prepare for your session is to look up past photos from the location you’ll be taking pictures. Whether it’s your wedding or an engagement shoot, you’re probably not the first one to take pictures there.

Look up photos online, find what looks best to you, and share them with your photographer. You might get some good lighting ideas or find some great backdrops.

If you’re still picking out a venue, this is a great way to narrow down locations. Maybe a couple took “okay” pictures in the garden at one place but another couple took super cute pictures on a swing set at different locations.

It will help give you ideas and narrow your choices.

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Come prepared with poses

An engagement shoot might be you and your beau’s first time taking professional photos together and it can be a little awkward to have someone take pics of you being cuddly.

If you have some poses in your back pocket, you might feel more comfortable.

With that being said, of course, your photographer will have pose ideas, but you still want to come to your session well-educated. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity for a great shot.

Look on Pinterest for some good ideas for poses. While you’re there you might get ideas for themes or even props you’ll want in the picture. A sign with your wedding date? Great! A picnic basket and blanket? Perfect!

And beyond the ideas online, you’ll want to pick something all your own. If he always kisses you on the forehead, tell your photographer you really want to get some shots of that. It’ll be personal and special to you later, and it will feel natural.

During my engagement shoot on the beach, the photographer asked if there were any poses we wanted to do. We ended up leaning against a large rock— only because it felt natural to us. Those ended up being some of our cutest photos because (as silly as it sounds) it was so “us.”

We never look the way we do in most of the pictures (of course—the pics make us look better) but it was nice to have a few photos of us “in our natural state.”

Take pictures in the outfit beforehand

You already know you shouldn’t wear large brands or bold patterns (or anything that takes away from you.) But even if you think you’ve found the perfect engagement session outfit, you’ll want to take it for a test run.

I’ve worn dresses that I thought looked great, only to find they looked horrible in pictures. A dry run is important because photos will pick out details you might not catch— you would hate it if your bra strap were showing through the back of your shirt the whole time, or if your skirt billowed out too much.

Take pictures in a few outfits before your session. And if you can, take those pics at the location you picked. Move around, take candids, try to do everything you will do on the shoot day.

This is helpful if you’re choosing between outfits, too. You can see what colors look good with the background, and narrow down your choices.

While you might not want to take your wedding dress to the location to take pictures, it’s smart to take photos from every angle in the dress you want. Even when you’re picking a dress, have someone take candids of you, so you can see how it looks on camera.

Tell your photographer how you want to look

Your photographer isn’t a mind reader, but she does want you to be happy. Any feedback you can give will make both of your experiences better. Showing her photos of couples beforehand is great, but remember to use your words during the shoot too.

If the photographer keeps telling you to pose a way you don’t like, tell her that. Maybe you don’t like that angle, or you aren’t crazy about lifting poses. Also, if you want the shoot to be more funny than romantic, say that. If you are aiming for soft looks and poses, with a lot of close ups, let her know.

Also, if you’re comfortable with it, tell the photographer you want to do candid shots. It’s fun to take some time to walk around and talk to your significant other and let the photographer click away. Get comfortable and act the way you would normally. Those are the best shots.

Sorry in advance but y’all are going to be seeing a lot of photos of these two because 😍

A post shared by Alexandra Davie Photography (@alexandradavie.photography) on

Check yourself

Ask if it’s possible to see a couple of shots on the camera screen during the shoot, just to make sure you look the way you want.

I hate this one curl in my hair that always pops out, so before I take pictures, I bobby-pin that sucker down. But outside, in the middle of a shoot, my hair might move, and I would hate to have that one curl sticking out in all my pictures. Sure, things can be changed with Photoshop, but it’s important to feel confidant during the shoot too.

You should also bring a bag with a mirror, some tissues, and maybe a little bit of make up. If you’re a crier, you always want to be prepared. And if you do see a problem, you’ll want to fix it ASAP.

Planning a wedding? Love TV’s got your back in sickness and in health. Read more about planning for love that lasts a lifetime. 

How to Learn to Love Yourself While Loving Someone Else

I made all the selfish decisions — I went to the school I wanted to go to and got jobs that took over our together time — but here’s why it made us stronger than ever.

It’s very rare for a couple to stay together through high school, college, and beyond, but my fiancé and I are doing it. After nine years we’re just as strong and happy as ever, planning our wedding in between marathons of Netflix and visits to Chipotle.

Friends will sometimes ask how we managed to stay together. I’ll wink and gesture to my “hot bod” complete with old sweatpants and cheese-stained shirt (when did I even eat cheese?) and I’ll tell them that it’s simple: my fiancé and I have a lot of chemistry, we listen to each other, and we talk often.

But if you, dear reader, really want to know the truth— my special secret, the one magical tactic that has helped me in my relationship, is this: sometimes, I act selfishly.

I know, you’re rolling your eyes and thinking: wow, what great relationship advice. I’m sure all my dates would love to hear that.

But hold on — I’ve been in a relationship for just about nine years, and did the statistically (almost) impossible thing of staying with my high school sweetheart. So I’m practically an expert. (Okay I’m not an expert, but I do have some good advice.) Here’s what I’ve learned.

Growing together while you’re still growing is tough.

jilly pretzel

Throughout your late teens and twenties, you’ll have to make a lot of big choices. And couples that would otherwise be happy together find themselves going to schools across the country and taking jobs in different states.

It’s unfortunate that the age in which people start to get it together, and start to get real opportunities, is about the same time a lot of people start getting serious with their significant other. And sometimes they have to choose between prioritizing an opportunity, or a relationship.

I’m here to tell you that during this time in your life, you should prioritize “you” over the relationship, because in the long run, it just might keep you two together.

Let me explain with our story. It may sound familiar.

My fiancé and I absolutely could have gone to the same college after high school. I applied to a bunch of schools in the area and got into all of them. (I know, I’m kind of a big deal.) Meanwhile, my future-fiancé had only applied to a couple schools and had just happened to decide to go to the one university we’d both got accepted to. I could have gone to that school to be with him, but I didn’t.

There was another school I absolutely loved. I felt at home at the other college and knew it was the place for me, even if it was an hour away from my boyfriend. It wasn’t exactly across the country, but an hour is a long way away for two eighteen-year-olds.

It was stressful at first, wondering if we could make the relationship work. I was busy with classes, the cheer team, and mock trial Monday through Friday, so we saw each other every weekend. And it made our two days a week together extra special. It was hard, but worked out great.

And then I got offered a job at Disneyland.

He knew it was my dream job and that I really wanted to do it, but I knew that working weekends would mean less time with my boyfriend. Still, I took the job. It was tough, I only saw my boyfriend after or before work on the weekends. But we made it work. I loved working at Disney, and I even continued working there after college.

Those were two of the biggest decisions I had to make that I knew would affect my relationship, not to mention other decisions like going on trips with friends and taking extra classes in the summer, sacrificing time with my boyfriend to better myself and improve my friendships.

And it all ended up great. Here’s why.

When you learn to love yourself, you prioritize your development, not just you.

jilly pretzel

First of all, by putting myself first I became a better, smarter, happier person. It’s the old “help yourself to help others” mentality that encouraged me to go to the school where I knew I’d have the most opportunities to grow. And by taking the job at Disneyland, I improved my résumé; I made new friends and learned new skills.

These choices made me a more well-rounded person and a better partner, something my fiancé deserves.

But it also helped us in another way. If I had chosen to spend more time with him, rather than pursue new jobs and schools, I think I would have eventually become resentful. Maybe not soon, but when I got older and started looking back, I might have wished I’d spent more time in my early twenties to find out what I was good at, to make friends, and try new activities.

It’s also a way to practice compromise, fairness, and encouragement — all crucial parts of a relationship.

At the time, it was really hard to make decisions that I knew would take time away from seeing my boyfriend, decisions I knew could cause the relationship to fizzle out. But I forced myself to do things, knowing that if we did stay together, I didn’t want to blame him for missing out on something. I wanted to be able to look back and be proud of my accomplishments as well as our relationship.

And finally, my commitments and busy schedule gave my fiancé an opportunity to show how supportive he could be. He moved things around and accommodated me so that I could pursue my dreams, and it showed me what a great partner he would be in the long run.

Every time he encouraged me to try out for a school play or told me to have fun going out to dinner with friends instead of staying in with him, it made me realize how lucky I was to have someone who genuinely cared about my growth and interests.

The couple that grows together, stays together.

jilly pretzel

Sure, maybe we missed out on opportunities to spend some time together during college, but we made some amazing memories in the time we did have. And maybe I could have passed on some opportunities, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the things I’ve done, and what I’ve learned. And the same is true for my fiancé. In the end, I’m so happy we made time for ourselves when we needed it most, and now we’ll have the rest of our lives to be with each other.

Every relationship is different, but what I learned is that if you focus on improving yourself and doing things that make you happy, you’re sure to make a better partner. And in the end, you might just get a stronger relationship out of it.

If you’re looking for other articles about creating a lasting relationship, check out this story about waiting to get married or this one about communicating about sex.

How to Pick and Choose the Wedding Advice That Works For You

5 tips on how to find good wedding advice — and when to stick your fingers in your ears.

When you get engaged, everyone wants to give you all kinds of advice. Some of them will even straight-up tell you what to do. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “you can’t wear a tea length dress” or “you need to get married in Spring” or “I know exactly how you need to do your hair.”

It made me want to scream.

And unfortunately, the stuff you don’t want to listen to can drown out the actual, good wedding advice that you might be lucky enough to get. Here are some things I’ve learned about the dreaded “two cents” and what to do with it.

First, do not punch your friends in the face.

couple romance planning a wedding

Lol…but really. After the 30th “great flower guy” recommended to you, you’ll never want to hear about roses again. I guarantee it. But remember that you’re going to be really stressed out about planning a wedding, and if it weren’t for this stressful time, you might not be so upset when your friend says something you’ve heard before. Remember that you actually like these people in real life. You don’t want to risk losing a friend or starting a fight over something that is probably coming from a good place.

