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Wedding

Signs You Need To Take A Step Back In Your Relationship

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A relationship, especially a long-term relationship, can be a tricky balance. You spend time together, you build a life together, but you still need to maintain your individual existences. It’s not unusual to have a moment when you realize that you need to take a step back — and in some cases, you need to take a whole leap back.

It might be because your partner asks you for space—which isn’t a sign that they aren’t head over heels for you or that your relationship isn’t amazing. Needing space is totally natural. But sometimes, your partner might not always ask for it — even when they need it. Maybe they’re shy or awkward — or maybe they just don’t know where to start. So you need to be aware of the signs that it’s time for you to take a step back and be a little more hands-off in your relationship, because no matter how much you love someone, you never want to suffocate them. Here’s what you need to look out for.

You’re Too Involved In Their Professional Life

No matter how close of a couple you are, you should have separate domains — work is often a private domain for each of you. Sure, you may swap stories of your day and ask each other advice, but there’s a level of separation. If you find yourself trying to drive or control their professional trajectory, asking incessant questions about their job, and having a lot of opinions on their coworkers and office, you should maybe take a step back.

You Only Socialize As A Couple

Socializing as a couple is great, but if it’s your only form of socialization then it may be that you’ve gotten a little too connected. There should still be room for both of your passions, hobbies, and friends — and that requires spending some time apart now and again. If your calendars line up perfectly, make sure that you try to shake things up and get some space.

You Tag Along Uninvited

Even more of a problem than only socializing as a couple is socializing as a couple when you weren’t invited as a couple. Some people assume that everywhere their partner is invited also includes them — because they’ve married or they’ve been together so long. But, there’s no way to say this delicately: they’re wrong*.* Look around at social events; if it wasn’t clearly built for couples then assume it was only meant for your partner. Instead of joining in, focus on growing your own experience.

You Speak For Your Partner

Some people really love being a “we” — and let’s be honest, there’s a lot to love about it. But if you’re constantly jumping in with “we” this and “we” that, make sure you and your partner are getting some “I” time, as well. If someone asks your partner a question, they should be able to answer it — even if it’s about something that involved you, too. Just because you do things together doesn’t mean you lose your individuals identities and experiences — and your partner should feel free to share them.

Your Partner Is Getting Annoyed By Little Things

When someone’s a little too hands-on, no matter how much you love them, it’s normal to reach a place where you just can’t take it anymore. If your partner is touchy or seems stressed with you, it may be that they need some space and don’t know how to ask for it. See if giving them some room improves the relationship.

You Call All Of The Shots

From where to go out for dinner to where to go on vacation, relationships are often a series of little compromises. If you find that you’re always making the choices, big and small, then you may have a bit of an overbearing hand in the relationship. Try to take a step back and give your partner a chance to be on equal footing — or else resentment can build in the long term.

See more: Why Silence Is Great For Your Relationship

You Can’t Imagine Your Life Without Them

A lot of people say that they “can’t imagine” their lives without their partner — but it’s usually as a figure of speech. In a healthy relationship, no matter how much you love your partner, no matter how devoted you are, no matter how strong your relationship is, you should still be able to image your life without them. It may be horrible or scary or even make you feel a bit sick, but you should have a sense that eventually, if something happened in your relationship, you’d be OK. If you really feel like you need this person in an innate way, then you’re too dependent. You can exist without them. If they don’t feel that, it might panic them. You need to take a step back and give your partner some space.

If you and your partner are madly in love with someone, it’s easy to see how you can want to be involved in every part of that person’s life. But your partner needs to feel independent — and they need to feel that you’re independent as well. So sometimes, taking a more hands-off approach is the best thing you can do for your relationship. It might even save it.

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Wedding

Are Your Old Relationships Affecting Your Current One?

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Some relationships stay with you longer than others. It may be a fond memory, a quirk that you picked up, or it may be something a little more difficult to deal with—baggage.

You should never feel guilty about baggage—we all have it. And, in a lot of relationships, your baggage won’t hold you back. You and your partner will both have some hang-ups from previous relationships, but you’ll find a way to talk it through and deal with it together. But sometimes, the baggage is a little heavier. You may find that you’re constantly thinking about your previous relationship or, even if you’re not actively thinking about your ex (or exes), you may find certain behaviors and mindsets are holding this relationship back. Sometimes it may be obvious what’s going, but it can also be much more subtle.

But how can you tell if you baggage is totally innocent—or if it’s actually affecting your relationship? Here are the signs to look out for.

Your Past Relationships Are On Your Mind

This is the most obvious sign that your past relationships are affecting your current one. If your exes—or one particular ex—are still taking a lot of head space, that’s definitely keeping you from fully engaging in your current relationship. You might not even realize it happening. But whether you’re angry or nostalgic, being on your mind is still a sign that you’re carrying your ex with you.

You’re Waiting For The Relationship To End

Sometimes a really bad breakup—or a really bad relationship—can leave us with a slightly nihilist view of love. You suddenly adopt the view that all love is doomed or that nothing lasts forever. Even though that may sound like just having a cynical edge, that type of mindset is bound to erode your relationship. It means that you won’t ever be fully invested or fully connected to your partner. This is an issue that you definitely want to resolve, because it will hold you back—not just in this relationship, but in any that come afterward.

You’re Suspicious Of Your Partner

This is especially true if you’ve been cheated on or had another big betrayal—you start to see things like cheating or breaches of trust as inevitable. But you can’t blame your partner for what went wrong in other relationships. If you find yourself second-guessing your partner or being paranoid about where they’ve been or who they’re with, make sure they’ve actually given you cause to be suspicious. If they haven’t, you may have some leftover issues to look at.

You’re Trying To Change Your Partner

This is one that your friends might see happening, even when you don’t. It’s amazing how much we don’t even see ourselves trying to recreate past relationships in our current ones—even when it’s obvious to everyone else. Whether you want your partner to look and behave more like your ex or you want the entire relationship to look and work more like you’re last one, you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Every partner, every relationship is different. If you’re not ready for something different, you may not be ready to move on at all. Give yourself some time to fully process the last relationship and let the new one start fresh.

You Get Distracted During Sex

We can lie to ourselves through a lot of things—but it’s difficult to lie to yourself about what’s happening in your sex life. If you find yourself distracted during sex, you may not really be connecting with your current partner. And if you find yourself thinking about your ex during sex, well…it’s pretty obvious what the problem is there. If you’re not fully engaged with your partner during sex, you might need to think about why that is.

You’re Terrified Of Being Single

Why are you with this person? If you’re in your current relationship to help you get over your last one—or just because you’re scared to be alone—then there’s no way that your current relationship can function like it’s supposed to. Deal with your previous relationship and process it by spending some time alone. Then, once you’ve come to terms with what happened with your ex, you can move on—on your own terms.

See more: Should You Have a Closure Call With Your Ex Before the Wedding?

You And Your Ex Aren’t Friends, But You’re Still In Contact

Whether or not you can be friends with an ex is a topic of much debate—but really, that’s down to you and your partner. If, however, you’re not friends with your ex but they’re still in the picture, that’s a problem. If you’re in contact with your ex but you’re not not fully platonic, be honest with yourself about why. Even sketchy social media behavior can end up taking a toll on your relationship in the long run.

Having some baggage is totally normal—and not anything you should feel embarrassed about. But you do need to be aware if your last is affecting your current one. So if something is off in your relationship, take a long, hard work at why. You may need to deal with your last relationship before you’re ready to move onto the next one.

