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Wedding

Struggling To Get Pregnant? 5 Ways To Practice Self-Care During A Tricky Time

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Deciding to try for a baby is a huge moment for a couple — and there may be months or years of conversations, decisions, and debating before you even decide to give it a go. There can be so much buildup and then…waiting. When we talk about trying to get pregnant, we don’t talk enough about the delay. Sure, some people get pregnant right away — but most aren’t so lucky. In fact, one study showed that in women under the age of 37 with no fertility problems, only 45 percent of couples will conceive within three months.

In fact 60 to 65 percent manage within six months, 85 percent have it happen within a year, and 93 percent within 18 months. That means that 7 percent of women with no fertility problems still haven’t conceived after a year and a half of trying — that’s nearly one in ten. And around one in seven couples struggle with fertility issues. What does this all mean? Most couples have a waiting period when they’re trying to get pregnant — and some couples have a very long wait.

And yet, despite just how normal this is, we don’t talk about it. Couples who struggle to get pregnant can feel impatient, awkward, or even ashamed — and women often feel the burden particularly acutely. So if you’re struggling to get pregnant, please remember that it’s totally normal and that you haven’t done anything wrong. Take a deep breath and take care of yourself. Here are 5 self-care tips is you’re struggling to get pregnant, because it’s important to be gentle with yourself.

Make Time For Yourself, Every Day

When you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s easy to get obsessed. Between tracking your cycle, scheduling in enough time to have sex, and preparing for what pregnancy will be like, you can spend all of your time focused on the fact that you’re trying to get pregnant — and that it hasn’t happened yet. So take a step back. Make time for yourself every day that has nothing to do with getting pregnant, sex, fertility, or even your partner. Maybe it’s getting a massage, maybe it’s going for a walk, maybe it’s just zoning out to Netflix. But give yourself a timeout, even if only have 10 minutes, every day.

Take Breaks When You Need It

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, sex can become a joyless affair. You might have a rigid schedule, you might have a sense of duty or obligation, and you might even be putting a lot of pressure on yourself — and your partner. But that’s going to wear on you. If it’s feeling like all of the fun has gone out of it and it’s a chore, take a break. It doesn’t make you a bad want-to-be mom if you don’t have sex for a few days — or even a few weeks. Give yourself some time to reset, mentally and physically, and it will help the whole process feel better.

Talk To Your Friends

It’s important that, if you feel comfortable, you’re open with your friends and family about what you’re going through. You don’t need to tell every person, but reach out to someone you trust if you feel like you need support. And if you have friends with kids or friends who are pregnant and you’re struggling to be around them, don’t be afraid to open about why. There’s so much stigma around struggling to conceive, but that stigma only exists because we aren’t being honest with each other. You might even find other women you know who have been through the same thing.

Create A Soothing Environment

Little touches can do wonders for your mental health — and your environment is an often overlooked area of self-care. Plush pillows, cozy blankets, comforting colors, even a few candles — there are so many ways you can improve your living space and make your home feel like a treat. The right environment can help you destress, which isn’t just good for the soul, it’s great for your mental health.

See more: 5 Things You Should Do After Sex to Ensure Reproductive Health

Prioritize Sleep

Finally, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you’re feeling anxious and stressed about trying to get pregnant, it may be that sleep has stopped coming naturally. So make sure you’re not only giving yourself enough time to get a full eight hours, but also that you do whatever it is that helps you sleep. For some people, exercise makes all the difference to their mental health and sleep schedule. For others, it’s meditation before bed or avoiding technology — or a hot bath with Epsom salts. Find a routine that works for you and make sure to prioritize keeping it.

Trying to get pregnant can be an incredibly stressful time, so it’s important to take care of yourself. And, more than any self-care tip, remember that struggling to get pregnant is not the fault of you as a person, a woman, or as a want-to-be-mother. You have not done anything wrong — and the fact that society paints getting pregnant as a woman’s responsibility is unfair and untrue. So just remember that it takes time — and make yourself a priority during the process.

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Wedding

Do Friendships Really Change After Marriage?

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When we talk about how your life changes after marriage, the focus is normally on your relationship. And that’s for a good reason: You and your partner are embarking on a new stage of your lives, and that can feel like a huge shift. But that shift can have a domino effect and, in some cases, you might find the new routine ripples out, changing other areas of your life.

One area that can really be affected is your friendships. There’s this idea that when couples finally get married, they disappear into domestic bliss and are never heard from again. But is that really what happens? Does marriage really change your relationship with your friends? And are your married friends really lost forever? The answer is no…well, not necessarily. Marriage can be a transformative experience or it can barely shift a thing. It depends on the couple and their group of friends. Here’s what you have to keep in mind.

It Depends on the Pre-Marriage Relationship

One of the reasons we imagine marriage as a totally transformative experience is because, at one time, it was. Couples moved in and spent real time together for the first time—often also having sex for the first time and immediately trying to get pregnant. So of course marriage would change their entire lives, including their friendships. Even if you made a huge effort to keep up your relationships with your friends and family, it’s easy to see how getting married could change pretty much everything.

But now, many couples are essentially living married lives far before they tie the knot. If marriage is just confirming things on paper, but your whole life is already set up together, then there’s no reason that things have to change. Sure, some couples don’t move in together or take those big steps until they officially say “I do,” but for most couples, their lives can stay pretty much intact.

Changes Reveal a Larger Problem

Things don’t have to change, but sometimes they change anyway. There is no conceivable reason why marriage has to have an impact on your friendships. In fact, a strong marriage should involve two people who come together but maintain their separate lives—including great friendships, interesting hobbies, and time apart. But some people, for one reason or another, do find their friendships totally unable to survive their new marital status.

Why would somebody want a friendship to change because of marriage? It may be that the friendship was not really working any more, and one person wanted to call it off or let it fade away, but it normally comes from an insecurity on one or both sides. If you’ve always defined yourself by your relationship, dreamed of being a husband or wife, and feel insecure about your attachment to your partner, you may throw yourself into married life and pleasing your spouse at the expense of everything else. On the other hand, if you’re single and feel insecure about not being in the relationship you want to be in and feel like all of your friends are getting married and abandoning you, you may feel resentful and start to pull back from your married friends. And sometimes, both of these things happen. So it’s not the marriage itself that’s causing the friendship to deteriorate, it’s having an unhealthy relationship with your own relationship status—and letting that impact your friendships.

You May Have to Fight for the Friendship

Because there’s such a heavy connotation on marriage—and such a pointless adversarial view on being married versus being single—it’s easy for resentments to bubble between married and unmarried friends. But it’s important to see through what is, frankly, total BS. The only reason there’s an awkwardness between being married and being single is the much larger issue—that women are judged so heavily on their relationship status. Single women wouldn’t feel self-conscious about being single when all their friends are married—and married women wouldn’t feel the need to become obsessed with their relationship—if as a society we didn’t place so much of a women’s value on whether they are married or not. So if you find that your relationship status, whatever that may be, comes between you and your friend, it’s time to take a step back and have a much larger conversation about where those insecurities and resentments are coming from.

See more: How to Keep Your Independence in a Long-Term Relationship

In the 21st century, there’s no reason why a friendship has to suffer because of a marriage—marriages just don’t change our day-to-day that much. But, sometimes, social conditioning and societal expectations can get in the way. If you feel like getting married—or having a friend getting married—is doing something to your relationship with them, try to sit down and talk it out. Your friendship is worth fighting through those societal expectations, so have the tricky conversations and try to rise above it.

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Maldives-Holiday

THIS Is The Most Common Source Of Relationship Stress

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Every relationship is different—they all have their own benefits, their own struggles, their own quirks, and their own history. But there are some aspects of relationships that, for better or for worse, are almost universal. In fact, there are certain forms of relationship stress that come up again and again, in all types of relationships in all different areas of the world. And the number one source of relationship stress? Well, again and again, studies show that it comes down to one thing: money.

Money is a huge source of stress in a relationship. Firstly, many of us are awkward talking about money, so we never develop a good communication strategy to have the tricky conversations. Secondly, sometimes there’s simply not enough of it—and that affects every part of our lives. Thirdly, whether there’s enough money or not, having different attitudes towards money and styles of spending and saving can cause stress—there’s a whole lot that can go wrong.

Money is definitely a huge issue—and there’s no denying that it consistently comes in as the top source of relationship stress, but it’s far from the only relationship killer. Here are the other (dis)honorable mentions in the relationship stress category, because the more you know about potential downfalls, the more you can protect yourself against them.

Kids

This is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. Data has shown that couples with children tend to be less happy in their relationship than childless couples—and there’s no denying that children can put a huge amount of stress on your relationship. Your sex life suffers, you don’t have any time for yourselves as a couple or just as person, your needs and wants are all suddenly sidelined. Does that mean you shouldn’t have kids? Of course not—for some couples, it’s clearly the right choice. But be honest about how much it will stress your relationship and try to prepare for that, by checking in regularly and finding time together when you can.

Poor Communication

In a way, it’s wrong to call poor communication a relationship killer—because there’s a good chance that if your communication is poor, your relationship is never going to get off the ground, at least not in a healthy way. Poor communication means that you’ll struggle to develop intimacy, trust, and a life together—but if you do manage to get into a long-term relationship without good communication, it will make things harder every step of the way. When you don’t feel heard, every situation seems more stressful and, importantly, more adversarial. If you’re not approaching things as a team, every interaction can become fraught with anxiety and you don’t feel like you’re getting the support you need. If you find that your communication isn’t up to par you should start to address it as soon as possible, because you need to give yourselves a strong foundation.

