Can the 5 Love Languages Help Me Live Happily Ever After In My Thirties?

Have you heard of the 5 love languages? If not, you might be wondering why you’re having trouble connecting to certain people. Dr Gary Chapman, author of the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Laststalks about 5 languages that people ‘speak’ when it comes to feeling loved and expressing love.

These languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Gifts
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch

Dr Chapman, a marriage counselor for over 30 years, says that the love language that you speak to experience love is usually the same language you speak to offer love. So if your love language is ‘acts of service,’ you might feel especially loved when your partner does the dishes for you when you’re tired or when he or she cooks you dinner. And since your love language is ‘acts of service’ you might express love to your partner by driving him to work in the morning, or helping her carry some heavy boxes, or fixing his phone.

But issues can arise if and when your partner doesn’t speak the same language as you. So if your language is acts of service, like above, and you’re showing your partner how much you love him or her by doing tasks like the ones above, your partner might not feel the love if his or her love language is ‘words of affirmation.’ A partner whose love language is words of affirmation would want to hear you say nice things out of the blue- such as ‘I love you’ – and would want you to tell him or her all the happy things you’re feeling regarding the relationship.

This is where wires can cross and you or your partner can start to feel unsatisfied. If you feel love physically, obviously sex is important, but so are other acts of touch like hand holding and hugging. But again, if you’re with someone who feels love through quality time spent together, they might spend time with you and concentrate on you, but not give you massages or put their arms around you or kiss you enough for you to feel loved.

And quality time is an interesting one, because Dr Chapman differentiates between time spent together and QUALITY time spent together. Someone whose love language is ‘quality time’ likely saddens if their partner is constantly looking at a cellphone during times together, or isn’t making eye contact or actively listening during a conversation.

I definitely feel that love languages are real, but that there are love language combos, and that most people have more than one love language, though one might be stronger than the others. Here’s a test to take to find out what your love language is: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

My main love language according to my results is ‘quality time,’ followed closely by ‘words of affirmation’ and ‘physical touch.’ I was surprised that Words of Affirmation or Touch weren’t the highest ranking ones, but I think all three are up there. The love languages don’t have all the answers to relationship communication issues, but there’s definitely some wisdom here.

What’s your love language? Do you agree with the love languages? Do you think the love languages help you with your relationships?

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Does Getting Older Make You Like Romantic Comedies Less?

I saw Notting Hill a few days ago for the first time and I didn’t like it. To be fair, I was working on something on my computer at the same time so wasn’t giving it my absolute undivided attention, but I figured with a romantic comedy like Notting Hill, I probably wouldn’t need to. But maybe I actually did need to.

When I went through the online lists of everyone’s favorite romantic comedies, Notting Hill was on every list. I used to love romantic comedies but hadn’t watched many in awhile so I thought I’d get caught up this summer. Yet, everything about Notting Hill bothered me.

In a nutshell, Notting Hill is about an extremely famous actress played by Julia Roberts who walks into a bookstore in -gasp!- in Notting Hill and ends up meeting the owner of the store- a shy, very bookish (of course) and very single beta male played by Hugh Grant. They would have had a brief encounter and then would have never met again except that Hugh Grant’s character- by insane coincidence- literally runs into Julia’s character the next day and spills orange juice on her blouse, forcing her to go to his apt to change shirts. Thus begins their love story, with a first surprise kiss at his apt.

I don’t know why I found this whole tale so hard to swallow, or at least why it annoyed me so much. Many things about the movie bothered me that I don’t think would’ve bothered me in the past. The biggest issue I had was this:

Julia Roberts’ famous actress character pursued Hugh Grant’ character almost THE ENTIRE TIME. That’s why I called Hugh Grant’s character a beta male earlier- he never really took initiative to pursue her until the absolute very end. First of all, I don’t really believe this- the famous actress goes completely out of her way to pursue the bookish bookstore owner who doesn’t seem that into her? Also, I just can’t see this working in real life- is Julia going to mainly pursue him the entire relationship? Is Hugh ever going to take action? Especially if he couldn’t even take action most of the movie when a famous and funny and beautiful actress makes it ridiculously clear how into him she is. She even says one of the most famous lines in movie history to him:

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“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her”…Swoon…

But Hugh still rejects Julia! To be fair, he’s hot. Maybe you get a pass if you’re hot. I guess he can meet anyone he wants even though he doesn’t seem to want to date and seems to prefer reading books to getting on Tinder. And it’s 1999 so he doesn’t have access to Tinder, to be fair.

But Julia is hot too. And famous. She can also presumably have anyone she wants. Maybe she only wants what she can’t have? Okay I guess I can understand that. Dammit, the ultimate quandary of women everywhere- wanting what we can’t have. Don’t we all, Julia. Don’t we all.

Also, another annoying moment occurs where Hugh’s sister suddenly announces to her family and friends that she’s getting married- even though she’s single and hasn’t been dating anybody. Everyone is shocked and no one can figure out what’s going on. But then the sister leans over and whispers to Hugh’s roommate (who has otherwise been shown in the movie as an annoying drunk nutcase who wanders outside in his underwear) that she has picked him to marry. He bravely says okay. This could be cute if it didn’t seem like the relationship would end so badly in the long run. It would start off as another case of the woman taking complete initiative and then would more than likely be that way the entire marriage…which might not last that long at that rate. Because in this case the future groom doesn’t have the ability to take care of himself never mind the ability to be in a long term relationship with another person.

