Navigating the World of Online Dating

Senior year of high school, some friends and I downloaded Tinder. What started out as a joke to help ease our senioritis turned out to be quite fascinating, for me at least. I got to know all different types of people and even went on a few dates. Over the past few years, more and more dating apps and websites have been developed: Bumble, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel, Match, eHarmony. There are also more specific dating apps and websites such as Christian Mingle, JDate (for Jewish dating), and Farmers Only (featuring the funny slogan “City folks just don’t get it.”) While I wouldn’t consider myself a professional online dater (maybe semi-pro) I do have some tips to help make the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable:

 
 

1 | Show your true self in your profile and your conversations!

It’s always a good idea to use pictures where you truly look like yourself. No need for Photoshop or Facetune; you’re gorgeous just the way you are! The same is true for your bio. Dating apps and websites usually have a section where you can write about yourself and your interests. You can really go into detail here and you’re more likely to get messages this way, versus having an empty bio. Lastly, show your true self in your conversations. See if you and your match have things in common!

2 | Ask unique and interesting questions

It’s nice to get a message saying “What’s up?” or “How are you?” But what if you got a message saying “What’s a movie that changed your life?” or “What’s a song that’s always stuck in your head?” You might be more likely to respond to the latter questions! Unique and interesting questions are a great way to break the ice and get to know the other person.

3 | Make sure you both want the same things

People use dating apps and websites for many different reasons: casual dating, serious relationships, friendships, or maybe they’re just in town for the night. Whatever the reason is, make sure you’re both on the same page. Miscommunication can lead to sticky situations (that rhymed!) Say, for instance, you’re a college student talking to a guy in his late 20s. Perhaps he’s looking to settle down and get married but you’re not ready for that at this age. It’s important to have these kinds of discussions to avoid the hurt and confusion later on.

4 | Do your research and trust your instincts

Maybe I’ve watched too much “Catfish”, but I always think it’s a good idea to Google your matches, especially if it’s someone you plan on meeting in person. If you’re serious about the person and want to know more about them, you can ask if they want to exchange social media accounts. If they don’t want you to follow them, they may be hiding something, such as a girlfriend, boyfriend, or their real identity. Trust your instincts and if something seems off, you might be right.

5 | Don’t worry if you don’t click in real life

Sometimes you really connect with someone via chatting or texting, but in real life, the spark just isn’t there. Chemistry is complicated and it can’t be forced. Maybe your online conversations were hilarious and exciting, but now you’re sitting across from each other in awkward silence. Don’t worry! It happens to all of us. Just be honest and upfront with the person; nobody likes to be ghosted.

6 | Remember there are plenty of fish in the sea (37.2 million to be exact)

So I did a little math with the help of the internet. According to Pew Research Center, 15 percent of adults in America use, or have used, dating apps/websites. There are roughly 248 million adults in America so 15 percent would be about 37.2 million people! That’s an incredible number and can really make you feel hopeful about love. One bad date doesn’t mean all future dates will be bad. It’s all about trial and error. I like to think of it as an audition process where you’re both auditioning for each other. It may not always work out… but the audition process can still be enjoyable!

I hope you found this list of tips helpful. Do you have any tips for online daters that weren’t listed above? What dating app or website is your favorite? Do you know of any success stories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


about the author

Hi, I'm Lucy! A psychology student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue child and adolescent therapy. When I'm not chugging coffee and studying, I love to sing, write music, bake, watch reality TV, and hang out with my dog.

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Strategies for Loving Someone who has Anxiety

Being in a relationship with an anxious partner can feel like hard work! If you’re looking to experience some more ease within your partnership, please read on for my insider tips on how to maintain your composure while dealing a partner’s propensity for anxiety. These tips will also help you foster a healthy relationship with your anxious special someone:

 
 

1 | Manage expectations

Understand that even if your partner is working hard to manage their anxiety, it's only natural for an anxious person to want to know as much as they can about any given situation it can help them feel more "in control" and therefore safer. Keeping this in mind, managing your partner's expectations about future plans will save you both much strife. For example, if you and your partner have plans and something changes or new information is presented that only you are aware of, let your partner know! They will be so grateful to have been brought up to speed about new developments so that they can make adjustments, if necessary. Anyone who has an anxious partner can attest to the fact that their mate does not like to be surprised with last-minute curveballs!

