Let’s Talk Healthy Boundaries – and How to Set Them
Benefits, myths, and more.
Have you ever felt uncomfortable and had a feeling that you were being pushed into a corner when interacting with someone? If so, chances are that the person in question violated a boundary that you considered sacred. As a practising therapist, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in our journey of inner-growth and healing. Yet, this remains grossly misunderstood and judged.
What Are Healthy Boundaries?
Healthy boundaries are a set of rules or guidelines that we set for ourselves, defining how we behave with others, respond to situations, and consequently a directive of how we expect others to treat us. Self-honesty and awareness are the two main pillars on which healthy boundaries are created. They are essential in identifying and practising personal integrity.
Healthy boundaries usually have these characteristics:
The limits set are clear and reasonable.
Boundaries are based on your needs as well as the needs of others.
It comes from the intention of being authentic.
Boundaries are not based on other’s approval or from the feeling of being a victim.
The limits help channel any anger or frustration into positive action rather than aggressive behaviour or a shutdown.
Boundaries are not based on fear, guilt, or shame.
The boundaries are based on what reality is, not on expectations of what it should be.
Common Myths About Boundaries
The most common myth is that setting boundaries means being selfish or narcissistic. On the contrary, setting boundaries means ensuring role and identity clarity for ourselves and others. ‘Setting boundaries makes us lonely, unwanted, and isolated’ is another myth, and this comes from a deep fear of rejection and validation. Boundaries actually help us overcome this fear. They provide a haven to experiment, heal, and integrate lost parts of our own selves.
Benefits of Establishing Healthy Boundaries
Healthy boundaries are certainly a very important ingredient for self-care and self-compassion. They help protect our sense of self and identity. They keep us safe and relaxed, both emotionally and physically. Boundaries also develop into a subtle yet firm way of speaking our truth, and it builds self-confidence and empowers our inner being paving the way for wellness in your life.
Top Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries
Take Baby Steps: If you are making a start, start small and choose easy goals. Begin by setting and practising simple boundaries and then move on to the more challenging ones. Build on your small successes, rather than trying to prove a point.
Set an Intention and Follow Through: Don’t beat around the bush, and be direct instead. Define your boundaries and write them down, if required. Be crystal clear of your intention before you begin.
Speak Up: Communicate and communicate more. Speaking out loud not only helps others, but also brings clarity to you. Choose to be assertive.
Be Mindful: Honour other people’s boundaries. Be self-aware and build awareness of others’ boundaries.
Seek Professional Help: Contact a trusted mental health practitioner and let them assist you in your journey.
Boundaries are not a cue for healthy relationships – they are the foundation for self-love and self-respect, so give yourself permission to set boundaries and hold them in high regard.
Us men can seem like a bit of an enigma at times, appearing stoic, emotionless, carefree, and perhaps even cold and indifferent. The keyword here though is ‘appearing’. The truth is that we feel more than you think. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that the expression of emotion equals weakness – unless it’s related to sports or video games, of course.
I write this as a man who has struggled to express his truth with women for many years – a man afraid of reaction, rejection, judgement, and the truth I might hear reflected back at me. So instead, I lied, suppressed my truth, and consequently caused a lot of pain to those close to me. The battle between the man who wants to express his truth and the woman who wants him to when they both lack trust in each other is ongoing.
As you read this, you may think that it’s normal for a man to lie and hide the truth – and whilst I might agree with you, it does not make it okay. The reality is that men want to be honest. A man wants to unburden his troubles, but the conditions need to be psychologically safe. Most men fear that their truth will hurt the person they want to be honest with, so they decide to say nothing. They fear rejection, and their ego struggles to accept it, so they avoid being vulnerable altogether.
To the women reading this: you are the conductors of this journey and the experts of emotional expression – and we need your help. It’s not easy for us to switch between our emotions, especially with some of the vulnerable ones. They don’t feel nice, and we don’t know what to do with them. Most men want to escape a negative state of mind as quickly as possible, which is why we try our hardest to block our emotions or numb them.
So where do we go from here? It might sound cliché, but communication really is key. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can create psychological safety for the men in your life in order to encourage open and honest conversations together. Of course, there are many men who are comfortable being vulnerable, but this article is written with those who are emotionally closed off in mind.
Before you read ahead, know that I fully understand there are times when the things I list will be difficult to do, perhaps because your own emotions may be heightened or the topic you wish to bring up has been on the table for quite some time. Every relationship is unique and relationship goals may vary. This is a journey and it will take time, but I promise that if you really work on creating safety, the man in your life will begin to open up.
Is this the time or place?
He’s just come home from work or hanging out with his friends, and you’re ready to talk to him about something that’s been on your mind all day – after all, you’ve had all the time to go over it and now you want to let it all out. But this is not the time. This scenario does not create safety. As mentioned before, it is difficult for a man to switch between emotional states and after having just come home, he’s in no state to talk about his feelings, so give him time to truly settle.