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Wedding

How To Keep Your Independence In A Long-Term Relationship

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Before you met your partner, you probably had a life totally outside of them. Friends, hobbies, travel—things that you thought would keep happening, even when you got into a relationship. But no matter how good your intentions are, over the course of a long-term relationship, the line between you and your partner can become blurry. If you feel like you’ve started to lose your sense of identity, don’t worry—in some ways, it’s totally natural. The longer you’re together, the more your lives become enmeshed and the more you’ve experienced as a team. It’s easy to see how you could come to feel like a unit, rather than two people.

But, no matter how much you love each other, lean on each other, and know each other, maintaining your sense of independence is crucial. If you’ve started to lose it, that’s OK—because you can get it back. It’s all about making space for yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally, that is separate from your partner. Here’s what you need to do to maintain your independence in a relationship.

Pursue A Hobby Without Them

This is a really basic step that you can—and should—take, but it’s one that a lot of people let slide as time goes on. It’s great if you and your partner like the same things. If you like to go to plays together or workout together or play board games, that can be a great bonding opportunity in your relationship. But you also need to do things separately.

Spending time apart is good, but spending time apart pursuing something you love is even better. It helps remind you of your separate identities. But often, as time goes on, we either start doing more and more together or life gets so busy that we tend to default onto the couch with Netflix rather than chasing our hobbies and passions. So whether it’s an activity you’ve always loved or something totally new, find something that you can really sink your teeth into—that has nothing to do with your partner.

See Your Friends (Not As A Couple)

Couple socialization can be lovely, but if your entire calendar is filled up with couple time, then it’s time to rethink. Spending time with your friends on your own is so vital to your sense of well being. You need time to relax, maybe even time to vent about your partner—which is totally normal—and time to just remember who you are without them. Plus, if you have friends who are single, then you don’t want to be that friend who brings their partner everywhere and annoys everyone. Respect everyone’s need for one-on-one time.

Watch Your Language

Language is important—and the words you choose can often reveal a lot about your mindset. You may have noticed that some couples, the ones who tend to be more codependent or attached at the hip, tend to use the word “we”—a lot. Sure, if you’re saying “we” went on vacation or “we” tried a great restaurant, that’s a totally appropriate use of the word. But if you always use “we”—”we want”, “we think”, “we’re very excited”—then that’s really telling. Try to reclaim your “I”. You and your partner are separate people and, even if your thoughts are in alignment, it doesn’t mean that you’re having the same thoughts. Even by just using the word “I” more than the word “we,” you’ll keep that sense of identity alive.

Try Making More Space For You

If you’re lucky, you may be able to make some literal space for you—a separate room, nook, or closet that’s your own. If you don’t have that luxury, look at other ways you can create your own space. Maybe you can make some extra money through a side hustle that’s just for you to have fun with. Maybe you can schedule a bath date with yourself once a week when you commandeer the bathroom and go full-on rose petal and bubble extravagance. As much as hobbies and friends are great, carving out something that’s all you—solitary, independent you—can be incredibly healthy.

See more: The Secret To A Really Great Marriage? Acting Single

Talk, Talk, Talk

It may seem counterintuitive that more talking with your partner can help you achieve independence, but communication is everything. If you want to keep your separate identities alive, then both you and your partner need to be on board. Let your partner know that keeping your independence—or getting it back—is important to you and something you want to pursue. If they see how much it means to you (and hopefully they also want to keep that independence alive) you can both make a conscious effort in how you arrange your lives and divide your tasks. You can start booking more alone time, friend time, and hobby time into your lives, while working together to make it happen.

Some people drop their independence right away when they get into a relationship, while for others it’s a slow slide over time. Make sure that you don’t get complacent and lose sight of your own personality and identity. Having your own independence will make you a better partner and a happier, more fulfilled person—and that’s something your partner should get behind.

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Wedding

How To Get A Friendship Back On Its Feet After Wedding Planning Drama

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Breakups, fights, arguments—we often assume that life’s major disagreements are always between you and a partner. But the truth is, a friendship fight—or even a friend breakup—can be devastating, sometimes even more so than with a partner. Often our friends have been in our lives not just for years, but decades. It’s not unusual to know them for far longer than we know our partners or even our spouses. And when things go wrong, they can go very, very wrong.

It’s a difficult truth, but it’s not unusual for the stress of wedding planning to put a wedge between friends. Sometimes it’s just the frustration and anxiety of feeling overwhelmed that leads you to not be your best self, sometimes it’s a friend that’s not supportive or even jealous. But, if it’s a long and important friendship, then you shouldn’t let it break down because of wedding planning. If you’ve had a fight with a friend and you don’t feel very good about it, it’s time to see if the friendship can be saved—and if it’s worth saving. It might be a tough journey, but here’s where you get started.

Be Willing To Admit Your Role

The first step is to think about why the friendship broke down—and what role you played in that. Even if your friend was being irrational, selfish, difficult, or all three, it’s never just a one-way street. Maybe you didn’t see the pain that they were in or maybe you were too tied up in your own wedding planning to realize what was going wrong in their life, so you didn’t give them the sensitivity they deserved. You shouldn’t assume all of the responsibility—it takes two to tango, after all—but if you want the friendship to have a chance of moving forward then you’re going to have to own up to your part in the breakdown.

Think About What You Want Going Forward

If you’re ready to put the friendship back together, you need to decide how you want that to look. Do you want things to go back to how they were? Do you want your friend to have more respect for your boundaries or to be more aware of your needs? Do you want to move into the friendship slowly and let things rebuild over time? You’re not going to be able to set all of the ground rules—both of you need to put their relationship back together—but you can think about what you want so you can help open up a dialogue.

Have the Difficult, Honest Conversation

When you’re trying to get over a relationship breakdown—whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship—at some point you need to have one of those tough conversations. You need to lay it all out there, and you need to hear them out. It’s going to be awkward, emotional, and at times pretty unbearable. But it’s the only way things can get better.

And no matter how angry you are with your friend, spouting off a list of attacks and character assassinations isn’t going to help. Focus on “I” statements: how things came across to you, how it felt when your relationship broke down, how you feel now. And, just as much as you want to say your piece, you’re going to have to let them say theirs, too—and be a receptive audience. Try not to get defensive and just listen.

Don’t Force Anything

Depending on how big the fight was and how much the relationship has broken down, you may not be able to go back to normal right away. In fact, you may not be able to go back to normal for a long time. If you were totally enmeshed in your wedding stress and your friend feels neglected, they may not want to let you in again, right away. That’s OK. Be open to taking it slow. You may find that your relationship rebuilds in a stronger, more authentic way if you let it happen a little at a time.

See more: 7 Ways to Keep Your Friends Close, From Your Engagement to Your Wedding—and Beyond

Be Open To Letting It Go

If someone has been in your life for 5, 10, or 20 years, the idea of letting a friendship go can be almost impossible to imagine. But, if you try to restart the friendship and either they’re not willing or it just doesn’t’ seem to fit, you may need to be open to the idea of letting it go. People change and, ideally, friendships evolve with them—but it doesn’t always work that way. Maybe the tension during your wedding was because you’ve become two very different people, or maybe you can’t put the friendship back together because you’re actually just not good for each other anymore. It can be a huge thing to admit—and letting a significant friendship end can be as bad as any breakup. But if it’s right for both of you, you need to let it happen—just make sure you give yourself some time to grieve.

