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10 Life-Changing Habits Happily Single People Do Every. Single. Day.

happy woman

Get ready to LOVE your life!

Happy single people are just like happily coupled people.

Yep, you read that right!

Why? Because we know one of the greatest — and simplest — secrets in life. Every day, we get to hang out with the most amazing person we know … ourselves!

And this doesn’t change when we find our perfect someone, because that person should never “complete” us; they should complement us. “Loving yourself” isn’t just a lip service concept — it’s a real way of life, whether your life is a partnered or not.

Entrusting the sacred task of caring for you to anyone else can feel like a delicious perk, but it’s far from a necessity. And what better time to start putting yourself first than while you’re flying solo?

Happy-making habits will get you a long way towards not only being “content” as a single person but towards truly loving your single self too. So, to help you along here is some advice from those of us ALREADY rocking the happy single life. Here’s what we do that makes solo living so amazing:

1. We revel in our autonomy.

We do what we want to do, the way we want to do it, and on our own timeline. Why? Because we can! We appreciate not having to negotiate conflicting schedules, deal with remembering to update anyone on our whereabouts or make concessions for differing preferences.

2. We don’t wait around.

We ask ourselves, “What do I want to do?”, and then we do it (Or we don’t — it’s up to us.)

We don’t wait to get paired up to have whatever kind of fun we feel like having. If we want to go out, we go solo or wrangle a friend. We know that all activities are ours just as much as they belong to the coupled crowd.

Like what, you ask? My answer is anything — had off to a romantic island with a pal, travel abroad on your own, or explore neighborhoods in your city. Go to plays, museums, and films, eat in five-star restaurants, host Taco Tuesday for the gang, or just snuggle up in bed with a good book or film.

You can do it whether it’s unaccompanied or with someone else — be that someone else of the furry-friend variety or the friends-with-benefits sort, it’s your choice!

3. We make sure to get what we need.

Learning what’s needed to be in top mental, emotional, and physical shape is an individual journey.

Anytime you notice you’re cranky, upset, irked, or just all-around off-balance, there’s something you need that you’re not getting. Happy single people pay attention to having enough sleep, physical movement, companion time, alone time, and fun time — and when the crankypants alarm bells start going off, we take action!

4. We do things that make us genuinely happy.

We get a massage, buy ourselves flowers, grab a cupcake after lunch, or soak in a bubble bath. We indulge in life’s little luxuries.

5. We tend to our serenity.

Whether it’s a lunch-break walk at an urban park, a three-minute quickie meditation practice, or a hike with the dog, quiet time (and especially time outdoors if you can swing it) feeds us a healthy dose of calm between the many storms of everyday life on our own.

6. We nurture love in all of our relationships.

We spend focused love time with our dog, our cat, our pot-bellied pig, a close friend, or a family member (just maybe not the annoying family members). We volunteer at a local animal sanctuary or at another organization where we care about making a difference.

Love comes in many forms, and it’s there for the giving and the taking almost everywhere you look.

7. We spend time with lots of people.

We make random acts of kindness happen. We look forward to the friends we haven’t met yet, and invite sexy people to connect with us, to flirt with us, to lean in closer.

We make room for strangers just to make our day a little bit brighter and hopefully add to the joy of their days, too.

8. We keep a morning gratitude list.

It takes very little time, so why not? We write down three things we’re grateful for to remind us what’s good, what’s worth it, and what makes the human experience something to be thankful for each and every morning. Sometimes, I write mine in steam on the bathroom mirror.

9. We use the buddy system.

We cultivate deep friendships with other happy single people (think of it as your single crew’s very own social network) where we enjoy each other’s company, see each other’s pain, comfort each other when things are rough, cheer on each other’s victories, and most importantly, witness each other’s lives.

10. We build and tend to a life we love.

We decide what flavor of life we want and we get right to work on mixing up a batch of it. We don’t ask ourselves, “How much more of this can I stand?” but “How great can I stand it?” and we take it from there.

We make plans for the future, we build businesses, we write books, we make friends, we travel, we create art, we get involved in what matters to us. We love ourselves.

In short, truly happy single people make our lives COUNT!

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman, originally published on YourTango.com.

The Truth About Lying

couple near water

It’s time to start getting honest …

A wise woman once said, “An honest person will tell you when they’ve lied.”

Newsflash, folks: We all lie.

If you find yourself disputing this statement — you’re a liar, liar, pants on fire!

So if we’re all liars in one way or another, how do we get the people we care about to be truthful with us about the important stuff?

It’s easier than you think, but first, we have to understand the why of the lie.

Humans lie when we’re in trouble when we’re backed into a corner, or sometimes when we feel our life, livelihood, or safety is threatened. It’s a knee-jerk compulsion — a primal response to a perceived threat.

In layman’s terms, that means it’s normal. Of course, when we’re the ones being lied to, it almost invariably sucks.

So how do you get the truth we crave and learn to trust the people you love? 

When we don’t like someone’s behavior, we might say they’re “misbehaving.” But people don’t misbehave. They behave in a manner that is consistent with their nature.

A professional con artist behaves consistent to the way a con artist behaves. Would it make sense to put your trust in a con artist and say, “Well, I want to trust him, so I’ll just give him a chance”?

Hell to the no.

This example goes to show that you must assess a person’s character by observing their words, actions, and outcomes, and then choose whether or not to place your trust in them — all your trust — every bit of it.

It’s societally acceptable to say things like, “I want to trust him.” We say it like we could and should trust a person with everything, instantly.

I trust you to be on time. I trust you to be faithful. I trust you to tell the truth.

When we’re willing to concede that people behave in a manner consistent with their nature, and when we take a moment to examine what their nature is, we learn what we can truly trust individual people for.

This can be for the big ones, like fidelity, and for the more everyday stuff, like who can be trusted to remember to book reservations for dinner.

For example, unless I have to catch an airplane, my partner can trust me to be consistently five to ten minutes late for pretty much everything.

He can trust me for a higher-than-average natural sense of direction.

He CANNOT trust me to not eat chocolate if it’s left lying around the house.

If all six feet of him came home one day stomping through the house and barking at me, “Wendy, did you eat the dark-chocolate-covered apricots?” — guess what my knee-jerk response would be? To lie. Would I?

No. I wouldn’t be fooling anyone around here.

Here are 3 steps to take now in order to find real, honest connections with people you trust.