Talking to him just before sleeping is also a bad idea. Most men just want to sleep once their head hits the pillow. I can fully appreciate that you may have something on your heart and mind – possibly something that’s been bothering you for a while – but if you really want to have the best shot at an open conversation, find the right time and place to do so.
Are you really ready to hear his truth?
Before embarking on a journey to create safety for him to open up, ask yourself if you feel safe with yourself to receive his truth. Are you ready to accept whatever he says with an open heart, to listen and not react? What is your intention for the conversation? What do you want to achieve together? Check in with yourself to recognise if there has ever been a time where he has attempted to express his truth and you mishandled the situation, emotionally hijacked the conversation, or even used his vulnerability against him. It doesn’t take a lot for a man to shut down and never attempt to speak his truth again.
Be patient with him. Understand that he won’t always know what he’s feeling, Many men have been conditioned not to feel and he may need time to find his words. Try not to jump in or finish his sentences and just listen. It may even be necessary for him to go away and reflect on the topic and come back to you, so be prepared to hit walls.
Commit to holding space for him – even if his truth triggers you.
This also means a commitment moving forward that you will not use his truth against him. It’s important that you work to ensure that safety is maintained within your relationship. Try your best to remain open and take your own time to process anything that triggers you. Be mindful of jumping in with advice or rebuttals. We already get a lot of advice from other men, so what we want from you is to feel seen, heard, and understood. Turn up the dial on empathy and approach with curiosity. Use phrases like ‘I hear you’ and ‘tell me more’ to encourage the flow.
Approach with Loving-Kindness
Think ‘how can I open his heart?’ rather than “I want him to be more expressive’. Use physical touch to show affection, allow him to see and feel your presence, and reaffirm that he is safe. Use this as a moment to bond with him and build your connection. To foster more openness, you could even express your own truth and fears to show your vulnerability. I find that when working with men, they are far more likely to open up when I share a story about myself with them.
Ask Better Questions
Avoid asking big questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” It’s a very direct and important question, but such questions can be incredibly daunting to a man who finds it difficult to open up. If your aim is to create safety and encourage openness, start by asking softer and more specific questions like, “When do you enjoy connecting with me most?” Be playful and ask questions that he can answer. If a man begins to feel pressured or overwhelmed, he is likely to close and retreat. Try not to let him feel that he can’t keep up with the conversation.
Catch him doing it right and reinforce the behaviour. When he is opening up, let him know that he’s heard, thank him for his vulnerability, and tell him that it makes you feel good when he opens up to you. Men love to feel that they’re doing a good job, and positive reinforcement will create new neuro-associations in the brain that will likely encourage him to continue opening up.
If you’re not quite getting the response you desire, do not punish him. Instead, speak from your heart and express how it makes you feel when he struggles to express himself – but do so in a calm and loving way. This is more likely to elicit a response from him, but also be prepared for no reaction.
I know this can appear intense, but I cannot stress to you how hard it is for men to open up about their feelings. Real safety is so important in making a man feel comfortable. If we sense even the slightest bit of disingenuity or judgement, we’ll either stop talking altogether or get into our heads and begin disguising or playing down our truth.
It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
I have an exercise for you to try. This is something I used to do on a weekly basis in my last relationship. We would have a ‘check-in’ every week on Thursday at 7pm with the intention of creating a safe space for us. We’d used it to share how we’re feeling in our lives, towards each other, and the relationship. By having it at the same time every week, it allows you both to mentally and emotionally prepare yourselves for the connection – this is especially important for men. Here’s my check-in guide:
Pick a day and time that suits you both. Put it in a diary and honour it.
Both of you must take ownership in creating a safe environment. This can mean lighting candles, putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, or burning some incense – whatever works for you both.
Sit facing each other and spend around five minutes looking into each other’s eyes (you can blink!) and settle yourself into the moment.
Next, take turns expressing how you’re feeling, knowing that anything can be said. The one listening can only listen, and is then to repeat back everything that their partner said. Try your best not to paraphrase and use their words. The aim of this exercise is to make each other feel heard and seen.
After each share and reflection, say thanks for listening to each other and embrace.
If there is anything that needs further discussion, continue with loving kindness while taking care to maintain physical touch and openness throughout.
If you would like support or are curious to know more, follow Adil Hussain here.
And why your mental health during the process matters.
In certain cultures, divorce is one of the least accepted decisions a couple can make. People often expect two individuals to be in a relationship throughout their lives – even if they can’t cooperate enough to spend a day with their sanity intact. Deciding on getting a divorce is already a long and complicated decision, and the societal pressure around it makes it even more complex. Couples can feel burdened under this pressure, even though it is a decision that only concerns them and the family they’ve created.