Contempt

According to the famed John Gottman of the Gottman Institute—who has spent decades studying marriages and their breakdowns—there is one single factor that can predict relationship breakdown more than anything else: contempt. Though he points to four factors that can really wreak havoc on relationships (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling), he says by far the most destructive is contempt. If you find your partner sneers at or belittles you—or you find yourself feeling disgusted by them, that’s a major problem. Judging or feeling contemptuous toward each other is bound to create a huge amount of stress in a relationship and, if Gottman has anything to say about it, can lead to its downfall. If there’s a lot of contempt in your relationship, you may need to look at whether it’s the right relationship for you.

Unrealistic Expectations

Finally, this is a source of relationship stress that isn’t talked about often enough—having unrealistic expectations. Lifelab founder Tristan Coopersmith and Evie Shafner, LMFT both point to unrealistic expectations as a huge source of relationship stress. If you have a vision of ‘true love’, where your perfect soulmate enters your life and completely transforms it into a fairytale, then you are bound to be disappointed. Every time you disagree, have a fight, or even just feel a bit down, then you might start stressing and overthinking—wondering why your relationship isn’t as perfect and transformative as you imagined it would be. Try to let yourself off the hook. Remember that no relationship is perfect, that disagreements are natural and—crucially—that your partner is not single-handedly responsible for your happiness. Your happiness is your job. If you take a more realistic view of what your relationship can and will be, then it should alleviate a lot of the stress.

See more: Why You Get Stressed When Your Partner Is Stressed

Money, kids, communication—there are so many things that can go wrong in a relationship. But this isn’t scaremongering and it shouldn’t make you feel your relationship is doomed to fail. Instead, knowing where the sources of stress can lurk can help you make your relationship stronger, by letting you protect yourself against them. It’s a good reminder to take stock of your relationship once in awhile and make sure you’re in a healthy, happy place. Stress will come your way—that’s just a part of life—but with a strong foundation, you’ll be able to handle it and keep thriving.

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Wedding

How Not To Panic After Your First Fight As A Married Couple

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When you walk down that aisle and pull back the veil to start your life as a married couple, many people talk about it as a beginning. You’re beginning your life together, you’re embarking on a journey, and you’re starting your family. And with this sense of beginning, there’s also the idea of a clean slate—that it all beings now, new and fresh. Which is maybe why, in the middle of your happily ever after, it can feel like a real shock when suddenly you find yourself fighting.

That’s right—married couples fight. Try not to panic. Even though you may know, intellectually, that couples argue whether they’re married or not, there can be something really jarring about your first fight as a married couple. You might feel panicked that you’ve made the wrong decision, you may feel like something’s become tarnished or tainted. But try to take a deep breath and gain a little perspective. Your first fight as a married couple might feel more significant than the fights you had before, but here’s why there’s really no reason to panic.

Marriage Is a Milestone, Not a Beginning

On the most basic level, the idea that marriage is a beginning is a little antiquated. While at one point marriage was the time when people started their life together—when they would first begin living together, sleeping together, or even just spending a significant amount of time together—that is definitely no longer the case. That’s not to say marriage isn’t huge, significant, and important, but you’re probably not starting your life with this person. You probably had disagreements with them before you were married and you’ll keep having them now. That’s OK. Try to think of marriage as a celebration of your relationship, rather than a line in the sand where there’s a before and after. If you expect everything to magically change overnight, then it’s important you sit down and try to be more realistic about your relationship (and what marriage) means.

Good Fighting Is a Good Thing

Whether you’re married or not, it’s crucial to remember that not all fighting is bad. In fact, disagreeing can be really healthy—it shows that you’re both comfortable enough with each other to share how you feel, to be open, and to fight for what feels right to you. As long as you’re being constructive, listening to each other, and willing to find a compromise then fighting is a great way to learn about each other and help solidify your relationship—which is so important in a marriage. If you find that you disagree but you do it in a respectful, healthy way, then you should take that as a great sign that your marriage is on the right track. So try to see disagreements as an opportunity, not a sign of incompatibility.

Everybody Does It

This may seem like a basic point, but it’s one that needs repeating from time to time—everybody fights. Not yelling, screaming, horrible fighting—but disagreeing, stressing each other out, or getting annoyed and just needing a few moments on your own. If a couple doesn’t disagree or bother each other, it’s because they’re not being honest with themselves—or one person is burying down their needs to be totally pliable to their partner. So if you feel weird about your first fight as a married couple, talk to your friends and family. Asking a parent or aunt how they dealt with disagreements early in their marriage can be really reassuring, as can reaching out to married friends. If having a fight makes you feel uneasy, it can help to hear from so many people who have, undoubtedly, been there too.

Your Relationship Is About More Than Its Weakest Point

If you’re fighting with your spouse or going through a difficult time, it’s easy to see this moment, this current weakness, as somehow representative of your relationship as a whole—but your relationship is about so much more than that. Think of all of the things you love about them, all of the ways in which you are compatible, and, maybe most importantly, all of the things that made you want to marry this person in the first place. Sure, you’re disagreeing—but there’s a whole relationship, a whole world, of love and compatibility that you’ve built together.

See more: The First Year of Marriage Is Tough, No Matter How You Spin It

The first fight of a married couple can feel a little unnerving—like the real world suddenly crashes in to ruin your fairy tale. But you don’t need to panic. Your relationship didn’t really turn into a fairy tale just because you got married and it probably wasn’t a fairy tale beforehand, either. This is your life, your relationship, for better and for worse. Disagreeing doesn’t making you incompatible—it just makes you human. If you can handle it in a constructive, healthy way then you’ll be all the stronger for it.

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Maldives-Holiday

How To Keep The Conversations Alive In A Long-Term Relationship

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We’ve all seen them—those silent couples sitting across from each other at dinner or waiting for a bus in an endless quiet, seemingly unable to think of one more thing to say to each other. And though it’s easy to judge them and assume that they’ve just stopped making an effort or let the spark die out, the truth is it can be really difficult to keep the conversation alive, especially if you’re in a long-term relationship. While in those first months (or years) it feels like the conversation never stops, after 5, 8, or 10 years, it’s completely normal to find yourself running aground from time to time. So you shouldn’t feel like it reflects badly on your relationship, it just means it’s time to try and reignite that conversational spark.

The good news is that it’s actually really easy to do. The hardest part is admitting that you’ve fallen into a bit of a rut and deciding you want to break out of it—once you do that, a few simple tweaks will have you on your way. So here’s what you want to keep in mind, because you can keep the conversation going, no matter how long you’ve been together.

Add a New Element

If there’s one thing that can cause a rut—any kind of rut—it’s familiarity. If you eat the same meal at the same table, take the same walk at the same time, buy the same things at the same store, you’ll run out of things to discuss. Just a few small changes—a totally new activity, a new restaurant, a new holiday spot—can make all the difference. Not only will it help shift you out of your comfort zone, but the new element itself will also give you something fresh to talk about.

Don’t Shy From Direct Questions

Sometimes we’ve been with someone for so long that we start to assume that we know how they feel or what they think about everything. Not only does that stop the flow of conversation, it can really take a toll on your relationship and stop you from connecting. So go back to basics and ask the kind of questions you would at the beginning of the relationship. What are your hopes for the next five years? Are you happy? What’s your biggest fear at the moment? What can I do to make your life better? Asking these tough questions, rather than assuming you know the answers, can get the conversation flowing all over again.

Open Up

Similarly, one of the best things for conversations is reciprocity. If you feel like your conversation has stalled, set a good example. Delve deep into what’s on your mind, volunteer information, and share what’s bothering you. Don’t be afraid to share your difficult and negative thoughts, as well as the positive ones. This is your partner, after all, and you should feel comfortable opening up, even if the subject matter isn’t particularly easy.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be personal. You can bring up the complex themes from a book you just read or movie you just watched—anything that’s lingering in your head. If you watched a film or show together, even better—it will make it that much easier to get into the heart of the discussion.

Communicate Little and Often

Even though we often think about good communication as having these huge, meaningful conversations, it actually is a lot simpler than that. The building blocks of those big conversations are much smaller, they’re found in all of the little connections you have throughout the day. So make sure you stay in touch and keep connected to each other—whether that’s having a quick chat in the morning, sending text messages, or just having the occasional impromptu phone call. They’re little gestures, but they make a big difference. It can be difficult—and a little awkward—if you try to make your conversations go from zero to 60. Touching base and keeping the lines of communication open will make it so much easier to have those bigger conversations later on.

Be Present in the Moment

This should go without saying but: Put. The. Phone. Away. If you feel like your communication is lagging—or you just want to keep it as good as it can be—technology is your enemy. To really get into those meaty, fulfilling talks, you need each other’s undivided attention. Your phone shouldn’t be face up on the table—in fact, it shouldn’t be on the table. Away in your pocket is good, but away in the next room is even better.

See more: When Saying Sorry Isn’t Good for Your Relationship

If you’ve been together a long time, it’s totally natural for the conversation to slip a little bit—so don’t stress if you feel like it’s reached a lull. Instead, focus on reconnecting. It won’t take much to have that conversation flowing again.

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Wedding

How To Support Your Partner Through A Career Transition

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While it’s always important to support your partner, there are going to be times when they really need it. It can be difficult to watch our partner struggle, especially when there’s a situation that is genuinely just really hard—like losing a job or transitioning into a new career or passion project. If someone values their career or their work in a way that feels like its an integral part of who they are, any shift can feel seismic. So it’s important that you’re ready with a supportive shoulder and an open mind if your partner is going through a major change.