2 | Don't take things personally

Remember that your partner's anxiety has been there much longer than you have! That said, don't take it personally when something you've done or said "makes your partner anxious." Your action or statement was simply a trigger for what was already there. I know it's very hard not to react with feelings of shame or guilt when we've triggered a partner so take deep breaths and engage in some positive self-talk, like "It's going to be okay. My partner will get through this and so will I. I am a good person and I'm trying my very best."

3 | Avoid taking on your partner's anxiety

If you haven't noticed yet, anxiety is contagious! So, take good care of yourself. When you notice anxiety beginning to take hold, give yourself some space and time to re-center. Do some self-care, whatever that looks like for you. Pop in some headphones and listen to a guided meditation. Remember that you don't have to be pulled into the anxiety vortex just because someone you love is feeling that way.

4 | Practice compassion

As much as we love our partner it can be so frustrating to see them in a state of anxiety, especially when they are being completely irrational. Remind yourself to look at the big picture although the situation may look like small potatoes to you, it feels like the end of the world for your partner, so practice compassion. Imagine what it might be like to feel such intense fear for no apparent reason. This will help you stay connected with and empathic to your partner during freak-outs. Your groundedness will also rub off on your S.O.

5 | Find outlets

Because you're in a relationship with someone who has anxiety, you might feel as though there are certain topics of conversation or areas of life you need support where you just cannot go with your partner at this time. But that doesn't mean you should keep that all bottled up! You are going to need some serious friend support so that you can discuss whatever you need to whenever you want to. There are also some awesome books on the topic that you can read. A colleague and friend of mine, Lissah Lorberbaum, co-wrote "Anxious in Love" which delves deeply into this theme.

6 | Timing is everything

To make this relationship thrive, you and your partner will have to become masters of communication. One skill in addressing issues with your partner will be timing. An anxious person might have a really hard time with a text that says "we need to talk" sent in the morning when you're not seeing them until the evening. Your poor S.O. may spend the entire day ruminating only to find out you wanted to talk about redecorating the guest bathroom! Obviously, some issues can't wait and need to be addressed immediately. For ones that are less urgent, find a time to talk when your partner can be calm and receptive to the information being presented.

7 | Use systematic desensitization

If there's an activity you're into (say, rock climbing, dirt biking, surfing, etc.) that terrifies your partner, you shouldn't have to give up your hobby just to quell your partner's anxiety! Instead, expose them to it slowly over time by engaging in a mild version of the activity (i.e. an indoor rock wall or a short ride) and then ramping it up over time (i.e. more challenging versions of the activity.) This will give your partner a chance to build new neural networks associated with these activities the more times you come back safely, the more their brain will be reinforced that there's no need to worry.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful for better navigating a relationship with an anxious partner. Now I’d love to hear from you! What helps you keep your cool among your partner’s anxiety? What absolutely does not work? Please share your insights in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and be well!


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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5 Signs you Might Need Couples Counseling

Most people tend to see couples counseling as an absolute last resort, when their relationship has deteriorated significantly. But couples have a better chance of resolving their conflicts and hurts if they seek help sooner than later. The longer you stay in crisis with your partner, the greater chance you will become emotionally distant, hurt each other through words and actions, or otherwise harm your bond. This article is intended to empower you to find guidance as soon as you need it, as opposed to waiting until things really get out of hand. If you resonate with any of the following signs, there's a good chance you could benefit greatly from couples counseling:

 
 

1 | There was a major betrayal

If you and your partner experienced a huge betrayal within the relationship, such as an affair (whether physical or emotional), financial infidelity, or another type of deception that has recently become known, I imagine this has shaken things up quite a bit. You may not even know how to proceed with this newfound information. Couples counseling can help you both process through the feelings of the betrayal and assist you both in deciding how to move forward. A professional can facilitate a conversation between you two that doesn't devolve into a screaming match or the silent treatment.

2 | There's more negativity than positivity

Dr. Gottman's "Magic Ratio," developed through a career of researching couples, posits that a couple that has a ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative interaction is most likely to remain together. However, if that ratio is thrown off, watch out! The more negativity you see, the less likely the relationship will survive long-term. Pay attention to the interactions you have with your partner over the next week or so. What's your ratio looking like? If you're noticing a fair amount of negative interactions without a great amount of positive interactions to balance it out, couples counseling may be an option for you to consider. 

