To The Girl Who’s Always Half-Loved: What Falling In REAL Love Feels Like

The other night, my new boyfriend and I stayed up all night just talking, his hands in mine, his head on my belly. Sometimes, we talk so much we lose track of time: the clock strikes 12, then 2, and before we know it, the sun’s rising.

We talked about picking up and leaving, and where we’d go if we actually could.

“Africa!” I exclaimed.

“Where in Africa?!” he asked. “Cape Town? A gringo and a beautiful Indian girl  ,” he continued, in a half-decent South African accent.

“Ha. Maybe Egypt? I’ve always wanted to go on an African safari…”

“How much do you think all that’d cost?”

“I’ve got a trust fund we could dip into…” We laughed. “I don’t care where we go,” I said. “As long as I’m with you.”

I thought I’d been in love once or twice before, but being with my boyfriend made me realize I’ve usually just been in an intense state of lust. With fuckboys, it was always about sex, every. Damn. Time. Sure, I had a connection with them, but it was just that: a connection, and not a very good one, at that. It was shaky and unpredictable and there was always static and we could hear each other, but we sure as hell didn’t listen.

When you fall in love, it feels like more than just a connection. It’s a living, breathing truth you can’t deny. It’s about friendship. Compassion. Sex, too, but also all this other stuff I’d been neglecting for far too long. It is 100% mutual. It is unconditional. It isn’t more convenient for one than it is for the other. And this person truly feels like the other half of your soul.

I wanted to put into words what falling in love feels like for a few different reasons. One of my readers messaged me the other day telling me she is 27 and has never been in love. Another reader messaged me asking if the back-and-forth she has with a guy who will only text her once a week is love. And, of course, I wanted to remember the feelings as they are happening to me in real time.

I’d like to point out that every relationship is different. But falling in love is one feeling that is uniform across all relationships; when you fall in love, for real for real, this is what it feels like…

Falling in love feels like someone’s picked you up and won’t stop twirling you around.

Falling in love feels like you’re on all the best drugs (but in a totally cool, totally non-toxic sort of way).

Falling in love feels like hearing music in your head all the time, only for once, it isn’t sad songs; it’s airy, acoustic vocals and soft, sweet sounds. It’s “oohs” and “aahs” to a melody your imagination made up just for this one very special occasion, the one of falling in love.

Falling in love feels like an irrepressible urge to cry and laugh and sing all at the same time because you never thought you’d feel this feeling.

Falling in love feels natural and right when it’s real, and you just can’t fight it, no matter what happens to him or you or the state of the world. You two are bound together by everything that makes you, you and him, him. There’s nothing you don’t want to experience by his side.

Because with him, everything is just better.

With him, it’s love.

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The Dark Truth Of Being In A Relationship When You Have Anxiety & Depression

I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression ever since I was a teen, and I’ve been in therapy for almost 10 years now. I’ve taken medicine in the past, but as of right now, therapy twice a week, daily exercise and the support of my family, friends (and new boyfriend) have been my “medicine.”

A few months ago, I began dating someone new. He’s different from the other guys I’ve dated: he’s fun, gentlemanly, kind (but not boring). It is hard (read: close to impossible) to find a guy like him.

It’s been a couple of months now, and he’s seen me at my cloud-nine highs and shit-storm lows. Unlike other guys I’ve dated, he’s well-aware of my mental handicaps and has chosen not to run away. (As for why not, I couldn’t tell you. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of A) his otherworldly open-mindedness and B) all the great stuff we’ve got, which is often enough to cancel out the bad stuff).

My whole life, I’ve operated under the false misconception that love would “cure” my anxiety and depression; that they would disappear once I met a guy who, for once, didn’t aggravate it. Fuckboys made me more anxious than ever, and I was convinced they were the purveyors of any anxious feelings I felt.