That being said, it’s not always easy. Admitting that you only have so much agency in a situation, watching your partner feel down, fighting the urge to micromanage—a lot of things can make giving your support complicated. So here’s what you need to keep in mind when your partner is going through a large career transition, because it’s about way more than just being a cheerleader.

Acknowledge the Bad but Focus on the Good

When we’re trying to support someone, it’s natural to want to jump to the positives. If someone loses their job, you may want to say, “It’s a great opportunity!” or “They weren’t good enough for you!” If someone is starting a new passion project or career, you don’t want to talk about how scary it is, you want to talk about how exciting it is. But actually, sometimes people just need their struggles acknowledged. Sometimes, just saying “That sucks, I’m sorry,” is a great way to make them feel heard. Sure, you should focus on the good and try to get them excited about the future, but you also shouldn’t ignore the fact that their scared or suffering.

Ask How You Can Support Them

It may just be easier to just come right out and ask. If you’re finding it difficult to support your partner, try just saying “What can I do? How can I help?” Rather than assuming you know what they need, let them be the ones to tell you. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to listen to them if you think they’re being unreasonable—but it’s a great place to start the conversation.

Don’t Micromanage

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be desperate to know what’s going on, what their plans are, what the next step is, etc.. You’ll want to ask if they’ve applied for that job, if they’ve followed up on that job, if they’re thinking about getting their own studio, or if they’ve booked anything yet. Take a deep breath. Take a step back. If your partner has just had a knock to their confidence, they don’t need you treating them like you’re a parent rather than a partner. Of course, if your they’re doing something that’s self-destructive or harming you, that’s a problem—but if they’re just handling the situation differently than you would, that’s OK. And, ultimately, it’s their decision.

Ask the Big Questions

If they’re going through a transition period—whether they’re starting a new job, are trying to figure out what to do next, or have pulled a total 180—it’s a good time to talk about the future. That doesn’t mean putting pressure on them to come up with a five-year plan, it means reassessing what their priorities are, how they’re feeling, and if their needs are being met. Unexpected curve balls in your life—especially in your employment—can be a great opportunity to really open things up and calibrate.

See more: Why Being Supportive of Your Partner’s Career Is Essential in a Marriage

Set Some Boundaries to Protect Yourself

Even though it’s your partner going through this difficult time, it’s OK to acknowledge that it’s difficult for you too. Having an unhappy partner isn’t easy—especially if it’s an unhappy partner with a lot of time on their hands, waiting for you to return home from work every day. So make sure that you’re protecting yourself. This means making time for your own needs and self-care, rather than spending every moment focused on being a support system. But it also means, in the larger sense, making your needs from your partner clear. If they want to take some time to figure things out and experiment, that’s fine—but if you need there to be limits and an end date on that, that’s fine, too. Even if they’re having a rough time, there should still be room for communication, negotiation, and compromise. Make sure that you acknowledge their feelings and give them the room that they need, but you can also try to create a forward momentum. Most importantly, make sure that you’re doing your best to tackle the issues as a team, because that’s how you’re going to get through it.

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Maldives-Holiday

Why Being Vulnerable Is So Important To Your Relationship

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When we talk about relationships, we often romanticize the idea of “opening up to someone”—sharing secrets, fears, mistakes, hopes, and every little detail about ourselves. And for some people, this comes naturally—they can bubble up and overflow with personal insights, happily sharing them with someone they hardly know in order to form a deep connection with another person. But for others… well, it’s anything but natural. Because although opening yourself up to another person is an amazing experience that allows your to create real intimacy, it can also be terrifying. Opening yourself up to someone means making yourself vulnerable and, for some of us, that doesn’t come very easily.

It may be because you’ve been hurt before, so the idea of opening yourself to someone else again may seem like a potentially painful experience. It may just be that, on an innate level, you’re not as open about your feelings—you’re a little more private or guarded. It’s not a bad thing. But, if you want to create a real connection in your relationship, you have to be willing to open yourself up. Here’s how you can really make yourself vulnerable in a relationship, because it’s time to stop thinking about it as a bad thing.

Take Stock Of Your History

If you’re going to open yourself up to someone, that may mean having to close some old wounds—it’s painful, but it’s time. If you find it difficult to trust or make yourself vulnerable, look for the roots of this behavior in your past. You may find that there’s a difficult relationship with a parent or an ex that’s left you feeling guarded. Try to spend some time processing that relationship—getting professional help if you need it—and coming to terms with it. Talk it through with your partner, so they can understand why you struggle with vulnerability.

Be Honest With Yourself

For many of us who struggle with vulnerability, it’s easier to pretend that we don’t have any. So rather than admitting that we feel lonely, scared, hurt, frustrated, or angry, we just pretend that we don’t feel those emotions as strongly as other people. We’re tough. But one of the crucial steps toward being vulnerable with someone else is being vulnerable with yourself—and gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the emotions you have, own up to them, maybe even write them down. You are allowed to be a person with feelings, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities—it’s part of what makes you human.

Talk To Your Partner

One thing that makes vulnerability easier is reciprocity—it’s a give and take. If you try to make yourself share your biggest secrets and fears with someone who doesn’t give anything back, of course you’re going to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. Through talking to your partner about your difficulties with vulnerability and trying to open up to them, you should see that they are willing to reciprocate. As they share more of themselves, you can feel safer knowing that you’re on an equal playing field and that you have each other’s best interests at heart. Note that, when you share with them, they’re probably being compassionate, sympathetic, and supportive. The more you experience that—and recognize that it’s happening—the easier it should be to share in the future.

See more: Why Playing Hard To Get Is A Really Bad Idea

Move Slowly And Check In Regularly

You may find that the process of making yourself vulnerable—especially if you haven’t done it before—can be a little emotionally exhausting. If it makes you feel frizzy and frayed, that’s totally normal. The crucial thing is to take it easy on yourself. This means that making yourself vulnerable should be a slow and steady process. It’s not about opening yourself up and letting everything pour out of you in one night. It’s about getting closer and more open, little by little, until you feel truly comfortable with this person.

You may find it easier if you actually make a concerted effort to have the difficult conversations and check in about how you’re feeling—you might even want to have a schedule. It may sound a little over the top or constricting, but saying that you’re just going to check in about your relationship every Sunday night and have an easy chat about how you’re feeling can make a huge difference. It provides a platform for you to open up, express concerns, and share your feelings—something you might be hesitant to do otherwise. And, because you know that these conversations will happen regularly, it will take the pressure off so you don’t feel like you need to spew out all of your emotions and experiences in one night.

If being vulnerable doesn’t come easily to you, that’s OK—everybody is different and experiences emotional intimacy in different ways. As long as you’re working toward opening up and making yourself vulnerable, what’s the most important thing. Talk to your partner, take it slowly, and get help if you need it. Ultimately, vulnerability is just another form of openness, the foundation of your relationship. So rather than seeing it as a weakness, remember that you’re actually trying to make yourselves a stronger couple. You’ll get there, just give it time and be gentle with yourself.

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Wedding

When Saying Sorry Isn't Good For Your Relationship

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“I’m sorry.” If you’re a woman, there’s a good chance you use this phrase a lot—in fact, you probably use it way too much. That’s not your fault. Women are taught and socialized to say sorry—to feel sorry—whether they’re in the wrong or not. It’s a form of deference, it’s a way of making ourselves smaller, or just appeasing. And even though it becomes such an ingrained part of our vocabularies that we often rattle off apologies without even thinking, it’s not good for us—and it’s not good for our relationships, romantic and otherwise.

Because all too frequently, those apologies aren’t real apologies at all. They’re said out of a sense of duty or awkwardness, to stop someone getting angry or to hide the fact that we’re angry ourselves. So it’s time to take a little inventory of our “I’m sorry” habit—and look at when an apology isn’t an apology at all. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

When Do You Need To Apologize?

It might sound very basic, but if you find yourself constantly deferring and apologizing, it’s time to touch base and remember when an apology is actually necessary. You need to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. That’s it. Not when someone’s mad at you for no reason; not when you want to take the blame just to diffuse a confrontation. When you’ve messed up and if you’ve hurt someone—that’s when you should apologize. It’s a form of accountability, a way of saying that you’re taking responsibility, acknowledging their pain, and promising that you will do better in the future.

Of course, you can also say you’re sorry for situations that have nothing to do with you. If your friend gets fired, if your brother gets dumped, it’s totally understandable to say, “I’m so sorry that happened.” But that’s different than saying you’re sorry for something you did.

When An Apology Isn’t Actually An Apology

Although apologizing can be a great thing—a responsible, mature thing—all too often our “apologies” aren’t apologies at all. Pay attention to why you’re saying sorry. You might find that you’re apologizing because your partner is angry with you and, even though it’s not your fault, you don’t want to start a fight. You may find that you apologize because you just don’t know what else to say. You might find yourself apologizing without even realizing it—because it comes out of your mouth before you realize what’s happening. You may even say it when you’re upset or you’ve been wronged, because it’s just easier.

In all of these cases, the non-apology is doing you a huge disservice. Not only is not respecting your real feelings and needs, it’s also a cork that stops the flow of actual communication. Rather than having the difficult conversation, it’s a way of forcing things under the rug and moving along as swiftly as possible. Now, you may have a good reason for this—if you’ve been in an abusive or controlling relationship, you might have developed it as a form of self-protection. But in a healthy relationship, saying “I’m sorry” when it’s not warranted only stunts your relationship growth and stops you from getting to the bottom of what’s really going on.

So instead of just glossing over it, try to dig a little deeper—even if it means having an uncomfortable disagreement. It might mean standing up for yourself—pointing out that you haven’t done anything wrong and so you’re not going to apologize, which can be difficult at first—but is so crucial for your overall sense of self worth. You need to trust yourself and love yourself enough to stand your ground.

