A Pageant Dropout’s Guide to Love

I’m a Pageant Dropout.

By that, I mean – I competed in an international beauty pageant, and it was a disaster. It felt like the end of the world…but it wasn’t. My mistakes taught me a lot about love. So here’s what I learned the hard way, in the hopes that you don’t have to.

Like any doomed love affair, this one started with the best intentions.

On paper, it looked like just another casting call. I showed up at the gate, expecting to enter a studio and read a few lines. Instead, a maid buzzed me into a fancy mansion. It was filled with fine china, gilded chairs, and giant antique lamps that probably cost more than my college tuition. Before I knew it, I was sitting in front of a glamorous woman. She looked beautiful, rich. Famous. I wanted to know everything about her.

Instead, she wanted to know all about me.

I stumbled through the conversation, heart pounding like a middle school crush.

“You’re so interesting!” the woman said. “I’d love to have you.”

My heart glowed. Never mind that she was putting me in a beauty pageant I knew nothing about…there was an Emmy award on the desk behind her. This must be it.

I had never really liked pageants. In fact, I remember loathing them on a deep level for…pretty much my whole life. But this might be my only chance at a happy ending. Who was I to refuse?

There would be dozens of graceful bikini models competing for the crown. I was a nerdy, awkward comedian from Alaska. I was not pageant material, by any means. The odds were against me. But I would do anything to make the judges love me most.

I spent the next few months changing everything about myself. I changed what I ate, how I dressed, how I did my hair and makeup. I altered the way I spoke, moved, and laughed. I practically killed myself at the gym for 3+ hours a day, and consumed no more than a thousand calories daily. I became unrecognizable.

Relationship 911: Unpacking Shame

The ways we perceive the actions of others reflect how we see ourselves. I knew I had a problem with shame because of how I’d been treating my partner.

It began innocently enough.

“Are you really going to eat all of that?” I’d ask playfully, as if monitoring his eating would negate my own cravings.

“You did what in high school?” I’d gasp, appalled at whatever crazy anecdote came up. As if I were Mother Theresa.

I was looking at his past under the same negative microscope with which I judged my own. This served to confirm my belief that my mistakes made me a bad person.

Shame was deeply rooted in my relationship history, but I covered it with false bravado, impulsiveness and deflection. Subconsciously, I kept focus away from my own negative qualities by looking for them in others. Even in those I loved.

At the time, I saw this as a positive behavior. I would point to something I saw as a fault in my lover, then actively assert myself in “helping” him fix it. I thought that this made me a good partner. But in truth, I was anything but.

I didn’t know how to love someone without trying to improve him or her somehow – even if my words said otherwise, and even if I didn’t really want to change them. I couldn’t help myself. Judgment, blame and shame were all that I knew, even when life was good.

“Blame is [a] defensive cover-up for shame. Blame maintains the balance in a dysfunctional system when control has broken down.” – John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You

I could say that I developed these habits because of my religious upbringing, where love came with conditions. Or I could blame my actions on past relationships, because they all seemed to have been dysfunctional in this way. But to actually solve the problem, I would have to look at the common denominator in these factors: me.

I didn’t know how to love myself without pretense or perfectionism. And because I didn’t take the time to admit this before I entered the relationship, it took a big toll on my partner. I was ruining my life, without even realizing it.

At the time, I was convinced that I was in the right. I believed that caring for people in spite of their shortcomings was the same as unconditional love. The very foundation of my relationships had been poisoned by shame. I acted defensively by default, manifesting of my own deepest fears. I truly loved my partner, but I was doing it wrong.

It took a great deal of therapy, self-reflection and rock bottom moments for me to finally have the guts to look in the mirror and acknowledge the fearful person staring back at me.

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.

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.

Everything I Learned About Relationships from 90 Day Fiancé


The surprisingly valuable lessons I learned from my guilty pleasure show.

I love watching TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé. It’s trashy, over-dramatized, and all-around great. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching this reality trainwreck gold, let me give you the 411:

The show follows Americans and their foreign-born fiancés as they unite in America. However, their special “fiancé visa” only gives the couple three months to get married before one of them is sent home.

Of course, the couple has to plan their wedding (and one of them has to adjust to life in a new country) in a jiffy. Plus, often, the couple has only met in person once or twice before, and they need to get to know each other before tying the knot. So, it’s a busy 90 days.

