The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Here’s why your single friend always gives the best relationship advice

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I give excellent dating advice. However, if you were to ask me for my dating credentials, I would hand you a blank piece of paper.

For some, being serially single is not a choice. But for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I have been single for all of my adult life, and I thoroughly enjoy the independence and solitude—which I know freaks people out. While some single people date, I do not.

So how does this make me—and other serially single people—expert at giving dating advice?

Let me let you in on a few secrets of the trade.

The first secret is not actually a secret but a well-known fact: Almost all forms of content are about love.

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Even content that exists outside of traditional romance genres usually includes love and sex. For example, that action movie you just watched, was there a romantic arc in it?


Most movies, television shows, and books have provided blueprints for all kinds of relationships. A lot of these blueprints have helped me understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

I’ve also read more than a fair share of fanfiction. Honestly, when you asked for my dating credentials, I could have sent you the link to AO3 and, if you’ve ever read any fanfiction, you’d have immediately understood why this gives me so much credible dating insight.

Even being someone who grew up alongside the Internet has made many of us mini experts on random topics. Most of us didn’t necessarily seek this information out; it just appeared on our Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram feeds.

Here’s the real secret: All relationships are the same.

Whether platonic or romantic, open or closed, monogamous or polyamorous, all relationships are made of the same ingredients. The dictionary definition of relationship describes the connection between people. And we all have experience with that. I may not date, but I do have lots of friends.

Some of my friendships have failed while others have thrived. This has helped me gain insight on communication, boundaries, and respect—insight that applies to both platonic and romantic relationships.

I’ve also watched most of my loved ones experience all kinds of different relationships. As you can imagine, being single gives those of us who are serially single plenty of free time to observe other people’s relationships—and, if you’re a Virgo like me, judge these relationships in order to perfect the advice we give to those who may (or may not) ask.

Just because your single friends haven’t dated anyone—casually, seriously, or at all—doesn’t mean we’re not familiar with the territory. All of our observations add to our dating advice credentials.

In fact, we’re kind of like therapists.

Because we’re removed from romantic situations, we have clarity uncolored by personal bias and experiences.

Most importantly, your serially single friends arguably have the most experience with prioritizing themselves and their needs. This makes us adept at keeping your best interests top of mind if you come to us for romantic advice.

We want you to be yourself and to love who you are. We will encourage you to take the time to learn more about your wants, needs, and goals before diving further into romance.

The best advice I can give as a serially single person is to try out being single. Being single has a lot of perks, the top of which is that it can give you the time, space, and energy to explore you who are.

I’m not saying everyone should be single. I’m just saying don’t knock it till you try it.

And, don’t worry. I promise I won’t say “I told you so” when you realize being single helped you become a better romantic partner.

Happy dating!

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Gender & Identity Life

I’m Desi and my community thinks I’m “ungrateful to God” for choosing therapy

When I first considered writing this article, I swayed back and forth in regards to whether I should do it.

Is it too bold of an idea? Can the Desi folks I know handle it? I could already hear their criticism telling me, “what was the need for sharing this?—some things should stay private.”

Growing up, my Pakistani upbringing indirectly taught me that a good girl stays quiet and keeps to herself. Naturally, I would rather not have people make assumptions about me based on the fact that I have gone to therapy. But no matter what I do, people will always have something to say, so might as well do what I feel is right.  Besides, why should I care about the opinions of people who judge those who seek help anyway?

It has always baffled me how many times I have seen Desis casually sweep things under the rug, especially when it comes to family issues. For children growing up in this type of environment, it’s very unhealthy. This factor alone leads to many issues which could easily be avoided. If we can prevent so many problems from happening, then why not do so? Out of fear of how we will be perceived to the outside world? I’m sorry, but that is not a good enough reason.

One time, I mentioned that I was going to my therapist, a relative was genuinely confused. She said, “What would you need a therapist for? You should be grateful for what you have and seek help from God alone.” While some of my Desi elders may be used to bottling up their emotions and acting like problems don’t exist, that approach does not work for me. Going to therapy does not mean I am ungrateful for the blessings I have, or that I am considering myself a victim. It is a form of empowering myself. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t trust God’s Plan. It shows that I have faith and want to try my best to do whatever is in my control.

Besides, if I did not have hope, why would I even bother seeking help in the first place?

In the past, I spent way too long trying to please relatives and elders, as that was what I believed was the norm. It was exhausting. Now, I can proudly and openly state that yes, I have sought talk therapy during certain times in my life and I refuse to let the stigma cause me to hide any longer.