1. Know what you can trust people for.

When we try to trust people for what they can’t be trusted for, it opens the door for lies and deceit. Step one to getting the truth from people is to not set them up to fail with words, actions, and ways of being they can’t be counted on for in the first place.

2. Don’t put anyone in the doghouse.

You might be thinking, “Huh? Is that even possible?” Yes. Seriously, it is.

Consider what your life would be like if you lived with someone who was never in trouble with you and vice versa. It seems like too high of a bar to set, right? It is possible — I know because I live it. But I will say it is tricky. Putting others in the doghouse for punishment can feel satisfying, if not downright gleeful sometimes, even if the feeling is fleeting.

If you don’t punish your partner, they’ll misbehave more, right? Wrong. When we’re upset, it’s generally because someone we care about has done something that crossed our boundaries, or maybe because their needs have fallen out of step with our own.

Consider this. Instead of getting angry and making them pay, attack the problem, not the person. Together you can examine where your needs conflict and see what can be done about it, instead of blaming, shaming, or trying to weasel out of a crappy situation with a lie.

3. Own your own feelings.

This is a two-way street if there ever was one. It won’t work unless both parties are accountable and able to own their own feelings. He didn’t “hurt” your feelings — feelings can’t be hurt. Something he said or did triggered you, and that’s causing you to react in a negative way.

Valid? Absolutely. But it’s up to you to decide how to handle the feelings that come with that hurt. This means no responding with a flippant, “Nothing” or “Whatever” when he asks you what he did wrong. You owe it to yourself — and to him — to be honest.

I once had a friend who’d have bad dreams, and when she woke up, she’d be pissed at her husband because in her dream he was misbehaving. Say it with me: “My feelings are mine and mine alone. I interpret things that happen to and around me, and then consciously decide how to handle the feelings that I feel.”

When you know what you can and can’t trust people for as individuals, when you’ve demolished the doghouse, and when you’ve held yourself accountable for your own feelings, you’ve learned the secret to getting your partner to be honest with you.

If there’s no threat to confront, there’s no need for hiding, hemming, and hawing, or spinning a story.

The people in our lives want the intimacy that comes with honesty as much as we do.

Now that you and your loved one have the tools to be more honest with each other, I challenge you to implement at least one of these tactics in your everyday interactions with your partner.

You can do it — honest!

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com.

6 Ways Men WISH Women Would Show Their Love (Rather Than Just Saying It)

couple in love

Take note, ladies.

Words of affection are like chocolate buttercream cupcakes for the ears, right? There’s nothing quite like listening to the one you love wax poetic about their love for you and the ways you are special to them. That kind of attention can really make our hearts sing.

When it comes to experiencing love, we are all unique and complex people with equally unique and complex love languages. But to be sure, there are patterns, themes, and trends that resonate with most men’s experiences of feeling love.

Likewise, there are actions women can take that result in predictable outcomes — whether that’s having a guy fall deeper in love or watching him fall right out of love.

So how do you say “I love you” in a language your guy values and understands at his core?Knowing how to show a guy you love him is going to be a little different for everyone, but here are 6 actions — not just the words “I”, “love”, and “you” — that resonate with men worldwide to get you going:

1. Do acts of service.

“She just doesn’t love me anymore,” Jeff said.

In his mid-40’s, he’d been married to his wife for 27 years, and they seemed to me to be happy and compatible as an outsider looking in. So, I started digging.

“What’s missing?” I asked.

“I don’t know…” he replied.

“Did anything major happen?” I asked.

“Not that I can think of,” he replied.

“Does she say she loves you?”

“Yes.”

“What would it look like if she showed her love for you?”

“I don’t know.”

“What did she used to do that she doesn’t do anymore?”

“Socks. She used to make sure I had new socks in my drawer. My black socks have all turned to gray. And she used to get my white shirts to the cleaners and back into my closet. She doesn’t do that anymore.”

Bingo! Simple! So simple, in fact, that it seems silly or inconsequential — but it’s not.

It’s that magical moment when a guy absentmindedly leaves an empty container of deodorant on the bathroom sink and when he goes for it the next morning, he finds a new tube in its place. Yeah, that’s love.

Acts of service are ways guys see we care for them. They feel tended to, special, and loved. And sometimes we stop doing these things because we get busy or we forget or we think he can do it himself (he totally can, but that’s not the point). It doesn’t always register for us that in his world, those little things are one of the ways he hears “I love you.”

This isn’t “clean up every mess/replace every old pair of socks/cook every meal” but rather “Here’s a small thing I know will make a big difference in your day that I can do for you to show you I love you.” There’s a lot of mileage between the two.

2. Engage in sex.

Speaking of acts, being his playmate in the bedroom (and out of it) is definitely a way to say “I love you.” One major contributor to a guy being at the top of his game is getting enough of what he needs in the bedroom, and you are his partner in this (as he is yours for getting what you need).

One difference between the sexes is that, often, women need to feel connected in order to want to have sex while men get connected through having sex. That piece is a bit of a conundrum, but by taking initiative in this area you’re showing him how you feel about him through a literal act of love — and that’s a language he definitely knows how to speak.

3. Show your appreciation.

“I love you” sure is nice, but what goes even further is showing (you’re picking up on the whole “show don’t tell” theme here, aren’t you) appreciation for what he provides.

Things like, “Wow! What a delicious dinner you made for us, thank you so much!” or “Thanks for picking up the kids. That totally saved me today” go super far because they’re tied to specific things he’s done or said.

Sometimes we feel that our partner doesn’t need appreciation for what he’s provided because, duh, he should already be doing these things (and maybe even more!).

I mean, look at all that you do for the family, right? When we look at things this way, however, it rarely leads to appreciation. Instead, it causes resentment. Vocally appreciating what your partner does provide fuels and inspires them to do even more.

4. Be okay with his process.

Does he load the dishwasher the way your mama taught you? Nope, he doesn’t. But do you know what? Those dishes don’t mind, and most of them will even come out pretty clean. And the ones that don’t can always be run through again. It’s okay. Really, it is.

If the way he folds the laundry or fluffs the couch cushions or does any other household chore is just too unnerving for you to stand and you’re compelled to teach him the more efficient method, then awesome, do it! But teach him the better way as if you were teaching a grown-up whom you admire, not a slightly stupid, 6-year-old child.