With cultural differences, language barriers, and the ever-looming threat of one person being sent back home, this show is dramatic, addicting, and…surprisingly educational.

That’s right. Whether I’m making a mental note to follow one couple’s strong example, or more often, learning from their mistakes, 90 Day Fiancé has taught me a lot about relationships.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from some of my favorite 90 Day Fiancé couples.

1. Don’t be afraid to take it slow


In one of 90 Day Fiancé’s spin-off shows, 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, the American goes to visit their out-of-the-country lover before getting engaged. They do this because before applying for the fiancé visa, they have to have met in person. So this meeting is usually their first time seeing each other in person.

That might make you say: “They’ve never met and are already on a reality show about getting married? Wow. That’s moving pretty fast.”

Sure is.

And it seems like Darcey, an American designer, really did want to move quickly towards marriage. She went to Amsterdam to visit Jesse, and while she clearly hoped to get engaged on the trip, Jesse decided to take it slow. By the end of the season he gives her an “appreciation ring” and Darcey goes home without solid marriage plans.

While this may have been a disappointment to Darcey, and many viewers, I think that Jesse’s idea to wait is commendable. So many 90 Day Fiancé couples find themselves feeling rushed to get married because of the visa process, but jumping into marriage too quickly can mean trouble later on.

Darcey and Jesse’s story really struck a chord with me. I know how hard it is to wait to get married, but I also know how important it can be as well.

In my own relationship, my fiancé and I waited 9 years to get engaged. We were young when we met and we didn’t want to move too fast. When we finally got engaged, we were glad we waited. Now, we have such a great foundation to our relationship and are certain we’re ready for marriage.

Of course, not everyone is going to wait 9 years to get engaged. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” But when it comes to taking big steps in your relationship, follow Jesse and Darcey’s example, and remember that it’s okay to take your time.

2. Make the extra effort for your in-laws


In season 3, Alexei moved from Israel to Florida to marry Loren. Despite some arguments surrounding her bachelorette party and insecurities about her tourettes syndrome, the couple seemed to have a strong relationship. One thing that stood out especially was Loren’s relationship with Alexei’s family.

At one point, Alexei’s mom came to visit them in Florida. She and Loren spent a lot of time together, going shopping and even making dinner. Lauren wanted to show Alexi’s mom a great time in the US, there’s just one problem: the two don’t speak the same language. They struggled to communicate but both mother and daughter-in-law made an effort to bond, and the segment was actually really sweet.

There are a few things I love about this. One, Loren wanted her in-laws to like Florida so that one day they might move closer to her. She knew how important Alexei’s family was to him and she wanted to make him happy, which is great in any relationship. Not many spouses encourage their in-laws to move closer. Second, she is making an effort to communicate with Alexi’s mom, even when there’s a language barrier, which showed how much bonding meant to her.

I know that sometimes it can be hard to communicate with your significant other’s family (even when you speak the same language). Sometimes being in different families or from different generations can make you feel worlds apart, but it’s so important to try to have a good relationship with your in-laws. It helps keep the peace and shows your partner that you care about his or her family, which might be really important to them.

3. Know that you’re not always going to get your way


Evelyn and David from season 5 definitely had their differences. They had a big age gap (she was 18, he was 27), different ideas about the wedding, and even conflicting thoughts on where to live.

Sharing a life with someone means compromising. Sometimes things will go the way you want, sometimes you’ll have to consider a different direction. When Evelyn welcomed fiancé David from Spain, it was clear that she expected him to go along with her plans. When he didn’t, it caused a lot of issues.

She spent most of the season arguing with David about everything from small details like what the bridal party would wear, to bigger issues like where they would live after the wedding. It was a rough way to start off a marriage.

Watching Evelyn and David helped remind me to be flexible. Living with someone means that you can’t get your way all the time, and for many people, that can be hard. I was an only child growing up so, in my early life, I didn’t have to compromise on a lot of things. When my fiancé and I started making decisions together, I had a hard time making room for his opinions. There was the issue of living room wall color and what groceries to buy, but eventually, we learned to work more as a team.

Evelyn and David remind us that opening your mind can make your relationship go a whole lot smoother.