Instead, no matter how ridiculous the suggestion, just thank them and tell them you’ll consider it. Every. Damn. Time. Most of your family and friends will feel happy with this answer. And they’ll feel satisfied in thinking you’re listening to them.

It’ll be hard, at first, to get into the habit, but you can practice in your mirror until it’s second nature. Practice it on your dog, the friend you haven’t seen since college, even the guy at the car repair shop. They say, “You should probably change your oil once in awhile.” You say, “Thank you so much for your help, we’ll take that into consideration.” Good job!

Write it down anyway.

When Cousin Suzy gives you the name of her roommate, who (apparently) is an amazing photographer, you might want to toss it. Hiring her might sound like the bad idea and, besides, you might already have your photographer set up.

But, when someone gives you a card or makes a suggestion, keep a list. You never know — a list of “back ups” might come in handy. What if the venue has a fire a month before the wedding or the perfect bakery goes under? Last minute, you could have a list of people to call, which is especially handy if it’s full of people like your cousin’s roommate, because maybe they’ll pull last minute strings for a friend of a friend.

Plus, a list of recommended vendors could be good just in case you change your mind. Maybe you were dead set against serving cupcakes until your fiancé pulls one of those last-minute, “wouldn’t it be great if we had cupcakes?” Don’t panic, because you have the number of a great cupcake bakery you got from Aunt Carol!

Don’t trust anyone with old information.

Be careful not to get too excited about a seemingly perfect recommendation. I’ve gotten heart-set-on-it, gotta-have-it, excited over venues that had been closed for ten years, and dress shops that are now banks. If the people you’re talking to have old information, you’re bound to get disappointed.

This is especially true when they start pulling out prices. You might think you found a gem when you hear about some cake shop that sells a three-layer cake for double digits, but if that bakery is still open, prepare to find that it’s been hit with inflation, just like everywhere else.

A good rule of thumb is four years: any wedding advice older than that and you’ll want to start Google-ing first.

Think about the messenger and not just the message.

If the suggestion is from your mom, and she thinks it’s really, REALLY important to have yellow flower centerpieces instead of blue, you might actually want to take it into consideration. Even if that’s not what you were thinking, throwing your parents (or whoever is important to you) one or two things will make them feel special, and it will mean a lot to them later.

On the other hand, feel free to brush off the ideas your weird cousin Alan offers. Don’t bend over backwards to please people if you don’t care what they think.

Remember, a good wedding is a wedding of your choosing.

You and your future spouse are in charge. It’s a whole day just for the two of you, and you’ll want it to come from your hearts. When you’re choosing between venues, or flower arrangements, or menus, try to think of what best represents you. If you’re a laid-back couple, don’t be afraid to serve nachos and burritos in your backyard. If you two are bold and adventurous, don’t hesitate to make it a destination wedding. Good wedding advice may just come from within yourselves.

At the end of the day, you’ll want something that you both love, and something that represents you as a couple. And following the above tips may help guide you — or someone you love — on how to handle it through the planning of your special day.

For more interesting perspectives on modern marriage, check out this comparison of the expectations vs. the reality of marriage, how to determine whether you’re in a real partnership, or this story about a couple who waited longer than their friends to get hitched.

Why The Video Of A Little Girl Meeting Gal Gadot Is Everything

When this young fan met Gal Gadot (a.k.a. Wonder Woman), she reminded all of us how we need strong feminist role models.

In case you’ve missed it — there is a video of the fabulous Gal Gadot meeting a young Wonder Woman fan, and I have only watched it 4,845 times.

Okay, okay, maybe not THAT many times, but I have hit the repeat button a lot. It’s so heartwarming that I see myself coming home from long, hard days and watching this video to make me feel better. Move over Lil Bub the cat, I’ve found my new feel-good, cure-all Youtube video.

Check it out, and then continue reading below:


I can’t help but grab at my heart when the little girl cries and the actress comforts her, saying in a strong, but gentle, tone that she doesn’t need to cry, because “here we are together.” No Youtube video featuring a kitten, baby, or sloth even competes with how I feel when I watch this one. It’s absolutely precious.

But it’s funny that I should feel so connected to this video as, truthfully, I see interactions like this all the time.

I live in Southern California, smack dab between theme parks where kids can meet their cartoon heros, and Los Angeles, where fans often catch glimpses of their favorite actors, athletes, or musicians.

I used to work at a news station where we had guest celebrities every morning. News writers and interns would stand in the hallway outside the studio, nervously waiting to get a picture with their favorite Boy Meets World or Sex and the City star, and try to act cool when they told their favorite celebrity how much they loved their last movie.

At Disneyland, I’ve also seen kids get similarly excited to see characters like Sleeping Beauty or other Disney princesses. Little girls’ faces light up so bright you’d think the fireworks were early when they get to give Cinderella a hug. It’s absolutely magical.

But somehow, it’s not the same as this little girl meeting Gal Gadot.

little girl meeting gal gadot

Maybe that little girl in the video has the same response, or same amount of joy, as some of the girls meeting Cinderella. Kids are going to get excited when they meet someone they’ve seen in a movie or on TV.

But this interaction affects me differently. It just so happens that this movie star represents so much to me.

When I was growing up, girls were often shown mostly princess movies. Sure, there are some amazing, strong, female cartoon characters. I loved Pocahontas and Anastasia — both featuring headstrong, title-character women. But a lot of the movies I saw and shows I watched after school were about girls or women dreaming of getting married or having a boyfriend, what they were going to wear or what their hair looked like.

The amount of movies we had that featured strong, independent women, or films that even passed the Bechdel test, used to be infrequent. Now, that’s changing.

I’m not sure if Wonder Woman’s massive success was exactly the turning point for everyone — the point where you realize that women can really do anything, that the world is wide open. But I do think that the success of the film acted as a validation of women’s abilities that many people were craving, and it came just when we needed it.

Sure, we’ve had a lot of great films with strong female characters recently: Ghostbusters, the new Star Wars films, Moana, and others. But with Wonder Woman, we got a woman-directed film about a powerful, kind, selfless female superhero with a gross profit that was not only on par with, but often beating, the male-equivalent big-budget superhero films. This was huge.

But it’s so much more than profits and comparisons.

Wonder Woman gave us a female hero that we could associate with strength, kindness, and power.

And if that wasn’t enough, it provided a role model for our kids that they can watch on DVD every day if they want to. I love the idea that kids these days can grow up seeing more movies with women fighting for justice than fighting over a boyfriend.

I’ve seen the eyes of little girls light up when they met their favorite princess. I’ve seen teen girls beg for autographs from their favorite models or glamorous movie stars. But I hardly ever get to see little girls get excited to meet a hero who’s also my idol. A hero that we, as women, and as people, can all look up to.

For more reading on independent women, check out this interesting article that explores what independent women are saying “no” to, or this article about how to be autonomous while in love

How Will and Grace Changed the Way We See Relationships

Will and Grace was always funny, sexy, and clever — but it was also incredibly inclusive when it comes to relationships.

Will and Grace is back, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve always loved the show. I cried when it ended, I reminisced over reruns, and I threw a party in my head when I heard of its return.

I loved it not just because it was hilarious and fun — I loved how it called out societal problems and represented real, modern relationships. The show addressed issues with laughter and wit — something I think is needed now, more than ever.

Back when the series started in 1998, Will and Grace was not only a big step for representation for the gay community, but it was a huge step for modern and non-traditional relationships in general. So many shows at the time had a story that went like this: a boy and a girl like each other, they go back and forth about getting together, and eventually end up getting married (just in time for the series finale).

Meanwhile, Will and Grace depicted relationships that we rarely saw on TV.


It defied the traditional romance story, and recognized that in the real world, there are so many different kinds of relationships. Some people are gay, some people are straight. Some take a lot longer to find love while some find themselves in troubled marriages.

It was a big deal to see Will and Jack’s dating lives on the show because same-sex relationships didn’t have that kind of representation before then. Sure, there were gay people on TV, but they were usually secondary characters or guest spots in episodes that dealt with the drama of them coming out. Such episodes would usually feature the character’s family and friends accepting (or not accepting) them, then the gay character would often disappear, returning the show’s focus to the straight characters and their relationships.

Just the fact that we could see the men in Will and Grace date around, find love, and experience heartbreak just like everyone else on TV, was amazing.

The show was groundbreaking for the gay community, but it was important for women’s relationships, too.

The other two main characters, Grace and Karen, didn’t follow the mold of other leading ladies at the time.

At the time the show came out, most female leads fell into two categories. One type was the young, fun, and pretty ingenue who searched for love and eventually ended up getting together with either a supportive guy friend or a long-time crush (Boy Meets World, The Nanny). The other was the nagging wife and mother who spent most of the show telling her husband to do something (and getting mad when he didn’t), taking the kids to soccer practice, and arguing with other moms (Married with Children, Everybody Loves Raymond). Karen and Grace weren’t either of these.

Grace was struggling in relationships, but was in a different situation than the bright-eyed high school or college-aged ingenue searching for “the one.” She was a little older, quirky, had a successful design business, and a lot of trouble finding love. She went on bad dates, had strained relationships, and was even cheated on by her husband.

Meanwhile, Karen was married, but wasn’t the “happy housewife” we so often saw in other shows. She was fun-loving and wild, but had real problems in her marriage. She was faced with boredom, had a strained relationship with her step-kids, and wondered if her marriage would last.

These characters, with their issues and quirks, seemed so much more like modern women I knew than a lot of what I’d seen on TV before.