We were trained through sitcoms to make fun of him or belittle him instead of understanding and respecting his process. This is not additive — it’s damaging to any partnership and it does not say “we’re partners in this” or “I love you just as you are.”

5. Be happy and nice to him in front of other people.

His mom is in town and meeting you for the first time. You’re nervous, you want her to like you, and now she’s sharing embarrassing stories and making disparaging remarks about her son in front of you. What do you do?

Smile awkwardly and stay mute?

Say, “Aww, you sound like you love him. What I really admire about your son is…”

Agree with her so she’ll like you and give her ten new examples of what a knucklehead he is.

Option A is okay in a pinch but doesn’t bring much to the conversation.

Option C either buys you friendship with mom or shows her you have bad judgment, and your mate? Yeah, you’re now in the never-to-be-trusted camp for ganging up on him.

Answer: Option B.

6. Always have his back.

If his boss is over, don’t contradict your guy in the middle of dinner. Taking his side in front of other people is having his back. You can sort out the finer points of where you don’t see eye to eye when the two of you are in private.

It’s easy to be there for the good times, but to be his number one fan in the bad times and hold the candle of hope for him when he’s in doubt or struggling through one of life’s challenges is how he will experience your love.

Guys think that words are nice, but these six actions convey everything they need to know about your love for him, whether you say so out loud every day or not.

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  If you’d like to understand men, pick up the Myth of the Alpha Male here.

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com

3 Lies Women Tell Themselves About What Men Want

woman sitting on couch

We’re making it harder than it has to be.

Maybe it started when your kindergarten friend pulled you aside and whispered a warning into your ear after seeing you dash across the schoolyard in a game of kissing tag at recess. Or later, when you told your best friend your most prized secret, that you’d had your first real kiss (with tongue!).

Certainly, some helpful female family member or friend laid down the facts for you when Aunt Flow came for her first visit. And by the time you were a grown woman, adulting all over the place — dating, hooking up, and everything in between — you not only had the facts, but you were also doling out sage advice of your own.

We, women, have been cautioning each other and having each other’s backs about men since the beginning of time, but some of the things we share about what men want are just bold-faced lies (whether we know it or not).

The real problem is this: These lies we tell make finding and keeping lasting love h-a-r-d.

Here are the top three worst offenders…and the truth about what’s really going on with men of all ages:

1. Men only want sex and they’ll do and say anything to get it.

I know your mama warned you…

Translation: Men are liars and tricksters. They’ll pull out all the stops to snatch your snatch before you can even comprehend what just happened.

There’s a second layer to this artfully frosted shit-cake of a lie, which is that they don’t care about any other part of you. They picked you because they thought they could get one over on you, stupid girl.

This line, often delivered by the well-intentioned among us, does more damage than it does good. It has us fearing men as a pack and diminishing ourselves instead of seeing people as individuals and putting stock in our own abilities to judge character.

Being valued just for our vaginas (as fabulous as they are) is not how most of us want to view ourselves. And besides, this one is just plain untrue. What’s charming and magnetic about a woman is what she’s passionate about, and guys are drawn to our authenticity, self-confidence, and passion.

There. Glad we put that one to bed.

2. Men are commitment-phobes. 

So, if guys only want sex and sex is available all over the place, why would they ever want to commit to us?

It’s surprising anyone gets together at all considering how bitter and untrusting this lie makes us. It’s not that guys are commitment-phobes; they just tend to have a different relationship and process to commitment.

Have you ever met a woman who liked a guy and said “yes” to a relationship, but she also had a lengthy laundry list of things she’d need to change about him? You know this woman, right? Ever see her in the mirror?

This is not the standard M.O. for most guys. They commit 100 percent to the entire laughs-too-loud, stays-up-too-late, is-grouchy-in-high-humidity, and is-an-over-sharer package or they don’t commit at all. And when someone else calls her on it in front of him, he says, “Yeah, that’s just how she is, but she’s adorable, isn’t she?”

Ever notice that when it comes to people trying to fix or change each other, the scales are heavily tipped to the female-doing-the-fixing side? This is where adages like “Get a man, keep a man, and keep him in line” comes from.

Can you imagine what we’d do if the common phrase was “Get a woman, keep a woman, and keep her in line” instead? Can you imagine? Because I can. We would lose our shit.

This whole changing and fixing business is why it takes men longer to commit. They need time to look and see if they are willing to commit to that whole package — and when they do, they’re in. No fixing needed.

Which is good news, and may calm your nerves for the last lie.

3. All men want are young, hot girls and not women their own age.

You’ve watched it happen. Your contemporaries are divorcing after the kids are off to college and within the first year, he has a smoking-hot girlfriend half his age and she’s still single. It’s true, just like you’ve always feared: Men want younger (than you) women.

If you’re married or partnered, does this have you wondering if you’re next?

Fun fact: Women initiate 60 percent of divorces later in life.

If you’re single, do you feel doomed that no man your age will want you?

“Am I attractive enough?” and “Is he still attracted to me?” are questions that plague most women throughout our lives.

This myth could have you living in fear, or leave you angry and bitter. Hey, guess what’s super unattractive to men? An angry, bitter woman.

When men go younger, it has everything to do with being able to impress her. What comes along with the distinguished gray hair is the need to be admired, and men are pretty insistent about this as a core need of theirs. This is also not a need that women his age are often willing to pony up.

So, when they start dating younger women, we’re stuck thinking, “I’m past my prime. He wants younger women and that’s it.”

But here’s the thing: He doesn’t care about how young the woman he’s dating is — he wants appreciation and playfulness.

If you got tangled up in these three lies, there’s hope! It’s possible to turn it all around. Replace these lies with some fundamental truths:

  • Men want sex (just like you do). They also want intimacy, connection, love, and companionship.
  • Men commit to the whole package. So, it takes a little longer for most guys to find their forever person.
  • Men want lasting love with someone who can be playful, admire him, and see and appreciate him for the man he’s become. When he’s met with that kind of respect and adoration in a long-term marriage or partnership, what he says next is, “I could have never done it without you.”

Men aren’t a total mystery, but they aren’t the same as women, either. Our different chemistry means that men don’t always do things the way women would, which often leaves us feeling hurt, dismissed, unappreciated, or unseen.

Taking the time to see and celebrate our differences can leave us in much better shape for each other.

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com.

10 Stages Of Finding Love When You’re New To Online Dating

couple on a date

From the first click to the first date.