I’ve learned that though fuckboys did aggravate the anxiety and depression because they weren’t interested in getting to know me beyond surface-level, anxiety and depression don’t just go away with the guy who’s right for you. In fact, with the right guy, your mental disabilities might even be heightened because your depression tells you you don’t deserve a guy like him. I’m learning that anxiety and depression are little monsters you carry around in your pockets at all times, no matter where you are in life or who you’re with, and you constantly have to work to manage them.

Even though I’ve learned  the tools to manage them, at times, my anxiety and depression take complete control of me in my new relationship. I’ve never been with such a great guy, and I don’t know how to handle the feelings that come with it. If you’re anything like me, you end up thinking this person is too good for you and all your stupid shit. You care about this person so much that you don’t want to drag him down into that dark hole you sink into every now and then for reasons you can’t explain (or for absolutely no reason at all other than your hormones).

And so you sabotage the best thing that’s ever happened to you. You start explosive fights, then push him away, and he calls you a cold-hearted bitch: not because he’s a dick, but because you’re too ashamed to admit the extent of your crippling disability.

You have days where you break down on the couch while he holds you and kisses your forehead. You have nights where all you want to do is lie in bed with your headphones in and back towards him because you just “need” to be alone.

My therapist tells me the time during which people like me push away people like him is actually the time we need them most. You know you’re dating the right person, though, if he doesn’t turn you away during this time. He will welcome you and be willing to push through the pain with you because that’s how much he loves you.

I never thought I’d be able to have a functioning relationship because of my mental handicaps. I wrote this post because anyone out there who suffers from anxiety or depression (or both, quite possibly the most harrowing combination to deal with) needs to know that they can, in fact, find love. And not only that, but they can keep it, as long as they are willing to work on themselves while accepting the love they’re being given. Depressed people are often the most compassionate of people, making us kind, warm lovers. We just tend to forget that sometimes.

You will both have to be patient; him, with you, and you, with your demons. But if both partners are willing to be patient – a virtue I am slowly but surely learning to practice on the reg – you’ve got yourself the opportunity to build an incredible life together.

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A Letter To Single People Who Feel Extra Lonely On Holidays

Happy Easter, bunnies! I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday.

Every holiday, I wonder what it would be like to bring someone special home to meet my family. I’ve never brought someone home before; I’ve always wanted to wait until the moment – and person – was just right.

(That’s because I never want my family to get invested in someone that won’t last. Sometimes, I think they want me to be in love more than I do, and if I were to get my heart broken, I wouldn’t want their hearts to break, too).

For the first time in almost a decade, I’m with someone that I could see myself bringing home, because he doesn’t feel “wrong.” My family would LOVE him. I love picturing him in a room with my family. Everyone would have such a blast.

One of my readers is chasing a married woman. One of them keeps getting stood up. One just ended things with her emotionally abusive ex, and one has given up on love entirely.

I’ve been all of you. I know what it’s like to have nothing to say when your family asks “how’s your love life?” (In actuality, you have plenty to say, but you don’t say anything because your love life is too embarrassing to talk about for one of many reasons).

I also know how much it sucks having to hide your hook-ups and break-ups and affairs and almost-relationships from your family. It’s almost like you’re living a double life: your family is your happy, safe place, and your love life is the place where all your dreams go to die.

You are all incredibly courageous. I want to remind you to trust the process. It’s normal not to get it right on the first or third or tenth try. And I bet a million dollars that your family would rather you bring home one special man in ten years, than ten unspecial men in one year.

This Easter, keep the faith. Every “wrong” person you chase is just getting you closer to the right person, because each and every “wrong” person you date teaches you to respect yourself just a little bit more.

The journey is fucking long, but your loving family deserves to meet someone who loves YOU endlessly.

And you will find that person. ❤️

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In Matters Of Dating, Listen To Your Body

Back in the day, I would get all dolled up to meet my “Asshole Of The Week” out at a bar with his friends. I’d skip there, grinning like an idiot with butterflies in my stomach the whole way there, as if what he had to offer me was somehow going to change my world; make me a happier girl.

We’d go back to his place. Sometimes, I’d stay holed up with him for an entire weekend at a time.