3 | You're unable to communicate

Some couples simply don't know how to communicate with one another about emotionally-charged topics. This often occurs in two scenarios: 1) in couples where one or both partners has an avoidant style – meaning they prefer to disengage from connection completely when emotionally flooded, preferring to "zone out" with electronics, become immersed in work responsibilities, etc. or 2) in couples where one or both partners has an aggressive style – meaning they tend to use a loud volume, harsh tone and make accusations that make it almost impossible to have a rational conversation with this person. Couples counseling can help create a safe environment where both partners feel comfortable and empowered to communicate honestly and authentically with one another.

4 | You go in circles with issues

Are you in one of those relationships where you and your partner communicate, respect one another's opinions, and treat each other kindly, yet cannot find resolutions for certain issues? Maybe you're needing to make a big life choice such as whether to live in the city or the country, whether or not to have children, who will be the main earner, etc. Sometimes couples need a facilitator to have these tough conversations and finally find some clarity and closure. Couples counseling could be a great way for you guys to close the book on some of these nagging problems.

5 | You have different visions for the future

Over time, people change and evolve in many ways. This growth can have beneficial impacts on a couple, or can leave them feeling as though they've grown apart. If you and your partner have vastly different ideas about what the future should hold, this can make it difficult to envision a future together. Couples counseling can help you both clarify what you'd like for the future and if those dreams can be reconciled within the relationship.

It's common for couples to come up against challenges that seem insurmountable at the time. But if you and your partner love one another and want very much to make the relationship work, you can improve your chances of relationship success through therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you communicate vulnerably and effectively with your spouse, process through traumas that have impacted both of you and give you tools and resources to deepen your connection with one another. Leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Thank you for reading and be well!


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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Strategies for Strengthening Your Bond

When things are going smoothly in our relationships, it's easy to feel connected to our partner. We naturally want to spend more time with them and engage in enjoyable activities. But when times get tough and the road is bumpy, it can be more challenging to find ways to connect. Think of your relationship bond like a muscle – if you want to strengthen it, it takes consistency and practice. Here are some tips for you and your partner to implement if you feel like your relationship needs some extra TLC:

 
 

1 | Set aside “us” time

If you live with your partner, it may seem unnecessary to schedule “us” time, since you may see that person a lot. But remember, quantity of time does not make up for quality of time. Set aside some time that is without distraction (i.e. no phones, laptop, T.V. or books) just for the two of you to be together. This time could be used for simple talking with one another, giving each other a back rub or cuddling and connecting.

2 | Mix it up!

Sure, a dinner and a movie is always a great staple for a date night. But the same ol’ same ol’ can get stale as old bread. Mix it up with something fun and new! If you want some new ideas for creative date outings, browse Groupon and Goldstar to see what strikes your fancy. The bonus is these sites also offer steep discounts for fun activities. Like live theater? TodayTix is a website and app for discounted last-minute tickets to plays. Love museums? Here’s a list of museums in Los Angeles that are either free or have free days.

3 | Make it sensual

Usually when couples are feeling disconnected, the first thing to go is the romance and affection. And when that’s not there, it’s really tough to employ the “fake it till you make it” approach to dealing with challenges. Instead, wake up the senses on a daily basis to start feeling more sensual and more interested in shared connection with your partner. How does one do this? Begin noticing throughout the day what naturally feels good (for example, walking through a park on your lunch break and feeling the leaves of a tree brush up against your arm) and share that with your partner. Have them do the same so you both know what’s pleasing to the other person. This will inspire you guys to want to create more physical pleasure for one another.

4 | Use the atmosphere

We’re going for the power of association here – think of how a spa atmosphere automatically makes you feel more relaxed, even before you’ve begun to receive your treatment. Simply walking into the spa and hearing the gentle music and noticing the pleasant smells invites you to feel calmer. We can do the same at home. Create an environment at home that’s more stimulating to the senses through lighting candles, putting salts in the bath, spraying aromatherapy, playing soothing music etc. When you intentionally make your surroundings more amenable to romance, you’re more likely to want to connect with your partner.