Wedding planning—and weddings themselves—leave tensions high and connections feeling frayed. Unfortunately, it’s often our friendships that take the hit. If your friendship has broken down, then make sure to be honest with yourself and your friend as you try to put it back together. If you are candid, compassionate, and willing to move slowly, you may be able to put the friendship back together and even in a stronger place than it was before. And if you can’t? Well, it may be a sign that you’re just too different now. And that’s OK, too.

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Wedding

How To Achieve Work-Life Balance When You Both Have Demanding Jobs

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Sometimes, life happens. A lot of the time when people talk about making your relationship work, they almost describe it like the two of you live in a vacuum with endless time, energy, and resources to devote toward each other and toward making your relationship strong. But life rarely looks like that. You might have family stress, you might have money stress. And, more often than now, work stress has a way of getting the best of us.

Our jobs are where we spend so much of our time. Yes, most people have a 40-hour work week, but at high-level and demanding jobs—or if you’re working two jobs to make ends meet—you can easily end up almost doubling the number. And when you’re working 60, 70, or even 80 hours a week, then where does your relationship fit in? It’s not easy. Plus, if both of you have demanding work schedules, you’re going to have to be even more careful to keep the relationship going. But it can be done. Here’s how to balance your life when you both have demanding careers, because your relationship needs some TLC—but so do you.

Scheduling Is Your Friend

Sure, when you both have demanding jobs then it may not always be possible to stick to a schedule. Last-minute deadlines, late meetings, and a million and one other issues can raise their ugly heads. But a schedule gives you a foundation, it gives you an outline to work with. Try to schedule in time together (and time for yourselves) every single week. Even if you don’t always manage to stick to the schedule, having something to work toward can keep you from getting complacent and letting your relationship suffer. You should keep your goals in mind, so you’re working toward them—even when you can’t reach always reach them.

Set Soft And Hard Boundaries

More and more, work has a way of creeping into every nook and cranny of our lives. You can’t control what your boss demands or expects of you, but you can control how you handle those expectations. So try to create some boundaries. Have one set of hard boundaries that can’t be broken—no work emails in bed or no checking your phone during date night, whatever feels like a priority to you as a couple. Then, you can have some soft boundaries that you try to adhere to, but are a bit more flexible. Try not to check your work emails on Sundays, try not to work late three nights in a row. Look at your schedules and see where you can take back a little bit of control.

Keep The Communication Going

When two people are busy and stressed, it’s easy for one (or both) of them to start feeling overlooked or resentful. You feel like you’re the only one picking up toilet paper from the store after a long day, they feel like they are the only person who’s done laundry in weeks. So keep the communication open—and keep being grateful for each other. Tell your partner that you appreciate them and try to notice when they’re going to extra mile. If you’re struggling with your workload or feeling neglected, talk about that, too. It’s too easy to get all wrapped up in own little soap opera, especially when our job is monopolizing one. But if you’re communicating, you can work as a team—you can pick up the slack for one another, support one another when things get particularly difficult. Keep connecting and keep talking.

Don’t Forget About The Rest Of Your Life

Sometimes when life stress hits, it’s easy to get an almost bunker mentality—you go to work, if you’re lucky you get some time with your partner, and then you… go to work again. Nothing exists outside of the bubble. But a life isn’t built on a job and a relationship alone. Make sure that you make an effort to keep up the rest of your life, as well. Seeing friends, getting in some exercise, seeing the actual sun once in a while—whatever it is that you need to keep your wellbeing and mental health strong, try to prioritize it. Although it can feel selfish, it’s actually good for the people around you. You’ll be a better partner—and even a better employee—if you manage to fit in some nourishing self-care and get some headspace.

See more: 4 Tips for Maintaining a Sex Life and Work Life Balance

Let Yourself Off The Hook

The truth is, if you both have really demanding careers then there are going to be some tricky moments. Maybe you have some dream version of yourself where, no matter how busy you both are, you put on your dancing shoes and hit the town once a week without fail. But some weeks, you both may be so fried that binge watching something hilarious and mindless is your only option. Be realistic—and give yourselves a break once in a while. If you become obsessed with having the “perfect” relationship, that will just create another pressure that weighs down on you. Instead, let yourself off the hook if you just need some R&R.

Work-life balance is always tough—and it’s even tougher if both of you have demanding jobs. Do your best and, no matter what, keep the communication open. You want to feel like you’re on the same team, not competing to see who can be more stressed. If you work together, you’ll fight little pockets of space for your relationship—and for yourselves.

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Wedding

This is What You'll Talk About In Premarital Counseling

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Getting married is a huge decision—one that some people make very easily, but others really need some to come to terms with. If you’re someone who likes to be absolutely, completely sure about what you’re doing, then premarital counseling is a great option. It not only is an opportunity to talk to your partner about everything (and I really mean everything), it also provides a third party who is completely impartial, which is an amazing resource for a couple. Having someone guide, mediate, and inform the difficult conversations helps give you a whole new perspective and work through any issues.

For some couples, this might feel like a total stranger going through your underwear drawer—and not everybody needs premarital counseling. But for someone who really wants to feel safe and secure going into their marriage, premarital counseling can be a total game changer. If you’re thinking about signing up, it’s totally normal to be nervous about the process and what kind of questions you might encounter. Here’s what to expect from premarital counseling, because you’re going to get really close to your counselor before you even know it.

It Might Be Religious Or Secular

A lot of people associate premarital counseling with a religious slant—which makes sense, because some religions and places of worship require a counseling process before you can marry into them. But you can also have totally secular religious counseling, run by a therapist or a psychiatrist. Obviously, if you’re going to religious counseling, you should expect a lot of questions about the faith and some observations about what the faith expects of you and your marriage. If it’s secular counseling, it will be a more objective look at what being in a partnership for the rest of your life really means, informed by what kind of therapist or counselor you choose.

No Topic Is Off-Limits

A man of the faith won’t ask you about sex, right? Oh yes, he will. Or, well, he might. When you go into premarital counseling, whether it’s religious or secular, it’s important to know that nothing is off limits. You might be talking about your sex life, you might be talking about your bank accounts, you might be talking about your biggest fears or the things that your partner does that really get under your skin. There are no boundaries. But in a way, that’s a really good thing. If you want the process to be beneficial to both of you, you need to be willing to be candid, every step of the way.

You May Have Homework

Yup—counseling isn’t just about talking it through, you also will probably be asked to engage in private study and thought. You’ll be probably be told to work through your expectations for the future and what a marriage means to you. You may be asked to do more specific homework based on your finances or your sex life. It’s a great chance for you to think about your relationship and what matters to you, without the pressure of having your partner and counselor right there. Then, you can come back together and talk it through.

It’s Not Just About The Future

Although premarital counseling obviously has a heavy emphasis on your upcoming marriage, you won’t just be talking about the future. There’s a good chance you’ll be working through past issues—both from your current relationship and previous ones. Part of getting you ready for the future is mending the wounds from the past, so you may find that you spend a lot of time getting to grips with how you’ve gotten to where you are.

A Good Therapist Will Tailor It To You

Maybe you’re divorced, maybe your partner has a child from a previous marriage—maybe neither of you have dated before. No couple looks identical. A good premarital counselor (and this is something that you should look for) won’t just be giving you a 10-part lesson cut and paste from a manual, they’ll be tailoring the sessions to your needs. If conflict resolution is a particular issue for you, you may focus more on that. If your partner struggles to get along with your family because of issues from their childhood, that should be taken into account. It should feel like it’s meeting your specific needs, rather than just being a lecture about relationships.