See more: Here’s How to Apologize—The Right Way

Non-Apologies From Your Partner

Even though women are more socialized than men to apologize, if you’re in a heterosexual relationship it’s still important to keep an eye out for non-apologies. If you get the feeling that your partner is saying that they’re sorry without really meaning it—like, “I’m sorry you’re upset…”—this is very different than actually taking responsibility for their actions. If you sense that your partner is also using faux-apologies as a way to gloss over things, it’s another sign that your communication is faltering. So try to push for having a more open discussion, knowing that this will also mean that you need to be open to listening to your partner’s point of view, even if you don’t always like what they have to say.

We get so used to saying “I’m sorry,” that we often stop thinking about why we’re saying it in the first place. If you take the time to be mindful about when you apologize, you might just find that many of your apologies are actually something totally different. So take a step back and notice when you’re using apologies instead of having the tough conversations and standing up for yourself. The more honest you are, the stronger you—and your relationship—will become.

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Why Playing Hard To Get Is A Really Bad Idea

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I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before. Maybe from an aunt, your mother, or a grandmother — or maybe even from someone your own age. For some reason, one of the worst pieces of dating advice is one one that’s stood the test of time: If you like someone, you should play hard to get.

No, no you really, really shouldn’t.

For someone reason, this idea of playing hard to get hasn’t just permeated our dating culture, it’s helped shape it. A woman, coy and aloof, doesn’t rebuke a man’s attention—instead she just ignores it completely. The man, driven wild by her apathy, pursues her aggressively. Suddenly, the big reveal — she was interested all along! True love blooms!

It sounds pretty gross, right? That’s because it is. Here’s why playing hard to get isn’t a good idea.

It’s Straight Up Game-Playing

Playing hard to get is, essentially, lying. You really like someone, but instead you tell them that you’re not interested — the opposite of the truth. You lie. And when has it ever been a good idea to start a relationship off on a lie? If you start by playing hard to get, there’s no reason that your partner should ever trust you.

Even more than that, playing hard to get treats your relationship like a game. A romance blossoming between two people should be built on mutually sharing, communication, and being vulnerable to one another — it should be something that you create together. It should be something authentic. Playing hard to get and swapping barbed insults might be entertaining in a Shakespearean comedy, but it’s a hollow, if not destructive, foundation on which to build a relationship.

It’s Another Way We Tell Women To Minimize Their Feelings

Playing hard to get is theoretically relationship advice — something that’s meant to help you, ultimately, get what you want. And maybe when a friend or aunt tells you to do it, they do genuinely have your best interest at heart. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that telling a woman to pretend she’s not interested feels like another way of suffocating and silencing her. It says, “Your emotions aren’t meant to be shown, your feelings shouldn’t be voiced. Be quiet — that’s when a man will want you.” Buried in the ‘playing hard to get’ advice is a really old-fashioned, misogynistic message.

Instead, why not find someone who likes you for speaking your mind? When you don’t play hard to get, when you own your emotions and you communicate them in a grown-up way, you can find someone who likes you for you — for your honesty, maturity, and candor. Dating advice shouldn’t just be about finding a partner, it should be about finding the right partner, someone who’s going to value being with you in all of your glory. So be honest, be direct, be open. Feel confident in your feelings — and empowered enough to share them. If someone doesn’t like that, then they’re just not the right person for you.

It Promotes Rape Culture

It’s true. Sure, it’s one of those pieces of advice that’s been banging around for so long that it’s easy to write it off as “quaint” or “old-fashioned,” but playing hard to get actually reinforces a much more sinister mentality. Playing hard to get perpetuates an idea that when a woman says “no” she means “yes” — one of the foundations of rape culture. Telling a woman to hide her feelings only to reveal them later is incredibly damaging — for young women and for young men. We want to teach young people that “no” means “no” and “yes” means “yes” — in a romantic setting and in a sexual one. Doing anything else is a huge disservice — and potentially very dangerous.

Instead, let’s embrace enthusiastic consent — in romantic pursuits as much as anything else. Not playing hard to get, especially at a young age, means engaging in tricky conversations about feelings and emotions. It means being open and navigating difficult territory. It means, ultimately, becoming better communicators and better partners — and isn’t that ultimately what we want for the next generation? If so, then we have to start by setting the example — and handing it down.

See more: There’s a Reason You Never Like the “Nice Guy”

When someone tells you to “play hard to get” — maybe even if you’ve suggested it yourself — they probably didn’t have any ill-intent in mind. It feels like it should be harmless advice, even good advice — it’s been around for so long, after all. But the truth is, there’s a lot that’s problematic and downright dangerous about encouraging women to play hard to get and teaching men that women like to play hard to get. So instead, let’s promote candor, courage, and respect for each other’s emotions — and a world where we all know that “no” never means “yes.”

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Wedding

What Is Texting Anxiety and How Is It Affecting Your Relationship?

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You know that anxious knot you get in your stomach when you’ve sent a text and are worried about a reply? Or that itchy feeling you get when your phone is dead and you know you’re supposed to be getting an update? As many of us know, texting anxiety is no joke. But what you may not realize is that it’s not just about looking at your phone too frequently—for some, the anxiety associated with texting culture is turning into a serious mental health issue.

If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety already, it’s easy to see why texting would exacerbate that. Although texting has been around for almost 25 years, it’s only since Blackberrys and other smartphones burst onto the stage that texting really took over. Suddenly, it wasn’t the occasional, painstakingly written message popping up on your Nokia, it was being constantly accessible to everyone you know—friends, partners, even your colleagues and bosses. We’re expected to answer quickly, even engage in full conversations via text, wherever we are. And, with many of us having group texts with our friends, it’s easy to get major FOMO—and keep checking your phone, just in case.

If this sounds like you, here’s what you know about texting anxiety and how to combat it—because it’s a serious issue that’s definitely on the rise.

The Extent of the Problem

Constant text message conversations mean that you have endless opportunities to feel left out—you send something out into the world, and until you get feedback it’s easy to feel anxious. Sometimes that anxiety can be so high it translates into physical symptoms—many of us have had the sweaty-palmed, jittery feeling when we’re waiting for a crucial reply. It’s not in your head. In fact, in one study by the American Psychological Association’s, one-fifth of Americans associated their phone with stress. These were devices that we thought were designed to make our lives easier, but for many of us they’ve been anything but. Combine text message anxiety with the stress of being constantly available and plugged-in to the world around you, sleeping with your phone near your head, and our often unhealthy relationship with social media—and you have a recipe for disaster.

How to Treat It

Texting anxiety has become such a problem that there is already research being done on how to combat it. Sometimes the anxiety around texting is its own issue—while texting and phone usage can also compound already existing problems, such as anxiety or depression. In either case, there are a range of methods that people are turning to for treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are sometimes used, as are SSRIs.

If you feel like you have problems controlling your phone use—or find that waiting for text responses or the pressure to send text messages is causing you anxiety—then there’s one simple step you can take. The first thing to try is, maybe unsurprisingly, use your phone less. It sounds flippant, but it’s a crucial part of many treatment plans and something you can try at home for free. Setting designated times a day when you use your phone—during your lunch break, on the bus—and sticking to only those times can be a total game-changer.

This can be especially helpful if the people around you, like your partner or your children, feel affected by the amount of time you spend on your phone. Make an agreement to make shared time, like dinner or movie night, a phone-free space. If you can set down some solid boundaries about when you will and won’t text, you may find that it helps combat your anxiety—if not, you may want to consider seeking help. So many of us have trouble controlling how much we use our phones—they’re designed to hold our attention, after all—so there’s no shame in the struggle.

A Larger Movement

All of this is troubling—but there’s one fundamental truth that is perhaps the most troubling of all: The problem doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. When phones—and the apps and websites on them—are all competing for your attention, it becomes almost impossible not to get sucked into their anxiety-inducing ecosphere. That’s why we’re seeing groups like the Center for Humane Technology trying to deal with this problem on a more fundamental level; and some phones now allow you to track and curb your usage right in the settings. Hopefully, these are signs toward a larger movement of looking at the root of the problem—the technology itself. But until we see bolder, more progressive changes, we all need to try to establish a responsible relationship with our phones. And that might just start with curbing our texting.

See more: How to Stop “Cricketing” Your Partner

While there’s a lot to be said for being able to communicate with friends and family all around the world at any time, there’s no doubt that the anxiety and stress that have come with that privilege can be crippling. If you feel like you have anxiety around your phone use, try putting up some boundaries as soon as possible. If that doesn’t improve your situation, never feel ashamed to get help—your phone just isn’t worth sacrificing your mental health.

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Wedding

What You Need To Know About Chemical Exposure During Pregnancy

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There’s no doubt that there’s an over-policing of pregnant women and their bodies. There is constant scare mongering in the headlines, saying that you have to eat something or the baby will suffer—but then the very next moment women are told they can’t eat that very same thing or the baby will suffer. They shouldn’t gain too much weight, but they shouldn’t gain too little. We remind them that it’s their duty to be constantly vigilant and place a completely unrealistic, often nonsensical burden on them, filled with competing advice.

And yet, with all of the advice that’s flying around (much of it completely nonscientific) there is one very big, very real bit of advice that doesn’t come up. Exposure to chemicals during pregnancy is a real thing—and we’re not talking about it. But, more than that, doctors aren’t talking about, even though they know they should.

