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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Money Now + Beyond

‘Runaway’ money and financial independence are not the same thing

If there’s one thing that my mother always taught me, it’s to have your own personal account and money stashed away. When I was younger and she told me about her own card, a different color than the family one that I’ve seen her use before, I was shocked. It disturbed me. It was as if she was keeping secrets from my father and I felt ashamed on her behalf. I was raised with the idea that, in marriage, you give yourself completely to your partner. So why would she need her own money? Was she planning on leaving? I could not wrap my head around it so I kept quiet. 

But for my mother, financial independence meant so much to her. Although she was no longer making her own money, she could feel a sense of independence through buying what she liked every now and then. It was liberating to not have to report to anyone.

In the culture that I grew up in, it is only recently that women have been able to freely open their own financial accounts. Even without legal barriers, it was frowned upon by tradition for a long time. A married woman having a personal account, that her husband could not access, was a massive red flag. It’s called ‘runaway’ money. 

This phrase, ‘runaway’ money, is used around the world when referring to bank accounts that women hold that are unconnected to their family or partner—secret or not. I always hated the way that it sounded, like it was a dark thing, almost like conning your partner. Even the idea that you would need a stash of money to one day make a quick exit implies a lack of trust in a relationship. In those terms, owning a personal bank account is an ultimate betrayal.

As I grew, however, my mother and I started a personal account on my behalf. I was about to begin my first year at college in another city, much to the disagreement of my father. Having my own account meant a lot to me as I didn’t feel bound to anyone else’s plans but my own. I could add the money that I earned into the account and pursue my own life plan. While I didn’t have a lot on my own, I wasn’t limited by anyone else’s approval. I slowly came to realize my mother’s perspective from all those years.

“Money is psychological,” said Andrea Kennedy, the author of the book Own Your Financial Freedom. It’s true. It is a testament to my mother’s independence and my own, even when we are still constrained by the lives of other people and how my father, extended family, and society expected us to be living. Having a personal account shouldn’t be shameful or a sign of distrust in a relationship. Instead, it is a validation of your sense of freedom.  

Furthermore, I eventually realized that there is an immense difference between choosing to stay in a relationship and having to. Some women genuinely believe that it is impossible to be happy in a relationship if you are dependent on your partner.  ‘Runaway’ money isn’t about having one foot already out the door; it’s about having a choice in your relationships. Every argument becomes a kind of ultimatum; either you let it slide or you cease to be able to support yourself. Today, I can understand how that kind of pressure can strain any relationship.

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Plus, whether it is said aloud or not, financial dependence creates a power hierarchy in relationships that can potentially become dangerous. Although women will always face their own financial hurdles, such as gender wage gaps and even lower credit scores, at least having a personal account can potentially set us on equal footing in our relationships.

For so long now women have been reluctant to hold their own money. They’ve been conditioned to think that it is selfish, especially if they are part of a traditional family. The labels that women have over their heads (‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘wife’) are all in relation to someone else. But having their own bank account and a stash of money, no matter how small, can be a step to claiming their own selves back. Money may not be a source of happiness, but it is inarguably a source of independence.

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Mind Mental Health Health

How my mother’s breast cancer diagnosis changed my life

I don’t wear much jewelry, just a simple silver band on my wedding ring finger. I am obviously not married so I often get questioned on why I always wear the ring on that finger in particular. The ring is simple; it has an “Om” engraved on the outside and my mother’s name on the inside. Next to her name, the date 05/04/17 is engraved. While I consider this day to be the worst day of my life, I choose to carry it with me everywhere I go. On May 4, 2017, my mother was diagnosed with Triple Positive Breast Cancer

When I found out, I wasn’t sure what was an appropriate way to react. How is a 14-year old supposed to make sense of finding out that her mother might die? My parents were insistent on keeping the diagnosis a secret, meaning I couldn’t tell anyone about it, especially my friends. I was to go back to school the next day and pretend like nothing had happened. Pretending like nothing had happened meant timed mental breakdowns in the school bathroom during passing periods between classes and trying not to think about it in class.

I could not have been further from “fine”.

It also meant creating bogus explanations for why my eyes were so red all day long. “I’m fine, I just have really bad allergies right now”. “I’m fine, I just had a fight with my mother last night”. “I’m fine, it’s just friend drama”. I could not have been further from “fine”; internally, I wanted to polish off a whole bottle of vodka to feel numb. Often, my hair would fall out and my nose would randomly start bleeding in response to the immense amount of stress I was under. 

Eventually, my friends found out and things started to get better. Some stayed with me all night long, some were caught up in their own depression after finding out, and some distracted me from thinking about it. I started to drift away from being depressed about the situation to being enraged about it. I channeled all the anger I felt towards cancer into my schoolwork and maxed out my GPA for the term. The anger pushed me to work harder and stronger so that I could study to give back to the doctors that were saving my mother’s life.

I took up a position at the local hospital to volunteer on the oncology floor and the pathology lab to detect cancer. By learning the inner-workings of my mother’s disease in the lab and serving other cancer patients, I felt a closeness with her that I could not feel after watching her get progressively sicker. I learned how to read lab reports and interpret medical scans so that I could look at hers when I got home and explain them to our family to provide us with a temporary illusion of security. 