Could my analysis of this movie be way too harsh? Am I just more into fairness in relationships now that I’m older? Am I cynical because of all my past relationships? Am I too aware of red flags..so now seeing them, even in romantic comedies, causes me to squirm? (and not in a good way)? Could these be the main issues I’m having with Notting Hill? …None of this actually being the fault of the movie?

Come to think of it, while I was writing this blogpost, I actually felt tempted to rewatch Notting Hill, even though I just saw it a few days ago. I remember some of the funnier moments now that most of my annoyance and cynicism is out of my system. Notting Hill has been growing on me with time and a bit of distance- and I think some distance and possibly a healthy love of escapism are what’s needed for movies like this to work. You see, I really do like romantic comedies.

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Le sigh

 

 

Online Dating In Your Thirties

Online dating in your thirties is awesome. It’s also terrifying. I know some people who hate online dating and others who swear by it. I’ve gone to weddings of friends who met their significant others online, and have also listened to multiple friends tell me that they’d never go on an online date again.

If you’re single in your thirties and have never given it a go, I urge you to try. Obviously, stay safe and meet in public places and all that good stuff- but otherwise, be open to new experiences. If you want to be single for awhile, that’s awesome and perfectly okay, but if you’re trying to meet someone and don’t want to do online dating because it seems scary or ‘not genuine,’ I think you’re potentially missing out. I know that some of you may swear that you only want to meet your special someone IRL (In Real Life), but I feel like online dating only increases the number of people you end up meeting, and helps you connect with people who you might have had a hard time finding otherwise.

You’re busy and have a lot of things going on in your life and career- it’s hard to meet people, especially in big cities where everyone’s busy and rushing around. You probably don’t want to limit yourself to guys/ladies you meet at bars, or solely date your coworkers. Sure I know a few couples who’ve met in one of those ways, but I believe that dating is actually kind of a numbers game, and online dating exponentially increases the number of people you can meet. And meeting new people can be fun in its own right– even if you don’t find your soulmate right away.

So without further ado, here are some free online dating sites and apps to try:

OkCupidokcupid.com

OkCupid is probably one of the most tried and true free dating apps out there. It’s been around for a long time- it launched in 2004- so it has a lot of users, which is good. It’s both a website and an app, so this is a good one if you don’t want to be online dating on your smartphone only. OkCupid is one of the most writing intensive of the online dating sites- it requires you to fill out a bunch of question and answer statements (what they call ‘essays’, but they’re not essays). It’s a great app for sheer breadth of people you can meet, and, if you’re a stickler for grammar, it really showcases whether someone is a good writer or not.

Tinder gotinder.com

Tinder is a swiping app only, and is not a website. You swipe people either left or right depending if you like them or not- so Tinder is the opposite of OkCupid, in that it’s not writing based- solely looks based. Tinder is known more as a hookup site, but isn’t limited to that…so it can be a bit on the hazy side in terms of what people want from being on the app. The swipes on this app are unlimited, so it’s known to become an addictive habit. Most people who hate online dating are Tinder users, so I don’t recommend it for beginners to the online dating world. I’m also not a big fan of Tinder anyway, because of their semi-icky nature and ageist policies.

Hingehinge.co

Most people don’t know Hinge, but it’s slowly becoming an online dating fan favorite. It works by connecting you to friends of friends on Facebook, so it’s kind of like being introduced to your friends’ friends’ friends without the trouble of an introduction.  You don’t have to do much to set it up, because, as it works through Facebook, it’s able to pull a lot of your data from your FB profile- so you don’t have to upload any new photos or write that much at all. The Hinge profile is a profile you can create in minutes. Also, although Hinge, like Tinder, is also swiping app, it limits your swipes to only a couple of people a day, so you can put down your phone, stop the madness, and have a life outside of the app. Hinge is a great app for online dating beginners since it’s easy and user-friendly, especially if you have a good amount of Facebook friends (the more FB friends you have, the more recommendation possibilities for the app).

Bumble– bumble.com

Bumble is a swiping app, like Tinder and Hinge. However, there are a few major differences. One– it isn’t known to be a hookup only app the way Tinder is. Two– It doesn’t go through Facebook. Three (and most importantly)– It only allows women to message first. That’s the Bumble catch. So if you “match” with someone (you both swipe right= “yes”to liking each other), then only the woman can say the first hello. If she doesn’t, the match disappears within 24 hours and you’ll never speak again (on the app at least). Make of Bumble what you will, but I think it’s a neat and different little marketing concept. Bumble also has unlimited swiping- a la Tinder- so it can be addicting. And Bumble was actually started by Whitney Wolfe, one of the cofounders of Tinder. And Jane actually wrote about Bumble here before.

So go enjoy! Don’t be ashamed to be single in your thirties! You may never get to have this amazing time again, and some of your married friends may even be quite a good bit jealous of you. So go date, online date, and live it up!

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Are You Still A Good Friend In Your Thirties?

I just got back from visiting Jane in LA and it was fantastic. I’d been working in LA for two weeks, so I took the opportunity to extend my stay for 7 days at Jane’s apartment in Santa Monica. It was the best decision I could’ve made.