As much as I’m hesitant to pile on one more thing that pregnant need to worry about, this one has been backed by science and is definitely worth your attention. Chemical exposure is a real problem and, though it’s definitely not something to start feeling guilty about or panicking over, it’s good to be informed. Here’s what you need to know.

Exposure to Chemicals Is Ubiquitous

We’re all at risk of chemical exposure—and it has major health consequences. These consequences don’t just affect full-grown adults; they can also affect a developing fetus. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been very clear on this point—so much so that it published an entire report on it. “Exposure to environmental chemicals and metals in air, water, soil, food, and consumer products is ubiquitous,” the report said. “An analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2003–2004 found that virtually every pregnant woman in the United States is exposed to at least 43 different chemicals.”

When testing the blood or urine of pregnant women, it’s not unusual to find chemicals that we would normally see in cleaning supplies, plastics, and other substances you probably wouldn’t want anywhere near your fetus. The report also pointed out that because chemicals can gather in the womb, fetuses sometimes end up with more exposure than the mother. Exposure was also found to be exacerbated by socio-economic concerns, with those living in poverty receiving greater exposure.

The consequences can be huge. The report pointed out that prenatal exposure to certain pesticides has been linked to an increase in the risk for cancer in childhood. And yet, despite the high risk and the scale of the threat, doctors aren’t talking about it.

A Profession-Wide Reluctance

With the huge threat posed by chemicals—and the fact that, depressingly, they seem to exist practically everywhere and in everything—you might imagine that chemical exposure would come high on the list when talking to pregnant women about risks, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, one study found that 85 percent of doctors don’t feel comfortable bringing up chemical exposure with their patients—and only 40 percent bring it up at all. Perhaps most worryingly, only 10 percent said that they’d even know how to advise their patients on reducing chemical exposure, if it even came up. The rest, presumably, wouldn’t even know where to begin.

And that may be part of the problem. With the ubiquity of chemicals, talking to a patient about reducing exposure can feel futile—as it’s virtually impossible to avoid exposure altogether. Not only that, many doctors are already aware of the stress and pressures placed on pregnant women and don’t want to add to the pile. Plus, not everyone can afford organic food or change their job or their home because of pollutants. It’s just not realistic.

See more: 6 Websites Every Pregnant Woman Should Know About

Simple, Clear Guidelines

But just because it’s not always realistic or there are certain limitations to the changes that can be made is no reason to avoid the topic altogether—far from it. Instead, pregnant women need something clear and comprehensive to help them navigate the confusing and often overwhelming world of potential chemical exposure. And, luckily, there are some signs that this could be in the pipeline. In fact, groups like the Environment and Reproduction Special Interest Group at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine provides resources and exposure assessment forms for doctors to help instigate the conversation and tackle the issue.

Pregnant women are under so much stress and conflicting advice, that it’s easy to feel hesitant about adding to their load. But when there are scientifically backed risks that the entire obstetric and gynecological profession agrees on, it’s too important to ignore. Yes, bringing it up can be difficult and we need clear advice, rather than hysterical or catastrophizing language. But what’s obvious is, we need to be opening up the conversation—rather than shutting it down.

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There's a Reason You Never Like the “Nice Guy”

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Do nice guys really finish last? As much as we like to think that kind-heartedness and open-mindedness will always be rewarded, a new study published in Psychological Science journal has confirmed that sometimes things don’t always work out for the nice guy—or gal, for that matter. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t still strive to be the best version of yourself—far from it. Instead, by looking at these findings we can learn a lot about how we treat each other during tense or competitive situations, like on the dating scene, for instance.

So why do the do-gooders of this world sometimes rub us up the wrong way? And why do we punish them? Here’s what you need to know.

No, Not Those Nice Guys

Now, first of all, this evidence is definitely not supporting the common and misogynist “women never like nice guys” argument. The guys who call themselves “nice guys,” but still think they’re entitled to your attention and, ultimately, to have sex with you—and who suddenly flip out and show how awful they actually are when you reject them. And, far too many times, women end up feeling bad and like they need to let these guys down gently, despite the fact that they have literally no obligation to be attracted to this person. It’s infuriating.

But that’s not what this study was about—and it’s important to differentiate a bias against genuine do-gooders from men who label themselves as nice when they’re often just the opposite. Those are not nice guys. Instead, what this study looked at was genuine nice people—men and women—and how being nice can sometimes work against you.

Antisocial Punishment And Do-Gooder Derogation

It may sound bizarre but, as much we sometimes like to see the good guy come out on top, there are also times when we, maybe without even knowing it, like to punish the good guy. The study set up two scenarios when participants could “punish” other players in a game meant to test their aptitude for cooperation. In the games where there was more competition, participants were more likely to “punish” a do-gooder or someone who was too helpful or cooperative. It’s known as antisocial punishment or do-gooder derogation and it means that when someone is too cooperative, too congenial, too easy to get along with, we can actually have a negative response toward them.

Why? Well, in simple terms, we don’t like being shown up. Especially in a competitive situation—whether that’s playing a game or, say, competing for a mate—it’s not nice to feel like we look bad. Now, that’s not to say that we actively decide to knock them down a peg or two, Instead, it’s often a far more subtle effect. In the heat of the moment or if we’re feeling vulnerable, we may unconsciously do things to try to knock them down a level, instead of striving to improve ourselves.

What This Means For Dating

As I said, this isn’t about a faux nice guy stuck in the so-called friend zone, but these results can still have an impact on our love lives. They may mean that you want to be on the lookout for someone who seems too negative or hyper-critical of those who strive for generosity, self-improvement, or even just have nice personalities. You probably don’t want to be with someone who is threatened by those qualities, rather than celebrating them. Instead, focus on people who don’t seem to want to punish the competition, but rather put their energy into being the best version of themselves.

It’s also important to be aware that you may also take part in do-gooder derogation without meaning to—so be aware of you find yourself being scathing or unfair toward a woman who’s just plain nice, especially if you’re feeling insecure or vulnerable. You may also find yourself doing this in the non-romantic spheres, like feeling disdain toward someone who always goes above and beyond at work or that picture-perfect cousin who always seems to beam with goodness at Thanksgiving. Try to recognize the feeling in yourself and understand where it’s coming from—especially if there’s an insecurity that you haven’t dealt with.

See more: 8 Women on How Their Partner Made Them A Better Person

In fact, the study authors think that you should let the cream rise to the top. If you feel like someone views you negatively because you try to do the right thing, maybe you shouldn’t be wasting your energy on them and, instead, you should look for other people who are interested in doing the right thing, too. “Let the good people pair up with the good people,” Pat Barclay, a professor at the University of Guelph and the study’s co-author told Vice. “and in the end they will be much better off than their critics. Let’s figure out ways to let goodness pay off, because then it will proliferate.” Sounds like good advice.

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Wedding

The Most Common Complaints Of New Parents

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“Yes—but we’ll be different.” It’s a comforting phrase that so many couples have told themselves as they watch their friends flailing and trying to cope with their children. It’s really easy, before you have them, to imagine that you’ll never be a messy mom, that you’ll be able to separate the stress of a new child from how you view your partner, and that both you and your relationship will come out stronger for it. It’s easy to think that way—but that doesn’t make it true.

Having a child is a wonderful, fulfilling, and at times magical experience, but it’s also maddening, stressful, and monopolizes all of your resources—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now, for virtually all parents, the joy of bringing new life definitely outweighs the stress—but it’s important to acknowledge that the stress will be there.

Rather than pretending that you and your partner will somehow breeze through parenthood without a scratch, you can protect your relationship by acknowledging that there will be problems and coming up with coping mechanisms. But how do you know what problems will arise? Here are some of the most common complaints new parents have—and how to cope.

The Lack of Sleep Is Getting to Us

Don’t underestimate the power of chronic sleep loss—it’s something that so many new parents struggle with. It’s not just the being tired, a lack of sleep can also make you irritable, frustrated, and give you a much shorter fuse. Trying to stick to a schedule of taking turns feeding—pumping so your partner can help—can make a huge difference. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you feel like you’re reaching the end of your tether.

One Partner Isn’t Helping Enough

While you might imagine that parenthood will be all about teamwork, it very quickly may not feel that way. When you’re exhausted and stressed, it’s easy to become short-sighted—you see what you’re doing and you’re sure that your partner isn’t doing anything. You notice yourself doing all of the feeding and organizing and diaper changes and you miss the fact that they’re also doing diaper changes and running out to buy diapers, on top of a full-time job. Everyone ends up feeling resentful.

The solution? Talk about it. First of all, try to tune into what your partner is doing and not only be grateful, but express that gratitude. Encourage them to do the same. Talk about what you’re doing and make room for both of you to explain what you’re struggling with and how the other could help. If you both put your cards on the table, it will be an important reminder that you really are in this together.

My In-Laws Are…Everywhere

In-laws are often associated with wedding planning stress but, if you thought that they had a lot of opinions on that, then just wait until you hear what they have to say about your new baby. Although in-laws and grandparents can be total lifesavers in the early days and weeks of parenthood, many of them don’t know their boundaries. There are a lot of outdated, judgmental views on parenting that can rear their ugly head and, because many grandparents feel some ownership over the new children, you may find that there’s a real invasion of personal space. If this is the case, you need to talk to your partner—and if it’s your parents doing the butting in, then you need to talk to them. Sketch out what are helpful ways to be present and involved in the first few months of your baby’s life, but don’t be afraid to shut the door—literally and figuratively—when you need to.