A last-minute cancellation of someone else’s appointment may have saved her life.

By the time sophomore year rolled around, I had grown so accustomed to hearing the word “cancer”, I decided that I was going to make everyone around me hear about it as well. With the help of three of my friends, I started a Breast Cancer awareness campaign to honor my mom’s fight with Breast Cancer and to raise awareness for Breast Cancer in the South Asian community. It is not uncommon for South Asian women to neglect their own health while managing their jobs and the household. In fact, my mother put off going to the doctor to get the lump in her breast for months herself.

A last-minute cancellation of someone else’s appointment may have saved her life as she was able to get her scans done earlier than expected because of the last-minute opening. To prevent this from occurring in other families, my friends and I spent months going door-to-door in predominantly Asian neighborhoods to teach families how to self-check for tumors. We hosted bake sales, attended various events, met with politicians, and hosted a radio show to answer questions about Breast Cancer. In doing so, I was able to feel another sense of closeness with my mother, despite not being able to physically be with her at all times. 

On November 2, 2017, my mother was declared cancer-free and officially in remission. While she was not even halfway done with her treatment, her body was able to fight the cancer off much fast than expected. Today, she is the business director of three YMCAs in our hometown and continues to serve the community by speaking with current cancer patients to inspire them. 

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and coincidently marks three years of my mother being in remission. While she no longer has cancer, it’s still a part of our family as we continue to raise awareness for the disease together.

My mother’s diagnosis may have been the hardest thing I have ever had to endure, but I am glad that my family and I were able to turn it into a means to make a change in a community that desperately needed the wake-up call.

Love Life Stories

How do I make space for love if my life already seems full?

A few years ago, I was lamenting my perpetual singledom, when a friend asked me, “But do you think you have space for love, or  a relationship in your life?” The answer was – and arguably still is – no. 

I like being busy and hate being idle. I’ve always been this way. At the time, I was studying my master’s, acting as editor-in-chief of a student newspaper, running a freelance illustration business, and tutoring a journalism course at my university. I didn’t have time for a relationship. I was goal-oriented, and a relationship didn’t form part of that goal.

Fast forward to today. My life is just as full, if not fuller. I work a full-time job as a graphic designer, my freelance illustration business is still steaming ahead, I run a few half marathons a year, and I recently started writing for The Tempest

I’m busy. Like, really busy. Weird flex, right?

Am I really too busy for love?

I love being busy. But I also love love, and I wish I could find a balance between the two. After my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for love, I bought a double bed. I thought maybe if I had the physical space for a relationship, I’d make space in my life for one. 

We are always able to make time for our priorities.

But physical space doesn’t translate into what I think of as ‘life-space’. Life space is about priorities. We are always able to make time for the things we deem important. We are always able to make time for our priorities. And I didn’t know if making space for love was my priority.

When my friend suggested I didn’t have space in my life for a relationship, my priority was my university degree. Now, my priority is my career.

I’m currently at a point where I need to diversify my priorities. Striking a work-life balance can be tricky, and is something I need to work on. As somebody with a tendency for burnout, I’m always being told to take it easy, to find a balance between work and play. 

I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship.

I’m on a bit of a mission to find a work-life balance that will allow me to make space in my life for a relationship. (Although there’s kinda this global pandemic going on that’s made it a bit weird and tricky).

Here are four things I’ve tried, and whether they’ve been personal victories or failures:

1. I tried taking dating apps more seriously

I’m notoriously bad at replying to men on dating apps. In fact, my dating app bio is home to the words, “Bad at writing captivating bios, worse at texting strangers. But also very alone, so maybe I’ll learn.” 

I decided to be more conscientious about replying on dating apps, but I find it difficult to find the time and effort to converse with people who I don’t care for. This helped me learn that in order for me to make space in my life for somebody, I need more of a connection than a superficial right-swipe. 

2. I created some work-life boundaries

I made some work-life rules for myself which – admittedly – worked better before we all started living in perpetual quarantine. One rule that I’ve kept up is that I’m no longer allowed to use my laptop in bed. My work can only happen at my desk, and my bed is exclusively a place of rest. Creating small boundaries like this one work as small steps towards making more space for things that are not work. My hope is that by making more of this kind of space, I’ll also make space for love.

3. I’m learning to say “no”

I developed a habit of saying yes to every bit of work that comes my way. This has meant that I often find myself drowning in work.

I’m trying to break this habit, and learning to say “no” to work that doesn’t serve me. As a freelancer, you have as much right to be picky with what work you take on, as a client has to be picky when it comes to who they hire. A good exercise in this process was to make a list of work that makes me happy, and work I find tedious. I only take on the tedious work if I have the time. Only doing work I love means that I have more time for the work I love, and the people I love.