They had complicated relationships and difficult problems, and they showed different options for a woman’s romantic life. Grace and Karen’s lives weren’t simple, and maybe they didn’t represent most women’s relationship goals, but I think these characters brought something real and honest to television.

When I heard about the Will and Grace reboot, I couldn’t wait to see what had happened in the characters’ lives. Those of us that loved the show before couldn’t wait to see what our old friends were doing, but we were also excited to see how they would work with today’s romantic climate.

So far, I haven’t been disappointed. In just the first few episodes, we’ve seen Grace struggling to move on after a divorce, Will dealing with the question of dating outside his political party, and Will and Jack realizing their age when they try to go out with millennial guys. These issues seem real for these characters, but are also current to the modern relationship scene.

In the 11 years Will and Grace has been off the air, relationships have changed.

Online dating is huge and relationship expectations have evolved. Plus, there’s so much potential in exploring middle-aged and older character’s relationships in a time when more and more people find themselves divorced, widowed, or still single later in life. There’s much to explore, so many angles to analyze and critique, and I can’t think of a better team to do it.

Although it’s a different decade, much of what the show taught us about relationships when it first aired is all still true. People are different, and their lives aren’t simple. Some find love, while some learn that their best relationships are with their friends.

For more stories at the intersection of TV & modern romance, check out this discussion about romance on “Dancing With The Stars” or this piece about what Supergirl’s sister taught us about coming out.

Writing Your Own Vows: 10 Steps to Prepare For Your Most Romantic Conversation

Actually putting words on paper can be scary. Here are some things to keep in mind while you’re writing your own vows.

If you’re like most engaged people, you’ve been so busy with the venue, and the catering, and the guest list that you somehow forget about the vows until the last minute.

And if you’re like me, you were totally distracted looking at cakes (I’m a sucker for sugar) and got very behind.

But while it sometimes gets shuffled to the back of your mind, you can’t forget about the vows. They’re the most central part of the wedding, and you want to give a lot of attention to what you say to your partner.

In my scramble and frustration to get my vows written, I asked a lot of married friends for their advice, consulted every website I could think of, and watched a hundred (or so) Youtube videos of ceremonies. Here are 10 things I learned.

1. Think about how you want to set the mood.

Before you start writing your own vows, you and your sweetie should decide on a “feel” for your ceremony. Maybe you’re a fun-loving, giggly couple and you want your vows to show that. Or maybe you want the ceremony to be a little more serious, and a major tear-jerker. Maybe it’s really important that your vows are very traditional, or maybe you want to center it around your history together. Vows can go in so many directions and its best to start on the same page with the same goal.

2. Does the use of props make sense?

Sand ceremonies or lighting candles might not necessarily be a part of the actual vows, but they do go hand-in-hand. If you’re interested in one of these things, you’ll want to decide what you’re doing before you write the vows. For example: if you’re doing a sand ceremony, your vows can include references to how your differences blend together, so the sand will make sense when it comes time to pour it.

If you’re interested in incorporating something like this, here are a few ideas:

  • Handfasting: This Celtic tradition involves holding hands and wrapping a ceremonial rope around them. If you like this idea, you can talk about being bound together forever.
  • Ring warming: Passing your rings around to be warmed before you put them on will make guests feel like they are a part of your ceremony. This is perfect if you want to incorporate a family-feel into your vows.
  • Time capsule: This is when couples write letters to each other and pack them into a box (sometimes with a bottle of wine), which are opened at a later date. It’s a perfect anniversary present for future-you, and it’s a great opportunity to talk about your future together in your vows.
  • Plant a tree: For nature lovers out there, planting a tree can be a beautiful way to symbolize the strength of your growing relationship — and it can be a perfect theme for your vows. Whether you’re planting it in your backyard or in a public place, it will be wonderful to visit the tree down the road to see how much it (and you both) have grown.

beautiful bride kissing tenderly handsome man

3. Decide on what you don’t want.

So many people focus on what they want in their vows but forget to nix the things they don’t want. The most popular bit to take out in the traditional vows is the “obey” line. A lot of people find it old-fashioned, and that’s okay! Many couples choose not to change their last names when they get married, so they need to make sure their officiant doesn’t say “Mr. and Mrs.” at the end of the ceremony. These may seem like small things, but if it’s going to make you cringe every time you watch your wedding video, make sure you discuss what you don’t want with your future spouse.

4. Remember: the “repeat after me” part can be anything!

Speaking of the “obey” line in those traditional vows, remember you can have those “repeat after me” vows be completely original. You don’t have to have the “for richer, for poorer” vows for your wedding (unless it is required by your faith), and it can be fun to make up your own. They should represent what you want to promise, so make it special. Here are some great examples from The Knot.

5. Speak from the heart.

We all want our vows to be the coolest, most romantic vows in the world, but the best thing is to just be genuine. If you love playing soccer together, mention that. If you’re favorite thing about your spouse is their crazy jokes, say that. Sometimes you have to forget about what it’s going to sound like to the audience, and remember what means the most to you.

6. Coordinate with your partner.

If you’re writing your own vows separately, just make sure you coordinate with your future mate. You don’t want to both tell the same story or have one of you give a long, gooshy speech about love when the other says something short and sweet. You don’t want to give a list of all the things you promise to do while your partner skips promises in favor of saying how important your relationship is. That can come across as unorganized.

Emotional couple

7. Keep it to one or two minutes.

It might sound short, but a minute of talking in front of all your family and friends will seem like forever when you’re up there. A minute is plenty, or maybe go to two minutes if you have a really good story to tell. Some may find they really have to edit their words down while others will feel a roadblock after the second sentence. Keep working on it, and keep this timeframe in mind.

8. Take your time.

After writing your own vows, leave them for a few days and come back. Make notes in your phone when you come up with an idea in the middle of the day. Sometimes those perfect words won’t come out right away, and that’s okay. Know that it’s hard for most people to express all those feelings on paper.

9. Talk to your officiant.

Once you have an draft of your vows, talk to your officiant and coordinate. If the officiant is a friend that has known you both for a long time, he or she might want to say a couple things about you or share some memories during the service. Make sure you guys are on the same page with anecdotes. If your officiant is your local minister who’s done all the weddings in your church for the last 20 years, they might have some ideas of what will work well and how to change it up. Either way, this is the perfect time to talk about your vision and make sure you have a plan.

10. Write them down and type them up.

This might seem obvious, but you’ll want to write your vows down. You might even want to put them in a cute notepad or on a high quality piece of paper to read at the altar. Recently, some people have been reading their vows off their phones, and while this might seem fun and modern now, it will look dated a few years down the road. Going with the classic paper version is a safe bet.

But that doesn’t mean typing them up at all isn’t a good idea. In addition to writing them on paper, it’s a good idea to put them in your computer in case you lose your notebook a week before the wedding. Then, after the wedding, you might want to make a keepsake out of your vows: like a copy to put in a book or a framed a copy for your wall. If they’re typed up, you don’t have to worry about losing the paper in your wedding festivities — you can just press print.

With these 10 simple tips, you’ll be writing your own vows with confidence — because of their quality and because you’ll cherish them for all time.

For more wedding day advice, check out “Picking And Choosing Wedding Advice That Works For You” or “Marriage 101: Expectations Vs. Reality.”

Is Choosing “Ms.” Or “Mrs.” Still A Feminist Issue?

I’m obsessed with subscription boxes. So when I got engaged I, of course, had to get a bridal-themed monthly subscription. And right from the beginning, I loved it. I got cute shirts, fun jewelry — the works. I was obsessed with almost everything I was sent.

However, I did get a few things that I knew I wouldn’t use — things that said “Mrs.”

Maybe this sounds odd, but the “Ms.” or “Mrs.” distinction always bothered me.

I found these titles to be old-fashioned and sexist. Why would women change their title when they get married, but not men? And why bother with a change at all? If I call a woman by a title, it’s probably because I don’t know her first name. And if I don’t even know her full name, it’s none of my business to know if she’s married or not. The whole thing seemed unbalanced and intrusive to me.

That’s why I always used Ms. — the P.C. middle ground.

The title “Ms.” has a long history, originally being proposed in 1901 when an unnamed author wrote a story in a newspaper. The article suggested using the non-specific “Ms.” to avoid the social faux pas of calling a married woman “Miss” (and vice versa). It sparked some discussion then but it would take 60 years for it to really take off.

In 1961, a New Yorker named Sheila Michaels found a piece of mail intended for her roommate that used “Ms.” instead of “Miss.” She thought it was a typo at first, but liked the idea of a title not being marital-specific. She always hated the idea of her relationship status defining her, and as it turned out, many other women felt the same way.

The big turning point in Michaels’ movement for “Ms.” was when she was interviewed on a progressive radio program, “Womankind” and gave an impassioned argument for the use of the title. Listeners were moved by her ideas, and soon, “Ms.” was widely accepted. It became a sign of women’s empowerment and equality, and it was seen a big step for feminism.

So why is Mrs. is still so popular?

Despite the girl-power history of “Ms.,” I see “Mrs.” and “Miss” a lot, especially in the wedding industry. There’s everything from “Mr. and Mrs.” mugs to “kiss the Miss goodbye” party banners. And no matter how many times I see it, I always find it strange that women still use those old titles.

But let’s get one thing straight: I’m not trying to hide my relationship status. Anyone who’s talked to me in the last year (or has ever been anywhere near my Instagram) knows where, how, and what time I’m getting married because I’m so excited. But the thing is, people would have to know me, or at least how to find me on social media, to know that stuff.

People know about my relationship because I want them to know, not because it’s in my name. It feels wrong to think that you could know absolutely nothing about a person, but know if they’re married or not.

Bride And Groom

“Mrs.” can seem reminiscent of a time where women had the option to be wives… and that’s about it.

It reminds me of when women had few choices and little opportunity. And now, in a time where women are finally making a dent on the wage gap and becoming more political, “Miss” and “Mrs.” can seem like a step backwards.