Then, poof. Gone. The weekend would end, and so would my short-lived happiness. He’d disappear on me and I wouldn’t hear from him for a week. Wondering where he was, I always felt like the pit of my stomach was going to drop straight out of my body. I felt anxious. Unwanted. A raging cynic and a man-hater. He wasn’t the guy I’d imagined I’d be with; I wasn’t the girl I’d always wanted to be.

This is how it feels to be chasing the wrong person: your body will literally TELL you to get away from him. I didn’t fully realize the significance of the body’s signals until I felt so sick to my stomach that I had to take a break from men for a few months. (And thank God I did, because I’m currently dating someone who’s wonderful. I never thought I’d get here!)

The next time you’re dating, pursuing or sleeping with, I want you to pay attention to the way your body feels.

We over-complicate. It’s simple, really: You’re supposed to feel better after seeing the person you’re dating, not worse.

(I know, it seems like common sense. But the reason great girls keep finding themselves in these shitty situations with these shitty men is because they ignore the signals are bodies are sending them).

I say you should listen to your body rather than your mind is because when we really like someone, our mind twists the truth. It’ll take the signals our body is sending us, regardless of how tummy-twisting they are, and put a rose gold filter over them. Your head’s in the fucking clouds, but your body will never steer you wrong.

There’s a reason that exercise, yoga and meditation can solve almost all of life’s problems: When we are in tune with our bodies, we are in tune with ourselves – and that includes our romantic needs and desires.

When you are with the right person, you will come with butterflies and leave with even more.

The right relationship can be likened to that 80/20 dieting rule we all love so much: at the very least, you should feel happy with this person in your life 80% of the time. That 80% includes the way you feel when you leave him. He doesn’t get to treat you like a queen whenever it’s convenient for him, then disappear on you.


If you feel anxious, insecure and like your stomach is Jell-O, you’re banging the wrong dude. You should feel happy and secure in your relationship even when you aren’t with him.

Never compromise on butterflies. Oh, and if you’re lucky like me, you’ll feel those butterflies a solid 90% of the time.

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The Not-So-Exclusive Thing About Being Exclusive

[Image credit: Petras Gagilas]

On a typical day, I wake up, hop on the subway, write a couple of pieces, run a couple of errands, potentially head to a social engagement, then go home. In that time, I can’t help but notice all the couples, both seemingly happy and seemingly unhappy: the ones kissing on the sidewalk, the ones holding hands and laughing, the ones in which one partner looks unequivocally more invested than the other because the girlfriend is picking out a Ben & Jerry’s flavor in a deli while talking about which movie she wants to cuddle to later while the boyfriend (indiscreetly) checks out the ass on the aspiring model in tight spandex standing two feet behind him.

As the end of this past Spring turned into the beginning of Summer, I met a guy at one of New York’s male-heavy bars. It – that is, the nameless thing that began to brew between us – started out as casual, and I had intended for it to stay that way. See, I’d just been offered a dream job, set to start in July, and I wanted to celebrate this new chapter of my life by remaining tied down to nothing and no one. The problem is, the moment in which we’re least looking for something (or someone) is usually the moment in which we find ourselves pleasantly surprised by our new-found convictions.

The more I hung out with this guy, the more I realized how much I actually enjoyed his company; when I’m not with him, I miss him, the way I miss chocolate when I try to go low-carb for a week (AKA I miss him a lot). I haven’t felt that feeling in a while. Not soon after coming to the aforementioned realization, I came to yet another one: I wanted exclusivity. For the first time in nearly years, I felt comfortably prepared to see one person, and only one person. And that person was him.

So this is where I find myself. Lately, I’ve been lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, mulling over what to do next. I don’t know what to do, but I do know I have to proceed cautiously. The thing is, I’ve never proposed exclusivity before, and the thought of doing it makes my heart race, because modern dating confuses the absolute sh*t outta me.

What is it about being exclusive that makes us jump in either unabashed excitement or fear? Why are people so apprehensive when being asked to commit? Why are people – er, like myself – afraid to even ask someone to commit? When the f*ck did it become “cool” to trivialize feelings that are practically pouring out of us and screaming to be coddled?