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Jane and I managed to spend 7 days with almost every hour together, and we still felt like we could’ve easily used more time. We went to all kinds of delicious restaurants, from brunch cafes to vegetarian taco places to incredible italian (we’re ridiculously happy foodies), while also managing to find a mac and cheese festival (9 different mac and cheeses in 2 hours), and quite a few great drink deals and happy hours.

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We also managed to both get quite a bit of work done together- between writing and blogging and marketing and other job-related things. We also got in quite a few physical activities such as biking for quite a few hours and running and walking all over the place. We met up with friends and coworkers and I even got to go to her weekly writers workshop.

In short, it was a successful trip. However, one of the things we talked about and have had quite a few serious discussions about in the past is maintaining our friendship even when we’re in relationships.

We’ve both found that it can be easier to maintain friendships when single. I’ve seen this happen time and time again with acquaintances who fall off the face of the earth when they find a significant other.

I know it has happened to me in the past, especially in my early 20s, where I expected all my friends to understand that I didn’t have as much time to spend hanging out with them. Some of my friends then drifted away- probably angry at me for being so stupidly unaware that I was pushing them away. Luckily, I realized what I’d done and now heavily prioritize spending time with my friends and family.

I feel terrible even thinking about those days, but I think you have to go through the relationship/friendship vortex to understand. At first, when you’re in a relationship, it can just seem like you don’t have nearly as much time to hang out with your friends. However, if you let that feeling lead you, and you stop appreciating and tending to your awesome friendships, you’ll pay a heavy price.

You don’t want your significant other to be your only friend. Even if you’re married, I think it’s a very bad idea to only hang out with your significant other, or only give minor thought to your friends. Worst case scenario, you break up or get divorced, and then you realize your good friends are gone because you’ve been pushing them away for years.

Jane and I always promise each other that we’ll tend to our friendship no matter what, and I think that’s one of the biggest reasons we’ve been friends for so long. During this trip we made a point to talk once again about prioritizing our friendship whether or not we’re in relationships. It’s actually a manual thing- you need to put friends right up there with career and relationships, especially during the busy, hectic years of your thirties. Good friends are strengthening and amazing- never take them for granted.

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A Crazy Relationship Study

Do you know that old Woody Allen quote, “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member”? I love the quote because it so perfectly describes something so many of us experience, this somewhat deep rooted feeling of not being good enough, especially when it comes to dating. Do you ever find yourself attracted to people who aren’t interested in you? Or perhaps you’re simply not attracted to people who come on too strong and tell you how great you are?

Well, I read a fascinating relationship study the other day that reminded me of this quote. The study was done at the University of Virginia with female undergraduates. The subjects were shown Facebook profiles of attractive, ”likeable” men and then, the researchers told the women how the men felt about them.

One group of women were told that four men liked them the most, a second group were told that these men rated them as average, and a third group heard that the men might like them.

And guess what happened? Well, as you might think, women were more attracted to men who found them attractive than men who rated them average. That makes sense. But here’s what was crazy.  The women who found the men most attractive were in the third group – where they were told the men might like them.

I thought that was interesting. Is it because women also like the chase? Do we want a chance to “win someone over”? Is it because we’re ambivalent about ourselves and therefore are attracted to people who feel similarly? Unknown

Are You Dating Someone You’re Simply Tolerating?

You know that excited feeling when you’re doing something you really want to do and you’re doing it really well?

Maybe you’re totally in the zone at work. Or you’re giving a speech and people are laughing, hollering and applauding. Or you’re working on an artistic project and your creative juices are absolutely flowing. Or you’re about to see your best friend and have a blast and you’re just like ‘hell yeah!’

That feeling of ‘hell yeah!’ is one of the best feelings ever! Things just feel so right. Wouldn’t it be amazing to surround yourself only with people that give you that feeling?

When you’re with people who give you that kind of excited buzz inside, time seems to fly by and even a cup of coffee together can become an adventure. I have lots of people like that in my life who I’m absolutely thrilled to hang out with- and I’m honored to call them my friends and family.

However, in the dating and relationship world, all of this excited buzz can sometimes become an anxiety-filled drone. The rules of the exciting buzz in the friendship world seem to warp in the dating and relationship world; It’s a funny gray area where the following stressful thoughts may become commonplace:

  • How come she didn’t text me for three days?
  • What does he mean when he says he’s scared of a relationship?
  • Why is he acting moody no matter what I do? Has he stopped liking me?
  • Why is she acting distant and cold for weeks?
  • Why are his texts so short and he asks me no questions about myself?
  • How come he was nice to me yesterday but seems to be ignoring me today?

Today, Jane forwarded me a HuffPo article called “What It Really Means When A Guy Says He’s Scared.” The gist of the article is that when a guy says he’s scared of dating you or having a relationship, it’s actually total BS. I already knew this fact, but it’s a good reminder. The HuffPo article was basically a one page version of the book “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Basically, the author says that only one out of ten guys saying something like “I’m scared of dating you/being in a relationship with you/marrying you” really means it (and you don’t actually want that one guy who really means it anyway- I’ll explain why in a second).

Okay, it’s been a second. Basically, the article references something I’ve written about before on this blog, but my post was over a year ago, so I feel the message (since it’s extremely important and useful) needs repeating. Here’s the message, in so many words:

If something is not a “fuck yes!” then it’s a no. 

