The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Did my therapist just compare dating to applying to a job?

Like many people in 2020, I found myself back on the job market. This meant scrolling endlessly—and swiping left often—through job listing after job listing. It was a tedious process and one that I found myself regaling to my therapist during many of our sessions.

While I was deterred by the countless lack of responses and emails starting with, “we regret to inform you…,” my therapist had a more positive outlook on the situation. They noted that job hunting is pretty similar to dating.

I was shocked—and a little disgusted. How could they equate something that should be fun with something that is the opposite of fun? However, the more I reflected, the more I realized my therapist was on to something.

Both dating and job searching have ups and downs, good experiences and terrible experiences. Both offer opportunities to learn about ourselves, our goals, and our wants and needs.

The point of dating and job hunting is to find the best match for us, often by presenting a more polished version of ourselves. Just like in job interviews, we probably shouldn’t go into detail on the woes of bacne or the injustice of fans’ treatment of Zayn post-1D. This isn’t first, second, or even third date material—although it could be for the right person.

Dating is about finding someone whose weird meshes with your weirdness, and the same can be said for job searching. Managers are looking to hire people who are not only qualified but who will be a good fit for the company.

During my job hunt process, I took a fashion risk and wore a leather skirt to an interview. My interviewers were not enthused, and I did not get the job. While it stung at the time, I’m grateful that I wasn’t hired; I would not be a good fit with a company so adamantly anti leather skirts. Jokes aside, this company cared more about what I was wearing than what I was bringing to the table. Their weird did not mesh with my weird and, looking back, that’s totally okay.

This isn’t always the mindset we have when dating. Sometimes it’s easier to hold on to past hurts and rejections. But if someone doesn’t want me for me, then thank goodness they were honest about it! Who wants to end up with a long-term partner that doesn’t even like them?

In a peculiar way, job hunting helped me realize that I don’t have to take dating—or any relationship, whether platonic or romantic—so personally. As the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. But, as a different saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

I think my therapist compared job hunting to dating to encourage me to find the value in the experience I was living through. Being too doom and gloom while job searching prevented me from taking in the sights along the journey. By comparing finding a job with dating, my therapist reminded me that dating can be fun. And even when it’s not fun, at least bad dates give us a story to tell our friends.

While I don’t think we should approach dating in the same way we do job hunting, I do think there are lessons to be learned from both. Admittedly, I wish the lesson was to write your cover letter like you would a dating profile. If it was as easy as that, all of my cover letters would start with: DTW (down to write)/ freaky grammar fetish (oxford commas and em-dashes excite me).

I like to believe the right match(es) for each of us is out there. Even if we have to apply to the partner role multiple times, and even if we discover that role is purely platonic. Just like life, dating is about the journey. Although, unlike life, dating is also about the destination. But that’s a different article.

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All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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Mind Love Life Stories Advice

I wrote a letter to the one that hurt me and this is how I healed

There comes a point in life when you reach a place of self-love and healing. The healing is gradual, it is a constantly fluctuating line that slowly staggers upwards, but this place of self-love is one that takes a long time to reach.  

People deal with the realization that they are no longer affected by the person who broke them in different ways. Some go out and enjoys themselves, maybe even at a party, some decide that it’s finally time to meet a new person, some stay at home and write in their journal about their feelings and some, like me, write a letter to the one who broke their heart.

I’d come to terms with the experience and I’d soaked up all the lessons like a sponge, squeezing out only the bad feelings and the negative emotions that came with them. I was happy, content, and getting on well with my life. But one day, I sat down and absorbed everything—the lessons, the hurt, the love and what it all taught me—and I decided to write to him.

I’ve accepted that healing is not a destination, it is a process and it is a long one at that. And sometimes, while you’re journeying in your path from a jungle of confused feelings to self-realization and soft happiness, you might want to take a breather and reach out to the one who caused this much growth in you without reaching out to them. And that’s what I did. I got a pen and a paper and started writing the traditional ‘Dear…’ letter to the person who broke my heart.

Later, I turned this letter into a poem which I shared on Instagram, and I realized that maybe he would have read it by now, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that I was finally in a comfortable place to reflect on the experience that I had not many years ago, enough to write about it. The letter was called ‘indifference’ but I can reassure you, it didn’t come from a place of spitefulness or regret. Instead, it was an accumulation of everything that had happened and how it made me feel at that present moment—indifferent.