Like any true adult hoping to find concrete answers, I googled “how to ask to be…”. “How to ask to be exclusive” is the third most popular search, following “how to ask to be a reference,” and “how to ask to be laid off” (um, wtf?)

I also read multiple viewpoints on this topic: the “scientific research” of one of those so-called love-ologists in a Huff Post piece, some dude’s ramblings on BroBible, and a clearly misinformed chick’s claims on AllWomenStalk (do NOT take dating advice from the women who write on there. Those are the women who show up unannounced at their exes’ doorsteps with gift baskets).

What’s interesting is this: women say “Go for it! Be honest about your feelings! Girl power!” But the general consensus amongst men is that the dude should man up and ask a woman to be his girlfriend. Between third-wave feminism and the unimpressive progression of chivalry – women armoring themselves in attempts to come off as though we don’t need men, and men replacing dinner and a show with drinks and Netflix – I don’t know what on God’s green earth I’m expected to do here.

The one thing I do find solace in is that my research has concluded that, apparently, I’m not the only one left in the dark about how one makes his or her way from being completely casual to completely exclusive.

Like that ass-staring guy in the deli, I’ve got one foot out the door and the other one still inside; though I know looking isn’t the same as touching, my thoughts can’t help but to cement themselves in what happens to young couples once the novelty in a relationship wears off. Striving for exclusivity in New York is like that scene in Aladdin: the one where Abu steals the gem in The Cave of Wonders while Aladdin tries to keep his eyes on the lamp, and only the lamp. Abu is the devil on my shoulder, too curious for his own good – greedily always wanting more – and he’s got his peripherals to thank for that.

I’m fearful of what bigger, better, shinier thing may come his or my way if he and I become exclusive. Maybe I only want him because I don’t yet fully have him. Maybe he only likes me as much as he does because he doesn’t fully have me. Maybe, we’ll always simply want that which we don’t have.

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What Defines A “Soulmate?”

[Image credit: Brett Davis]

It was a Sunday morning in Manhattan. I awoke to clings and clangs of pots and pans, and they were only just audible enough to drown out the sounds of summer filtering up and in through the windows. An aroma of fried food wafted over from the kitchen. I was intrigued. And then, he came into the bedroom with a fresh-squeezed glass of juice:

“Here you go, love. You just relax.”
“Uh, I most certainly will.”

I picked up The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway from his window ledge and began to read, drifting off somewhere in the middle of ‘The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife.’ This time, it wasn’t a noise that awoke me, but a smell: that of a proper English breakfast. Bacon and eggs and coffee and hash browns and jam. Blueberry jam. (How did he know my favorite flavor?)

I couldn’t believe it. The last time someone had brought me breakfast in bed was three years ago. I was sick as a dog, and that person was my mother (hey, Mom!)

When I left his apartment later that humid and hazy day, I got to thinking about soulmates. What defines a soulmate? Do we get more than one in a lifetime? How do we know when to stop our soulmate search? Is it foolish to even hold out for one to begin with? Does someone whom you’ve been seeing for a hot minute treating you well, on its own, make him worthy of being your soulmate — or does that just make him a good person?

24 is a weird age; upon striking up conversation with 35-year-old strangers at bars, your wisdom is playfully dismissed and you’re called a “baby,” but then you go home and check out your Instagram feed, and some 26-year-old chick has just uploaded a clip of her engagement story – y’know, the one that was featured in last month’s issue of Stone Fox Bride magazine. And then, that biological clock that you’ve impressively managed to mute suddenly becomes annoyingly loud. And you’re sitting there with a bottomless glass of red wine, doing a line (of Oreos), all like, “Yo, engaged chick, I’m really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but I don’t give a flying fck about your smooth-sailing love life and — oh sht. I got crumbs in my bed. Egyptian cotton my ass. I don’t deserve nice things.”