They also can seem unnecessary. People who have a Ph.D. do just fine going by “Dr.” They don’t need the male/female identifier, let alone a single/married distinction. So why do so many people use them?

The great thing about the movement in the ‘60s was that it gave women the right to make their own decisions.

Women like Sheila Michaels didn’t like having a title pushed on them, so they used their own. I think that, even more than popularizing “Ms.,” just the idea that they normalized a third title was empowering in itself. The power to choose is the important part.

I love being able to decide to go by “Ms.” but I know that a lot of women still like to use “Mrs.” I’ve seen friends wear “Future Mrs.” shirts and put up “Miss to Mrs.” signs at bridal showers. Some women like it, and don’t do it out of anti-feminism or ignorance. It is, simply, a choice. And I think options are good.

In the end, I appreciate my right to have my own opinion and choose what I go by.

Just the fact that a woman can decide between “Ms.” or “Mrs.” is empowering. I’d rather women have options than try to push “Ms.” on everyone, because I think that it would be just as bad as only having “Miss” and “Mrs.” The important part is being able to make a strong decision based on what’s important to you, and knowing that if you don’t like your options, you, like Sheila Michaels, can start something new.

So, this month I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll get in my bridal subscription box. Maybe I won’t love everything I get, but that’s how a lot of subscription boxes work. There’s always something included that I probably wouldn’t have gotten for myself. But I think that’s okay. It reminds me of how lucky I am to live in a time when women have options.

Plus, now I have some great “Mr. and Mrs.” pillowcases to give to friends who will truly appreciate them.

For more reading

8 Ways You Can Survive Awkward Holiday Situations With Your Significant Other

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… some totally awkward family holiday encounters.

Holidays: a time of yummy food, festive parties, and your crazy Aunt Suzy judging everyone’s outfits (c’mon Aunt Suzy, be cool). But family holiday time can be especially crazy if you’re a couple. Whether you’re in a new relationship or have been together for years, you know you’ll have to face whatever your family (or your SO’s family) dishes out during the holidays. And sometimes, it can get awkward.

Are you ready for the “so when are you guys getting married” question? Uhg! No one is. What’s your game plan for when your boyfriend’s mom cuts you off some turkey but you don’t eat meat? What on earth are you going to bring as a gift? Here are some tips on how to gracefully get through the holiday season with your honey.

1. What to do with the “when are you getting married” questions.

These are the worst. Questions about your relationship can be so intrusive, and, if you and your SO haven’t talked about things like marriage yet, it can be extra weird. The bad news is that these queries never stop.

You might be thinking: “hey, won’t people stop asking once we get married?” No, no they won’t. It’ll just turn into the when-are-you-having-kids question and then the when-are-you-having-another-kid question until it’s the when-are-your-kids-having-kids question, until, I assume, you die.

By now, I’ve tried every answer in the book. From the jokey: “I’m still holding out for Chris Pine” to the polite brush off: “we’re not really sure right now” and had mixed results. But eventually, I found a line that works almost all the time.

The next time someone asks your when you guys are getting hitched, try this: “It’s so nice that you care about our relationship. The two of us haven’t come to a decision about that yet, but when we do have news you’ll surely be one of the first to know.” It’s polite but doesn’t encourage further discussion. It suggests that you’ve talked about it before, but respects your privacy. It’s vague and I love it.

2. Here’s how you can handle dietary restrictions at holiday dinners.

I’m a vegetarian and my fiance is allergic to dairy. I know: we’re the worst to have over for dinner. We’ve both run into the awkward “sorry, I can’t eat that” at each others’ family’s house and it’s tough.

I hate it when my fiancé’s parents spend all day making a turkey or ham and I have to tell them I can’t eat it. I hate sounding ungrateful and I’m always afraid that his family will think I’m making an excuse to not eat their food. And for my fiancé, it’s a different (but perhaps worse) situation where he might really want to eat those cheesy mashed potatoes but he can’t without having an allergic reaction. Bummer.

If you have a dietary restriction, there are a few things that you can do to prepare:

If it’s your family’s house you two are visiting, make sure there will be things your SO can eat. He/she will really appreciate it and it’s a great way to show you care.

If you’re going to their family house, bring a dish you can eat. It’s nice to bring a little something when you go to someone’s house, plus, you know you’ll have at least one thing to eat. In addition, see if your SO can mention your dietary restriction to their family. It’s nice to be upfront, and if your beau can casually mention your peanut allergy before the visit, that’s all the better.

When it comes to the day of: be honest about what you can have, eat what you can, and if needed, grab some drive-through later.

3. Here’s what you can do with presents for your significant other’s family.

surviving holidays as a couple

A lot of families exchange gifts during the holidays. A present exchange might be a ton of fun in your family, but when you’re going to someone else’s house it can cause stress.

You might not know if you should show up with gifts, and if so, what kind. You might not know everyone in the family (and what they like), and, if your date has a big crew you might not be able to afford to get a gift for every single person.

One great idea is to bring a wine and snack gift basket. It’s communal, tasty, and won’t break the bank. Bringing a snack gift can even become a tradition. I have an aunt who, in lieu of gifts, makes cookies every year and brings cute Christmas tins full of cookies for everyone… and it’s amazing. I look forward to those cookies every year and the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without them.

4. Be cautious with those holiday cocktails.

Alcohol is often free-flowing during holiday events and it’s easy loose track of how many times you’ve topped off your merlot. You don’t want to get into a situation where you (or your beau) has too much to drink or it could mean major embarrassment.

You want to be on your best behavior when visiting someone else’s family and sometimes that means switching to the virgin eggnog early. Talk to your partner about how much you both plan to drink beforehand and encourage each other to stick to just one or two cocktails with family, you’ll be glad you did.

5. Talking politics at your significant other’s holiday meal might actually be cool.

While most people think discussing politics at family gatherings is taboo, it might not be totally off the table. Some families like talking about current events, and if your family is one of those, they might find it rude if your boyfriend or girlfriend keeps trying to change the subject.

As long as everyone is polite and thoughtful, some deeper conversation might be a relief from typical small talk. Plus, if your SO and your family have the same views, it might be a great way to bond.

Talk to your sweetie about the climate of your family gatherings and what’s typical. If you’re both well-informed you’ll be able to steer the conversation in the right direction.

6. Here’s what you can do if you’re dealing with a challenging family.

Whether it be a backhanded compliment or full-on mean remark, family is famous for being rude to dates. You might end up apologizing for your dad’s remark about your new girlfriend’s job or you might find yourself taken aback by an unwelcome critique of your haircut. No matter what, rude family is tough.

If you wind up on the receiving end, brush it off with humor. If his mom says something about your clothes, try your best to make a joke about it and change the subject.

If your family’s the one causing trouble, shut it down early. Don’t be afraid to take your sister to the side and tell her to stop picking on your date. If a warning doesn’t work, know when to start heading home. It might seem harsh to leave early on a holiday, but if someone’s really causing problems, make sure they know it won’t be tolerated.

7. When things get to be a little too much with the family — there’s always the bathroom.

I love the bathroom. I really do. It’s where I go when I need to smell my pits to make sure I’M not that weird thing Aunt Carrie was smelling. It’s where I go to check if there’s spinach in my teeth, and it’s the place I go to wait out the storm at the table.

Perfectly planned bathroom breaks are the best when your boyfriend’s parents start to bicker again. It’s also super handy when your girlfriend’s uncle wants to show everyone the weird mole on his back. It’s shaped like Michigan? That’ so interesting, Frank. Excuse me, I need to use the restroom. Done.

8. The most important thing to know at a holiday dinner is when to leave.

Leaving: the most important part of your evening. While you might be having a blast hanging out with your family, know that your SO might be getting bored. Hanging out with new people (or people they don’t know very well) might not seem like such a blast for them.

Before you arrive, talk about how long you want to stay at your holiday gathering and set a time range for when you’d like to head out. You might also want to make a sign (or get a code word) to use if you’re ready to go home early. Communicating beforehand will put you two on the same page and will help you end the night gracefully.

Spending time with your SO’s family during the holidays can be challenging and awkward, but it can also be a ton of fun. It’s a great opportunity to get to know more about the important people in your boyfriend/girlfriend’s life, make some memories, and have a good time. Just remember these eight tips, and your holiday gathering is sure to be a success.

For more wedding day advice, check out “Picking And Choosing Wedding Advice That Works For You” or “7 Things I Learned From Marriage That I Couldn’t Learn Anywhere Else.”

The 9 Best New Year’s Resolutions for Your Relationship

Don’t worry–I would never tell you to eat less sugar or start doing pilates for your New Year’s resolution (those sound hard), but if you set the right goals, the new year can bring amazing changes to your relationship.

1. Work on showing gratitude

Gratitude is incredibly important in any relationship. Just hearing a simple “thank you” from a friend or co-worker can brighten anyone’s day, but it’s especially great when your SO tells you how much they appreciate you.

I could be having the worst day ever, but when my fiancé tells me how grateful he is that I made dinner or that I took out the trash, it always brightens up my mood. Just knowing that someone notices my effort makes me feel appreciated and even rejuvenated, and I know that taking the time to notice my fiancé’s efforts goes a long way too.

This year, resolve to show gratitude to your partner more often. Whether you want to take time in the evenings to thank each other for something you did that day, or if you prefer to practice voicing your appreciation whenever you can, showing gratitude can strengthen your bond and make you both happier.

So go ahead, tell your honey how grateful you are that she emptied the dishwasher, tell your boyfriend how much you appreciate it when he makes you lunch. Give her a hug when he surprises you with a gift or give him a smooch when she picks up dinner.

It’s nice to appreciate your partner, and great to be appreciated.