That’s it. This is a mantra for most of life, but it’s especially true in relationships.

Mark Manson explains it best in his brilliant article, aptly titled “Fuck Yes or No.” Here’s the law of fuck yes or no, succinctly written by Manson:

The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” states that when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, they must inspire you to say “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them.

The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” also states that when you want to get involved with someone new, in whatever capacity, THEY must respond with a “Fuck Yes” in order for you to proceed with them.

That’s it. It’s simple. Live this law, and your dating/relationship life will get so much brighter.

So if someone hasn’t been texting you back for days, then they aren’t saying ‘fuck yes’ to you, so it’s a no. Simple. Move on.

If someone has been awesome to you on dates but then disappears until you stalk them down, it doesn’t seem like they’re saying ‘fuck yes’ to you. So say ‘fuck no’ to them. And move on.

If you’re constantly feeling anxious and stressed around a person you’ve been seeing, you’re not feeling ‘fuck yes’ around them. Cut ties. Go forward.

Most dating advice out there exists to fix a gray area: “what exactly can I say to make her like me?” “What should I wear to make him want me?” “How do I ‘play the game’ to make him call?” “What can I do to make him text more?”

But what if it’s simpler than that? If you’re uncertain for quite awhile, it’s a gray area, and therefore not a ‘fuck yes.’ Don’t you want to date someone who you know is saying “fuck yes!” to being with you? Don’t you want to have that wonderful buzz of “fuck yes!” when dating someone? Imagine NOT having to sit in that damn gray area where you’re trying to CONVINCE someone to say say ‘fuck yes’ to you! Or, possibly even worse, trying to convince yourself to say ‘fuck yes’ to someone who just doesn’t do it for you.

Here are some of the benefits of the fuck yes or no dating style, once again in the genius words of Mark Manson:

  1. “No longer be strung along by people who aren’t that into you. End all of the headaches. End the wishing and hoping. End the disappoint and anger that inevitably follows. Start practicing self-respect. Become the rejector, not the rejected.
  2. No longer pursue people you are so-so on for ego purposes. We’ve all been there. We were so-so about somebody, but we went along with it because nothing better was around. And we all have a few we’d like to take back. No more.
  3. Consent issues are instantly resolved. If someone is playing games with you, playing hard to get, or pressuring you into doing something you’re unsure about, your answer is now easy. Or as I often like to say in regards to dating, “If you have to ask, then that’s your answer.”
  4. Establish strong personal boundaries and enforce them. Maintaining strong boundaries not only makes one more confident and attractive, but also helps to preserve one’s sanity in the long-run.
  5. Always know where you stand with the other person. Since you’re now freeing up so much time and energy from people you’re not that into, and people who are not that into you, you now find yourself perpetually in interactions where people’s intentions are clear and enthusiastic. Sweet!”

Adopt this mentality, and reap the benefits of lots of ‘fuck yes’ time spent with exciting things and people who actually bring you joy!

Is Dating In Your Thirties A Zero Sum Game?

It’s funny- I didn’t even know what a zero sum game was until recently…and now I’m obsessed with the term and how it can apply to life.

The definition of a zero sum game can be found all over the internet, but it took me awhile to really GET the phrase. I put a definition link above and you can also find official and very thorough definitions here and here and here.

But if you don’t feel like clicking those links, here’s my definition: A zero sum game basically means that in order for one person to win, the other MUST lose. Tennis is a great example of a zero sum game. If Federer won a match against Djokovoch, Djokovich HAS TO lose. If Djokovich won a game against Federer, Federer MUST lose.

But can the zero sum game definition be used in the dating world? If I’m dating you, and I really like you, and you decide not to date me anymore and ghost after 4 dates (remind me to one day write another post all about ghosting), it seems possible that I have lost this round of dating you, and you have won. If I start dating a new person and he falls for me, but I suddenly feel that he and I are not working well together, so I stop seeing him and make him sad, then it seems I have won this dating round, and he has lost.

In a zero sum game, there are a finite number of prizes. So if there is only one prize and two players, only one person can win the prize. The other person, therefore loses the prize. My prize win (+1) plus your prize loss (-1) equals zero.

+1 + -1 = 0  And that is where the phrase ZERO sum game comes from.

If dating was a zero sum game, we can maybe define the winner’s prize as walking away with an uncracked heart, plus a moderately peaceful (perhaps even relieved), mental state. The loser, therefore,  CANNOT get the uncracked heart and peaceful outlook- the winner already took that. In a zero sum dating game, the loser ends up with no prize, or a negative prize: broken heart and saddened mental state.

I think dating CAN be zero sum, but it actually never has to be.Interestingly enough, though I’ve gone on what seems like an inordinate amount of dates in the past few months, with possibly enough material for my own comedy show, I don’t think that dating has to ever be a zero sum game. And the trick to stopping that loser/winner zero sum game from playing out in the dating world is simple:

  1. Change the prize

Perhaps your prizes from dating are:

a) Getting a relationship  ….or

b) Meeting someone who will fulfill your every dream    ….or

c) Getting out of dating someone you don’t like in the most peaceful, easy way possible, YAY!

I think the prizes can instead be something like

a) Getting to know and understand a new person better  ….or

b) Getting to know and understand yourself better  …..or

c) Getting to know about new things and places you never knew about before

…and you will always automatically win.