We’re Not Intimate Anymore

Intimacy—both sexual and romantic—takes a real hit after a baby is born. Suddenly, not only are you sleep-deprived and obsessed with keeping this tiny person alive, you’re also constantly invaded by their needs, cries, wants, and well, diapers. Alone time and space have become a thing of the past—and if you manage to get it, you probably want to use it to sleep. If you feel you and your partner growing apart, make sure to take the time touch base with them. Even if you can just try saying, “I’m sorry I’m stressed, I love you, and I can’t wait to get some time with you again.” If you talk about how you’re struggling and make time for some physical intimacy every day—even if that’s just a hug—you’ll keep that connection alive. Then, when your child is a bit older, you can start to schedule date nights and alone time back into your life. But in the meantime, try to be patient and compassionate with each other.

See more: 8 Innovative Baby Products for New Moms

We’re Not on the Same Page

Hopefully, you had some major discussions about your ideas on parenting and how you thought you should raise a child before you decided to have one with this person. But, even if you did, the reality can be very different than your theorizing. It’s common for couples to suddenly feel like they’re not actually on the same page as much as they thought they would be. If this is the case, you need to take a moment to reaffirm your values—remind yourself of the type parents you want to be, while also giving yourself a break. Try not to obsess over little diversions from your plan—like giving your child an extra treat or not sticking to sleep training—and focus on big-picture issues. If you’re still sticking to your core values and trying to make yourselves a stronger, happier family, then that’s what’s important.

The truth is, parenthood can wreak havoc on your relationship—but you can get through it. The trick is not to think that you’re above it or to feel so guilty about admitting what’s happening—or burying it under the carpet. Instead, be open about about the fact that you’re struggling, try to talk to your partner, and, more than anything, ask for help when you need it.

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Wedding

Period Myths That Need To Be Busted—And Some Facts You Should Know

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Periods are mysterious things—not just because they have a habit of showing up unannounced that one day you decided to wear a white power suit, but because despite being a monthly occurrence for half of the world’s population, there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings that surround our menstrual cycles. And there shouldn’t be. Not only are some of the myths out there potentially dangerous, but there’s also the more basic fact that young women should be empowered with an understanding of their body—and their menstrual cycle in particular. Some irregularities in your menstrual cycle are normal, while some can be a sign of a larger problem—but, beyond showing them where to buy tampons and pads, we do very little to educate young women about their periods.

So here are some period myths that need to be busted—and some other facts you should know, because your period doesn’t have to be a mystery.

Myth: You Can’t Get Pregnant On Your Period

You really, really, can. This is one of the most dangerous myths out there. Although in a way it makes sense to think that your period—your uterine lining being shed—is basically the opposite of pregnancy, many people don’t realize that sperm can live inside the body for a long time, even up to five days. So if you have unprotected sex during your period, you can still get pregnant. It’s rare, but it happens.

Fact: Orgasms Can Make Your Period Shorter

You’re welcome. Because your period is your body shedding your uterine lining, the contractions of an orgasm actually make you shed that lining faster—thus, orgasms make your period shorter. Whether they’re with a partner or alone, that’s one big benefit.

Myth: You’ll Sync Up With Your Friends

I’ve totally felt like I’ve fallen into sync with my roommates—or my girlfriend—from time to time, but it turns out that’s mostly in your head. Yes, because different women have different cycle lengths you can feel like you sometimes fall into line with them, but a study found that actual syncing is pretty unlikely.

Fact: Menstrual Cycle Brain Fog Is Real

If you feel a little out of it during your period, that’s not just your imagination. Low estrogen levels during your period can lead to you feeling a little less sharp than normal. And that’s not the only odd behavior you may notice—research has shown that women are more likely to impulsively spend money during certain parts of their cycles, so you may find yourself making decisions that you wouldn’t normally make.

Myth: Heavy Bleeding and Pain Is Just a Part of Being a Woman

You don’t have to suffer in silence. Yes, some women have heavier periods than others and some women have more menstrual cramps, but women’s pain is too often minimized or brushed aside. An extremely heavy or painful period can be a sign of other problems, so reach out to your doctor if you think that something is wrong. Not only that, too much bleeding can cause anemia, an iron deficiency, so it’s important that you vocalize if something is wrong.

Fact: Cramps Might Be Improved By Exercise

I know—getting on a treadmill while on your period sounds seriously unappealing, but the endorphins that are released through exercise can also help you fight cramp pain. In fact, a report in the Journal of Family Reproductive Health found that exercise was really effective for some women on their periods trying to deal with cramp pain.

Myth: Your Period Stops in Water

I don’t know where this myth came from, but it’s certainly one that I heard when I was younger. No, your period doesn’t stop in water, it may be that you’re just not noticing it as much. The good news? The idea that you shouldn’t swim in the ocean during your period because of sharks is also a myth. According to Our Bodies, Ourselves the menstrual fluid we think of as “period blood” is actually a combo of “cervical mucus, vaginal secretions, mucus and cells and endometrial particles as well as blood (sometimes clotted).” So the shark would have to smell through all those other things to get a whiff of blood. Beyond that, sharks don’t actually find human blood appealing, and don’t necessarily think of it as food.

Myth: You Can’t Have Sex During Your Period

This one is total BS. Not only do orgasms help menstrual cramps, but many women also experience increased sensitivity during their period, so they can find that the sex actually feels more intense. Yes, it can be messy—but that’s nothing that can’t be dealt with by laying a towel down or having sex in the shower. Plus, some new period products are designed specifically to be worn during sex—and can really help with the mess.

See more: Two New Period Products Changing the Way We Think About Feminine Care

Fact: The Weather Can Affect Your Period

It sounds weird, but it’s true. One study found that during the hot weather in the summer, your ovaries are more active—which can shorten the length of your period by up to a day. There have also been signs that lower thyroid levels during the winter can lead to an increase in heavy periods and more pain, so if you find your winter periods are harder to deal with, then you are not alone.

There are so many myths and so much misinformation that gets spread around about our periods—when what young women need is clear, comprehensive education and advice. Make sure that you do your own research and learn about your menstrual cycle—you have to go through it once a month, after all, so you deserve to know what’s going on.

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Wedding

What To Do If Your Partner Doesn't Like Your Best Friend

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There are some people in your life who you really want to get along. While a lot of emphasis is placed on your partner getting along with your family—and you getting along with your partner’s family—there’s another very important dynamic that’s often overlooked: your partner and your best friend. Often, your partner and your best friend are the two most important people in your life so, of course, you want them to like each other—you probably want them to get along with a house on fire. But it doesn’t always work that way.

There are a lot of complications when it comes to your partner getting along with your best friend. There’s a good chance your best friend has been on the scene for far longer than your partner—even if you and your partner are married or have children together. And sometimes that can create tension, your partner might feel threatened or just not really be a fan of this person you’ve known for years and years. But what do you do if your partner doesn’t like your best friend? Well, it’s all about getting to the source of the dislike. Here’s what you need to know.

Make Sure That There’s Not A Control Issue

The truth is, all of the people who you love and adore aren’t necessarily going to love and adore each other—and that’s OK. You need them to be respectful, to be open-minded, but you don’t need your partner and best friend to become BFFs—if they’re just a little lukewarm on each other, that can work out just fine. But pay attention to your partner’s response to your friend and try to work out if it’s actually an issue of just disliking them. If your partner feels threatened by your best friend, it may be that they have bigger issues—and are too possessive of you. If you get a sense that this is the case, then there’s a more foundational relationship problem.

How can you tell? Well, if your partner actually just isn’t a huge fan of your best friend, they’ll probably seem apathetic or, at worst, a little annoyed or frustrated by them. If they have a stronger reaction—if they get angry at you for spending time with them, if they are actively rude to them—then that’s really telling. If that’s the case, it says a lot about your partner—and you may need to have a larger conversation about your relationship, independence, and respect.

Try To See It From Their Point Of View

Best friendships are complicated. You may love each other one minute, drive each other nuts the next, and then makeup before you even blink. Maybe you’ve been feuding for weeks or maybe they’ve really let you down. Try to remember all of these nuances and complications when you’re trying to understand your partner’s point of view. It’s really, really hard to watch someone mistreat the person you love and, though you might not hold a grudge, your partner has probably heard you vent and be upset or hurt by your best friend from time to time. They often hear more of the difficult parts than the good parts—so it makes sense that they might be a little bristly or aggravated with this person. Try to show them why you love your best friend, rather than just using them to blow off steam.

On that note, sometimes it may be worth talking to your best friend about the issue, too—even if you don’t think they’ve done something wrong. I have totally been the stand-offish best friend—and having my friend explain that their partner is a bit shy or awkward has snapped me out of it. If your partner finds it difficult to open up to people generally, then talking to your best friend and asking them to go the extra mile can make a difference.

Set Some Boundaries For Spending Time Together

Even if your partner doesn’t like your best friend, their priority should be being a good partner to you—and that means, within reason, spending time with your bestie. That doesn’t mean you should expect them to hang out all the time and start bringing your partners around to girls’ nights (that would be weird anyway), but you should be able to explain to your partner why it’s important to you that they try to get along. And, really, your partner should respect that.

Maybe all of your couple friends get together once a month, maybe there’s a friends’ trip you want them to go, maybe it’s just a matter of being polite and asking them a few questions when they bump into each other as a part. Talk to your partner and try to work out how they can be a good partner and make your life easier, without them feeling uncomfortable. You should be able to find some middle ground.

See more: How Your Partner Feels About Your Friends Could Factor Into the Success of Your Marriage

In an ideal world, your partner and best friend will just click and the three of you can run off into the sunset—but that’s so rarely how it actually works out. Try to feel out the issue, whether it’s your partner just being shy or not really on the same page as your best friend—or whether they’re intimidated by your intimacy with your best friend and there are some control issues at play. As long as it’s an innocent case of not getting along, you should be able to talk to your partner and find some middle ground. They don’t have to love your best friend, but they do need to be a good partner to you—and that means being polite and welcoming when you need them to be.