2. Find hobbies that are all your own.

Sure, in an perfect world I’d do everything with my fiancé, we’d have all the same interests and spend all our time together. We’d be unbeatable tennis partners, perform in a two-person band (I’d play ukulele, he’d be on keyboard), and we’d have a TV show as a couple who remodel houses.

But in reality, no two people have all the same interests and, truth be told, there might be times when you don’t really want to spend time with your partner. I love my fiancé more than pizza, but sometimes I really want to do something by myself.

And that’s okay! Actually, it’s prefered. It’s healthy to spend some time without your beau and pursue your own interests or hobbies.

Maybe you want to take a woodshop class and perhaps your significant other wants to join a soccer league — perfect! Following your dreams will make you a happier person (and a better partner) and getting to do something all your own will allow you to bring something special to the relationship.

I like painting, and I love coming home from art class and showing my fiancé what I created. He’s really good with computers, and it always rocks my world when he fixes that darn internet.

So, this year, sit down with your partner and find different things you each want to do. Try to find activities that take place on the same night (so you aren’t missing two evenings of Netflix and chill together) and sign up for them. Are those book club meetings and monster truck fan club meet-ups on the same night? Excellent.

You’ll both learn something new, have fun, make friends, and at the end of the day, you’ll love telling each other all about your adventures.

Young romantic couple is having fun outdoors in winter

3. Show an interest in your partner’s work and hobbies.

I know, I know, I just finished telling you about how awesome it is to have separate hobbies…but that doesn’t mean you can’t be interested in what your honey does with his or her time.

I love telling my fiancé about my day and about the people I talked to, and I know it means a lot to him when I show an interest in his work.

Sometimes I may feel my eyes glazing over (a little) when he talks about his very complicated job with all the marketing terms and fancy reports, but I try to get to know more about his work so I can learn more about what he goes through during the day.

4. Try to be a better listener.

This might seem obvious, but being a better listener can make your relationship so much smoother.

You’ve probably been there before: you start telling a story about what your Aunt Mabel did at lunch yesterday, and halfway through the part where she threw the salad at the waiter, your significant other looks up from a magazine and says “were you talking to me?”

Or maybe your significant other was talking about how his friend Joe was on Cake Boss. The story reminds you that you need to pick up flour from the store so you start to think about the grocery list, and before you know it, you missed the whole story.

It’s the worst.

This year, resolve to work on your listening skills together. It’s something that requires practice, so remind yourself to stay engaged in conversation and understand, not just hear, what your partner says.

In the meantime, it’s also a good idea to let your partner know when something you’re going to say is very important. I know it can be hard to focus on each other when there’s a lot going on, but sometimes you need to set aside time for talking (and listening).

When I have a problem and need advice (or just want to vent), I’ll ask my fiance for five minutes to listen to me talk. He’ll take a minute to finish that chapter in a book (or save his video game) and then focus on what I have to say.

I love this tactic because it allows your beau a chance to wrap up what they need to do and give you the attention they need, and it also sends a message to your SO that what you’re going to say is important.

It’s a good way to set up for communication success.

5. Make sure you are happy and healthy.

I have a lot of stress in my life right now: I work all day and go to grad school at night (just thinking about my schedule makes me tired). But in this day and age, a lot of people find themselves overworked or overstressed. Maybe you struggle with anxiety, haven’t been getting enough sleep, or maybe you’re mourning a death in the family.

A relationship isn’t strong without both parties feeling good, so this year, resolve to take care of yourself with some kick-ass self love.

Therapy is a great tool for a lot of people, sometimes you just need a stranger to talk to. Going to the gym is great for stress relief, and if all else fails, scheduling a massage can do wonders.

Taking the time to take care of yourself will make you a happier person, and a better partner.

6. Let the small stuff go.

Just like Elsa, sometimes you need to let things go. If your boyfriend didn’t change the toilet paper roll the 367th time you asked him to do it, he probably won’t change it on the 368th time.

My fiancé never throws things away. He’ll bring a candy bar wrapper within two feet of the trash can, but it won’t actually make it into the bin. Meanwhile, I leave water cups everywhere. At any point in the week you can find at least one cup in the living room, one on the patio, three on the nightstand, and zero in the kitchen cabinet. In the beginning, little things like that drove my fiancé and I bonkers, but eventually, we learned to live with each other’s habits.

The truth is, no couple is perfect. Nobody is truly made for each other or completely compatible. Sometimes the happiest couples are just the ones that let the small issues go so they can appreciate the big things that make them such a great pair.

Maybe your husband is the worst  at sweeping the floor, but he’s also a great dad. You didn’t marry him for the clean floors. Let it go, and invest in a cleaning service.

fireworks In New Year's Mountain

7. Put your phone down.

I don’t mean to sound like a grandma right now, but it’s important to put your phone away… sometimes.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your love. You realize that you need to check your email, so you glance at your inbox and see an invitation to your cousin’s birthday party. You realize that, while you’re thinking about it, you should text him to see what he wants for a present. When you’re done texting him you see a message from your mom asking if you can pick up that box of old high school yearbooks.

By the time you put your phone down, all your food came, you had six diet cokes, the server dropped off the bill, and you’ve barely said two words to your partner.

Sometimes, you just need to put your phones away, and enjoy your time together. With such busy schedules and so many things to think about, it’s nice to have a meal where you and your beau can focus on each other.

Plan to have a phone-free meal once and awhile. If you only have time to go out to dinner once a week, make that the date where you put away your devices. You’ll be glad you spent that quality time together.

8. Try and find opportunities to volunteer together.

Lots of people make a New Year’s resolution to put in a couple hours at the soup kitchen or help plant some trees. But volunteering together doesn’t just help your community, it can help your relationship, too.

Every so often my fiancé and I will head over to our local food bank and help organize the donated food. It might not sound very romantic to spend a Saturday afternoon sorting through canned peas and boxes of macaroni and cheese, but we always have fun. We like spending the time together, and volunteering makes us feel good. It’s a far cry from the traditional dinner and a movie date night, and maybe that’s a good thing.

9. Spend time together in the kitchen.

Another popular New Year’s resolution is eating healthier. I make this resolution every year and it lasts about as long as it takes me to find a Taco Bell.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a food-based New Year’s resolution. One great idea is to resolve to make dinners together.

Making a meal together requires teamwork, communication, and coordination. Practicing skills like these can help you grow closer in your relationship. Making dinner at home can also save you money, and it could (brace yourselves) be a roundabout way of eating healthier too.

If you do this right, you’ll spend time together, save some cash, and maybe even cut down on calories all in one resolution. Win-win-win!

The new year is a great time to set goals and work on improving yourself, but with these resolutions, you can improve your relationship too. From learning to listen more closely to volunteering together, these resolutions will surely make your relationship even stronger. What a way to ring in the new year!

For more on setting good New Year’s resolutions for your relationship, check out Passionate Sex Every Day for The New Year—Here is How, Healthy Relationship, Healthy New Year… Here is How and 6 SEX New Year’s Resolutions for Couples.

Here are 5 Resolutions to Empower Women After the #MeToo Movement

Women’s Christmas present to America was an outburst of honesty, bravery, and a whole bunch of eye-opening truth bombs. My New Year’s resolution is to help do more to support #MeToo.

Every year in December I look back on the big things that happened that year. It’s therapeutic to reflect on my accomplishments and write my thoughts down in a journal. I make notes on how I’ve grown, what I’ve done, and how the world changed.

This year, I did a lot: I finally figured out what to do when the internet stops working at my house, I won eleven dollars on two seperate lotto scratchers (Las Vegas here I come), and finally figured out how to do sit-ups properly (they’re way harder than I thought).

But more importantly, I helped bring sexual harassment into the spotlight and take down predators who took advantage of less powerful men and women. Of course, I wasn’t alone — I joined a chorus of brave voices standing for change.

Since the New York Times reported sexual harassment allegations on Harvey Weinstein in October, women have been stepping forward in droves to name their harassers. It seems that everyone has a story they want to share: from co-workers, to parents, to friends we haven’t seen in years.

As a woman, life can be challenging. Women are often afraid for their safety and well-being, and not without reason. Studies show that one out of every six women will be a victim of attempted or completed rape within her lifetime.

But that’s not to say sexual harassment or violence is only a threat to women. Studies also show that one in ten rape victims are male and one in every thirty-three men are the victims of attempted or completed rape.

So while this certainly isn’t an exclusively female issue, women still stand as the majority of victims. This, when paired with unequal pay and rates of domestic abuse against women, makes for a grim reality.

Every woman I know has a story about being harassed or taken advantage of. But, finally, after struggling through years, nay, centuries of mistreatment and silencing, women are finally being heard. They’re being listened to, and being allowed to tell their stories.

Suddenly, employers care about reporting inappropriate behavior, about creating a better workplace, and making sure this doesn’t happen to others. The internet is filled with stories on how to fight back against harassment, how to help survivors, and even how to raise children that won’t mistreat others. It’s about time.

I’m amazed at the heroism of these women, the ones who told their stories in 2017, and every one before that. Telling the story of what was probably the worst time of your life, the most embarrassing and dehumanizing, can be incredibly challenging.

It can be even more intimidating knowing that many people might not believe you, try to discredit you, or say you have ulterior motives. Every woman who has ever stepped forward has had to face all of that. And every person who has been able to tell their story should be applauded for their bravery.

These women are helping change a generation. And while I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished in 2017, I want to make sure that all of this continues in 2018.

Here are some resolutions you can make this year to help continue the movement.

#metoo movement powerful women feminism

1. Help each other out.

I once had a friend at work who was often scheduled in shifts with an older co-worker. She was 18, and when this 30-something man starting hitting on her, she told him right away that she wasn’t interested. She expected his advances to stop, but when he started saying sexual things to her and began touching her inappropriately, she became scared.