I had to go on 121 first dates before I found my love, Mr. Lucky #121. Can you even imagine? Boy, did I experience a lot. I saw the good, the bad, and the truly ugly, and I learned hundreds of lessons the hard way — so that you don’t have to.

With this in mind, I’ve discovered that there are 10 stages of online dating. Knowing about each stage will help you navigate the tricky and sometimes insidious world of online honey-hunting so that you can have more fun and freedom on your journey to meeting the love of your life.

Here are the online dating tips that come with each stage:

1. Ready to date.

You’re probably in one of two camps right now. You’re either:

  • Eager and enthusiastic: As in you’ve finally slipped out of that going-nowhere-for-way-too-long relationship, or the ink is drying on your divorce papers and you’re ready for the real deal this time.
  • Reluctant but willing to try this crazy online thing: Even though you don’t reeeally want to, it seems like everybody is doing it with some modicum of success, so why not give it a go? I mean, how bad could it be, right?

This is what “ready to date” looks like. So, pick yourself a site: Match, Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, JDate, Farmer’s Only — whatever suits your fancy. Once you’ve chosen your online automated matchmaker, you’ll need two things.

The first is a recent and kick-a*s profile photo. No pro photographer need. Ask your friend to shoot a half a dozen (well-lit and natural) candids on your smartphone or use a timer app that will take 100 selfies in under a minute and you can pose-pose-pose-pose-pose!

Common Pitfall: Posting photos older than six months. This will backfire on you one way or another, so keep your look current.

Hot Tip: Shoot for happy, relaxed, and naturally beautiful. Don’t forget to include a full body shot, too — show off all your curves!

The second thing you’ll need is a winning profile that showcases your unique personality.

Common Pitfall: Using too many adjectives like “happy”, “genuine”, “nurturing”, “loving”, etc. will just make you sound like everyone else.

Hot Tip: Instead of saying, “I’m Italian, sensitive, open-minded, open-hearted, love opera, and am moved by music”, you could tell a short story: “When I was a little girl and I didn’t know anything about anything, I was sitting at the family dinner table and I complained about opera. The next week, my Italian grandma dragged me down to the local opera house and I was moved to my core. This is how I learned to be open-minded and open-hearted about new experiences.” One story like that could be your entire profile — boom, there it is.

This stage has simple answers that are easy to arrive at and apply. Any dating coach worth a dime can tell you the myriad of do’s and don’ts for your dating profile.

2. Overwhelmed and excited.

Welcome to the next stage! You’re now swiping right, winking, liking, and favorite-ing, and there are oodles of promising people out there. Your inbox is swimming with potentials. You’re popular!

Common Pitfall: Being too accommodating in your correspondence. He said what to you? Do you have to respond to that? No, girl, you do not. Use your DELETE key.

Hot Tip: Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all that potential. Really. It sounds nerdy, and maybe it is, but you know what else? It’s useful.

This is the stage where you think you’ve got it handled.

3. Nervous and curious.

Is this the first date you’ve been on for a long time? Or, let’s be honest: Is it the first time you’ve ever dated someone who wasn’t at least a friend of a friend? You may be wondering:

  • Can I do this?
  • What do I wear?
  • What do I say?
  • What’s going to happen?
  • Am I ready?
  • Who picks up the check?
  • Who is this person?
  • What if they’re a nut?
  • What if they think I’m a nut?

Common Pitfall: Waiting to be ready. Don’t wait to date. Trust me: no one is ever 100 percent ready for this.

Hot Tip: Wear an outfit that makes you happy, talk about things in your life that you love, and ask him what gets him excited about his life. You’re just getting to know this new and interesting person, nothing more. Don’t micro-manage it.

4. Disappointed and discouraged.

You were hoping to get lucky and be “one and done.” You’ve been on a couple of first dates and knew from the first moment that this person wasn’t right for you, but when you departed, you were still hurt that he didn’t ask to see you again.

Or when you departed, you were relieved that he didn’t ask to see you again.

Or even though he wasn’t right for you, you were willing to see him again because hey, you’re dating and you are open to see if he grows on you. But he doesn’t.

Now, you have to go back online and meet more new people. Argh.

The thrill is gone: Going out on dates feels like just another task on your To-Do list and the drudgery of it makes you want to kick it down to the very bottom of your stack.

This stage is when you second-guess yourself and wonder why you’re feeling the way you do. You will also be hunting for the answer to the question, “Can’t I find a way to not have so many uncomfortable feelings at the end of a date?”

Common Pitfall: This is the stage where people give up. Don’t do it! Dating isn’t linear and there’s no science to predicting your timeline for success. One thing I know for sure is that you’ll find your love if you keep going, and you won’t if you quit. That’s the only simple part of this dance.

Hot Tip: Remember that, after a less-than-stellar date, you never have to have that exact experience again. It’s behind you.

5. Elation.

“I met someone! It finally happened! I have a boyfriend! Yay!”

You are probably feeling one of two ways about this development: “It’s so easy! Just like what other people have said. We just click. I feel so comfortable. He’s here!” or “Wow. This is happening so fast. I’m not sure if I can make this work. It’s nice to have a man in my life, but it’s also really intense. I’m not sure if he’s the one for me.”

This is the stage when you are flying high and don’t need anybody but your brand-new, super-sexy boyfriend, right? It’ll all work out, right? (Truth: Yes, it totally might. Or it might not. Both of these are actually okay.)

Common Pitfall: This is the stage where people settle. He’s in front of you, he seems great so far, there’s a couple of deal-breakers in there, but hey, beats being alone, and sure as hell is better than dating!

Hot Tip: Know what you need for a happy life, and keep those rose-colored glasses off your face and your eyes wide open. If your new dude’s not quite fulfilling your absolute musts, then maybe it’s time to keep looking.

6. Confused, frustrated, or lost.

  • “I like my boyfriend so much. I’m so afraid I’ll blow it.”
  • “I had a boyfriend, but now I don’t. What happened?”
  • “Why did they disappear?”
  • “Why wasn’t I given a chance?”
  • “What’s with all the mixed signals?”
  • “What am I doing wrong?”
  • “Why do they keep pulling away and then coming back?”

This stage is when you need answers now.

Common Pitfall: Believing this is your only chance at love or that love is elusive.

Hot Tip: Remember, if they’re the right person for you, they’ll stick around, communicate, see you and make themselves seen by you, and they’ll love you just as you are.