What amazes me is how the moment one person “removes their mask,” it breaks the ice for others to do the same.

For instance, while having lunch with a family friend who I hadn’t seen for many years, I casually mentioned something I learned from my therapist. A couple of minutes later, she opened up about how she also meets with a psychologist but didn’t know that I was cool with talking about that kind of stuff. It was a sense of relief for both of us and it made me want to have more open conversations about this.

For me, going to a therapist is like building pieces of a huge, intricate puzzle together.  With each session, I not only discovered more about myself but also learned essential life skills such as conflict management and living in the present moment. I can honestly say that had I not sought therapy, I probably would still be a very anxious, fearful person. I would still be that people-pleaser who wanted to sacrifice my own happiness just to look good for others. Without therapy, I probably would have continued being needy and seeking approval from others.

Therapy isn’t just for people that society deems as “other.”  It’s for those badasses who fall but refuse to stay down. Therapy is for those who face their fears rather than numbing them or running away. For those who, no matter what pain has afflicted them, never stop trying to heal. For those who hit rock bottom but allow the experience to make them stronger when they rise back up.

I was thrilled when I watched the Bollywood movie, Dear Zindagi, in which Shah Rukh Khan was featured as a psychologist. Slowly but surely, there are movements which are trying to destigmatize mental health in the Desi community. We need more education on these topics, as well as some more open and honest conversations.

Research shows that over the past thirty years, depression and suicide have increased, especially among adolescents and young adults. Imagining the people we love so much ending up with symptoms of depression is heartbreaking. We have no choice but to normalize therapy.

To the Desi aunties and uncles around the world, please don’t be ashamed of your loved ones who are courageous enough to consider seeking professional help. Chances are, you may not have what they need, so please loosen your bone and let them go. Give them permission to learn about themselves with a professional who knows what they’re doing–with someone who is trained to be a good listener, act in a nonjudgmental way, and provide a safe space to explore oneself.

Therapy has taught me that it is an act of bravery to take responsibility for your actions, rather than blaming your circumstances. Maybe this is why many have a fear of sitting in the therapist’s office—because they are forced to be real. After all, we can hide from the world, but not from ourselves.

At the end of the day, it is up to us to decide for ourselves which choice we want to make.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

My promise against marriage almost kept me from meeting the love of my life

When I was about ten years old, I told my mother that I did not want to get married. I can’t remember exactly when or why it started, but I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.

These thoughts did not stem from my home life. My parents have a happy and relatively normal marriage. As two full-time bosses, they support one another in business matters, share social circles, and plan large family gatherings, like weddings, together. They have grown together and been behind us and beside us through highs and lows over the past thirty years of parenting three children. I just thought they were an exception to the rule.

[bctt tweet=” I was certain from a young age that marriage just wasn’t for me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That instinct was later confirmed by all the representations of marriages that I saw in movies and on TV. I saw couples that seemed to be putting up with each other more than they were loving one another or sharing in true partnership. The wedding day was all hyped up, but the actual relationship always seemed to sour.

Besides overly saccharine portrayals of marriage in some shows like Seventh Heaven, being married seemed a little miserable.

Permanent cohabitation and vowing to be with only one person felt like a hoax. Marriage, to me, was an antiquated relic of an age when families’ children were united for economic benefit or social mobility. Throw in my college-age revelations about heteronormative expectations and societal power dynamics of marriage and children for most young women around the world, and I knew it. I was definitely going to be single. I decided that if I wanted to be a mother, then I would adopt a child on my own.

But marriage was out of the question. I told the people I dated, I confirmed it with my mother. Marriage and I were not to be.

I decided that I would forge ahead with dating and even falling in love, meeting new and interesting people with whom I was open about not wanting to get married.

Then my older sister got engaged. And that changed everything for me.

She and I have always been close, sometimes too much so when we were in our adolescence.

Being so close in age meant that I would steal her clothes, try to be just like each other or the exact opposite, and we both felt very competitive. But, in the years since teenagehood, we have put in a lot of time and effort into having a mature and open relationship. We have healed old wounds and got to know each other as adults. She has been one of the greatest influences on my life and we have both leaned on the other in defining times of need.

Because of our closeness, when my sister got engaged, I finally had the opportunity to ask some real questions about the commitment of marriage. She shared her hopes, joys, fears, and expectations of life with her now spouse.

I began to look differently at the people I was dating. Living in New York City at the time, there were plenty of opportunities to go on dates. But now I felt less able to put up with major character flaws and general douchebaggery. I went on a lot of first dates. I wasn’t out searching for a husband all of a sudden – in fact, I started to believe more that if marriage wasn’t a hoax, then maybe I just wasn’t meant to find someone.