See more: Couples Therapy: The Pros and Cons You Need to Consider

Ultimately, It’s About Communication

Although premarital counseling is great, it needs to set you up for a lifetime of marriage without a counselor there to guide you through—that means strong communication. As you go through the counseling, listen to how the counselor leads you through discussions, how they help you tackle disagreements, and how they suggest you explain your point of view. Coming to grips with these major life issues—whether it’s sex, money, partnership, or something else—is in large part coming to grips with talking about sex, money, and partnerships. So use the sessions to develop your communication skills, because that is such a gift to be able to bring with you into a marriage.

Premarital counseling can provide a lot of different things to a lot of different couples—so make sure you take some time picking the right counselor for you. Whether it’s religious or secular, in-depth or brief, you should feel like the counselor is speaking to your unique needs. And, by the end, you should feel solid about taking the next step in your relationship, with communication skills that are stronger than ever.

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How Your Parents’ Relationship Affects Your Own

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We like to think that we’re deeply individual people, totally in charge of our decisions — but there is so much that influences the way we look at the world. And when it comes to relationships, one of the biggest influences we have is the primary relationship that we grew up with — our parents. The relationship that we grew up watching and internalizing can inform so much of how we date as adults. And you might not always realize that it’s happening.

For those of us who didn’t grow up with a happily married set of parents, thinking about the influence this may have had can feel a little disheartening. But the truth is, having a bad example isn’t necessarily a terrible thing— sometimes it helps to have an example of what not to do. Here’s how your parents’ relationship affects your love life, because whether it was amazing or troubled, you’re going to have to be self-aware when it comes to the impact it has on you.

Just Because Your Parents Split Up, Doesn’t Mean You’re Doomed

OK, first things first, divorce rates are higher in those who had divorced parents. That’s a fact. But it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. My parents were divorced, never lived together when I was alive, and hated each other — but I’m not letting the lack of a good blueprint make me think I can’t be in a healthy relationship. In fact, I have a pretty good blueprint about how to not have a relationship from watching the way my parents interacted. Whether your parents were divorced or never together in the first place, you still probably had some blueprints for relationships — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The most important thing here is self-awareness. You’ve seen what can go wrong in a relationship, so now you have to not only work out how to avoid these pitfalls, but you have to be willing to admit when you’re falling into them yourself.

There’s one other aspect that you may need to deal with if your parents divorced — and this one is trickier to talk about. You can’t blame your partner for your parents divorcing. And you can’t assume your relationship will fail just because your parents’ relationship failed. Even if it’s somewhere back in the dark corners of your mind, it could lead you to self-sabotage, second-guess your partner, or act out. So you need to accept the limitations of your parents’ example, but also understand — and really believe — that it doesn’t have to turn out the same for you.

Not Fighting Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing

If your parents had a great marriage, that may give you a lot of good examples for your own. Maybe you saw them work as a team, maybe you saw them use great communication, maybe there were traditions and values that you bring into your current relationship. It’s all not only very useful, it’s also a genuinely lovely thing to be able to do.

That being said, some parents make a huge effort to present a perfect relationship. They never fight, never even disagree, and act as though everything is amazing, every single second of the day. That’s not necessarily a good thing. “For a lot of couples, when conflict does come up, if they’ve never seen conflict in their parents’ marriage, they think, ‘Well that’s it, the marriage is over, the relationship is over, this will never work because we’re fighting,’” Ashley Seeger, a Colorado-based licensed clinical social worker and couples counselor tells Well and Good. “And the other person’s going, ‘My parents fought all the time, this is fine. This is how you deal with things.’”

Seeing your parents struggle a bit can actually be a useful tool, because it can show you how you work through things. If it looked like your parents had a perfect marriage, that’s great — and you should take all of the good that you remember from that and apply it to your own relationship. But it’s also important to remember that no relationship is perfect. Your parents had their bumps in the road — and just because they didn’t show them to their children, doesn’t mean they weren’t there. If your parents are still around, you may want to talk to them about your own relationship issues and ask for their advice — they may give you some very different insights into their relationships now that you’re an adult.

And Expectations Can Be Too High

There is so much good that can be taken from a strong parental relationship. But, again — no relationship is perfect. If you idealize your parent’s relationship or try to replicate it, you’re bound to be disappointed. In fact, some people idealize their parents’ relationship so much that it stops them from getting into a relationship in the first place, because they’re so scathing of every candidate. Try to remember that you are not your parents — your traditions don’t have to be the same, your values don’t have to be the same, and your relationship doesn’t have to be the same.

This is especially true if your parents continue to provide a lot of input on your current relationship. The truth is, it’s not always just the way our parents’ relationship played out when we were children that can affect us — sometimes they directly influence us as adults. If your parents are pressuring you into a relationship that looks just like theirs, try to take a deep breath and remember that you’re your own person.

See more: People Are More Likely to Cheat If Their Parents Cheated

Watching your parents’ relationship, whether it was happy, difficult, or non-existent, can have an effect on how you date — and even on your marriage. But that’s OK. Hopefully, you’ll have a mixture of good examples and bad examples, things you can apply and things you can try to build on. Just be aware if you’re projecting any preconceived expectations onto your current relationship. Because no matter what you saw, it wasn’t the whole story — and your current relationship is your own, not anybody else’s.

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Wedding

Everything You Need to Know About Mortgages Before You Buy A Home

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House hunting is an intimidating process. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned upgrader, there are so many steps, so much paperwork, and, frankly, way too much jargon. Plus, it can feel like you’re at the mercy of the real estate agent and potential lenders, who often talk fast and don’t take the time to clarify. That’s why it’s crucial that you do your own research and make sure that you understand the process yourself. That way, you can protect your own interests.

And, if you’re going to learn anything, you need to get a grip on the financial side of home buying — and that means mortgages. Unless you can afford to buy a house in cash, mortgages are the large loan that you’ll get in order to purchase a home. Not only will you be paying the loan back, you’ll also be paying a hefty amount of interest, so it’s important that you understand the terms and conditions of your loan. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry, here are the basics of mortgages that every house-hunting couple should know, because getting approved for a mortgage doesn’t necessarily mean you should take it.

Get Pre-Approved Before House Hunting

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage will give you an idea of the amount you can actually spend, so you don’t waste time (and emotion) falling in love with houses you just can’t afford.”You get pre-approved, and then you find a home,” Steve Anderson, a broker and owner at Re/Max Benchmark Realty in Las Vegas, told Bankrate. “That way you’ll make a financial decision versus an emotional decision.” Be aware, this is not the same as pre-qualification (confusing, I know). It’s a mistake that a lot of people make, that can lead to a lot of disappointment.

Pre-qualification is just the first step, but you want to go for the whole pre-approval process. They’ll check your credit score (which falls between 300 and 850 and gives an idea of how reliable and desirable of a candidate you are when it comes to paying off loans), as well as your income, assets, and any other financial information. You should also shop around with different lenders to find the best deal.

Now, when you’re getting pre-approved and then getting your actual mortgage, there’s a lot of jargon you’re going to have to work your way around. Some of it is about the type of mortgage you’re getting, some of it is about the whole process and repayment.