7. Ready to quit.

You put all that work into being good at dating, and now you feel like it’s never going to work out for you. You’re losing patience, confidence, faith, and your heart feels broken.

Common Pitfall: Believing you’ve lost your chance at love.

Hot Tip: Get loved up from a friend, or talk to a good dating coach. Someone who can listen compassionately, help mend your heartache, and show you the way to put this behind you so you can be magnetic to the right one for you.

8. Fear of hope.

At this stage, you’re afraid to get your hopes up because you’ve been disappointed and hurt. I mean, is a relationship really all that? Being single is starting to look pretty darned good at this point.

You don’t want to go through the pain of another letdown, and frankly, you’re getting a little tired of both the rejection and needing to reject the ones who aren’t for you.

This stage is full of big questions: “How can I trust that love really exists for me?” and “How do I open my heart and feel safe and secure to keep pursuing love?”

Common Pitfall: Turning off your profile, binging out on chocolate, getting another cat, and calling it a day.

(Special note: I do not think “single” is a bad choice. If you enjoy being single and you find it empowering to focus your energies outside of romantic and/or sexual partnership, then good on you! You rock your single life, my sister-friend! But for those of you who feel underutilized, unfulfilled and a deep longing for more from life when you’re not in a partnership, this is a pitfall and a mistake.)

Hot Tip: Have faith, and when you can’t, turn to people in your life who can keep the faith for you when you cannot. Get a dating buddy, a dating coach, or a family member to hold onto your vision, too, so that it’s not just you carrying that flag.

9. Confidence restored.

You muster up the courage to keep going and putting yourself out there and bam! Someone cute and promising flirts with you.

This stage is when you know the lay of the land, it’s not your first rodeo, and you know you can live through the disappointment and keep going anyway because you know to your core that you are in it to win it.

10. Your love arrives.

You didn’t know what to expect from this date, but oh yeah, it’s a pretty great one. It was easy, you felt seen, liked, and fun, and you can’t wait for more. And then more happens — again and again, and again.

Common Pitfall: You don’t believe it when it finally happens to you. Don’t let yourself sabotage a good thing just because it took a hell of a lot of work to get there.

Hot Tip: Don’t ever forget where you came from. The struggle is real, but you were strong enough for it — your success is the proof.

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com.

Three Weird Things That Make Men Fall In Love (And Stay In Love)

makes him want to stay

What makes him want to stay?

What makes men fall in love and stay in love is my jam. I’m obsessed. Seriously. I’ve spent the last 16 years researching the topic, and I’ve asked thousands of guys what sparked it for them.

Sometimes their answers are obvious, but my favorites are the ones that leave me picking my jaw up off the floor, like when one man said, “When we had sex in a moving vehicle that neither of us were driving.”

Or the time another said, “I fell in love with my wife on our third date. We were making out at a lookout point and eventually she had to pee. She said, ‘It’s okay, I’ll go in the bushes,’ and she did! No bathroom to find, no problem to solve, and we didn’t even have to leave the lookout point. I kinda loved her at that moment.”

When it comes to what makes men fall in love, as you would expect, sex often makes the top of the list (duh), but that’s not just a dude thing — that happens for us, too.

Cooking usually ranks much lower than we might expect, although, for the men who value culinary skills, it’s not a want so much as it is a need. (“How do you boil water again, honey?”)

How men fall in love and what makes them fall is often comprised of things we would never think to prioritize, if we ever thought of them at all.

Here are 3 kinda weird things that make men fall — and stay — in love:

1. The warmth of your happiness.

The phrases “No one’s happy unless mama’s happy” and “happy wife, happy life” didn’t just come out of nowhere. A man doesn’t marry or partner with a woman if he doesn’t think he can make her happy. They will leave, and when they do, they usually say something like, “You deserve to be with someone who can make you happy.”

Our happiness is a generous gift we can give if we’re feeling moved to express it.

I know a man who’d been unemployed for much longer than he was comfortable with. It was really taking a toll on him, and he was feeling pretty bad about himself. When his 20-year class reunion came up, he was hesitant to go because he was so embarrassed about where he was in his life.

His wife decided that, when she walked into that room on his arm, she’d be the happiest woman in the room. They had an incredible night, one that he’ll never forget; in fact, he told me this story a decade after his reunion. She lifted him up with her happiness and positive outlook.

2. How you get him.

You might think a man will fall in love with you once he knows what a bada*s you are. I mean, come on! You are the whole package: educated, funny, accomplished, worldly, and not bad looking, either, if you do say so. But it’s your mad listening skills that will take you from interesting to magnetic.

We can be pretty impressive when we’re sharing things about ourselves, and that’s important stuff, but if you really want to draw a man to you, listen. I mean really listen, as in give him your undivided attention.

Not the fake patience of waiting for him to stop talking so you can tell him that thing you’ve been holding in your head for the last eight minutes until it’s your turn to talk again; really be present and hear him out, and you’ll be one of the best conversationalists he’s ever had the privilege of talking with.

We all want to be seen, heard, and understood — listening fosters intimacy.

3. Your irresistible imperfections.

Wait, what? Yes! That gap tooth you never quite got around to getting fixed? It’s adorable. The way you pronounce the word “Worcestershire” or how your right breast points straight out while the left one points to the left? Sexy. And those things on your waist — they don’t call them “hate handles” now, do they?

Our “flaws” make us memorable and often even more lovable. Men see us and take us all in, and when they love us, they accept us — all of us — for exactly who and how we are.

Mark Darcy didn’t tell Bridget Jones that he liked her with slightly thinner thighs or perkier boobs, after all (who doesn’t remember Colin Firth smoldering, “I like you, very much. Just as you are” at Renée Zellweger?)

Embrace your imperfections. He will.

Despite the fact that I’d swear by the truth of these three things, I don’t want to sound like an article from Good Housekeeping circa 1951. I’m not dishing up a new standard to beat yourself up with when not at your happiest or not in a listening frame of mind, but rather point out to you the many natural gifts to which you already have access on your path to lasting love.

Use listening as the powerful tool that it is, remember to show and express your happiness when you feel it, and love the imperfections that make you uniquely you.

Above all, nurture the authentic expression of your essence, and watch as all kinds of men fall in different kinds of love with you: your lover, your children, your coworkers, and your friends.

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com

The Jealousy Hack That Creates Happy, Healthy, Passionate Relationships

woman green with jealousy

You don’t have to be such a slave to jealousy.