She mentioned her problem to me one day and told me about how the man made her uncomfortable. She was new to the job and didn’t want to cause any trouble, and the man was known for being a good worker. She felt stuck.

I told her how serious this was, how what he was doing wasn’t right, and, when she was ready, I went with her to Human Resources. I waited for her as she made a written statement and told her to call me if she needed anything. Soon after, the man was let go.

If I hadn’t listened to my friend, supported her, and helped her go to HR, that guy would probably still be working there.

It’s easy to tell yourself that something is none of your business, to ignore an issue by reasoning that it’s “not your problem.” But we all have to live in this world, and staying silent helps no one. If you can help someone, do it. New employees, especially those who are young or inexperienced, might be scared or not know what to do when they encounter harassment. Helping someone might mean saving them from a nightmare.

2. See something? Say something.

While you should definitely help someone if you know they’re being harassed, it’s also important to point out anything that seems fishy.

In February 2017, a flight attendant, saved a teen from human trafficking because she felt something wasn’t right. It pays to follow your gut and call attention to whatever seems strange. Whether your friend is acting odd or your co-worker is noticeably avoiding someone, don’t ignore it. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

3. Stop the “it’s not so bad” mentality.

You might brush off the occasional uncomfortable interaction with someone from work. Maybe you think something’s not big enough to blow the whistle on, so you try to forget about it. But don’t let those things slide.

If someone is being inappropriate to you, they’re probably doing it to a lot of other people as well, or will do it to others in the future. Even if their actions “aren’t that bad” think about how many people he or she could be treating this way as well. If 20 people had the same “uncomfortable but not serious” interactions, that really means something. Plus, if the perpetrator thinks they can get away with inappropriate behavior, they might try something worse in the future.

Let people know when these “not so bad” incidents happen. Let your co-workers know. Even if your voice doesn’t feel very big, it can be made stronger by those around you.

4. Keep an open mind and provide a safe space.

If you’re an employer or a manager, work this year to keep an open door, have an open mind, and provide a safe space for employees to talk to you. The best thing you can do for your employees and your company is to make sure your workers are comfortable and feel safe in their workplace, which might mean dealing with some uncomfortable things.

Make sure that people feel like they can talk to you. Stay open-minded and investigate complaints. You’ll gain respect from your employees and you’ll be able to correct issues fast.

5. Talk to someone about it

The #metoo campaign was so powerful because it showed how many women were affected by sexual harassment, but it also gave women a platform to tell their stories. It encouraged women to speak up — and a woman’s voice is a powerful thing. Continue talking, telling, and listening in 2018.

These five resolutions are a great way to kick off your year. They’ll help you support the brave men and women who stepped forward to tell their stories — and help make a change. By the end of the year, I know you’ll be especially proud of all that you did in 2018.


Read more stories like this such as When You Say “I Do,” Does That Mean “I Do Take Your Name?”, Not All Domestic Abusers Are Men, and What You’re Getting Wrong About Sex Positivity.

The Difference Between Finding “The One” and “Someone”: A Note on Soulmates

For many, trying to find “the one” is an epic journey filled with pitfalls, quicksand, twists, turns, and lots of surprises. But if you know what to look for, the journey might surprise you.

In just a few months, I’m getting married to the perfect guy for me. We laugh together, play games together, and, even after all these years, we want to spend all our time with each other. My friends always tell me I’m so lucky to have found my soulmate, my other half, “the one.”

And while I feel blessed in my relationship, I don’t think I’m lucky because I found “the one.” I think I’m lucky because I found someone I’m compatible with, and over the years, we were able to grow together and get closer until we got to be a such a great fit. Finding “the one” isn’t a matter of finding one specific person, it’s about choosing someone who’s a good match and fostering a life-long relationship.

Romantic comedies are movies, they’re not exactly real life.

When I watch romcom movies or read fairy tales about meeting “the one,” the couple always falls in love at first sight. The two have an unbreakable bond instantly and they know they’re meant to be together. Usually the rest of the story includes outside forces keeping them apart or a long journey to find each other again, but in the end they always live happily ever after.

But that’s not how it happens in real life. Stories give many of us unrealistic ideas about love, and leave couples disappointed when finding the best partner isn’t so easy.

A relationship doesn’t just mean being the right “fit” and feeling a connection. Relationships also mean learning how to be a great partner for each other and work together as a team. Your mate’s ability to be “the one” depends as much on them as it does on you.

So, while you shouldn’t give up your search for your soulmate, you might need a new road map.

Here are some traits to look for when searching for “the one” and tips to make that relationship last forever.

1. Find someone you can disagree with… in a healthy way

So many people think that living with their partner should be a jaunty skip through a field of flowers… which is why so many couples are disappointed when the honeymoon phase ends.

No one can agree with another person completely (and all the time). To be human is to think and make decisions and have ideas. There are so many opportunities everyday to make choices, and there’s no way someone else will have all the same ideas as you.

And even if you did: dating them would probably be pretty boring.

You need to be okay with the fact that you’re going to disagree sometimes, but you should also recognize when an argument isn’t healthy.

My fiancé and I have a lot of similar ideas, but we still disagree on plenty of things — from what to eat for dinner to which color we should paint the living room. And while arguments are bound to happen, it’s important to remember to address differences with patience and understanding.

Sometimes my fiancé and I might get mad or frustrated when we don’t agree on something right away. Still, we know that it’s important to always treat each other with respect. We make it a rule to never raise our voices and to try to look at any situation from each other’s point of view.

However, if you find that you and your partner fight all the time, you don’t feel listened to, and you’re often frustrated with your communication, it might not make for a lasting relationship. Either seek professional help, or recognize that maybe this isn’t the right person for you.

happy young couple kissing outdoors

2. Find someone with similar long-term goals

One important part of a relationship is priorities. No matter how well you get along, or how much you love each other, if your giant, ride-or-die, lifelong priorities don’t line up, it’s probably not going to work out in the long run.

Of course, in any relationship, you’re going to need to compromise. But in order to be truly happy together, you shouldn’t compromise too much on the big things. Remember: there are plenty of people out there, and if you’re going to make a relationship last forever, you’re allowed to be picky with the big things. The key is to be realistic in your search without settling too much.

One great thing to do, if you’re wondering if your partner is really your best match, is to make a list of long-term, super important, priorities for yourself. You should have two, or maybe three, tops. These are things that you’ve always dreamed about doing and could never, in a million years, live without. Have your partner make a list too, and compare.

For my fiancé and I, we both want to travel and both would like to have a family. While nobody can agree on every little thing in life, it’s important to us that we have similar opinions in the places that count.

If you’ve always dreamed of having kids, and your partner is actively against children, no matter what happens, one of you is going to end up severely disappointed. Neither of you deserve that.

Keep in mind: it’s okay if your lists don’t look exactly the same. One of you can be super into the idea of having kids while the other has always dreamed about becoming a doctor, but as long as they don’t directly conflict, you can probably work it out.

Everything has some wiggle room for the right person. If your partner’s education means putting off kids for a few years, or vice versa, keep an open mind.

3. Look for similarities in spirit, rather than interests

In an era when it’s so easy to “swipe left” when someone doesn’t listen to the right music or like the same movies, remember that interests and hobbies aren’t as important as personality.

My fiancé and I met in our high school theater class and, at the time, we were both interested in plays and music. While having common interests may have helped us bond in the beginning, since then, we’ve both developed other hobbies. Recently, he’s gotten into taking improv classes while I’ve been more interested in literature, but we’re still as compatible as ever.

Similarly, you don’t need to find someone who shares your love of rock climbing or needle point. In fact, it can be beneficial to have different hobbies. What really matters is that you have complimentary personalities and a similar spirit. It’s not a common hobby that sustains a relationship, it’s your personalities.

Think of it this way: if you love watching football but your partner isn’t a huge fan, that’s okay. It’s more important to find someone with the same sense of humor as you or someone you can talk to easily. Those things are much more important than sharing an interest in sports.

Focus your interests on finding someone with a complementary personality. Hobbies come and go, but attitude is forever.

4. Find someone that accepts your faults and celebrates your successes

Support is incredibly important in any relationship. It helps you and your partner feel like a team, and lets you know that you have someone to depend on. For a long term partner, find someone who supports you through the good and bad. And practice supporting them too.

For me, it’s so important when my fiancé supports my education. While he might not know exactly what a certain class is about, or how important one particular paper is, he’s so supportive of everything I’m excited about, and comforts me whenever I’m feeling down about a class that’s giving me trouble.

Of course, you might not understand your significant other’s work drama, and maybe he or she doesn’t realize how important it is that you got into the robot-building championships. Still, you both root for each other and show your support. Whether it’s sitting in the front row of a tournament your honey is playing in, or being a shoulder to cry on when things get tough, being supportive (and getting support) will help your relationship go the distance.

The search for your ideal partner isn’t like in the movies. It’s not about covering as much land and meeting as many people until you find that perfect-incredible-super-wonderful person. It’s more about finding someone great and going on a journey together.

With these tips, you’ll find that special person to create a life with and, hopefully, you’ll see each other as soulmates too.

You can read more stories like this such as How to Win at Online Dating and Spot Your Soulmate in a Crowd.

Saving on Your Wedding: The Best Money-Saving Tips from a Poor Grad Student

It’s no secret that weddings can get expensive, but you don’t have to empty your savings to fund the day of your dreams.

It’s no secret that wedding costs have gotten a little out of hand. Every time I watch Say Yes to the Dress I’m shocked at how much people will spend on a single gown. Each time I see Four Weddings I gawk at the priciest events, wondering who has that kind of money.

And the truth is, the amount you spend on your wedding doesn’t really matter in the long run. How tall the cake is doesn’t say anything about how big your hearts are and the length of your train doesn’t show how much you love each other.