Fixed Rate Mortgage v. Adjustable Rate Mortgage v. Interest Only Mortgage

Mortgages are not one size fits all. There are a lot of variations, mostly to do with the interest rates that you’re paying. A fixed-rate mortgage means that you have one rate for the whole period of the loan — 15 years, 20 years, 30 years, or whatever period you agree on.

Adjustable rate mortgages often start out lower and seem appealing, but those rates can (and most likely will) vary as time goes on. It may be every couple of years or longer, but the rate will adjust and your payments may rise.

Interest-only mortgages are exactly what they sound like — you’re only paying the interest on the loan, rather than paying off any of the principal. In this sense, you’re not really buying any of the equity in your home, you’re just paying interest to keep the loan at bay. Often you can set them up so you pay just the interest at the beginning of the loan and then switch to paying the principal (the loan balance) as well.

You Can Get The Loan— But Can You Pay It?

When you’re going through the pre-approval process, your bank will come up with the number they’re willing to lend you — but before you run off looking for a house that costs $350,000 or $725,000, look at the actual cost of that mortgage. Can you really afford the $2,500 per month repayments? Are you looking at apartments that come with a huge co-op fee on top that? Just because you can get a loan for a certain amount, doesn’t mean you should take. Crunch your own numbers, after the bank crunches theirs.

And, on top of everything else, don’t forget all of the money that’s going into buying the house. You’ll have closing costs, maybe even taxes, moving costs, and furnishing costs. Make sure you’re figuring these into your budget so you don’t have any nasty surprises.

See more: Mortgages 101: A Newlyweds Guide to Home Ownership

Don’t Forget About Refinancing

Once you’re settled in your new home and happily making payments, it’s still important to keep your eye on your finances. If you find that you come into extra cash or you get a big bump in salary, you may want to consider refinancing. Refinancing allows you to get a new loan and agreement — this can mean paying off your mortgage faster and, ultimately, paying less interest in the long run.

On the other hand, as you gain more equity in your home, you may be able to borrow more from it. Equity is the total value of the property minus the existing loan, so this will vary based off of the amount that you actually have paid off on the loan and also the current house value. If there’s a good amount of equity in the home, you may be able to get home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, which is essentially borrowing against your equity in the home. But again, you’ll still be paying interest on this — although the interest is often tax-deductible.

Buying a house can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or not sure, check out this handy list of jargon or talk to a friend who’s been through it. Doing your research now can save you a lot of strife during the house-hunting process. And once you understand the terms and the language, you’ll be able to go into the whole process with more confidence and assurance, so you can find your dream home as seamlessly as possible.

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Wedding

6 Things You Can Do To Combat Wedding Planning Stress

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There’s no denying that wedding planning is a stressful business. Whether you always knew you wanted a big, complicated affair or you started out with just a small celebration that has spiraled out of control, it’s easy for the preparations to catch up with you. Sooner or later, you may find yourself in “the hole”—and the hole is not a fun place to be. It’s when you feel frayed and manic and overwhelmed and like everything is collapsing in on top of you, but you just can’t stop because you desperately want to sort it all out as quickly as possible. Once you get into this place, you’re not going to be thinking efficiently or acting in a way that’s very good for you. It’s awful—but don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

So if you find yourself buried in the stress of wedding planning, it’s so important that you give yourself room to break out of it. If you can just wrench yourself out of the hole, there are so many useful ways to handle stress now—right now—that can help put you in a better headspace. Whether you want a new approach to your planning or to take a break from it all together, here are six great ways to stop feeling overwhelmed—and you can do any (or all) of them this very second.

1. Unplug For 20 Minutes

First things first: give yourself a break. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, close your laptop—just disconnect. Whatever thing you’re doing that feels really pressing and definitely like an emergency will still be there in 20 minutes. So tune out and take a big breath. Run a bath, stretch out, or just make yourself a snack. If you unplug and clear your head, you’ll be able to go back in with more energy

2. Get Outside

This is really important to remember both in the long and short-term. In the short term, going for a walk is a great way to clear your head if you’re getting stressed. In the long term, getting more time outside every day has a huge range of health benefits. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it can be totally transformative.

3. Try A Mindfulness App

Mindfulness apps are all the rage right now—and with good reason. They can be an amazing tool to stop you from spinning out of control and they’re a great building block for more mindful habits. Calm, Buddhify, and Headspace are three really popular options. They can help you rest your mind and reset, even when you don’t have a lot of time.

3. Rethink Your Relationship With Social Media

It may seem like social media is helping you connect with people—maybe you even feel like you’re getting some great wedding planning tips from Instagram and Pinterest. But be realistic with yourself—is social media actually helping you or is it stressing you out even more? You can be bombarded with unrealistic expectations and endless comparisons to weddings that look totally perfect and seamless. It’s not reality. That can be stressful. Take a step back and get back to your day.

4. Clean Something Really Satisfying

I don’t normally like cleaning, but there are a few things I love cleaning. Taking the lint out of the dryer, wiping down a really dusty shelf, or even reorganizing a messy drawer and getting rid of a bunch of junk you don’t need—there are plenty of things you can clean and organize that are incredibly satisfying, make you feel like you accomplished something, and, crucially, have literally nothing to do with your wedding. Sometimes you need to zone out with something completely different before you can come back to wedding planning with a clear head.

5. Say “No”

Just. Say. No. Even if you’re the kind of person who hates to bail, remember that you don’t have to do it in a flaky way. Look at your schedule for the next week and pick out the things that fill you with dread or make you anxious. Then look for things that you know you can get away with skipping—coffee with a friend you talk to all the time or hanging out with someone who knows how stressed you are. Anything that’s non-essential gets cut. Do it in a polite way and with plenty of notice and they’ll understand. Then, you can just soak up the sweet relief.

See more: Self-Care Tasks that Shouldn’t Take a Backseat to Wedding Planning

6. Delegate And Ask For Help

This is probably the best thing you can do for yourself in a stressful time like wedding planning. Delegating, combined with saying “no”, can change your life. If you’re a perfectionist or someone relentlessly self-sufficient, asking for help may not seem like a natural step—maybe it even feels painful. But do yourself a favor, remember that there are people who love you and who want you to succeed. Reach out to them. Give some tasks to your bridesmaids and future mother-in-law, ask your friends if they can pitch in with those pesky favors you’ve been avoiding—do anything to keep from collapsing into yourself. People want to help you—you just need to give them the chance.

If there’s a way to plan a totally stress-free wedding, we haven’t found it yet—so for now, it’s paramount that you take care of yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a big breath and try a coping technique. The more you let yourself have a break, the better prepared you’ll be when you get back to wedding planning. It will still be there, I promise.

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Wedding

Is “Mommy Brain” Real?

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If you find yourself putting your shoes in the fridge or filling your coffee machine with cereal, you may think you have an explanation for it: “Mommy brain.” Mommy brain, also known as “baby brain” and “pregnancy brain,” is the popular idea that when a woman is pregnant or a new mom, parts of her brain take a little vacation. She starts finding things difficult to remember, doing things that may not make a lot of sense, and sometimes can even feel a little uneasy with her lack of control.

But on the other hand, a lot of women find it difficult that they’re underestimated or patronized when they’re pregnant or a new mom—people shake their head and ask, “Baby brain?” even when they’ve done nothing wrong. So for some women it feels like a very present part of their motherhood, but others can find it a frustrating stereotype. That leaves one big question: Is mommy brain real?

With everything else your body is doing—like, you know, creating life—it would seem to make total sense that your brain might be a little preoccupied. And actually, science has looked into this phenomenon so we have some answers. Here’s what you need to know.