^^ (totally hypothetical situation) ^^

Anyway, soulmate. To many, “soulmate” means to stand the test of time. But I can’t attest to the validity of my feelings for any current romantic prospects; I could simply be imposing the title of ‘Potential Soulmate’ onto them because many of my girlfriends have boyfriends. In psychology, the term “mob mentality” “describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, and/or purchase items.” Mob mentality is what leaves you lonely when you’re usually not susceptible to such a feeling. Mob mentality is what left me hungry for more English breakfast as I left his apartment too full to speak.

So again, I ask, what makes someone a soulmate? Are the qualities he has even relevant, or is it all about timing? (Insofar as the time in our lives to settle down, or to start a family – or the time in our lives in which we’re loneliest – deems the next guy we see deserving of the title). I think of how I’d feel about Breakfast Lover if I had met him at 27. I think of how I’d feel about him if I had met him at 22. I think of how I’d feel about him if I didn’t like breakfast.

I may be foolish for having stayed single as long as I have in the hope of finding my soulmate; in my scripted ending, the joke’s on everyone else, and all the bad dates and lost causes and false hopes will have opened the doors to someone who pleasantly surprises me.

But maybe, what defines a soulmate is your choice to stay with him. Maybe your soulmate is the man you’ve hand-picked, the man in whom you’ve instilled the faith that he’ll continue to make you laugh, and send chills up and down your spine, and make you breakfast in bed just when you think he forgot what it means to be a man. We wait for our soulmates like we wait for a good sample sale. Well, maybe the joke’s on me, and I’ve got it all wrong, and he isn’t meant to pick us, but we’re meant to pick him.

I wonder if connections we make in the present – those random, remarkable ones that flip our jaded expectations upside-down on their heads – can stand the test of time; of decades, of quarter-centuries.

I wonder if there’s any way of ever knowing if a connection will stand the test of time.

There isn’t.

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How Do You Know If You’re “Ready” For A Relationship?

[Image credit: kylesteed]

A man grabs his lady-love on the subway and pulls her in close. Sounds of a giddy lilt overwhelm their conversation with every ringlet of hair he curls around his finger. He looks at her as if he’s going to kiss her, but he refrains; still, the tension lingers in the air like impending rain.

As a young adult, my peripherals proved themselves impervious to public displays of affection, but as I grew older and stayed singler, I began to process them more and more. In the beginning, I found them to be sweet. But now, bitterness takes hold of me; I find myself wondering, can’t they wait until they get home? Why does their love weigh on me like the mass of a thousand bricks? Why is what they’re doing seem like an imposition? Um, why do I even care what they’re doing?

My disposition in icky-gooey-lovey-dovey situations is that of indignation, and I’ve come to the following unfortunate realization: I’m jealous.

The man crazy-in-love twirling hair around his fingers is all I’ve ever wanted. Hell, it’s all any of us has ever wanted. But is the act of wanting something so badly, in itself, enough to make one fit for the desired role? Does the striving of an actor for a part make him a good actor, or is he just persistently desperate? Does my longing for a relationship solely make me relationship material?

Or, is it just the opposite? Is relentless longing for a boyfriend just a stand-in for a void that can’t be filled with a relationship? It’s here I find myself running in circles. Each Tinder swipe is a mini existential crisis: a questionably attempted distraction from something perhaps I am missing in myself. With each failed date acting as a puzzle piece almost, but not quite, enough to complete the puzzle, I wonder if I’m looking for something for which I am not yet ready. If only there were a litmus test for deciphering what “ready” really means.

There are days soul-crushing loneliness plagues me. When it takes over, it doesn’t leave room for much else, and being alone becomes palpable; on these days, when I wake, I acknowledge my singledom even before the eye-crust and the bad breath. On these days, my loneliness is the last thing I dwell on before sleep finally comes to steal me.

But then, there are days when the logistics of love are realized. I think about how I’m selfish because I prefer shopping alone rather than with someone in order to save time. How I fail to tolerate sharing a bed because I kick and dream and wake and fall back asleep. How I’m unsure of which city will be my home by the end of this summer season. How, maybe, there is such a thing as being too young, or too lacking in wisdom, for monogamy. How, in short, I am not ready to be in a relationship.