4. Learn how to fight in a healthy way

Anfisa and Jorge 90 day fiance

Anfisa and Jorge spent much of season 4 in loud, angry fights. They brought a whole lot of drama to the season, but their arguments were often cringe-worthy. Name calling, door slamming, and even hitting were not uncommon for these two, and it cause many viewers to wish the couple would split up for good.

But their fights were a good reminder of what not to do. Those actions can be hurtful and abusive, and can be more harmful to the relationship than whatever the original fight was about.

Of course, you’re going to disagree with your significant other at some point, it’s unavoidable. The key is to strive for healthy, constructive arguments, and not to get too heated or angry.

It’s important that whenever you feel yourself getting mad, try to stay calm and take a deep breath. If possible, take a break from the fight, calm down, and come back to it later. It will give you time to think about your partner’s point of view and find a rational solution.

5. Tell the truth: lies and secrets will eventually come out


I hate lying and keeping secrets. Whenever I have a secret, no matter how small, I feel guilty and am constantly afraid that someone will figure it out.

When Pedro moved to the United States to marry Chantel in Season 4, Chantel knew her parents wouldn’t be thrilled with her engagement. She decided, instead, to tell her parents that they were only dating and that Pedro was in the country on a student visa. In the end, Chantel’s parents were very hurt that she hadn’t told them the truth from the beginning. It also put Pedro in a tough spot because he was caught in a lie he didn’t want to make.

Their story is a great reminder that a lie isn’t ever really worth it. Whether the lie is to your significant other, or about your relationship, it pays to just be honest up front. The truth is more than likely going to come out eventually, so you might as well save the drama.

6. Talk about what makes you uncomfortable and let your partner know your expectations for the relationship

Andrei and Elizabeth-90-day-fiance

We all have that line that we don’t want our partner to cross under any circumstance. Maybe your “line” is your partner talking to an ex, or maybe it’s tickling you in that spot you hate. Different things bother different people, and it’s important to know what’s okay (and what’s not) when it comes to your partner.

Season 5 couple Andrei and Elizabeth had some issues before their wedding. Elizabeth’s sisters were concerned that Andrei would discourage Elizabeth from going out and partying with them. It seemed like a non-issue to Elizabeth, but it brought up a really important point.

No one should be bossed around by their partner, but sometimes you might have to do something, or even abstain from doing something, in order to keep peace in the relationship.

In the show, Andrei told Elizabeth what he wasn’t comfortable with her bachelorette party plans. They had to find common ground between what she wanted to do and what he wanted her to do during the party, and there was some tension, but in the end they seemed to respect each other’s boundaries.

Of course, you can’t make a whole list of things your partner can’t do. And you certainly can’t let your partner make your choices for you, but being upfront and honest about what makes you uncomfortable can help build trust, especially in a new relationship.

7. Be conscious of what you’re saying


It’s important to encourage your partner to do better, but insulting them is not the way to do it. Azan, from Morocco, was critical of Nicole’s weight multiple times in the show. He said he was only pointing it out because he wanted her to be healthier and share his interest in exercise… but that’s definitely not how it came off. He called her lazy and his words were often hurtful.

Azan’s situation is a good reminder to be careful about what you say to your partner.

I know I sometimes say things that end up sounding pretty harsh, even if I said them with the best intentions. It happens to the best of us. Whether you’re telling your partner to eat healthier or to take out the trash, there are certain ways to say things so that it doesn’t sound like an insult. Try not to get too personal about your partner’s issue, and use kind words when being critical.

8. Be supportive of your partner’s job and hobbies

Russ and Paola 90 day fiance

Being supportive of your partner’s job and their dreams is always so important to a relationship… but it can sometimes be hard to muster up the support when it might not have been your first choice for them.

Russ and Paola went through some trouble when Paola began modeling professionally and Russ didn’t agree with her choices. He didn’t want her posing topless and didn’t like the idea of moving to Miami. To an extent, Russ had a point. His job was in Oklahoma, he owned a home in Oklahoma, and he came from a conservative background. At first, it was hard for him to get on board with her modeling and the move.

Still, just because your partner’s dreams aren’t easy for you to support, it doesn’t mean your partner can’t pursue them. In the end, Russ was supportive of Paola’s modeling, and it made her happy. He was able to support his wife, giving the rest of us a great example to follow.