Your Brain Changes With Motherhood—But It’s Actually A Good Thing

First, the good news. Yes, motherhood does actually change your brain. According to research from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and IMIM that looked at the gray matter in the brain, new mothers actually were shown to have “significant reductions in grey matter in regions associated with social cognition” for at least the first two years of the baby’s life. Crucially though, while many jumped to this as proof that new mothers were somehow impaired, the researchers themselves stressed just the opposite.

“The findings point to an adaptive process related to the benefits of better detecting the needs of the child, such as identifying the newborn’s emotional state. Moreover, they provide primary clues regarding the neural basis of motherhood, perinatal mental health and brain plasticity in general,” said Oscar Villarroya, one of the study directors. That’s an important benefit of being a new mother. And, as Science Daily reports. “Researchers did not observe any changes in memory or other cognitive functions during the pregnancies and therefore believe that the loss of grey matter does not imply any cognitive deficits…” So your brain does change, but in ways that make you a better mother, not a more confused person.

But There Seem To Be Short-Term Impairments

So, in the medium to long term, your brain adapts to being a mother. But what about in the short term? Up to 80 percent of pregnant women have been found to say they have some kind of memory loss or other cognitive impairment during pregnancy—and who are we to argue with women who have actually been through it? There’s also the fact that a 2012 study showed that not only was there memory loss during pregnancy, but there also seemed to be a cumulative effect—the more pregnancies you had, the more your memory was impaired during pregnancy and for up to three months afterward.

Being A Parent Is Distracting

In addition to the science, all you need to do is spend a few hours with a toddler to experience how distracting being a parent can be. You leave tasks unfinished or you can’t remember the end of your sentence because you always have an eye elsewhere. Is part of “mommy brain” just dealing with real life? It may be the case, in one 2011 study on memory in pregnant versus non-pregnant women, one woman had to be excluded from the study because she brought her child with her.

But, as Elle notes, the study authors noticed that the women who brought her child had trouble focusing and didn’t even complete one of the tasks. Meanwhile, the pregnant women whose memory was being tested performed just as well as the non-pregnant women—except for when there were added distractions. It sounds like the focus on motherhood works as a kind of preoccupation, rendering you more vulnerable to distractions and the pressures of multitasking—which, of course, parenthood is full of. Is it any wonder you might feel a little all over the place?

See more: Demystifying Pregnancy: Fact vs. Fiction

It’s Not Empty Rhetoric

Even though the science is mixed and there does seem to be an indication that pregnancy and motherhood can affect your brain, we still need to be mindful of how we deploy the language. Though some women might find it easy to laugh it off or even enjoy using the term to explain little pregnancy quirks, it can have a more sinister effect.

A 2010 study found that pregnant women who were given messages and information about the negative effects of “mommy brain” and “baby brain” actually performed worse on cognitive tests and even rated themselves worse on self-reporting exercises. If you’re a pregnant woman who wants to joke about “mommy brain” that’s one thing, but it’s certainly not something we should be using to scare, warn, or patronize pregnant women.

If you find yourself dropping your cell phone into the washing machine, you can cut yourself a break. The science says a lot about how pregnancy affects our brain—but we shouldn’t underestimate just how cognitively monopolizing being a parent can be. You’re probably going to forget things and feel a little messy sometimes, but that’s OK. Being a mother does amazing things for your brain too—and those last a lot longer.

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How To Make Yourself Financially Secure Before Motherhood

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In an ideal world, the only thing to consider before deciding to have children would be whether or not you want children. The reality is much more complicated. There’s no denying that children are expensive — and, for many of us, the amount of children we have (or in some cases, whether we have them at all) is shaped by financial considerations. And even if you do decide that you’re ready to become a mother, there are definitely some financial moves you want to make first. It may seem daunting or confusing — strap in for a lot of jargon — but the truth is, just a little financial planning can make your life a lot easier.

The first thing to think about is a general maternity fund to help you cope with the loss of work — consider your maternity leave, if you have it, and how much you’ll need to save to make up the difference. “Not everyone is offered maternity leave, and even if you are, it may not be enough to cover your expenses for how long you’d like to be home with your newborn,” Priya Malani, co-founder of Stash Wealth tells Brides. “Ideally, once you decide you’re ready to have kids, begin automating money into an online savings account nicknamed ‘Baby Fund’ or ‘Maternity Leave.’ Figure out how much you’ll need to cover the loss of your income the months you aren’t being paid for and work to save up that amount before the baby is born.”

That should help get you through until you return to work but, in addition to a general maternity fund, there are some other financial moves you should consider making. Here’s what you need to know.

Open a 529 Account

There’s no denying that college is expensive — very expensive, in fact. But you can actually benefit from certain tax incentives if you save for your child early. “If you want to help pay for all or even part of your child’s college, the earlier you start the easier this will be!” Malani says. “Again, automation is your best friend. 529 plans are a type of account in which you can save for educational expenses that you will incur down the road.” If you eventually spend the money on education, then what grows is tax-free.

Even better, you can start this account before the baby is even born and add their Social Security number in later. The earlier you start, the more the money adds up.

Review Your Insurance And Life Insurance

If you haven’t thought about life insurance before, now’s the time. “Your baby will obviously be dependent on your income(s),” Malani says. “Make sure you have enough coverage that in the event something happened to anyone who provides financial support to the baby, it can cover the cost of those expenses until the baby is an adult or financially independent.”

Another savvy financial move that you can do even before you get pregnant is to reassess your medical benefits and insurance. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care can bring a lot of medical costs, so make sure that your plan can handle it. “If you rarely go to the doctor, you might have chosen a low premium/high deductible plan. But that may not work so well while you’re pregnant, so revisit your options. Make sure your health insurance coverage is right for your growing family. You may even want to call your provider to go over what is and isn’t covered.” It’s definitely something to clear up sooner rather than later.

Do Some Estate Planning

This might not be the most glamorous part of planning for a new baby, but some basic estate planning can make a huge difference and help you feel more secure. And the good news is, it doesn’t’ have to be complicated. “Make sure to create a will which includes details around guardianship (should something happen to you), inheritance (if any) and your own medical electives should you ever become incapacitated,” Malani says. “It’s definitely not fun to think about this kind of stuff but it’s the cornerstone of #adulting if you’re planning to bring a baby into the picture. Also, make sure you update your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts. You’ll likely want to add your child as either a primary or contingent beneficiary.” It sounds really complicated, but a few forms and signatures can take care of everything.

Re-Budget For Increased Spending

Finally, if you work with a budget — and you should — it’s wise to re-budget to include your baby spending. “Babies are not cheap,” Malani says.”Whether it’s diapers, baby food, extra doctors visits, or all those cute baby clothes, the cost of having a baby definitely adds extra expenses to your life. That said, we often see with our clients that some areas of their spending naturally come down. Most clients aren’t traveling the way they did before the baby. They also aren’t dining out as much. This can help absorb some of the increased baby costs in the first year or two. That said, take some time to address any areas of your life where you can lower your costs…having financial stress while also focusing on your new baby is the opposite of what any of us wants.” There will definitely be some ebb and flow in your budget as your lifestyle changes, but you want to be prepared.

See more: Is Alternative Investing Right For You?

Phew. It may seem like a lot of work — and a little scary — but the truth is, these financial moves will make your life a lot easier. Try not to be intimidated, because it’s a lot more straightforward than you think — and can make a huge difference.