In this way, even if and when you stop dating someone, and even if your heart is breaking and you can’t stop eating ice cream iand crying in front of your television, you still win. Even if you just ran away and hope to never see your date again as long as you live, you still win. You learned about yourself, you learned about another person (good or bad, it still counts as knowledge). Hopefully you even discovered a new place.

And if the other person had the same prizes, defined above, as you, they will also win! That means there will suddenly be more than one prize to go around in the dating game, thus turning dating into a positive sum game!

Much of life isn’t a zero sum game. We don’t need others to lose in order for us to win. In dating, as in finding happiness, as in friendship, as in love, multiple people can win at the same time. It can all become a multiplier game instead.

Just make sure you choose the right prizes.

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When You’re Far From Where You Want to Be

Oh guys, I’ve been in a funk the past couple of days. Over a lot of things, but the overall feeling is that I’m so far from where I want to be at this age (33). I know we’ve talked a lot about this on the blog, and most days I can buoy my spirits by telling myself “You can’t compare yourself to others!” and “Everyone walks their own journey” or a new, personal favorite “Trust the timing of your life.” But some days, those mantras just don’t work. Some days, you just feel down and you can’t help it. That’s been my week.

Why? Well, it’s a lot of things. But the main thing is that ever since I was a little kid, I wanted a big family. I’m an only child without a large extended family, so it makes sense that I would desire that connection. I thought I was on my way to possibly starting my own family – I was engaged, and I figured I’d have children within the next few years. But then we broke up. And man, it’s hard to go through a breakup at this age, because if you want kids and don’t have them already, that ticking clock only gets louder and louder. I’ve been reassured that I have until I’m 37, but that doesn’t provide me much reassurance at all.

I was feeling okay that my career was moving slowly – because A) I chose something incredibly challenging, screenwriting and dramatic writing, and B) I had found my partner with whom I could have children, so that provided some relief. But when the floor fell out from B), it affected how I felt about my slow-moving career. Because now I have this other huge life goal I want to accomplish: having a family. Which distracts me from my writing, and has in fact caused me some legitimate writer’s block. I’ve never really believed in the concept of writers block, but lately, I do feel like my creative well has been parched.

I didn’t realize the extent of my frustration until I reached a tipping point last night while catching up on Season 4 of Homeland. I found myself getting jealous and angry of Carrie (Claire Danes’ character) for having a baby when she doesn’t even want one! It sent me down a spiral of frustration at all those people, err…TV characters…(how about Mindy on The Mindy Project!) who have children who never really wanted them to begin with. Again, I have to bring myself back down with all those mantras and reminding myself “my time is coming.” And also, laugh at myself, of course, because umm…when you’re jealous of TV characters, well…enough said.

So how do you begin to change your life when all your goals seem so far away? I don’t know. For now, I’m trying to take everything hour by hour, day by day, and hope I get to a place someday that feels like home.

Are You Working Too Hard On Your Relationship In Your Thirties?

“Relationships are hard work.”

I hear this a lot. And I think it’s kinda confusing.

Many things are hard work. Sometimes it’s hard work to drag myself out of bed when it’s really early. Or to figure out how to fix a laptop when it’s broken. There’s a good amount of work involved in completing a marathon. Or confronting someone when you’re upset with them. Or asking for a raise. Or building the Golden Gate Bridge.

I guess what I’m saying is that hard work is hard to define.

What constitutes hard work? What amount of work does it take… to build a relationship? Or to build an actual ship? To build the pyramids of Giza?

There’s a lot of different degrees of hard work. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’ve come up with a theory. I think it’s possible you’re working too hard in your relationship.

Relationships definitely take work. Most things that need to be built take some form of work. But there’s work that fits well with you and is flowing from a place of natural strength, and there’s work that doesn’t quite fit- the work of getting that octagonal peg in that frustrating triangular hole.

Let me explain. Think of the worst possible career you can imagine having. I asked a few people this question, and got some funny answers…I heard everything from embalmer to physics teacher to construction worker. One person even said ‘heart surgeon.’ Now, heart surgeon is a pretty complex and difficult career, and I can’t imagine doing it. It wouldn’t be exciting for me to have someone’s life in my hands like that on most days. I don’t think I’d be very good at being a surgeon because I’d be too anxious. I would dread going into work every day. I’d be downright afraid.

Now, if someone put a gun to my head and said “You HAVE to be a heart surgeon for the rest of your life or I’ll KILL you and everyone you know!!” I’d make the best of it. I’d work hard to make myself into the best doctor I could be. And it would be really, really hard.

However, there are people who very much LIKE being heart surgeons. It’s a competitive field! Those doctors go into the hospital everyday and are happy to work at their chosen career.

And get this- the heart surgeons who love being heart surgeons still have to do WORK….they can’t come into the hospital and go to sleep. They can’t eat Doritos in the corner after opening up a patient’s chest cavity. They can’t say “Eh, I don’t feel like it today. No surgery for you. I’m gonna go watch the Yankee game instead.”

There’s still hard work involved for a happy heart surgeon! But the work’s much easier because it goes with who the surgeon is and the career that fits with his or her personality.

Now, that same happy heart surgeon might feel like they’d have to do a ton more hard work if they were forced into a career as a model.