5 | Get inspired

It helps to get some outside inspiration when we’re not feeling so great about our relationship and need some new tools and ideas to work with. Here’s a list of 10 books that are great for learning about the dynamics of relationships and how to strengthen them. Don’t have time to read a whole book? Use Audible to listen in the car or choose a podcast instead. You can check out this round-up of 10 relationship podcasts you can sink your teeth into.

6 | Reflect on the good times

When we’re in the throes of conflict with our partner or seriously doubting our relationship, it’s easy to forget all the amazing memories we’ve shared with that person. Simply pulling out photo boxes, leafing through scrapbooks or looking at Google photos can remind you both of the fun times you’ve had together. If you and your partner are in need of some serious bonding time, set aside an afternoon or evening to sit together and look through old photos from vacations, dates and other occasions. The act of looking at these pictures will bring up stories, jokes and anecdotes that will surely bring you closer.

7 | Pull out all the stops

By now, you can probably tell that date night is a good idea. But don’t stop at that! Pull out all the stops. Spend some time getting ready and dolled up for each other. Buy flowers. Go to a restaurant you can’t really afford to go to. Get a couples massage. Your relationship is an investment and it’s worth the splurge every now and then! You’ll send a strong message to one another that the relationship is worth it. Most importantly, enjoy the royal treatment.

8 | Be spontaneous

It’s great to have plans, but sometimes plans don’t work out for one reason or another or sometimes something more exciting comes up. In your bonding time together, allow yourselves to divert from original plans and go with the flow. This will allow you guys to reconnect to a younger, more spontaneous side of one another. Often as we get older, we become more set in our ways and less able to let the night take us to unexpected places. If it’s a gorgeous night and you get the idea to take a drive up Mulholland for a gorgeous view or a drive up the coast to smell the salty sea air…do it!

9 | Have limits

Are there certain topics that inevitably spiral into arguments or stress? Take a vacation from those themes for a night or weekend to simply enjoy one another. No, this doesn’t mean putting off dealing with your problems forever. It means that it’s okay to set limits on what you won’t talk about for your bonding time together. If something gets brought up, and you don’t want to forget to address it later, simply write a short note in your phone about it and table it for another time.

10 | Hire a babysitter

If you have kids, and if you don’t have a babysitter yet, you need one! This is essential. I’ve known many couples who rely on their parents, neighbors or friends to watch their kids and this is not enough. You need and deserve to have professional childcare that is available to you on a regular basis so that you can go out on dates without the guilt associated with asking for a favor and without relying on other people’s availability. If you don’t know a sitter, there are great nanny websites such as Urban Sitter and Care.com.

Now I'd love to hear from you! How do you reconnect with your partner in times of conflict or emotional distance? Every couple is different and a strategy that works great for one pair may not fare well for another. That's why I'd love to get some varying opinions on what works and what doesn't work for couples who've hit a rough patch. Please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading and be well.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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Intimate Partner Violence Series: Part IV – "Tell me, is my Relationship Healthy?"

Last month (in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month) I decided to develop an Intimate Partner Violence Series that is intended to equip individuals with the information necessary to 1) determine if they are in an abusive relationship, 2) develop a safety plan for while they are in the relationship, 3) seek support and resources to help them get out of the relationship and finally 4) identify signs of healthy relationships. This series is intended to be educational in nature and is not a substitute for seeking professional help. Please seek the help of a therapist in your area. Today’s post is Part Four and the final installment of this series. If this is a topic that has special relevance for you, please follow the above links for previous articles.

If we didn't receive good (or any!) modeling from our parents about how to be in a healthy, loving intimate relationship, it can be hard to know if we're "doing it right." When I got into my first serious relationship in college, I honestly didn't know what a healthy relationship looked like, and unfortunately wound up in an abusive relationship for almost 5 years with someone who at the time I thought was a "perfect boyfriend" and who I assumed I'd spend my life with. It wasn't until having friends and family intervene that I became awake to the fact that I was in a very unhealthy relationship and needed to leave.