Jealous (adj.): Fearful or wary of losing one’s position or situation to someone else, especially in a sexual relationship. —American Heritage Dictionary

Jealous much? Don’t hide under that green hoodie—it’s easier to get a handle on than you think. Jealousy stirs within you because of love (or lust), but it’s the very thing that can kill these things, too.

Luckily, this jealously thing is fixable, but whatever you do, don’t look to the lessons you learned as a kid (or teen, or even adult) for the fix. Our society has a bizarre relationship with jealousy that has screwed us over royally, so we’ll need to do some unpacking first.

7 bizarre societal lessons you’re taught about jealousy that mess you up (that are total myths):

1. It’s something that just happens to you.

You have no control over it. It comes out of nowhere like a glitter bomb at a nightclub.

2. It means you care about or love someone.

In fact, if you’re not jealous, do you really love him? Not a jealous person?

Maybe it’s not really love, then.

Wildly jealous? They must be The One.

3. It’s what makes a relationship hot.

Seriously? Yikes.

Let’s pause here. When you were in grade school, you probably learned all kinds of lessons about pushing up against the boundaries of what’s acceptable. One thing you likely learned was that it’s not okay for friends to be jealous of each other’s time, possessions, and other friends.

So maybe you made a friend when you were younger. A good friend. You had lunch with her every day, played on the playground together at recess, and told each other everything. Friendship is awesome!

Then, one day, she decided to have lunch with a different friend, and you freaked out. (Or maybe you were the friend being freaked out on.) This lesson eventually taught you that yeah, it’s super-not-okay to try and monopolize another person’s time and affection.

That was a hard lesson, wasn’t it? Turns out friends are allowed to have other friends—end of story.

Even if you learned this important lesson about friendship when you were about six, you were probably taught that it’s normal, okay, and even desirable to be jealous of a lover or spouse. It’s okay to act out jealous feelings. It’s okay to try to control your partner because of those feelings.

As you grew up, you were also taught that feelings are not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

Chances are that by the time you were old enough to buy beer, you knew that a person couldn’t say to a judge, “I’m really sorry I murdered those people with an axe. But I was really sad, okay? My mom just got diagnosed with cancer” and get off from a murder charge. That’s not how it works.

But we are taught this exact thing about jealousy. We even have a name for acting out our jealousy or other intense feelings (often, though not always, related to sex and/or relationships) to the extreme:

4. Jealousy inspires crimes of passion.

This kind of offense often gets a lighter sentence than premeditated crimes.

5. If you’re experiencing a negative feeling that you don’t want to experience, then it must be somebody else’s fault.

That’s right, you’re feeling what you’re feeling, but the blame lies 100% with someone else. And whoever caused that feeling in you is responsible for fixing it.

If you’re angry at something I did, then your anger must be my fault. If I’m angry at something you did, then my anger must be your fault. Sound about right to you? Which leads to…

6. The responsibility of you not being angry (or jealous) anymore is on someone else.

Wait…what? That’s right. That’s what society has taught us.

***

Are you ready for an update to this agenda? Are you ready to say, “Screw you, jealousy, I want something better!”

Good, me too. On that hopeful note, here are three grown-up life steps you can use to get on the path to overcoming jealousy and living a happy, fulfilled life.

Step 1: Own your own feelings.

When you feel angry, hurt, scared, or jealous, notice the emotion. Maybe it’s a response to something someone else has done or said, or maybe it’s not.

But consider this: it isn’t that person who has to fix it. They’re your feelings.

Your feelings are yours like your toenails are yours. It’s all part of the package that is you. And you wouldn’t want to disempower yourself by giving me that kind of sway over you, would you? I mean, what if the other person doesn’t want to fix your feelings?

Maybe the person is a narcissistic asshole who doesn’t care about you. And if they’re responsible for how you feel, that would be terrible for you, right? Your life is now one continuous experience of misery because they don’t feel like fixing how you feel.

If they’re not showing you the love, consideration, and compassion you need but they’re showing favoritism towards others, your job is to recognize this and then to say, “Oh, I’m jealous and hurt. That’s mine.” Only then can you address their behavior from a place of constructive emotion.

Step 2: Locate the root cause.

Ask,

“What’s that about for me?”

“Why do I feel hurt by that?”

“Why am I jealous over that?”

Maybe it has nothing to do with the other person. Or maybe it does. You won’t know until you stop and ask yourself these kinds of questions.

Step 3: Ask for help from a place of partnership.  

Try, “I’m trying to sort out some feelings I have. Would you be willing to help me with this?”

You might say, “Would you say these words to me, and mean them? ‘I love you, and you’re the most important person to me.’”

Now, if you asked the other person that, they could say, “No way. See ya!”

But as someone who loves you, they’re more likely to say, “Oh my God, of course, I’ll say those words, I’m so sorry if you’ve been feeling any other way.” They’ll probably also give you a ten-minute speech about what you mean to them, and how amazing they think you are.

People who love you want you to know you’re loved by them. That happens every day. But what’s not common is for hurt humans to handle jealousy in this way.

Saying, “Oh, I’m jealous and hurt — that’s mine” is not normal.

It’s not common for folks to say to themselves, “I own my own feelings.”

What’s typical and predictable is the rant, “I’m upset. Say you’re sorry because you hurt my feelings. Fix it.” We go on the defensive instead of looking for ways to own our experiences and find common ground with which to address problems.

Jealousy and the lack of accountability for it is an intimacy and relationship killer. It weakens your position in the relationship and it interferes with mutual trust and a willingness to be vulnerable with each other.

While you can’t cure jealousy, you can harness it. You can use it for a highly constructive purpose—as a valuable signal to look inside and repair your own sense of self.

Whether you’re dating or married, experiencing jealousy at work, competition with other women, if you want to know how to curb someone else’s jealousy, or just get better about figuring out your needs and setting boundaries, grab this 32-minute audio recording Overcoming Jealousy here.

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com

6 Ways Waiting For Prince Charming Keeps YOU From Happily Ever After

woman waiting in cafe

I was willing to abandon my Kool-Aid Hawaiian punch, favorite animal coloring books, and my 64-pack of crayons that lay strewn across the front porch just for a glimpse of him.

I’d race to the end of my driveway to see that one boy riding his black-and-silver dirt bike past my house.