Do you see what I mean?

So, although it’s totally possible that you’re not doing enough work in the relationship that’s actually the right one for you (are you the happy heart surgeon eating Doritos in the corner while someone’s heart suffers?) it’s also possible that you’re doing way too much work (are you a physics teacher working your darndest to have a career as an embalmer?) Haha, okay, that’s weird, but you get the point.

Perhaps you’re following the good advice that relationships are hard work and so you’re working hard. But are you working too hard on the wrong thing?

It’s not an easy question.

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Sometimes the Solution Isn’t to be Nicer

I struggle hard to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. I strive to do my absolute very best.  I hate regret. I hate it.

I try very hard to word things correctly, and to be aware of what I might have done wrong in the past so I can always do things right in the future. I think hard about people’s feelings. I try to be helpful. I try to be fair. I worry about people’s happiness. I hope I’m being nice enough. I hope that I’m not doing something wrong and upsetting someone. I strive to be the best possible friend. I strive to be the best possible family member.

I used to be slow to return texts and emails– I struggle to be faster.

I used to let friendships lapse a bit when I got into relationships– I’m now very aware of this issue and have sworn my allegiance to my friendships.

I used to let significant others do what they wanted, even when it made me extremely unhappy or suffer– I now attempt to communicate what I need early on. This is very hard for me to do. I sometimes feel awkward communicating what I want without being asked but I know I have to.

I used to be more outspoken– now I struggle to be careful with my wording… to the point that I’d almost rather be silent than say the wrong thing by accident.

I used to believe that being nice (and down to earth and rational) could solve almost any problem– I’m now starting to understand that it cannot.

Sometimes when people surprise me by acting in what I perceive to be a sudden cruel way- possibly by saying something mean to me, or flaking on me, or disappearing on me, or by not accepting me, or telling me that they’re upset with me but hadn’t let me know before, I freak out. I obsess over what I could’ve done differently. I look through my old texts or emails, and think about conversations. I wonder if I worded things incorrectly. I worry that maybe if I could have somehow been even nicer and more thoughtful, things would be better.

But then I think about all the amazing friends and family members who accept me even when I’m busy or don’t return texts immediately or say random things that come to my head without editing them. I think about all the people who I accept and forgive all the time…even when they’re slow to respond to me or jot down brisk silly texts, or seem distracted and don’t act the best they can all the time. I realize that the people in my life are imperfect. The same way I am imperfect. And I’m suddenly starting to realize that the RIGHT people, the amazing ones, will forgive the dumb mistakes or the slow emails or the days between seeing each other when we get busy.

Sometimes being nicer and nicer in an effort to make things work with certain people isn’t going to ever make things work anyway. Perhaps the answer is to have more respect for myself and for the people who forgive my transgressions because they know that I’m doing the best I can. Because they love me for who I am, however imperfect.

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Has A Breakup Nearly Destroyed You In Your Thirties?

My friend Seth went through a really bad breakup a few years back. When I say bad, I mean horrendous. Bad to the point that it took him almost two years to get over it…and during that time he was anxious almost every day and couldn’t sleep. His anxiety about the breakup permeated every corner of his thoughts and dreams…and turned the act of sleeping into a constant nightmare.

I remember meeting up with him during this time and barely recognizing him. He felt like a shell of the boisterous, smiley person he usually is. Seth is a self-employed composer and lyricist who is always extremely creative and prolific, writing songs at all hours of the day and night, playing piano at auditions, and presenting showcases of his work. He even has his own webseries.

However, during the years after his breakup, he was on so many different anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills that he could barely function…and he’s the type of person who normally never even drinks coffee because it makes him jittery. Both Seth’s nights and days were wrecked, first by his ex’s departure, and then by the constant anxiety and even panic attacks that just wouldn’t go away.

My friend Seth and I in better times.

Seth and me in later, happier times.

Have you ever gone through a breakup that leaves you reeling for far longer than you think it should? Have you ever felt like you were the only one who just couldn’t let it go? Did you think you were going to marry the person who left, or did the person end up leaving the marriage you already had? Have you ever had even your absolute best friends wonder when you were going to get over it? This happens to people way more often than you think.

There’s no set timeline on grief, and a breakup is legitimately a loss. Breakups can feel kind of like mini deaths that you have to grieve and eventually move on from. Any act of grieving can take quite awhile, leading to intense discomfort, especially around your friends and family who may just want you to ‘get over it.’

It’s hard to just get over something on a timeline, and the time needed for grieving any particular loss is personal and unknown.This recovery time includes breakups as well as deaths- any type of loss can take a very long time to get over, really. Sometimes grief can even go away for awhile and then return as an intense sneak attack!

When Seth finally started to recover, and even during his grieving process, he attempted to open up to others about what he was going through. Little by little, he heard similar stories from friends who experienced similar breakups that brought them to the ground.

Seth and I after his recovery, when I directed his concert, Broadway Meows, benefitting the Humane Society

Seth and me after his recovery. I directed his Humane Society benefit concert, Broadway Meows

Seth realized how helpful it was to have friends around him and people who understood his situation. And it was extremely helpful to realize that other people had gone through similar situations after a breakup.

So he wrote a book to share his experiences.