Still, weddings are expensive even if you’re not going for a luxury wedding. Costs add up and even the most basic features can really drain your bank account.

I realized first-hand how pricey weddings can get when I began planning ours, and as a poor grad student. The only way we could make it work was  to use my money-saving skills to keep the big day reasonable. I learned a lot about what corners to cut and how to save a few bucks, and in the end, I found a great balance.

Here are my 8 best life-hacks for saving money on your wedding and still having the day of your dreams.

1. Before you do anything else, take account of what you have

First things first: decide on what you need and what you already have.

From flowers, to wedding favors, to your dress, to centerpieces, things can really add up. However, you might not need to spend full-price on every item on your list. Doing some things yourself (instead of using a vendor) can save you a lot of money. But be careful… sometimes DIY can end up being even more expensive. The secret is to use what you’ve got.

I’m pretty crafty and I have a lot of friends that drink wine. So, I looked online for instructions on how to take the label off of empty wine bottles and how to paint them. Then I stuck some flowers in the bottles, added some tea candles, and boom, centerpieces: done.

But maybe you’re really good at baking and can make your own “cookie bar” for dessert at your reception. Or maybe you’re great at sewing and could do the alterations on your dress, or even make the whole thing.

I knew a woman whose family owned honeybees and they gave little jars of honey to wedding guests as favors. It was cute and personal, and cheaper than a comparable wedding favor.

Don’t be afraid to be creative and use what you have.

2. Reach out to friends for help.

When I first started planning my wedding, I wished I had friends in the industry. I thought it would be easier to hire people I trusted, rather than just depending on Yelp reviews to find all my vendors.

As it turned out, I did know some people in the industry, but I had to dig for them. I knew a girl in college who was starting a business as a wedding coordinator. Since she was a friend and just starting to do weddings, I got a serious discount when I hired her. Plus, I got someone I trusted to help me plan the big day.

Later on, I realized through Facebook that another old friend had a floral business. I got a great deal on some beautiful florals and got to connect with an old pal.

Then, I remembered my cousin used to take calligraphy classes. As a wedding gift, she helped me address my invitations, and they looked incredible.

Look up old friends on social media and ask around, you never know who’ll you’ll find.

3. Know which kinds of shops you’re going into. If they give you champagne… run.

I started my dress search at a cute boutique. The shop had lovely decorations and beautiful, sparkly dresses on display all over the place. When I walked in I was given champagne and shown into a giant dressing room. It was such a great experience…until I saw price tags.

Remember that some shops are “premium” shops, with premium prices. You might enjoy the fancy look and the royalty treatment of some stores… but you’ll pay for it.

I ended up looking for more hole-in-the-wall bridal salons near me. It was less like going to Tiffany’s and more like going to a neighborhood jeweler… but it was worth it. I paid a low price for a dress I loved, which is something I wouldn’t have gotten at the glitzier place.

Know what kind of shops you’re going into. If you want to try out one of the fancier salons for the experience, go for it. But don’t think those five thousand dollar dresses are your only option. Also don’t think they won’t have the same dress for a smaller price at another shop.

And when it comes down to it, just remember, you’ll only wear this dress for the one day. While you might want to look perfect, how you feel on that day, and the love you share with your partner, are much more important than what you wear. Your smile and the way you look at your spouse, will make you look perfect no matter what you’re wearing.

4. Use a friend as an officiant.

Usually, the services of a priest or rabbi will only require a donation to the church, but most officiants can cost around $500-$800.

You might need a certain officiant based on your religion, but if not, think about getting a friend to do it. It only costs about $20 to $40 to get ordained online and you could end up having a really great officiant who knows you both really well.

It could make your ceremony as special and unique as your relationship.

romantic wedding couple

5. Forget about the extra flowers.

Do you need flowers on the aisle seats? No. Do you need flowers on the table where people collect their name cards? No.

Look, flowers are expensive and all those extra arrangements can really add up. Many people spend at least five thousand on their flowers…and for many of us, that’s just not realistic.

See if a florist can do an à la carte service for you: just the bouquets and boutineers. It will cover what you need but will also keep your bill low.

As for decorating the ceremony and reception space, you can find some lanterns for cheap online or put together some cute pictures (in fancy frames) of you and your spouse on tables. Don’t be afraid to stray from those traditional flowers: it might end up making your decor even more special and personal.

6. Skip the photo booth: it’s a downgrade no one will notice.

Photo booths are a fun way to get your guests feeling wacky and it gives them a fun party favor to put on their fridge. But photo booths are super expensive, so what do you do?

Try to apply the same idea to something less pricey. Your guests will have just as much fun posing with props in front of a cool background. Put up a poster or some balloons and set out some fun hats and accessories. Or even put disposable cameras on tables. People will have fun posing and posting their pics and it won’t break your bank.

7. Ask for vendors instead of gifts from your close family.

Trust me: you can totally go without that pressure cooker you put on the registry. Or at least, you can wait until after the honeymoon to go get it yourself.

One great way to get the wedding of your dreams is to ask your close family and friends for a special wedding gift: something you can enjoy on the day. Ask your sister for the gift of the bridal bouquet (which usually costs about $100-$150) or ask your aunt for an hour or two of music from a DJ.

Most close friends and family will probably spend about $100 on your wedding present, and if you think they’re close enough, or not too traditional about gift-giving, ask for part of your wedding to be their gift. You get to save money, you won’t end up with eighteen sets of silverware, and your guest doesn’t have to wrap anything: win-win-win!

8. Make it a rule: no plus ones.

When I first made my invite list, I made a rule: no plus ones.

I know this can be unpopular, but plus ones are expensive and if you’re on a budget, this should be the first thing on your chopping block.

Your cousin might be upset that he or she can’t bring a date, but you probably don’t want some stranger (or someone you don’t know very well) at your wedding anyway.

Of course, if your guest is married, invite their spouse for sure. Or, if your best friend has had this boyfriend or girlfriend for many years, consider inviting their mate. Just don’t spend money on a random date someone scraped up for your event.

Weddings can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your dreams of having your ideal day. Use these tips to save money in style, and save up for that honeymoon!

A New Way to Help Teens Foster Healthy Dating Habits and Relationships

For so long, we’ve given our teens different rules based on gender, especially when it comes to dating. Let’s evolve those old-school ways, and set teens up for healthy relationships.

It seems that every time I watch TV, I see the same tired, old character tropes. There’s the overworked mom and the troubled best friend. There’s the awkward teenage boy and the too-cute little sister. But one sitcom stereotype always bothered me.

I cringe every time a show features the overprotective-dad-of-teenage-girl character.

You probably know the one: this is the dad who’s always trying to intimidate the daughter’s boyfriend or joking about punching her prom date. This is the father figure who interrogates any boy the daughter brings home, while completely ignoring the son’s girlfriend. Talk about a double standard.

We often see posts online of a dad’s “rules” for dating his daughter or threats to any young man who dares to ask his teenage girl out on a date, like this dad who told his daughter’s date that “whatever you do to my daughter, I do to you.” There are posts with dad’s holding guns, dads wearing shirts banning their daughters from being sexually active, and while this is usually meant to be humorous, it’s not.

This attitude isn’t funny or charming. It’s sexist. It plays to the idea that women are their father’s property, that their sexual lives depend on their dad’s say-so. It’s patriarchal, possessive, and downright creepy. Plus, it doesn’t help teenagers be safe or make the right relationship choices in the long run.

These actions tell daughters like me that not only are we not in charge of our bodies, but that we need a man to watch over us. Meanwhile, it sends a message to sons that they can do whatever they want. It also fails to teach young adults (of any gender) about healthy teen dating practices, like how to make good relationship choices, how to communicate with a partner, where to look for red flags about abuse or consent, and how to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Here’s how you can teach your kids about the teen dating world, keep them safe, and even help establish flourishing dating practices.

1. Don’t base curfews on gender.

It’s common to give different children different curfews. You might give older children a later curfew or reward one kid’s good behavior with an extra half hour on a weekend. But don’t let gender be a factor in choosing what time your kids should be home.

I understand the fear of a child staying out late and getting into trouble. You might be afraid that a female child is not as strong as her male counterparts, and could end up being the victim of a rape or sexual assault. That is a very real concern, but the truth is that sexual assault happens in all places, at every time of day, to all kinds of people.

Giving your daughter an earlier curfew probably isn’t going to stop an attacker. Teaching her how to keep herself safe, on the other hand, might do the trick.

If you’re worried about your kids falling victim to attacks, sign them up for self-defense classes, teach them safe drinking practices, buy them pepper spray, and make sure you know (and trust) their friends. Remember that these are all important lessons for girls, as well as boys. But, if you’re still concerned about your kids staying out too late, give them an earlier curfew, but do it equally.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t really have a curfew. As long as I texted my mom where I was and who I was with, I could come home when I wanted. Looking back, I’m so grateful for this system. Instead of trying to enforce a curfew, my mom and I talked about dating, friends, and making safe choices and we built a relationship of trust and self-respect that made me want to be honest about where I was and share what I was doing.

Meanwhile, my mom taught me to always walk with friends to my car, to not take rides with drunk drivers, to always carry pepper spray, how to choose the people I hang out with, and more. When I got older, I used what my mom taught me in college and beyond. When I went out to parties or bars I would use those practices and it helped me stay safe.

2. Treat potential mates equally: don’t give your daughter’s boyfriend 50 questions and wave “Hi” to your son’s girlfriend as she drives away.

Much like having different curfews, treating your children’s dates differently sends a bad message. Your teens can tell when you put more effort into getting to know their sibling’s partner more than their own. Not only is it sexist, but it could lead to feelings of favoritism.

A child might want you to take their relationship seriously, and if you don’t take the time to get to know their date, they might even think you don’t care about their personal life.