I certainly wasn’t going to lower my standards.

At her wedding, I ended up meeting the person I married. He was a longtime trusted friend of my brother-in-law and turned out to be my life partner. We didn’t hit it off right away, but the immediate mutual attraction and honest conversations that followed were refreshingly new. 

He lived over one thousand miles away, however, so we got to know each other over the phone every night, talking for hours when we had the time. We traveled to be together as often as we could afford and when he proposed to me after ten weeks on a corner in Brooklyn by my apartment, I didn’t hesitate.

[bctt tweet=”Being married seemed a little miserable.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Looking back on that quick courtship and the ensuing fourteen months before we got married, I notice how my attitude changed after my sister’s wedding. I am grateful for her honesty with me about her commitment to her fiancé and husband and why she believed in marriage. It helped me to snap out of my dating daze and I found myself being much more honest about my time and those with whom I was spending it.

With my now-husband, I didn’t put up a front about who I was and dedicated lots of time and attention to getting to know him, as he did with me. The foundation of honest and open communication that we built together as a long-distance couple in those early months has survived to this day and helps us get through minor hiccups and bigger bumps. I didn’t have wi-fi in my studio apartment back then, so we couldn’t Skype or FaceTime.

And, when you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open and specific.

I am especially glad that in that time I talked to him about my past ideas of marriage and how I was looking at it in a new light now. We asked each other and ourselves hard questions about our presuppositions around marriage and our expectations from long term relationships or partnering. Together, we openly discussed the spiritual aspects of marriage, the depth of permanent commitment, the gravity of vows, and more. Through this honesty and difficult, long talks, we decided that we both wanted to marry the other.

It was a mutual decision, made with both an acknowledgment that we truly can’t know much about marriage until you’re in one, but also that we have both done the work to question it and get uncomfortable enough with it to know that we aren’t jumping into the commitment blindly or with the expectation that it will make us whole or that the other will change.

[bctt tweet=”When you have to share everything over the phone, you have to be very open.” username=”wearethetempest”]

He’s now my husband of three years, but if I had been closed off to the idea of marriage as I had been before, I may not have been open to seeing him as a potential partner. I’m so glad that I did.

Gender Inequality

If I say no to you, I mean it

That line stands out in conversation. It’s a line that’s been said in movies or to your face that’s meant to be a pick up line which it most certainly is not. It’s one that has been said to me and I’m sure to many other women too.

It’s common for women: unwanted compliments, cat calling, workplace harassment. It’s part of being a woman, part of our daily existence to be on the receiving end of unwanted male attention.

After I’ve told you “no, you cannot have my number,” that’s when you say “I’m very persistent,” with a smug look on your face. Even as the conversation proceeds, you ask me the same question I’ve already given an answer to.

At first, I don’t pay much attention to it. Then, as I replay the conversation in my mind, alarm bells go off.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? That you’ll stop at nothing to get what you want, even if it’s not what I want?

At this point, I become uneasy. Like, really, I’ve answered you: no. Of course, I know you’re gonna ask me again. Which you do.

Why do you think that constant barrage of questions is something attractive? As though you’re saying, ‘Look at me, I am man, I get what I want,’ in some caveman voice.

What you should want is a clearer understanding of English.

Your lack of apology makes me feel like I shouldn’t trust my own judgment. That I should feel uneasy for being true to what I want, for trusting my gut.

Your persistence makes me feel like I should trust a man over myself, because men somehow know what is better for women.That we are weak and can’t make our own decisions.

Pop culture and the people around us have taught us that women should yield to men. That men are supposed to save us from ourselves. That men are supposed to correct all the things we’re doing wrong. Because men are right.

I refuse to give in. I refuse to appease men who won’t listen. And every man is going to have to deal with that whether they like it or not.

My refusal is a hit to your toxic male ego, which shatters with rejection, because you’ve always been given what you want.  And you can’t deal with that. That’s not my problem. I have 99 other problems to deal with.

Men, you have to respect our decisions whether you like them or not. Not everything is about you, even though you have been brought up to believe that.

It’s unfortunate for you that your privilege – and my response – has led to this sudden but necessary awakening. I am elated that I could’ve been part of history in the making.

So really, you’re welcome that I didn’t give you my number. And I’m not going to give it if I don’t want to.

As  TLC put it, “No, I don’t want your number, No, I don’t wanna give you mine.”

Sorry, not sorry, persistent guy.