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Wedding

How Real Women Made The First Move

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Making the first move can be incredibly intimidating—especially for women. Women are too often socialized to wait around for men to come to them and be the forward one, but not only is that incredibly heteronormative, it also can make for a pretty boring love life. In 2018, women should totally feel empowered to be honest and straightforward when they’re interested in somebody—whether it’s on a dating app, in a bar, or anywhere else. The truth is, making the first move is a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid—it can feel painful and awkward and weird the first time, but then it’s over. And the next time, it will be easier—and the time after that, it gets even easier.

And everybody has their own method for making the first move. Some women are bold, some are nervous, some are downright messy. Brides spoke to real women about how they actually work up the nerve to make the first move and there’s a lot you can learn from them. It turns out, alcohol (in moderation) and dating apps can make a huge difference. Here’s what they had to say.

Dating Apps Are Great Training Wheels

“Dating apps have literally changed my life when it comes to making the first move. I could never do it in real life, but suggesting a drink over a dating app if we’ve been talking for a bit feels 100% normal And if they ditch the conversation, I never have to meet them or run into them.”

— Rose, 30

“I only use Bumble, so I’m really used to starting the conversation now.”

— Suz, 31

A lot of people found that dating apps were a great leveler when it came to making the first move. There’s Bumble, where women have to message first, but even on other apps there seems to be a leveling effect. If you’re nervous about asking someone out or just starting a conversation, a dating app or site is a great way to try it, relatively risk-free. If they don’t respond or the conversation fizzles, you still have the whole internet to explore.

Blame It On The Alcohol

“That’s a tough call—I don’t really know how I’ve made the first move. Get really drunk? Hope for the best? I know that I’ve done it, but guess that whenever I’ve been brave enough, I’ve just made lots of eye contact and initiated a bit of touching or the leg or shoulder. It sounds kind of lame, but it feels much scarier at the time!”

— Helen, 33

“Get drunk and then when you’re waiting for the bus say, ‘Are we going to kiss or what?’ It works pretty much every time, except for when it doesn’t.

— Izzy, 33

Alcohol comes up again and again when it comes to making the first move—which is fine, as long as you’re drinking responsibility. If one or two drinks helps you relax and let the Dutch courage take hold, then you may find that you’re more likely to message that person or go up to them in a bar—or even take the date to the next level. Just everything in moderation, OK?

Just Go For It

“I don’t ever make the first move but one of my friends has two business cards. One is business and one is personal, like just her email and phone number for picking people up. Apparently guys like it because women so rarely make the first move.”

— Maria, 31

“I’m not great at making the first move, I can do everything up to that actual moment. So I can get a little touchy, be really flirty, but, when I have made the first move, it’s been kind of a mess—like I’ve launched myself at their face. But, so far, it seems to work!”

— Zoe, 31

“My gay friend from work met her wife in a bar. She was straight at the time and this girl came up to her, and said, ‘I’m great with first-timers.’ Then just walked off. She was like ‘Woah, what just happened there!?’ Turns out this girl had literally said it to every girl there! What a great way to play the odds game of repressed gays and curious bis.”

— Lauren 32

And some women just for it. Some women have no problem making the first move and, as I was surprised to learn, some of them even have actual business cards to make it happen. Once you get used to it, it doesn’t have to be so scary.

See more: How to Meet the Love of Your Life in Real Life

Making the first move can seem totally intimidating if you haven’t done it before—and if you’ve done and it’s gone badly. But there’s no point in sitting around and waiting for life to happen to you. Try making the first move and, if it doesn’t go well, there’s always somebody else out there. Once you get used to it, you’ll find it’s an empowering, exciting way to take control of your own love life. If it works for these women, there’s no reason it can’t work for you.

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How Attachment Styles Shape Our Relationships

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You hear about it all the time—one person being too clingy, one person being scared to settle down or commit. Maybe the language used is even harsher and more ignorant, like one person is “crazy” or the other “messed up.” What we’re often talking about, without even realizing it, are attachment styles. And, specifically, what happens when those attachment styles don’t line up.

You may be familiar with the basic ideas of the attachment theory of love without even realizing it. The attachment theory of love suggests that there are three different attachment styles: anxious, avoidant, and secure. The theory is that we form these attachment styles when we are very young, based on our relationship with our primary caretaker as a child—normally, our parents or more dominant parent. Understanding these attachment styles—how they develop, how they manifest, and how we can manage them—can not only help you understand your past relationships, but also help you create healthier relationships going forward. Here’s what you need to know.

The Three Styles

The three attachment styles are very different from each other—though their names give a big hint into how they affect relationships. The anxious attachment style is someone who is constantly insecure in their relationship. They fear that the person will leave, they don’t ever fully relax into the relationship, and they may even self-sabotage. They can often come across as needy, demanding, or irrational—but it comes from a deep-seated fear of being left, often stemming from a distant parental relationship from childhood. This means that they will almost always be found in a relationship—even if it’s an unhappy one.

Perhaps surprisingly, these people are most often attracted to and found in relationships with those with an avoidant attachment style. Those with avoidant styles often feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed by too much intimacy, even if they crave it—maybe because of demands placed on them in their past or an abrupt abandonment. This can lead them to pull away, suddenly and often, seemingly, without reason.

As you might have guessed, the secure attachment style is somewhere in the middle. They don’t fear being on their own—in fact, they’re quite comfortable with it. But those with secure attachment styles also don’t feel overwhelmed by relationships. Both states, being with someone or alone, feel normal and balanced, meaning that relationships often run smoothly, without the person taking their partner’s behaviors too personally. Research has shown that while 60 percent of the population falls into this category, a big chunk of people—the remaining 40 percent—are split relatively equally between attachment and avoidant styles.

How They Affect Relationships

Avoidant and insecure attachment styles are often drawn toward each other, despite the fact that they are the least compatible. That’s because our brains try to repair old wounds through new relationships—even when it’s not good for us. “In a sense, we set ourselves up by finding partners that confirm our models,” Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist, writes. “If we grew up with an insecure attachment pattern, we may project or seek to duplicate similar patterns of relating as adults, even when these patterns hurt us and are not in our own self-interest.”

This means that if we developed an insecure attachment style because we had an avoidant parent, we may keep seeking out avoidant partners, even though it exacerbates our insecurities. Somewhere, we’re trying to set the first relationship right, even though it can make our lives—and our relationships—more complicated.

How You Can Manage Attachment Styles

Even if you think you fall into the secure attachment style, it’s still important to be aware of your style and how it can influence your relationships. Because it’s not just about your own style, it’s about your partner’s as well. If you can look back on your relationships and see a pattern of incompatibility in how you relate to one another and what you expect from a relationship, it may be that your attachment styles are to blame.

If this is the case, try to be mindful of your responses to issues in your relationship and how your attachment style might be at play. If you find yourself panicking that your partner isn’t happy, when there’s nothing to indicate that they are actually unhappy, take a moment and try to gain some perspective. Remember that this is an old wound, rather than something that’s actually happening now. Give yourself some room to process the old trauma, but try to separate that from the present relationship. It takes time, but if you can put your instinctive response on hold long enough to take a step back and get some perspective, that can make a huge difference.

Of course, if the attachment style seems particularly engrained or if it stems from a personal trauma that you haven’t dealt with yet, it may be worth seeking professional help. The attachment style can, in some cases, be more the symptom than the cause of your current dilemmas. Sometimes going back and dealing with the source, with the help of a therapist or counselor, is the only way forward.

See more: Signs You Need to Take a Step Back in Your Relationship

Attachment styles can explain so much about how we interact with the world—and with each other. While we may not be able to become completely in control of our attachment style overnight, but understanding how we form our attachments can be invaluable to navigating our romantic relationships. But be kind to yourself, because there are often deeper issues at play—and never hesitate to get help if you need it.

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Wedding

How Important Are Myers-Briggs Personality Types in a Relationship?

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ISTJ, ENFP, INFJ: To some people, these are just random combinations of letters. They’re the secret code to help them unlock their personality and how they relate to the world. They’re examples of Myers-Briggs personality types, also known as MBTI types. If you’re not familiar with the MBTI test, it’s a 93-question test which helps work out the dominant aspects of your personality. It will tell you whether you’re extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, feeling or thinking, and judging or perceiving. In total, there are 16 personality types, some of which are more common than others.

The MBTI personality test is not just one of the most popular tests out there—it’s also one of the most well-respected. It’s used not only by people around the world to help them understand their lives, but by some employers to gauge a person’s suitability for roles. But while there are some die-hard fans, how accurate is the test—and how much does it actually affect your relationships? The truth is a little complicated, but fascinating.

How Accurate Are They?

As I mentioned, the MBTI personality test is hugely popular and some people swear that the results are so uncanny that they decide to let the test help shape their lives. If employers use it to make important decisions, if hiring managers use it to decide whether you should get a job, then it must be pretty reliable—right? Well, not everyone agrees.

“There’s just no evidence behind it,” Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, told Vox. “The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.”

A large group of experts back up Grant—and think the MBTI just doesn’t stack up. Firstly, a lot of people don’t fall easily into the binaries that the test lays out, but that’s not the only weakness. In fact, on one important measure of personality assessment—reliability—MBTI has a history of falling short. In one study 50 percent of people were found to get a different MBTI result when they took the test a second time, even if it was only weeks later.