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Wedding

Why You Get Stressed When Your Partner Is Stressed

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When you’re in a relationship, it’s no secret that you share the highs and the lows. You feel elated when your partner is happy, and you can feel completely destroyed when you see them in pain. But it’s actually a more complicated phenomenon than just picking up on and feeding off of someone else’s emotions; sometimes, we actually internalize those emotions and can start to feel them ourselves. Because the truth is, emotions are contagious.

The bad news? Some emotions catch easier than others—and anxiety and stress can catch like wildfire. If you find yourself feeling stressed and anxious when your partner is stressed, you’re not alone—and it’s not in your imagination. There’s actually a lot of science behind it. Here’s why you get anxious when your partner is anxious.

The Power Of Anxiety Contagion

You might worry about catching your partner’s flu or cold, but you probably don’t think of yourself as catching anxiety. But when you start thinking about emotions as being contagious, it makes a lot of sense. Elaine Hatfield, a social psychologist at the University of Hawaii, has done a lot of research into relationship science and emotion consignation. In a relationship, it’s actually really easy to see why we pick up on each other’s emotions.

“In conversation, people automatically and continuously mimic and synchronize their movements with the facial expressions, voices, postures, movements, and instrumental behaviors of others,” Hatfield explains. “Consequently, people tend, from moment to moment, to ‘catch’ others’ emotions.” And though those emotions can be happy ones—a friend’s good mood has been proven to boost our mood by 25 percent—it’s the more unpleasant emotions that tend to transfer. “We catch happiness, but sadness, anger, and fear are a lot more contagious,” she says. So when your partner is unhappy at work or stressed with family issues, there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel it.

In fact, research has shown that we can smell the difference between sweat that results from stress and sweat that results from physical activity. There are so many different ways that the body manifests stress, before you even take into consideration the way your partner is acting or speaking. It’s no wonder that we start to absorb and mimic some of their anxieties.

A Gendered Issue?

One thing that the research hasn’t looked into, but many of us have experienced anecdotally, is that women often seem to pick up on anxiety and stress in the people around them more than men do. This isn’t because men are intrinsically more obvious, it’s because we, as a society, put a specific pressure on women. “Women are often socialized to be caretakers, so in a way, we sometimes feel like their stress or problems are actually our responsibility to solve,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Brides. “So if this is the case, in a way their stress actually is our stress.”

It may not be true for all women, but many of us feel the pressure to help people, especially men, deal with and process their anxiety—even when the situation is far beyond our control. And we simply don’t put the same expectations on men. The social burden that women feel to be emotional caretakers, mixed with the power of emotional contagion can make it really easy for your partner’s anxiety to really affect your life.

See more: What is Mirroring, and What Does it Mean for Your Marriage?

The Importance Of Perspective

It’s important that you can empathize with your partner and be compassionate toward their anxieties—but it won’t do either of you any good if you let their problems take over your life. You need to be able to get some distance. If you feel like you tend to take on your partner’s anxieties to a fault, it’s important to take a step back. “A good way to solve this is to recognize that you and your partner are separate people,” Hartstein says. “They can be stressed, or sad, or depressed. You can empathize with them, but do not have to take on their feelings.” Remembering that you are separate people—and recognizing your limits and your inability to solve all of your partner’s problems—can help keep their stress from having a debilitating influence on your life.

We’re always going to pick up on and be affected by the emotions of people we care about—it’s totally natural and, in many ways, a good thing. But when we start to let the stress and anxiety of someone else become our own source of torment, things can get out of hand. Try to get some perspective and remember that there’s a difference between being a compassionate support system and becoming embroiled with someone else’s anxiety. If you can protect yourself, it will make you a happier person—and a stronger partner.

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Wedding

Why Confrontation Is Actually Good For Your Relationship

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Fighting is a complicated issue in relationships. It can come in all different forms—quiet seething, civilized disagreements, or what feels like all-out verbal warfare. And not only can it manifest in different ways, it’s also something that people feel very differently about. Some people thrive off of the drama of a disagreement, while for many of us, fighting is the worst possible outcome.

But why are so many of us conflict-averse? Well, it’s a mixture of personality, experience, and so many other things, but when it comes to avoiding conflict in relationships, some psychologists think there’s a particular force at play. It may have a lot to do with your mindset. People tend to have a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset.” In other words, they tend to think that your personality is set in stone or that it’s constantly evolving. Those of us with a “fixed mindset” tend to be more confrontation-averse, to the point where it can actually hurt our relationships. Here’s what you need to know about confrontation in relationships.

Understand What Confrontation Is

“In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be,” Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck writes in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “It’s not that the partners will work to help each other solve their problems or gain skills. It’s that this will magically occur through their love.” Sounds great, right? But there are a couple of major issues with the fixed mindset, Dweck explains. The first is that it’s not realistic—love doesn’t swoop in and do the dishes for you or make your in-laws less ridiculous. The second—and bigger—problem with the fixed mindset is that when problems arise, you panic or back away from them. Because, in a fixed mindset, conflict seems like it’s a sign of incompatibility or that you don’t love each other enough, so you just don’t want to deal with it. That means that problems don’t get dealt with. And problems that don’t get dealt with don’t go away, they grow.

But if you have a “growth mindset”, you can start to see fights as opportunities. Disagreeing is a chance to learn more about each other, to understand each other’s point of view, and find a compromise. You don’t need to see a disagreement as a sign that you’re not compatible—it’s just a sign that your It’s important to realize you can use this opportunity to make your relationship stronger.

Start Small And Be Honest

If you are more confrontation-averse or find yourself worrying that disagreeing is bad for your relationship, you may need to start small to break the pattern. Rather than just going along with your partner’s choice for where to go to dinner, be honest if you’re not in the mood and want to try something else. Things as simple as picking paint colors or what movie to see can be good practice for embracing disagreement and differing opinions—and realizing that it won’t ruin your relationship. Gently confronting them when you don’t agree is a great place to start.

And just remember that honesty is key. A relationship isn’t about being 100 percent in sync all the time—in fact, that sounds pretty boring. But it is about being comfortable enough with someone to be honest and candid about anything. Once you’re more comfortable disagreeing, make sure you start being open about telling your partner when your feelings are hurt, when you don’t like how they’ve behaved, or even if you’ve just had a terrible day. Airing any grievances quickly and openly will let you resolve them—and ultimately make your relationship so much stronger.

See more: What Fighting (Yes, Fighting!) Can Teach You About Your Relationship

There’s No Need To Romanticize Fighting

Although it’s important to realize that conflict and confrontation are totally normal (and sometimes good) parts of your relationship, there’s no need to go too far the other way and romanticize all-out fighting. There’s a difference between disagreeing and having a partner who is aggressive or antagonistic. Disagreeing is only good for your relationship if you do it in a constructive, healthy, and safe way. That doesn’t include screaming matches or throwing plates across the room. Some people romanticize toxic behavior as a sign of passion or the strength of their bond—when it’s just someone behaving really, really badly. Don’t make excuses for your partner if there’s actual aggression, because that’s very different than constructive, gentle confrontation.

Some people are always going to be more conflict-averse and that’s OK—I’m totally one of those people and accept that about myself. But what I have learned is that my relationship is more important to me than my need to avoid conflict. So we have the difficult conversations, we call each out if we feel hurt or confused, and we allow ourselves to disagree. It’s a sign of being comfortable with each other, not incompatibility. Remember that people–and relationships—are not fixed. There’s plenty of room to grow.