Just because reality shows highlight the craziest and most dramatic things in a relationship, doesn’t mean there isn’t something to learn from these shows. These tips are valuable lessons that can help you, and your partner, foster a great, lasting relationship.

If you want to know some tips to find the love of your life check out 5 Hopeful Dating Tips, From A Woman Who Finally Found Love. Consider signing up for a LOVE TV Membership and you can get one-on-one help from love gurus and relationship experts. 

The Joys of a Sexless First Date Are a lot Better Than You Might Think

There’s nothing wrong with setting out to get laid on the first date, but there’s fun in going on a date that leads to no sex, or even not kissing.

I’ve been in a total “dating sucks” state of mind lately. Maybe it’s the winter weather that makes me want to bog down in a sea of fleece blankets, warm tea mug in hand. I’ve been apathetic, because all I can think about is how much work it is to make plans, get dressed, go somewhere, and keep up the effort even with someone who isn’t the one. I started thinking, there’s got to be more.

People who are hyper-focused on being in a relationship will approach dates with tunnel vision. The same can be said for folks who are hyper-focused on only dating for sex, too. But there’s so much more!

I had to remind myself of all the fun times I’ve had on first dates that didn’t “go anywhere.” No sex, not even a kiss, and not even a second date. What ever happened to the joy of meeting people for the sake of meeting people?

1. A sexless first date can make you see a friend in a new light or build a foundation of intimacy.

Fashionable interracial couple drinking wine during date sitting at restaurant having romantic evening and nice conversation raising glasses to love at first sight. Hipster man proposing toast

The first time I went on a date with a friend was kind of odd, which, I guess, is to be expected. I saw it coming. He’d hint at his interest with suggestive comments about my outfits, my smile, not-so-overt innuendos, etc.

But it’s fun to see the different side of someone you’ve always viewed platonically. He held open doors and looked nicer than usual and gave me puppy dog eyes a lot. The charm was turned all the way on, and I thought “okay, I can see why someone would date you.”

It was cute! We didn’t work out romantically for a number of reasons, but it’s good to remember why you’re friends with people to begin with, and it’s good to see someone turn on the charm for you.

At the same time, if your date goes horribly that can be a sign that your friendship isn’t as solid as you think it is.

2. There are no post-sex regrets.

promo shot from film walk of shame

I’m lucky to say (and it’s sad that I feel lucky in this) that I haven’t had too many sexual encounters I’ve regretted. It helps that I generally don’t have sex if I’m really intoxicated.

When you want sex you want it, and I tend to listen to my carnal desires if I don’t think they’ll have unpleasant repercussions. That being said, there have definitely been underwhelming coital encounters that left me thinking, “I could have had a V8.”

I believe that no sex is better than bad sex. At least with a sexless first date, the worst you get out of it is an hour wasted. There’s no lamenting over how you could have gone home and just pulled out your vibrator.

3. You can focus better on who you’re with.

nerdy geeky couple on a date

I know what it’s like to go on a date with only the end goal of smashing in mind. You entertain the person you’re with, have amiable-enough conversation, lest they say something that turns you off completely and ruins any chance of you getting naked for them. No amount of friendly laughter and offhand jokes will hide what you want at the end of the night.

And hey, I’m not knocking this at all. If you’re being safe and smart about casual sex, get your groove on.

But what would it be like to go into a date with no expectations at all?

I heard some good advice once about dating and “meeting people”: focus on friendship first.

Think of a first date as a potential friend. Find out their interests, see if they’re fun to hang out with at a museum, or if they like 90s sitcoms, or what they do outside of their day job.

We don’t go around sleeping with our friends when we first meet them – or at least I certainly don’t. If you do, you might have some things to work on. (Don’t we all?)

The key to an enjoyable first date is the “no expectations” part. I live in a big city with so many interesting, weird, wacky and beautiful people – I wouldn’t do them (or myself) justice if I were only focused on sleeping with them, or making them my significant other.

Wow, I think I’ve actually convinced myself to go on some more dates! After all, the snow is melting, the days are getting longer, the sun is showing itself a bit more. Anything goes in Chicago though – we know it doesn’t really get nice until Memorial Day.

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