Before your teen even starts dating, make rules for getting to know your teen’s boyfriends and girlfriends. You might want to make sure you meet them before the first date even happens, let them know that this is a rule for everybody.

Then, once your son or daughter is seeing someone more regularly, or have made the relationship “official” — plan a dinner at home. Have a set list of questions you’d like to ask, and get to know the girlfriend/boyfriend.

When I was a teenager, I was amazed at how differently parents treated their kids’ dates. All of the girls in my class would complain and stress out about their parents embarrassing them, but they never worried about meeting their boyfriend’s parents.

Even when I met my (now) fiancé in high school, he’d point out how different his dating experience was from his older sisters’. While the girls had strict rules on going out with someone new, my fiancé and I did whatever we wanted. Kids notice the difference in treatment, and take note.

happy teenage couple

3. Talk about sexism you see on television.

Especially when children are young, they learn a lot from TV, which means you might have to be careful about what they take in.

Of course, TV has progressed a lot. It used to be that women were often only represented as mothers and homemakers and practically all the guys had to be tough manly-men. When I was a kid, I was always bothered by how many young women in shows were only there as a love interest for the male characters.

The great thing about modern shows is that it gives young viewers an idea of the range of who and what they can be. Plus, the shows are more politically correct.

Still, this doesn’t mean your kids won’t run into some old-fashioned sexism on TV and in movies.

When you encounter this problem, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Did a woman experience sexism in her workplace on a show? Did James Bond just spank that woman as a greeting?

Answer questions and talk about why what they’re seeing is wrong. Even if some actions are too subtle for your kids to notice (especially if they’re younger), point it out and talk about why it’s not right. Explain that even if the characters are acting in a certain way, you hold your family to a higher standard.

Use it as an opportunity to open up the discussion about what about what proper behavior is.

4. Be a good example: a healthy relationship at home.

When it comes to relationships, the best way to teach is by example. If you treat your partner with respect, your kids will learn to do the same.

Be conscious about what you say to your partner and treat each other as equals. If you want your son or daughter to be treated a certain way, treat your partner that way. They’ll learn what to expect, and what to do, from you.

5. Encourage healthy dates and talk about relationships.

One big mistake a lot of parents make is not taking the time to talk to their children about dating, and what to expect in a relationship. I heard of one case in which parents told their girls that they “couldn’t date until they were married.” That’s not realistic and it won’t set her up for a healthy teen dating life.

Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about romantic relationships. We all know it’s going to happen eventually, so it’s best to be prepared and give them the tools they need.

If you have young children, you might consider bringing your son or daughter on “date night” to see a movie and have dinner. Maybe it doesn’t sound very different from what you do normally on a family outing, but let your kids know that what you like most about date night is getting to be around your partner and learning more about what he or she has been up to.

As your kid gets older, don’t be afraid to have one-on-one talks about what to look for in a partner, what to expect in early relationships, and how one should treat a date.

When I was growing up, my mom would tell me about her early relationships, and her openness and honesty stuck with me. I learned from her mistakes and it made me trust her, and her advice, even more. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids about your experiences.

6. Don’t assume that your child is straight. Let them know that any healthy relationship is okay with you.

Of course, you shouldn’t assume your child is straight. Lots of kids are gay or queer, and it could be difficult for LGBTQA+ kids to feel comfortable and confident with who they are when they’re first learning about their sexuality.

Growing up, I was always told that being gay was okay. While I ended up being straight, I still appreciated being told that there were options.

Let your kids know about what a healthy relationship looks like whenever you can, and make sure to include same-sex couples in your examples. This could help your child feel safer talking to you and can help them get the tools for healthy, happy relationships.

Raising children can be difficult, especially when they start dating. But with these tips, you’re sure to help your child enter the teen dating world with the right tools for a healthy relationship.

Read more stories like this such as Play Together, Stay TogetherEven Though It Can Be Maddening, Why It’s Great to Be Dating, and 7 Rules for Tapping Your Intuition in Love.

How To Show Love By Making a Difference This Valentine’s Day

Trying to give back this year? Here are some great ways to show your community some love on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is all about love, relationships, and romance. It can be so much fun, but it can get a little cliché too. Okay, okay, it can get a lot cliché.

If you’re in a long term relationship, you might not feel like doing the traditional chocolate-and-flowers-thing every single year, and if you’re living the single life, Valentine’s might feel like one giant eye roll.

This year, why not consider celebrating Valentine’s in a different way?

While so many of us get into the giving spirit during December, most people forget to give back during the rest of the year. Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to help your the community and show love to those who need it the most.

Whether you’re celebrating being single, or you’re looking for an original date idea for you and your beau, these ways to give back on Valentine’s will surely warm your heart, and make someone’s else’s holiday much brighter too.

1. Your date isn’t the only one who likes flowers. Help brighten a room at a nursing home.


Happy Grandmother receiving Gift from Her Granddaughter

In college, I helped plan a Valentine’s Day event with lots of balloons, flowers, and so much pizza. Of course, at the end of the night we were left with a giant mess, but we were told to save the centerpieces.

Someone on the party planning committee had the idea to pack up all the flowers and send them to the local retirement community. It sounded like a good idea until I found out that it was my job to put the vases filled in boxes and wake up early the next day to drive them over.

When I got there, I expected to unload the boxes and be on my way, but one of the women at the front desk stopped me. She said they didn’t have anywhere to put them in the lobby, and I’d have to drop off the flowers to the individual rooms.

Honestly, I didn’t want to pass them out, I didn’t know anyone in the hospital and I wasn’t in the mood to socialize, but the moment I shuffled into the first bedroom, I knew how important it was to do just that.

I met a lot of seniors who weren’t doing well, who were sick and lonely, and I loved dropping off some flowers to brighten their day. Plus, most residents really appreciated getting to talk to someone new, and knowing that I had made their morning a little better really made my Valentine’s Day.

This year, consider bringing a stranger flowers. You don’t have to throw a party to find some florals, but you also don’t have to break the bank getting bouquets. You can get involved with a charity like Random Acts of Flowers, and pass out flowers as a team. Or, if you want to fly solo, any stores have Valentine’s Day arrangements on sale on the 15th, and picking some up and bringing them to your local retirement home or hospital will make any resident feel special.

2. Everyone Deserves a Valentine’s Day Card

While passing out florals might sound nice, maybe flowers just aren’t your thing. Instead, you might consider making a few cards.

I adore Valentine’s cards: they were so much fun to collect in elementary school and now I love getting sweet cards from my fiancé every year. But these Valentine’s cards don’t have to stop with people you know. The My Golden Valentine project has been making a difference by writing cards for people who may not have many people around for the holiday.

This year, they’re hoping to deliver 10,000 cards to assisted living and nursing homes in North Dakota and Nebraska. That’s a lot of love!

But even even if you’re not in the North Dakota/Nebraska area, don’t think you can’t get involved. You can write your own cards and deliver them to your local nursing home. Plus, you can make an event out of it by inviting friends to write cards and watch Valentine’s-themed movies. Or, if you have kids or young nieces and nephews, this could make for a great kid-friendly Valentine’s activity.

3. Bring Valentine’s Day to your local children’s hospital

child holding red heart in her hands

On Valentine’s Day, kids should be in school making hearts out of construction paper for their parents, but many kids are missing out.

This Valentine’s, you can make a difference by volunteering at your local children’s hospital or joining a toy drive. I used to volunteer in a children’s hospital, talking to long-term patients and keeping them company. It was so rewarding, but there are so many other ways to get involved too.

One barber shop has worked hard for more than a decade to collect stuffed monkeys to give to children in hospitals and children who have been neglected.

Something as simple as a stuffed monkey can brighten a child’s day and make them feel special on Valentine’s.

So, whether you’re donating toys or if you plan to get more involved with a hospital, like with the CHOC Children’s Hospital volunteer program, your effort could mean a lot to a child in need of some Valentine’s spirit.

4. Show your love to some furry friends.

One of my favorite places to volunteer is at animal shelters. Come on, what better way to spend your time than with cute, lovable animals?

And the animals, and the shelters, really appreciate your effort.

There are so many animals that don’t have homes and they need a lot of love, so shelters often depend on volunteers to help show love to those pups and kitty-cats.

Celebrate V-Day by taking a shelter dog for a walk or playing with some animals at your local rescue. These furry friends will appreciate your attention, and who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love and bring one home as a Valentine’s Day gift to yourself.

5. Donate Blood

donating blood

This gives a whole other meaning to “heart day.” While romance might get your blood pumping, donating blood can help you show love to the people who need it.

Of course, at first I was squeamish about giving blood, but I’ve found that it is totally worth it to know that you are making a difference. Plus, it’s the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

It doesn’t take long to donate, it costs nothing to do, and you get a cookie out of the deal. And hey, you deserve some extra sweets on Valentine’s Day! Check out blood drives near you, The Red Cross is always out and about, and could be hosting a blood drive near you!

6. Give a gift that really means something

Young asian woman with giftbox surprising her african-american boyfriend

For me, the hardest part of Valentine’s Day isn’t finding something to do, it’s finding the right gift. I always get something for my fiancé, but I also like to get something for my mom, and who could forget my BFF (gotta celebrate Galentine’s Day!)

I would usually end up buying a few trinkets and maybe a picture frame or two, but I know that a lot of these presents were ending up just being clutter.

This year, make a pact with your sweetie or your best pals to get each other a donation to each other’s favorite charities. It will mean a lot to the charity, and you’ll feel good doing it.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to get involved in your community and show your love to those who will need it the most. With these six ideas, your Valentine’s Day will be as memorable, and meaningful as ever.

Read more great stories about Valentine’s Day like: My Valentine’s Day Despair and TriumphMy Complex Life and Lessons Around Valentine’s Day and A Widow on Valentine’s Day (A Video Experiment).