I felt indifferent because I was no longer affected by him. I felt indifferent because the heartbreak I experienced didn’t hurt me anymore. I felt indifferent because I knew then that no matter what happened, I was never going to turn back into his arms again. I felt indifferent because my heart didn’t know how else to feel about him.

It was like, the hole that he left inside my chest was filled with love and happiness and countless experiences since him so there was no room for pain. There was no room to think about the hurt he caused or the tears or the love. And because there was no room, there were no emotions for him either and instead all that I was left with was indifference.

It felt good. I liked writing this letter because as the words appeared on the paper, I felt stronger and more in control. The letter made me feel like I was the one in power this time, and I was. If you think about it–I was the one asserting, I was the one who was ‘telling him how it is’ and I was the one who had the final say because the last word was mine. 

I spoke about my feelings or the lack thereof and I even cared to add a little sass because that’s just me, and by the end as I put that letter in an envelope that wasn’t going to get posted anywhere at all, I was much lighter than before. I was already happy, but after writing to him, I felt happier. I felt like we’d had a conversation which went my way, and most of you will know that is never the case when you’re speaking to the person who hurt you, and now things were ending in the way that I wanted them to.

After writing it all down, I not only came to terms with the true depth of what I was going through, but I was also able to appreciate my journey and how far I’d come. This was the most fulfilling thing about writing that letter. I’ve learned now that often to close old chapters you just need a little ‘chapter summary’ of what happened so you can read over it and make sense of everything. This summary doesn’t need to be for anyone but you, and sometimes you don’t even need to write it out. Just think about it if you must but do take the time to reflect and absorb everything that has happened.

Eventually, when you start a new chapter you have that little bit of information about the previous one so you know how to prepare your heart and soul for what’s to come.

Love + Sex Love

My boyfriend cheated on me with another girl – but I didn’t feel jealous at all

I remember the first time I ever felt jealous about a romantic partner. It felt like my chest was splitting in two. For the first time, I understood why they called it ‘heartbreak’: it physically felt like my heart was cracking, and it winded me so much I couldn’t breathe.

This was actually a panic attack, but my 13-year-old self didn’t know that. She thought she was in love. She thought that the pain in her chest was a sign that she should actually be with the person that was making her jealous. After all, only your soul mate could make you feel something so deeply, right?

Fast forward to when I was 18. My boyfriend at the time cheated on me with another girl, who he ended up dating. There were many things I felt when I realized he cheated on me: hurt, betrayed, angry.

But one thing I didn’t feel? Jealousy. I didn’t envy the poor girl who became his girlfriend. I didn’t feel possessive over him. I didn’t want him.

I was surprised that my heart didn’t crack in two like it had before. This strange reaction prompted me to do a lot of soul-searching. At first, I asked myself why I didn’t feel jealous, but then, I asked myself why I thought I should feel jealous. After all, why would I want someone who mistreated me?

Sometimes, jealousy is about feeling unwanted – it is for me, anyway. We might feel jealous when we see our crush with someone else because we feel unwanted in comparison. We also might feel jealous when our partners pay more attention to others because we feel insecure and we think it’s a threat to the relationship.

When my boyfriend cheated on me, I realized it didn’t mean I was unwanted. It wasn’t a reflection of me at all, it was a reflection of him. I had no reason to feel insecure, so I didn’t.

Of course, jealousy isn’t always rational. Often it comes out of nowhere, and there’s no reasoning yourself out of it. But this epiphany stuck with me, and since then, I’ve hardly ever felt jealous.

When I tell people this, they assume it means I don’t have any real feelings for my partners. This isn’t true. I’ve loved people fiercely and deeply without feeling a pang of jealousy at all. To me, my lack of jealousy didn’t mean I didn’t love my partners, but it meant that I loved myself and was incredibly secure in my own self-worth.

Learning about non-monogamy and polyamory has also expanded my understanding of jealousy. Many people are able to love more than one romantic partner at once. For many people, having more than one partner is possible because their love isn’t a finite resource.

Think about it: if you can have multiple children or multiple pets while loving every single one of them, it makes sense that some people can have multiple partners and love them all the same.

By this token, some people can find more than one person attractive at the same time. If I’m dating someone who finds someone else attractive, that doesn’t mean they don’t find me attractive. And if they don’t find me attractive, that’s a separate issue – one that has no influence over my worth.

Many people believe that jealousy is an indicator of love, so much so that they’ll make their partner jealous to ‘test’ their love. This is a common trope in rom-coms, and I often see it with acquaintances and friends of mine. We’re taught from a young age that love hurts, so we confuse the ache of jealousy with feelings of care and partnership. This attitude is troubling because it can romanticize people being over-possessive, and even abusive, towards their partners.