4. I’m also making more time for the people I love platonically

I enjoy making people feel loved, but sometimes I find myself prioritizing my work over my family and friends. Finding a work-life balance is also about making sure the people I care about know that I care about them. Making life-space for my loved ones used to mean making time to see them face-to-face over a coffee. In quarantine, it means making time for video calls, sending them memes, and reminding them that they’re doing okay. By making space for my loved ones, I’m slowly making more space for romance. Or at least, I hope I’m doing that!

I’m learning that love is a priority of mine. So, making time for love should be a priority of mine, too.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I have a major secret about my love life

My social media feed is full to the brim of articles about things only newly single people will understand or the best techniques to mend your heart after a breakup. While I can vouch that eating chocolate and ice cream is comforting, I don’t relate to the relationship advice given, because I’ve never had a boyfriend.

I haven’t achieved the life milestone that the majority of women my age passed in their pre-teens. For the longest time, I believed this made me strange, and it damaged my confidence and self-esteem.

I started to feel the pressure to be in a relationship, even at a young age. I’ve always noticed and had crushes on boys from school. It’s a rite of passage for a typical schoolgirl.

But those crushes never really went anywhere.

As I progressed through primary school to secondary school, there was a stark difference between those who had a boyfriend and those who hadn’t. The ones who did were confident and mature and everyone envied them. Including me.

Of course, I was jealous. I was 16, and I’d never had my first kiss or a boyfriend.

When it came to family interrogations, I avoided conversations about boyfriends and ‘having my eye on anyone’ like the plague. It’s one thing having my friends know I am forever single, but to have my family know was twice as embarrassing.

For the next two years, I struggled to progress any friendship into something romantic. I was out of luck. It wasn’t until I discovered Tinder in my first year of university that I found my chance to date and possibly find a suitable boyfriend.

My first date with a guy from Tinder was going well until he asked about previous relationships. My body froze. I had two options, pretend I had a long line of ex-boyfriends or admit I had never been in a relationship before.

I chose the latter.

He was taken aback by the response and fired questions about being single for so long. I wanted the ground to swallow me whole as I tried to defend myself for not being in a relationship.

After the date blunder, it came to a point when I was no longer having fun on dates and meeting new people. The irrational fear of having to reveal that I’d never had a boyfriend was starting to have an impact on my self-confidence. I believed I wasn’t good enough for anyone.

I’d had enough of trying to find a boyfriend. It was impossible because it doesn’t just happen overnight. In order to combat the unrealistic ideal of finding love, I deleted Tinder and stopped trying to rush into a relationship.

And it worked. The time I had spent swiping left and right and talking to guys I wasn’t interested in was used more wisely. I was a lot happier and even my grades were better.

In that time I realized there’s not a time limit to achieve a milestone of having your first boyfriend. Now I sleep peacefully knowing it is not the be end and end all. It doesn’t matter when it happens because there’s no rush. I may have a boyfriend in the next week, month or year.

I may still be single and writing down my feelings about my non-existent love life.

And if I am still single and not ready to mingle, I will remind myself that it’s ok not to have a boyfriend.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I used to think women who fell in love were fake feminists – until I met my boyfriend

“If you get a boyfriend, you can no longer be my friend.”

That’s what I said to a friend of mine once, only half-jokingly. Exactly how long ago, I’ll never admit, but let’s just say I was a grown girl who called herself an ardent feminist by then. While this might come off as immature or even outright ridiculous to you, to me it seemed like a perfectly normal thing to say.

So many women are told that their relationship status with a man defines them.

That’s because the belief that a woman having a man in her life makes her somehow superior to other women was so firmly entrenched in my mind, I failed to see just how anti-feminist that statement was.

Ever since I was a self-conscious, timid girl in her early teens, I was told that having a boyfriend was the best thing that could happen to me.

Well, no one actually said that to me, but why else would girls with boyfriends act like they owned the world? Why did they boast about their first kisses and perfect dates while boyfriend-less girls sighed enviously?

As I grew up, I began to think that maybe the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend meant that something was wrong with me. I was thirsty for male validation, and in the process, committed blunder after blunder in order to gain male attention, sometimes ignoring my self-worth while doing so.

I liked to think that I was being bold and fearless, and I was – but to what end? Why did I feel it was so important that I get “accepted” by a member of the opposite sex? Why did having to give love advice to my friends who had boyfriends make me bitter? Why did I long for the male gaze to finally rest on me approvingly, why did I ache for a boy’s loving touch?

As I write these words, I feel so angry at myself – I would sneer at a girl who shared those views today, but that girl was me, not very long ago. I thought Bella and Disney princesses who wait around for their savior princes were horrible, but what was I?

I was an intelligent, creative, and badass girl who felt like she wasn’t worth anything because the guy who she liked rejected her. I was a feminist with views that would put Donald Trump’s sexism to shame.

And I know I’m not the only one.

So many women subconsciously judge other women for being single – maybe she’s too cold, maybe she doesn’t try hard enough. So many women look past their achievements to their empty ring-fingers and feel like failures.

I thought Bella and Disney princesses who wait around for their savior princes were horrible, but what was I?

So many women are told that their relationship status with a man defines them.

Men aren’t incomplete without women. So why are women incomplete without men?