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The book is called Sleep. Write. Nowand it chronicles his entire spiral into depression and insomnia after the breakup, and his very, very slow recovery. The book is breathtakingly open and vulnerable regarding the painful moments that occur after a breakup, from the embarrassing (private journal entries of positive affirmations that all don’t work) to the horrendous (loss of friends after recovery ‘took too long’ and he was ‘still too obsessed with her’) to the hilarious and touching (how his cat helped him through some of his darkest moments.)

I highly recommend Sleep.Write. Now, and it’s easy to grab on Amazon. The book is an amazing read for anyone who’s gone through or is going through a traumatizing breakup and feels alone. Remember, grieving takes time and it can take a lot more time than you think it will. Breakups are a natural part of life (you can’t marry everyone you date!) and rejection happens to everyone.

Always remember- you are not alone.

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A Crazy Marriage Statistic Courtesy of Aziz Ansari

Comedian Aziz Ansari has partnered up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to write a book on modern dating titled Modern Romance. Ansari has been doing tons of press for the book, and in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, he shared a “stat that rocked his world” – about marriage. The statistic was that in 1967, a study was done that revealed that 76% of women would marry someone they were not romantically in love with. Is that crazy or what? At first I was blown away, but when I started thinking about it, in the 1960’s, wo41LaBpUJBHL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_men of marrying age would have been raised by homemaker mothers and influenced in many ways by the culture of the 1950’s, which were their formative years.

Playing the devil’s advocate here, maybe it’s not so crazy to marry someone you’re not romantically in love with. when you really think about it. Especially in light of the success of many arranged marriages. Sometimes, the passion grows over time. I know a few people whose first few dates with their future husbands were lackluster, but their relationships ended up evolving into something more passionate. I’ve been watching their stellar show on FYI (owned by A&E) called Marriage at First Sight and it’s highly addictive. Have you seen it? I’m only on Season 1, and I know there’s some major controversy in Season 2, but so far, I’m loving it. The premise is that strangers are paired up together by a sociologist, sexologist and a psychologist based on extensive questionnaires they all take before they are matched up.

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I like the show because it feels real and more about the psychological principles behind making a relationship work, as opposed to cheap thrills reality entertainment. I’m going to have to keep watching to see if any of the three couples in Season 1 make it work!

Going back to the study Ansari referenced, what do you think about the statistic (the percentage of women who would marry someone they’re not romantically interested in).  What do you think the percentage would be if the study was done today?

A Different Kind of Marriage in your Thirties

Ellen McCarthy, a wedding and relationships reporter at the Washington Post, spent years interviewing hundreds of couples about what makes relationships work and what doesn’t for the paper’s On Love column. Her book, The Real Thing, is an insiders scoop into what makes some marriages work and others..not work..and possibly end in divorce.

According to McCarthy, there seems to be two major keys to finding a marriage partner to be with for (hopefully) your entire life. They weren’t what I thought they’d be. At first I found them way too simple. But simplicity can be deceptive…

The two keys are:

1. Comfort
It turns out that so many of the spouses in successful marriages used the word ‘comfortable’ when talking about their significant other that McCarthy began to get worried when couples didn’t mention that word.
Comfortable in this case didn’t mean settling or boring. It meant that both spouses felt very much themselves in the relationship. The couple still had to work on the relationship of course, but the marriage just felt natural and they didn’t have to second guess themselves or tiptoe around one another. Both husband and wife were comfortably able to express themselves without fear. One person even said that the marriage sometimes felt like being alone while together …in the best way. They both still felt extremely free and independent while together in the relationship. This is the best kind of interdependence, I think.

2. Kindness
When asked what the most important quality a potential life partner could have, the answer was kindness, hands down. The marriages that lasted consisted of partners who were kind to one another…and kind people overall. One respondent said that her significant other was kind to everyone- kind to her, kind to himself, kind to friends, kind to dogs. Kindness is everything in a lasting marriage.
And why shouldn’t it be?

If you’re going to be with someone for life- and in this day and age that means another 60 possible years from your thirties(!)- why wouldn’t you choose someone who’s kind and who you can comfortably be yourself with?

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t butterflies, super hot moments, and great chemistry, and it doesn’t mean that everything is boring and tranquil. It just means that when looking for a life partner, kindness and comfort are great places to start…and continue.

Are you in an amazing marriage with a kind partner who you feel extremely comfortable with? Are these traits valuable to you? I know that I never had them high enough on my radar before, and they’ve recently moved to the top of my list. I don’t want to be with a person who seems great on paper, but isn’t kind. I want to be with a kind person who makes me feel comfortable and good about myself. The rest can be figured out thereafter.

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Spinster: The Pre-Having-Read-This Book “Review”

True Confession: I find great pleasure in watching the Today Show on NBC in the morning. Watching Al, Matt, Tamron, and Savannah chat and deliver the ‘news ‘ is on my list of personal self-soothing remedies, a list which also includes wine drinking while reading Real Simple magazine and taking long baths while listening to the sound of the tub filling up.

So, this morning, I am watching the Today Show, trying to get my butt out the door to make it to class on time, and I see a very pretty woman in her 30s talking about her new book, Spinster. The Today Show has hooked me; I had to sit down and listen to her interview. It turns out this woman is the  39 year old author of the book, Kate Bolick. (Just a note: did I have to mention she’s very pretty? No. But it definitely helps her argument, as she’s a single, not married, but has a boyfriend, beauty in her late 30s which we don’t often seen portrayed.)