It’s okay to feel jealous. There’s nothing wrong with you if you experience jealousy. That said, we should stop romanticizing jealousy and we should stop equating it with love.

Love shouldn’t crack your heart in two – it should mend it. Whether it comes from a friend, a romantic partner, a family member, a pet, or yourself, love should be a source of support and energy, not pain.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories Wellness

Stop pretending you can fix your partner’s mental illness with “love.” That only works on TV.

Here’s the thing about mental illness: it cannot be cured through love.

For all the dialogue about “loving yourself before you love others” and “putting your health first,” there’s still a distressing amount of media — particularly aimed at young women — that tells us people with mental illness can be cured with the right relationship. 

That all someone needs to “fight their demons” is a hug, a kiss, someone to hold them at night.

And then there’s the idea so loved by dramatic TV shows, movies, and popular books, that mental illness is attractive or romantic because people who suffer from different mental illnesses are “devoted,” “artistic,” or “in tune with their emotions.”

This romanticism is not only worrying but patently untrue. 

As a person with a trauma-related mental illness who’s married to someone with a very different kind of trauma-related mental illness, I can say for certain: there’s no romanticism there.

Working through our issues always gets complicated by our own struggles, which makes communication all the more important.

There’s this idea that all you need to be happy is someone who “makes things go quiet.” 

And that’s not entirely wrong. 

My partner and I have been together for five years and there have been days — countless days — when we’ve had to depend completely on each other to make it through the darkness. But we haven’t cured each other.

Oftentimes, we have to call each other out on manipulative or otherwise harmful behavior, which is incredibly important for any relationship — and it’s something we need to advocate for more often, rather than framing mental illness as a romantic aspiration.

Relationships are hard. Painful, at times. 

My spouse and I talk constantly, even when it sucks to be truthful, and we work hard to push each other through rough patches in order to come out the other side as unscathed as possible.

We’ve worked, day in and day out, to communicate and to love each other and to be kind even when our mental illnesses made us want to lash out or break down. Understanding and excusing behavior are different, though those who romanticize mental illness often conflate the two.

Mental illness can explain why a behavior pattern exists. However, mental illness does not excuse a behavior pattern or its effects.

In the five years we’ve been together, that’s been revealed as an incredibly important distinction. It’s one I wish more people would discuss.

My spouse and I have what I sometimes refer to as “competing mental illnesses.” While they sometimes need to step away from a conversation so they don’t say something unnecessarily mean, I cannot let something go until it has been resolved. 

Many of our arguments stem from the fact that I don’t always know how to afford people space. 

Others stem from my partner lashing out.

We snip and snap until we reach a point where we can either take some space and talk about it later or drop it and mutually apologize. The latter is always the end goal, but sometimes it takes us a while to reach it.

Yelling about my anxiety doesn’t excuse the fact that I sometimes ignore boundaries. Identifying my partner’s tendency to lash out when they’re upset doesn’t excuse hurtful words they say. 

To say that our mental illnesses should afford us excuses is to ignore culpability and personal responsibility, which is unfair to ourselves, to each other, and to everyone else in our lives. It’s taken me years of therapy and long, open-ended conversations with my partner to figure that out… and I know that I still have a long way to go.

As of right now, both my spouse and I are in therapy — individual therapy, with different therapists — and it helps a lot. When we moved in together three and a half years ago, it was hard as hell to adjust to life in the same space. 

For the first year and a half of our relationship, we were separated by two states, and time together was especially precious.

It still is, but it’s different now. Everything is. 

When you move in with someone, no matter how much you love them, you have to learn to deal with certain things. All the “cute” or “quirky” things they do can abruptly become annoying or disruptive, and you often find that your partner feels the same about you. To survive that is to talk about it, even if sometimes talking leads to arguing.

Arguing is, ultimately, a healthy means of hashing out conflict, but only if those arguments can be resolved. Oftentimes for us, resolution looks like apologies from both parties and communication about how we can do better by each other in the future.

When I see mental illness framed as a desirous quality — in a YA book, in an online listicle, in a relationship quiz — I cringe. 

It’s taken me years to realize that mental illness is not a crutch and that taking responsibility for my actions and words is as important for me as it is for anyone else. 

It’s equally important for me to hold my partner accountable, and to recognize when they are doing that work for themselves, just like they do for me.