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Maldives-Holiday

Have You Gotten Complacent In Your Relationship?

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You hear a lot about the honeymoon period and the seven-year itch, but there’s another relationship phenomenon that doesn’t get as much press—probably because it’s nowhere near as glamorous. But, for many of us, at some point there’s a complacency dip. It may be right after the honeymoon period ends, or it may not happen for months or years, but it’s a period where one (or both) of you becomes just a little too relaxed. Being comfortable with each other is one thing, but being complacent is a whole other ballgame.

Because complacency has an apathy component, it suggests you’ve started taking your partner or the relationship for granted. Too frequently when we talk about people no longer making an effort, we relate it to superficial things—like not going to the gym or living in sweatpants. And sure, that can be a sign. But complacency is about something so much deeper than that.

Worried that you—or your partner—have become complacent? Here are the signs to look out for and what you can do to fix them.

Date Nights And Vacations Are Disappearing

Maybe one of you has become a little lazy and is dragging your heels—or maybe both of you have succumbed—but if you’re seeing your date nights and romantic opportunities fade away, it’s a good sign complacency has set in. Especially if you live with someone, it’s easy to think that you can always “just go out another night” and decide to stay in and watch Netflix while drooling over a delivery. But soon, you’re never going out.

The solution is simple: get out of the house. Make a reservation or, better yet, book a vacation that you can’t get out of and really catch up on quality time. It might seem unnecessary when you live together, but being at home just isn’t the same.

You’re Not Confiding In Each Other

Complacency isn’t just about being stuck in the same old T-shirt, you can become complacent emotionally as well. If you stop checking in with each other—about the little things and the big ones—then your connection can slip away. Even though having a strong social life is important, your partner should be your go-to for emotional support.

If you feel like you’ve lost that emotional intimacy, start by just making time every day to talk about how your day went. It doesn’t have to be life-altering, it’s just about reconnecting. Once you establish that, build up to the deeper conversations.

The Sex Has Started To Slip

First of all, there’s no “right” amount of sex to be having, so don’t’ worry if you don’t have sex particularly regularly. Everyone’s different, but if there’s a big change or drop-off from the amount of sex you usually have, then that’s a sign. You know what’s normal to you—and if things have changed.

Try initiating sex more and taking time to really set the mood—schedule it in if you have to. But if your partner is really stuck in that complacent rut and waves you off, you may need to sit down and really explain how much this means to you and that you think the lack of sex is a sign of bigger problems. Talk it through, then start making the effort.

You’re Your Worst Self To Each Other

It’s great that you can be yourself with your partner, that you don’t have to be “on” all the time with them—but that can go too far. If you find that you or your partner are taking things out on each other, always grouchy, or just plain difficult, it may be that you’ve become a little too relaxed. There’s a thin line between become comfortable and using someone as an emotional punching bag.

If you find yourself doing this, it’s important to take a breath and remember that everything going on in your life is not your partner’s fault and that they deserve to be treated a little more gently. If your partner’s doing it, you can remind them of exactly the same thing.

See more: The Secret To Getting Through A Relationship Rough Patch

You Feel Distant

If you or your partner are finding that you feel like you don’t even know each other anymore—or even like each other anymore—that’s a sign of emotional complacency that’s gotten out of hand. Any vast distance between you should be addressed, sooner rather than later.

Try to carve out some time to sit down and talk about the fact that you feel distant—it will be hard, but it’s worth it for your relationship. Agree to make more of an effort with each other and work out a plan to do that, then keep checking in to make sure the situation is improving. Open communication is key.

It’s so easy to fall into complacency but, luckily, it’s also easy to pull yourself out of it, if you do it early enough. Make an effort, be kind to each other, and, crucially, keep the conversation open. You’ll be back to your old selves in no time.

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Is Alternative Investing Right For You?

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For many of us, financial planning is a completely overwhelming endeavor. Even something as simple as getting an emergency fund together can feel like a huge undertaking—and that’s before we even get into the idea of retirement planning and long-term investments. But more and more, modern financial services are getting in line with the needs of modern investors. We not only have slick banking apps, but user-friendly investment apps that take care of the work for you. And there’s another twist on investing that you might want to consider that falls outside of the normal modes. It’s called, fittingly, alternative investing and it’s actually far more straightforward than you might imagine.

Alternative investing is just, in short, alternatives to traditional investment strategies. “Broadly speaking, alternatives are investments in assets other than stocks, bonds and cash (commodities, for example) or investments using strategies that go beyond traditional ways of investing, such as long/short or arbitrage strategies,” the global investment management company BlackRock explains. “Because alternatives tend to behave differently than typical stock and bond investments, adding them to a portfolio may provide broader diversification, reduce risk, and enhance returns.”

There’s a lot of jargon, but alternative investing can actually cover a whole range of things. Hedge funds and real estate would fall in the alternative investment category, but so would investing in art, in certain companies, even in wine. Sound interesting? Here’s what you need to know.

Alternative Investing Isn’t Just For The Super Rich

As soon as you hear the words “hedge fund” you probably have images of Billions and Wolf of Wall Street flashing before your eyes—I definitely did. We often associate alternative investing with the super wealthy and assume that it’s totally out of reach for any of us mere financial mortals. But that’s not the case. CNBC reports that advisors are starting to use alternative investing for average customers. So if you’re interested, don’t be afraid to do some research or ask a professional to look into it for you.

But You Should Walk Before You Run

Hearing that you can invest in wine, art, or even a nice Chanel bag might sound tempting, but it’s important to be realistic—a good Merlot is not a retirement plan. A basic investment strategy should include an emergency fund—many experts recommend that this includes six full months of expenses set aside before you do anything else. You should also look into retirement options offered by your company, basic IRAs, and other traditional methods. The point of alternative investing is that it’s a chance to further diversify your accounts, to protect you against risks. So make sure you’re covering the basic firsts—and no, a closet full of handbags doesn’t count.

You Need To Understand The Risks Of Any Investment

Alternative investment seems glossy and exciting—and there is the potential for huge rewards. But there are also a lot of potential risks. Because traditional investments can sometimes be frustratingly slow to grow, it can be tempting to jump into something flashier. But all investments have risks and understanding alternative investment risks is so important. Many of them are illiquid, so it’s difficult to retrieve your money and they’re not always researched and protected in the same way as traditional investments. Do your research, talk to a professional, and remember if something sounds too good to be true…well, you know the drill.

See more: Investing As a Couple For the First Time? Here’s How NOT to Fight About It

There Are Investments Available That Reflect Your Values

One of the benefits of alternative investing is the opportunity to find investments that reflect your values and find companies that you genuinely feel like you want to support. Investing can be an anonymous and sterile process, but more and more investors—especially women—want to buck the trend of investing in a huge system with a competitive ethos they don’t agree with. Finding alternative opportunities can feel like a more ethical way to invest, at least for some people. Even if alternative investing isn’t for you, it’s a good reminder that you can look outside of traditional means—and try to find ways to invest that sit better with your moral compass.

Investing can be a very confusing process—so try to wade through the jargon and the promises and make sure that you’re approaching it with a clear head. Make sure that your emergency fund is taken care of, make sure you’re maximizing your company’s retirement options or your self-employed options. Take care of the basics. Then, do your research and you might want to consider alternative investing. Just make sure that you understand the risks—because there are always risks.

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