That being said, the test remains ferociously popular—so is there something to it? Despite the criticism, there has also been evidence in its favor—engineers have been shown to have fairly consistent MBTI types, an argument for using it in employment decisions. And there’s been similar evidence when it comes to romantic relationships.

How Does It Affect Your Relationships?

While some people are dubious about the powers of the MBTI test, the types have been found to help predict romantic compatibility. In fact, one study showed that if you and your partner both fall the same category of sensing/judging or intuition/feeling, there was a 70 percent chance of compatibility. And many people swear by comparing types to find your romantic compatibility when you’re dating. There are dozens and dozen of articles out there on the ultimate MBTI type matches and how each MBTI type acts in a relationship. Is it worth following their advice? The answer is up to you.

The truth is, MBTI is useful, like any personality test is useful, to understand each other in broad strokes. If your partner is generally more sensing or you are definitely an extrovert, that’s going to tell you something about it each other. But you shouldn’t take it as gospel, as the test isn’t always consistent.

The Ultimate Conversation Starter

More than anything, it serves as a great conversation starter to help you learn more about each other. If someone you’re seeing has taken the test before, you can talk about your types, what you think about them, how accurate they feel, and why—there’s so much potential to gather a wealth of information about each other in that kind of conversation. If they don’t know their type, you can both take the test and talk about it. You’ll learn so much about how they view themselves and the world around them—and that can be just as telling as the test itself. Maybe even more so. You can also check out other personality tests, like The Big Five, which have been shown to be even more predictive than MBTI. But remember, every test has its limits—and you shouldn’t let the result of a personality test control your life.

See more: Register Based on Your Myers Briggs Personality Type

The MBTI test has dominated the personality field for a long time—so much so that it’s been incorporated by many companies to make very important decisions about their employees. But it’s crucial to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s just a test. You are more than 93 questions—and the way you look at the world may change from day to day. So by all means, take the test, explore the results, and talk about it with the people you date—but you might find it more useful to listen to what they say about it, then the results themselves.

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Can You Overshare In A Relationship?

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Do couples really need to talk about everything? How much to share in a relationship is a question that’s going to be different for every couple. Even though you’ll hear over and over again that communication and honesty are the bedrock of a relationship, is there actually such a thing as too much communication? Or too much honesty?

It’s a tricky balance to find. Secrets are often bad in a relationship, but some levels of privacy can be completely acceptable. If that sounds a little confusing, it’s because it kind of is. It’s a very thin line and one that varies hugely with every couple. While one couple might talk about every detail of their day—including bodily function updates—others might have a more distant, but no less loving, communication style. As a general rule, you should always feel comfortable bringing up anything that is important to you—and you should expect that your partner will be receptive to something you feel strongly about. That being said, there are some limits. Here’s where you can cross the line into oversharing.

Will Saying This (or Not) Hurt Your Partner?

If you’re not sure whether it’s appropriate to tell your partner something sensitive, the most basic question you should ask yourself is whether or not it would hurt them. If your ex contacted you and you’re not sure if you should share that information, think about conversations you’ve had about privacy versus openness—and about whether you’d want to know the same thing. Do you get the impression that concealing this information would hurt them, or that telling them would?

The same question is true if you’re not satisfied with something in your relationship—think about whether or not something constructive can come out of saying something. For example, if you don’t love the style of necklace your partner got you for your birthday, it may not be worth saying something that’s just going to hurt their feelings. But if your sex life isn’t satisfying, you should say something—because even though you may hurt their feelings, there’s also room to improve and it’s important that the situation improves—so the benefit outweighs the cost. Give every sensitive issue thoughtful consideration before you decide whether or not to say something.

How Far Are You Into Your Relationship?

I’m a chronic oversharer—my long-term partner has to hear about every little of my day, no matter how inane or gross. But I also didn’t share every minutia with her during our first weeks or months of dating. If you want to be in constant contact or you want to share every tiny update of your life, you have to understand that, early in your relationship, that can actually be an invasion of your partner’s space. Try to read your partner—or just ask them—to work out what they’re comfortable with. Now, if you aren’t on the same page as they are, it may be that you’re just not all that compatible. But if it’s early in the relationship and they just want to take things a little more slowly, that’s something that you should respect.

Has Your Partner Said They Need Space?

Sometimes oversharing is just a clumsy way of saying that someone is communicating too much. While communication is usually a great thing, if your partner has said they need space, then it’s important that you listen to that. So if your partner has said that they need some time to think or that they want to work on being more independent, than some things that are normally social acceptable might actually cross the border into oversharing. Context is everything. While normally updates about your day might be completely fine, if they said that they need some air but you bombard them with a dozen messages about things that aren’t really important, you’re invading their privacy and their space. This is why it’s so important that you communicate enough to understand where each other’s boundaries and needs are at any given time—because context and life happening can really change things.

See more: 8 Things That Seem Like Healthy Relationship Qualities—but Really Aren’t

When In Doubt, Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Sometimes it can feel difficult to know if it’s better to border on oversharing or on secrecy—and, the truth is, it’s best to take it on a case-by-case basis. Although you should take into account all of the considerations listed above, the bottom line is you should try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Have they said they value openness? Would you be hurt if you didn’t know this? Have they said they needed space? Is this relevant?

Every couple is different and, though communication is always important, there are some things that don’t always need to be said. Keep your partner and the situation in mind and decide if telling them something sensitive is actually the right thing to do. The best you can do is try to imagine what they’d want—and, when in doubt, have a larger conversation about communication.

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Wedding

Everything You Need To Know About Breastfeeding

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There are few areas of motherhood—or of just being a woman—that are as politicized as breastfeeding. There is so much pressure on women to not only breastfeed, but to do it seamlessly, without fear or complication. But the truth is, the idea of breastfeeding is scary and confusing for a lot of women—and rightfully so. It’s something your body has never done before, it can hurt, it can feel like your child depends on it, and, on top of all of that, you have an entire society’s expectations and burden on your shoulders.

But if you have some big questions—and fears—about breastfeeding, you’re not alone. It’s intimidating. You’re allowed to feel intimidated. And confused. And apprehensive. Don’t feel ashamed of that. Instead, try to focus on asking the questions you want to be answered, because the more you learn, the more informed and prepared you’ll feel. Here are some frequently asked questions about breastfeeding, because it really is a whole new world.

1. How Does My Baby Latch?

Latching is complicated, because for some babies it happens really naturally, while some can take longer—and others seem to just refuse. There are various techniques that women use to help assist their babies in the latching process—including the C hold, where you place your fingers under your breast and your thumb on top, more skin-to-skin contact, or taking a shallow, warm bath with your baby. But as I said, a lot of women struggle with this, so you shouldn’t feel like you’re doing something wrong if your baby is struggling to latch—some babies just find it more foreign than others.

2. How Much And How Often?

One thing that young mothers often feel confused about is how much milk they should be producing—but there really is no “should.” If your baby is putting on weight, that’s the most important thing. The first few days you’ll produce colostrum—which is great for the baby—and then you should switch to producing milk. You should aim to feed your baby around every 2-3 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As for how long the sessions should last, there’s no “right” amount of time, though some experts recommend about 10 minutes per breast. Your baby will normally keep sucking as long as they’re hungry and then drop off. If you’re concerned about over- or under-producing, you can talk to your doctor who will help reassure you that you’re on the right track.

3. Will It Hurt?

Sometimes, yes. Often you’ll experience “latching pain” at the beginning of a feeding, but it should pass after around 20 or 30 seconds. If your baby is latching improperly and you have a “shallow latch,” that can be more problematic—and lead to bruised or cracked nipples. If this happens, try to improve the latch technique or talk to your doctor because, for the most part, you shouldn’t be experiencing much discomfort.

If you feel run-down, feverish, or if there’s pain in your breast, talk to your doctor to be sure you don’t have mastitis, an infection that can cause breast inflammation.

4. What Gear Do I Need?

This varies so much from mother to mother. Many will have a breastfeeding bra designed with easy access in mind (at the very least, be sure to avoid underwires and stick with something loose and comfortable). If you go back to work, you’ll want a good pump to help you mimic your at-home feeding schedule—but even if you stay at home, a great pump can be a good investment, helping you store up milk to keep in the freezer and also encourage milk production. A quality nipple cream or lanolin cream can also help you keep your nipples happy—and a nursing cover can be a lifesaver in public. Though, as I said, some mothers will have every piece of gear under the sun, while others will stick to a more pared-back version. It’s totally down to your means and your preferences.

5. What About Drinking?

You’ve probably heard about pumping and dumping—having a few glasses of wine and then getting rid of the milk that would be contaminated by the alcohol. But not everyone is in agreement about pumping and dumping, so this is one area where it’s important to do your research, talk to your doctor, and make your own decision.

6. How Long Should I Breastfeed?

Again, totally up to you. Some groups recommended at least a couple of months while others suggest twelve. Many mothers stop at around six months, some mothers don’t wean until the child is two or three—or even older. It’s a very personal decision, one that will depend on you and your baby.

See more: What Should New Moms Eat While Breastfeeding?

7. Do I Have To?

No. You don’t have to breastfeed and it doesn’t make you a bad mother if you don’t. If your baby doesn’t latch, if you can’t breastfeed due to work concerns, if you run into problems and have to go to an alternative—there is nothing about choosing not to breastfeed that makes you a bad mother. Ignore the pressure and the culture—this is a personal decision.

Breastfeed is such an explosive topic, but it’s crucial that you make your own decisions. Do your research but, even more importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and voice your fears. It’s a big decision and, if you’re intimated, that’s OK—you’re not alone. Speak up and do what’s right for you.

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