He was handsome, (Wendy translation: thin and wiry with messy hair) and the last day I saw him, he was wearing black-and-white checked Vans, a gray t-shirt, and Levis.

I memorized that outfit.

After all, when he returned riding his white steed (well, his bike) to sweep me off my feet, I’d need to be able to recognize him, right?

What my childhood fairytales taught me about love is that my handsome prince was coming back for me, for sure.

He was going to whisk me away from my boring life with my parents where I was forced to do things like chores and homework, and he and I were going to live happily ever after.

I knew it to be true because this was what I’d been promised: by Cinderella, by Sleeping Beauty, by Snow White, you name it.

Even my modern-day hero with her own amazing Malibu Townhouse hosted Ken from time to time.

My heroines gave me hope. Hope that I’d be saved from this provincial life.

Well, hope morphed into complacency and complacency into concern—where was he? As I grew up, this constant waiting around created a sense of scarcity and urgency in me and in many of my single sisters, that’s hard to shake.

They’re sneaky little suckers, these six fairytales, and the myths they tell about relationships contain the seedlings to screw up your love life if you let them take too deep a root.

1. The “one day my prince will come” childhood fairytale.

The sneaky message: Online dating is for suckers. You don’t need to do that. You’re above all that nonsense because your prince is coming for you.

Don’t expend effort to meet people or pick your eyes up when you’re walking around your city, because he’ll come to you.

You don’t even need to leave your house — just apply magical thinking and voila, your prince will appear!

The reality: Nah, girl. This kind of thinking, magical or otherwise, will get you nowhere.

Don’t wait for your prince. Get on a white steed of your own and go find him.

2. “The One” fantasy.

The sneaky message: There one person who was created and put on this Earth just for you.

But what if you already blew it with your One? That would be tragic, right?

What if you went on a first date with your One and you snorted when you laughed and a bunch of snot and Diet Coke came out your nose?

If there is just one, I hope they live in your town. How are they going to find you if they live in Libya? And, if by some miracle, they do find you, would you follow them there?

The reality: The One, as romantic as it sounds, creates nothing but scarcity and panic. It causes us to stay with a person even if the relationship isn’t working because they might be the One — and without them — well, there’s no one.

I went on 121 first dates, and what I learned from this process was there is no such thing as the One. I saw the possibility of having 121 different futures, all possible in their own way.

I ended up with my One, but that was a choice, not fate or destiny. I recommend ditching the concept of the One and finding your best match instead.

3. The “love at first sight” fairytale.

The sneaky message: “And when our eyes met, it was like time stopped. We moved in slow-mo towards each other, and we both just knew.”

The reality: Do you know what that is? That’s some intense bodily chemistry right there; as in dopamine, oxytocin, testosterone, and a whole host of other chemicals that get us high.

It’s hot. It’s exciting. It’s magnetizing. But it’s not the hinge that keeps a lasting, harmonious partnership together.

“I’ll know it when I see it” is a downside of the love-at-first-sight trope. When we pick a mate on first sight (read: hormonal response) alone, we’re likely to be mismatched in important areas of our lives.

Give a date a chance to grow on you, and by the third date or so I bet you’ll know whether this one will give you butterflies in all the right places or not.

4. The “meant to be” childhood fairytale.

The sneaky message: “I’ve met someone. I think he’s the One. When we were on our date I learned that he loves music, and you know I love music. Our birthdays are both in July. And we both like food! It must be meant to be.”

“Meant to be” is the magic glue that brings the One in contact with Happily Ever After. Or at least it can seem that way.

The reality: We hit the meant-to-be’s during the evidence-collecting phase of a new relationship.

When we’re excited about someone new, we tend to look for and find deeper meaning where there is none, and these MTB moments can distract us from the red flags of a mismatch.

You know, like maybe he wants six children and you don’t want any, but hey, you both like food. Be sure to look beyond the MTB moments with your eyes wide open.

5. The “happily ever after” myth. 

The sneaky message: You, your ridiculously expensive gown you’ll never wear again, your love, 200 people, a preacher, and God are all present to witness that enchanting moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life.

Dust off that old childhood storybook—what does it say in the last paragraph on the final page?

“And they lived happily ever after. The end.”

The reality: The end? Not exactly.

We never saw Cinderella fight with her prince charming. We didn’t see them do taxes, shop at Costco with the three kids on a Saturday afternoon, or deal with little Johnny’s bullying problem.

You’ve had your big day. Now slip out of the wedding dress, love each other unconditionally, make sure nothing ever goes wrong, and never change. Ever.

That’s what “the end” in the fairy tales we grow up with implies, but, of course, this isn’t how real life works.

Stay nice and limber to ride life’s roller coasters together. Over the long haul, desires, hopes, dreams, and directions change, and everybody needs to be ready to bend but not break.

6. The “All you need is love” fairytale.

This is the worst offender in how we learned to think about love in fairytale-land. “All you need is love” gives you no room for boundaries, standards, or practical workability.

Love is not all you need if your love is a raging drug addict. Love is not all you need if they’ve stifled your autonomy, creativity, self-expression, or happiness. Love is not all you need if, despite your best efforts, you simply grow apart as human beings. You need to feel safe, heard, and respected in your relationship, and your partner needs the same. You can love each other to pieces and still not be right for each other.

“All You Need Is Love” is a song by the Beatles, not a way of life. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and the rest of the princess gang are all residents of childhood stories that may be fun and whimsical and contain some kernels of truth, but they ultimately don’t serve the badass, sassy adult woman you’ve grown to be.

It’s time to let go of your little girl tales, roll up your sleeves, and get curious about finding the mate who’s right for you. Maybe, just maybe, you can create your own real-life version of happily ever after.

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com

The #1 Game Over, Flaming Red Flag You Should Never Ignore On A Date

If he does this on a first date … don’t see him again!

“Consent” is a hot word right now. And it should be. I hope it’s here to stay. Because when a date does something against your explicit wishes, it’s game over, right?

But, I’ve noticed the “consent” conversation largely hovers around sexual consent only (and the trauma caused when consent is absent and sexual assault occurs). —

Yet, men often show you on the very first date whether they care (or not) about honoring your boundaries.

A 52-year-old woman I know shared this story: “I knew he wasn’t the guy for me two minutes after we sat down in the booth. He talked about himself incessantly, and he didn’t ask me a single thing about my life. When he offered a second drink, I said, ‘no.’ But when the server came, he said,’‘Two more, please.’ In total, he ordered six glasses of wine — three for him and three for me. I left that last one full, sitting on the table.”