The book explores the question “Can I spend my life alone and be happy?” from a woman’s perspective. Bolick got a reported high six-figure deal for the book. Aside from the fact that I’m a teeny weensy bit jealous and also have a bit of a platonic girl crush on her…I’m desperately excited to read this book. Mainly because I’m so sick of this idea that women can’t have fully, complete and satisfied lives on their own.

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Image by Willy Somma

Bolick’s book explores the lives of five female writers in the past century who’ve actively chosen to live their lives on their own terms and not marry. As I haven’t read it, I can’t really give a 100% recommendation but my hunch is, it’s going to be a fascinating read, if for no other reason than this line about her eating a Big Mac on her sidewalk after a drunken night out:

“I chomped and strolled as slowly as I could, prolonging the delectable realization that waiting for me at home was nothing but an empty bed into which I’d crawl naked and drunk and stinking of fast food, disgusting nobody but myself.”

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Can’t wait to read this.

Rereading Your Twenties

Today, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about how he reread the work of a writer he used to think was brilliant. However, while rereading her work this time, he realized that she was actually quite insane and likely a sociopath in need of heavy medication.

He was rereading the complete works of Sarah Kane– a playwright that me and all my drama major friends had been completely obsessed with in college and afterwards. We worked on novel ways to stage her plays and bring her genius to life.

Her writing is littered with violent, heart-stopping moments such as the gouging out of eyeballs, urinating on beds, rape, and dead baby eating. My friends and I all loved her and thought she was misunderstood and amazing. She had committed suicide at the age of 28.

When I saw the Facebook post about rereading Kane’s work, I realized that there are a ton of things I used to love that feel different to me now. It’s almost like I have to go back and rewatch my favorite movies (which used to include Moulin Rouge but I’m pretty sure that needs updating) and reread my favorite novels (which used to include A Prayer For Owen Meany, but I haven’t read that in years).

When I used to love Sarah Kane plays in college, I was surrounded by people who wanted to ‘push the limits of theater’ and do ‘groundbreaking work’ which seemed to mandate plays that were shocking and possibly offensive. Nowadays I have different standards for groundbreaking work. And from my twenties to my thirties, I also have different standards for my relationships, friends, and work environments. A lot has changed.

Have you checked on what you’re still holding onto from your twenties that might not represent who you are anymore?

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I’m Easily Distant…Even Now

Now that I’m thirty, I feel more comfortable with myself than I’ve ever felt in the past.

I’m eerily familiar with that weird vocal quirk in my voice I’ve had since third grade that people occasionally remind me I still have.

I know exactly what I should eat for breakfast in the morning to keep me going for at least 3 hours and not make me groggy (right now it’s bananas and peanuts butter, and/or a green smoothie plus coffee. It used to be oatmeal). Boring, but necessary for me to know.

Vegetarianism is part of my soul. I can’t imagine eating meat ever again. For now, anyway.

I’ve gone almost platinum blonde kinda by accident since the summer (I suddenly decided to dye my hair myself for the first time, and after much trial error and purple hair it just kinda happened). And I love it. Right now, anyway 😉

When I feel good, I feel really, really good. Overall my life seems to get better and better as I get older- I’ve always felt that way. I’m very much still working at feeling my best more often (I know it’s all waves), and tracking down major life goals that can help me move forward. I really want to master the subtle art of Not Giving A Fuck about unimportant things, which we’ve talked about a lot on this blog….more than once.  However, one of the things I’m really always working on, especially now that I know myself better, is being able to tell others what I need and want…after figuring out what I need and want.

It’s very easy for me to let friends, family, and significant others take the lead and pull me down their path without much resistance from me. I’m very good at going with the flow (something I really know about myself)- and that combined with a dislike of confrontation, an intense empathy for other people’s feelings, and a deep curiosity for other people’s habits and points of view can occasionally leave me feeling swept up in lives that are not my own. I can let others sweep me so far into their lives that I don’t even realize how distant I suddenly feel from myself.

I don’t know if that makes sense exactly or if it feels familiar to any of you. Or if you’ve outgrown this now that you’re in your thirties. But sometimes I’m the polar opposite of the ideal cool and collected thirty-something who doesn’t give a fuck. I used to give so many fucks about what other people thought that my life became a guessing game and I thought I was the ultimate winner of knowing what people wanted. All I cared about was making my favorite people happy and figuring out how to play their game correctly.

I doing so, I would sometimes lose what exactly I wanted and who I wanted to be. With my best friends, this didn’t really happen. But with acquaintances and romantic relationships, I would become distant from myself which would also lead to a certain distance from others. I couldn’t honestly communicate who I was and what I wanted because I myself wasn’t aware of what exactly I wanted. And once I figured it out, it felt scary to tell.

Sometimes that distance returns, even in my thirties. I find myself getting swept up in other people’s lives and dispositions once again, and I lose what I want and start to forget who I am. If I don’t stay in touch with myself by meditating, re-centering, talking to good friends, and expressing what I need, this old habit from the past seems to return.

It’s interesting that even though we can come so far by the time we’re in our thirties, those old traits from our younger days can still seem to be lurking around the corner, waiting for a time to reappear and scare the crap out of us. For now, anyway.

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