We all want to love and be loved. But if history is any indication, sometimes, love just isn’t enough. The greatest love I’ve ever experienced was short and sweet, and ended just footsteps from where it began; despite how much we grew into each other, we were too consumed with other faculties to make a structured partnership thrive. Actions speak louder than thoughts, and though I want nothing more than to be swept away by a force larger-than-life, I’ve learned there are one too many technicalities to consider upon consideration of taking on the needs of somebody else.

One day, I will be ready. When selflessness outweighs obstinacy, when meeting somebody is not an act of conscious volition, but one of circumstance, when fate joins hands with preparedness – that is, the prepared, best version of myself – I will be ready.

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Calling All Alphas: Why Do Our Elastic Relationships Turn Toxic?

[Image credit: José Manuel Ríos Valiente]

All is fair in love and war.
…Or is it? In love, at least, the lines become blurred more often than not; we trip, we fall, we lose ourselves, only to blame our shortcomings on lazy judgment and rose-tinted vision. Hell, my love life has ended up in the land of grey more times than I can count. Why, you ask? Because I tend to be a victim of elastic relationships. Many creative alpha females find themselves in ElasticLand, as well. There’s just one problem with elastic relationships: they can turn toxic with a snap of the fingers.

Elasticity is “the ability of an object or material to resume its normal shape after being stretched or compressed; stretchiness.”

Toxicity is “the degree to which a substance can damage an organism.”

Alphas don’t mess around. We know what we want – well, we think we do, anyway – and we go after it. Usually, what we want from relationships manifests itself in the form of passion and roller coaster rides: enter elasticity. The alpha female attracts the elastic relationship; the gypsy-hearted guy who is just as driven and independent, if not more driven and independent, than she, and with whom she finds herself asking these questions: Does he keep me on my toes? How much can I test the bounds of (stretch) this relationship before it breaks? She craves this uncertain world of grey, these fields of mines, because it is the unknown that keeps her wanting more, yet consistently in the dark.

The creative alpha can’t help her passion for passion. She has the tendency to turn into the femme fatale because ultimately, a relationship that’s too elastic will turn toxic. The more the guy keeps her on her toes, the more she leans in, and the more he pulls away, creating an inevitable snap of the relationship. At this point, the attraction is no longer mutual; the dynamic has transformed into that of a seesaw. Even the baddest b*tch of the alphas – y’know, the one who started as a self-important princess – is left withered down, looking inward and questioning her morals and values. All of a sudden, something that felt so good now only feels bad when it’s good and bad when it’s bad. She is overambitious, so she flies with an overambitious flock. But what draws her toward a man is what sets her back, and even so, she’ll trudge forward with her undying faith, hoping they’ll both make it through.

Such is the struggle the creative alpha female faces: she wants to shine, but she wants someone to shine with her. She wants her ambition to be celebrated, but she always seems to draw in he who feels he must compete with her. The beta male bores her, but he’s stable and gentle. The alpha male excites her, but he’s aloof and unreliable. What she wants and what she needs are in opposition with one another.

Elastic relationships are learning experiences for the alpha. Here’s the general formula: the more elastic capability a relationship has, the more prone the relationship is to becoming toxic. You can stretch and stretch and stretch, but the more you stretch, the further you’ll move from the center, and the more the relationship will lose its original shape. Sometimes, we know we’re entering a no-go zone from the get-go, but other times, the truth comes out only when the worst transpires. Both situations can and will happen; we’re just human.

Plagued with wanderlust and confined by illusion, the alpha female gets herself into trouble. But she’s got a leg up on the others, for she’s not afraid to take chances. She’ll search endlessly for a feeling she knows she deserves. And she’ll bend to the point of nearly breaking but, unlike her elastic relationships, she’ll never break, because her incredible hunger sets her apart from the rest. Her hunger sets her free.

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