The sad part is — the pressure to speak up and tell the server, “Excuse me, please bring just one,” was too great for this woman — a situation many of us surely relate to.

From a distance, it seems like one of those “duh!” no-brainer moments, yes? But, nearly every woman I know, from my clients to my friends, tells me one story after another each week that involves a cardinal dating sin: not speaking up for themselves. (And I’ve had plenty of moments when I’ve said nothing, as well.)

The pressure to “go along to get along,” not rock the boat and avoid displeasing the other person at all cost is the cultural training many of us received as little girls. It touches us to our core. Our inner self whispers, “Just get through this. Be nice.” Unfortunately, some people (let’s just call them what they are: jerks) count on this and are more than willing to take advantage.

It’s a true dating dilemma. One that’s even trickier to address when your boundaries are violated by a man you truly like. 

While writing this article, my phone rang for a coaching call with a client who filled me on a great date she had that, sadly, went awry.

“We have so much in common, and we have this uncanny rare connection!” Sandra said. “He’s attractive, charming, quick-witted, and he’s on the same par with me intellectually — finally. Except there’s one problem; he wanted to go a little further sexually than I was comfortable with this early on.

I told him I wasn’t ready for where he was taking us, but he pushed. When I called him on it, he deflected and didn’t own what he was doing. I decided to give him another chance because I saw real potential with him, and I can usually go with the flow. But he kept trying to take the date to places I just wasn’t ready for. Do you think it’s wrong of me to stop seeing him or should I give him another chance?”

(Once again, it’s alarming how difficult it is for so many women to say “no,” or speak up for themselves at all.)

So, how do you know which men are likely to violate consent boundaries?

Spotting a dangerous man when you don’t like him is easy. But noticing his negative traits gets a bit fuzzy when he’s hot, or smart, or funny, or charming, or, oh boy, all four. In these cases, I have a pro tip for you, sister:

No matter how “nice” he is if a man doesn’t honor you saying “no” on the little things  RUN!

Because, nice ass(ets) or no, he has just committed the #1 dating no-no! He may as well have said to you, “I care more about what I want than what you need.”

Of course, this behavior shows up differently from guy to guy. I put men like this in three categories:

1. The ‘Nice Guy:’ This guy would never intentionally push your comfort levels if he knew you wanted to bail, or that you need to slow things down.

2. The Sneaky Good Guy: This guy is basically a decent person who is heavily steeped in bad information. We cannot discount the huge impact our culture has on training young men to believe women “play hard to get,” and that, with any sign of waffling on her part, it’s perfectly OK to push her further. You know, because women “secretly want it.” (Oye, giant sigh!)

3. The Total Asshat: This jerk hears you say, “No, thank you”, loud and clear and orders you another drink anyway. Or sticks his hand where it isn’t welcome. Yeah — that guy. By disregarding your explicitly stated wishes, he’s practically slapping you across the face with that red flag.

Want to know how a man will treat you long-term?

On the very first date, clearly, articulate a need or boundary. (Yeah — it’s that easy.) How he responds to your boundary or request shows you how he’ll treat you now and in the future. If he doesn’t honor your “no” about the second glass of wine, he’s unlikely to honor your “no” sexually.

Drawing a line in the sand is never easy or fun. I know, I’ve failed epically at it dozens of times. But I got better at it with practice, and you can, too. Practice saying “no” and holding your boundaries with a close friend or in front of the full-length mirror.

Go ahead: try getting these words out with some grace and strength behind them:

  • “No.”
  • “No, thank you.”
  • “No, this is my last one.”
  • “No, thanks. We’re only here for drinks, not dinner.”
  • “No, I’m not available for that.”
  • “No, I’m not ready for this yet.”
  • “No, I’m not OK with you putting your hand there.”
  • “No, I won’t be staying.”

Seriously! … Practice this in your everyday life, as much as you can. I double-dog dare you, because when you need to use that “no,” to be fair to your date, you’ll want to state it clearly. And to be fair to you, you’ll want to mean it.

“No” might seem like, well, a negative word, but it’s actually one of the most powerful tools you have.

Being confident in your “no” shows others they can trust your “YES!”

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!

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By Wendy Newman originally published on YourTango.com

A Valentines Double Dog Dare

Funky heart 200x300Did you know while Valentines was created to celebrate a saint, it’s first association with romantic love came along in 18th-century England? Yup, that’s long before Hallmark Cards ever made the scene (Jan. 1910).

In the 18th-century, Valentines became an occasion similar to what it is today — a day where lovers express love for each other by offering flowers, candy and yes, sending those sometimes adorable, sometimes sappy valentines day cards. In Europe, they weren’t rushing around trying to find a $$$ restaurant with a 7:30 spot on OpenTable.com. Instead, Saint Valentine’s keys were given out as a gift of love and as an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.

Now, I’m down for going with convention when it serves me, but I always think convention should be questioned and thought through newly. I mean there might be a good reason for it, but that good reason in 18th-century England might not make sense in 21st-century America. So several yeas ago, and as a single person, I did just that. I thought about conventional Valentine’s day and  I redesigned it to suit my needs, I gave it a bit of an update. I found one concept worth keeping: an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.

Every year I create Valentines newly. It’s the most flexible holiday in my calendar, it can mean anything I want it to as long as I use it as an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart — my heart. I mix it up, some years are big, other years are subtle, but they all have the same theme: Give love and invite yourself to unlock your heart.

I have a double-dog-dare challenge for you: Make this Valentines Day a day of gratitude, love, and giving. Skip the dozen red roses, they’re three times the price this week. Cards? You get to say. Will you make them or buy them? Will you vulnerably share your adoration, yearning or appreciation for someone(s) and sign your name or will you send the love notes anonymously? Will you love on your single friends? Will you take time to nurture yourself?

After I updated my relationship to this holiday I learned that celebrating single or coupled no longer matters. No more, “It will be better next year when I have someone” or “It will be better next year when I have a different someone.” This holiday is delicious now — as long as you’re willing to spread your love around and unlock your giving heart.

Happy Valentines Day! I love you — Wendy

I’m Wendy Newman, a media-celebrated author & trusted dating, sex & relationship advisor.  Pick up my book, 121 First Dates: How to Succeed at Online Dating, Fall in Love, and Live Happily Ever After (Really!) here!