Not once did I receive education in signs of intimate partner abuse or the cycle of violence as an undergraduate in psychology nor as a graduate student in counseling. Had I been aware, I might've been able to notice the warning signs and leave sooner. I hope you, the reader, keep yourself informed of traits of healthy and unhealthy relationships so you can avoid the pain of abuse and have a satisfying, lifelong relationship with someone you love. Please read on for my round-up of characteristics of healthy relationships:

 
 

1 | Communication

One thing that I often tell psychotherapy clients is that your partner is not a mind-reader! Just because you wish your partner new what you needed and could meet your needs all the time doesn’t mean that they can. In a relationship, we need to take responsibility for our obligation to keep our partner informed of what we’re thinking, feeling, needing and expecting so that we don’t find ourselves constantly resentful and disappointed. If you and your partner are in sync with your communication, this is a strong indicator that your relationship is headed in the right direction.

2 | Vulnerability

This is a tough one for people because making ourselves vulnerable can be an intensely uncomfortable and difficult task, and can be even harder for those who’ve experienced much betrayal, deception or trauma in past relationships. However, as risky as it can feel, making ourselves vulnerable to our partner allows us to be fully seen and loved by our partner and help us resolve conflicts with love instead of anger. If you and your partner allow yourselves to be vulnerable with one another, then you will likely find it easier to connect on a deeper level and move through challenges with ease.

3 | Honesty

Transparency in a relationship allows it to grow and thrive. Knowing that your partner is in the loop about your actions will allow you to be more present in your interactions with them and prevent guilt and shame from creeping in. If you and your partner find it easy to admit transgressions to one another and share information – even if it might hurt the other – then you’re likely in a relationship with a high level of honesty and integrity.

4 | Trust

What I often tell my psychotherapy clients is that trust is the foundation of a relationship – without it, there’s not much of a relationship at all – it’s more like two people living parallel lives, loosely connected to one another. In a relationship where the trust is well-established and strong, the couple’s bond can withstand ambiguity and fear, because their trust in one another serves as the bedrock of the relationship – unshakeable, despite challenging external factors.

5 | Boundaries

As much as we want to experience closeness with our partner, in order to have a thriving relationship, we need to balance that out with maintaining healthy personal boundaries. Relationship boundaries are limits that we set within the relationship – for example, people can have boundaries around their time, their personal space, their finances, how they expect to be treated by their partner among many other areas. It’s important to establish clear boundaries and uphold them, in order to prevent feeling taken advantage of by our partner.

6 | Fun

One of the many benefits of being in a relationship is the ability to share the enjoyment of life with your partner. We’re wired for connection, so it makes sense that we would be naturally inclined to seek a life partner with whom to share fun times with. If you and your mate are cracking each other up, having a blast on dates, and fully engaging in the moment, chances are your relationship is healthy and thriving.

7 | Intimacy

A hallmark of healthy relationships is the intimacy shared between the partners. Physical intimacy is a pivotal aspect of a healthy relationship for many couples, but is not always necessary. For partners in long-distance relationships, or partners who choose to abstain sexually, emotional intimacy can be enough to satisfy both partners. Intimacy, in this sense, indicates sharing deeply with that person and letting them in on parts of you that you don’t share with just anyone.

8 | Loyalty

Of course many couples choose to have polyamorous relationships, but in a monogamous relationship there is an expectation of physical and emotional loyalty to one another. In a healthy relationship (whether monogamous or polyamorous,) both partners honor the agreements and expectations set forth at the beginning of the relationship about what is acceptable (and unacceptable) behavior. Also, remember that emotional affairs can cause as much (if not more) damage than physical affairs.

9 | Equity

Equity and equality are two different, yet similar, ideas. Saying that a relationship should have equality would be unrealistic, because each partner has different strengths, abilities and resources to contribute to the relationship that will never be equal – that would simply be impossible to achieve! But to say that a relationship is equitable means that both partners are contributing what they can and treating one another with dignity and respect.

10 | Reliability

In order to feel secure in your relationship, you need to know that you can count on your partner – whether it be expecting them to show up for a date when they say they will, or being able to drop everything and come help you in a crisis situation. Without dependability, we’ll feel like we’re on our own within the relationship. Knowing that our partner is available to us makes us feel closer to them and safer in general because we know we have support when we need it.

I hope you found today’s post informative. Although there are many other qualities of healthy relationships that I could identify, theses are the ten that really stood out to me when I sat down to write this post. Please leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add or ask.

If you feel that you are in imminent danger, please seek help immediately, by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by calling 911. If you are not in immediate danger, but would like to find someone to talk to, you can find a therapist at PsychologyToday.com or if you are in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact me for therapy. This is the final article in this series. Be safe and be well.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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