The Grief Cycle
People might assume that the couple must be ‘okay’ if they’ve made the decision themselves, but the actual reality can be different and depends a lot on the level of emotional attachment they had. If two individuals had a close relationship, they would’ve likely developed an emotional attachment, too. This can cause some couples to wonder why they are even separating. Multiple factors could be responsible, with compatibility and adjustment being some of the common reasons we might have heard of.
Today, however, change is starting to become an even more important factor that we are now normalising. It can come in the shape of difference in career, goals, relationship choices, lifestyle – the list goes on. A couple going through a divorce could experience grief like that of a loss. The emotions of the individuals involved could swing from the passive to the active stage.
But one crucial thing to keep in mind here is that the two individuals must be emotionally attached at some level to go through the grief cycle. Even the intensity of emotions associated with each stage differs depending on their emotional attachment. The same is true with time. You cannot determine how much time a person will take in moving from one phase to the other or accepting the decision. It can vary from hours and days to months or even years.
Going from the shock stage to the acceptance stage requires patience and accepting reality. Besides, the timeline for reaching the acceptance stage is not the same for everyone – it ranges from individual to individual. Once you accept the divorce papers as reality, you are usually in a state of shock where you do not want to acknowledge things at first. People may be in denial and make excuses for each situation and circumstance, assuming that it must not be happening to them.
Once the realisation of the situation starts to set in, then comes the anger. This is usually rooted in how they feel cheated of the time and emotions they invested into the relationship. If children are involved, the anger stage might last longer as they feel obligated to fight for the ‘perfect family’.
This then brings us to the bargaining stage, where they are willing to give away a few things in return for others. This stage can easily turn sour when both individuals try to deal with the reality of things by bargaining and realise that it’s simply not working. This stage can lead to depression – either acute or deep – where they feel they cannot change their situation.
Usually, after this stage, they start testing new alternatives like continuing their career, co-parenting methods, remarrying, or pursuing other priorities. Once they find out what works for them, they usually accept the situation and move on in life. All these processes are natural, and the pain people face is a sign to change and grow. This is the time when others need to show support. Help them understand the advantages of their situation and let them realise that it was the best decision that they could’ve made, given their circumstances.
Although such pain and emotional trauma is natural, the social pressure and lack of support from friends and family makes it worse. We, as a society, need to normalise divorce. If two people are not happy living together, then they shouldn’t be forced to be with each other anymore. Instead of pitying them, we should congratulate them for ending a relationship that was not meant for them.
Working Through the Guilt
No matter what the emotional attachment was during the active relationship, one or both parties are often left with a certain amount of guilt. This guilt can make them doubt the right time to start enjoying their life again. The result? They get stuck in this emotional cycle and do not freely live a happy life. Loved ones of divorcees can be especially vital in such cases, helping them focus on the fact that the uncomfortable part is done and they’re now walking into happiness.
Therapy to Cope
Therapy can be a great aid in helping people navigate their divorce. Therapy, in general, is great for adjusting to any change of state – be it big or small. We should normalise therapy as an essential part of life, not something to be ashamed of or something reserved for ‘broken’ people. Therapy can also help in maintaining and distancing oneself from their ex-partner. This is important, especially if you need to co-parent, as an ugly divorce can have adverse effects on children’s mental health.
Last Monday was centred around the celebration of romantic attachment, with people going all out to express their love for their significant other. But what about self-love? Are you madly in love with yourself? And does that question seem alien to you? Having worked with hundreds of women, I can safely say that womengenerally struggle to love themselves wholeheartedly. Some cannot even fathom what it feels like. Here, I’m going to show you what it looks like to be in love with yourself and provide you with tips on how to get started on that journey towards self-love.
When I was nine years old, I remember feeling special and loved. Looking back, it was because I loved myself. I would wake up excited and eager to see what the day held for me. I would say what I wanted when I wanted. If I did not want to do something, I would simply say no. If I wanted something, I would ask for it. I was very clear with what I wanted, needed, what I liked, and what I did not like. I loved myself wholeheartedly. I was happy.
Fast forward to my 20s, and I was filled with self-doubt. I would constantly censor myself when I spoke as I didn’t want to look stupid or sound silly. I always wanted to lose weight, regardless of how I looked. I would repeatedly criticise myself. “Why did I just say that?” “What must they think of me now?” “I can’t believe I did that!” “I wish I was thinner/smarter/richer.” It’s exhausting to just remember the endless barrage of self-doubt and judgement that seemed so normal to me at the time.
When I hit my 30s, I decided that I’d had enough and wanted to return to feeling as good as I did when I was nine. At that point, I started studying the brain and was already a Master NLPpractitioner who was obsessed with being the best version of myself. What I noticed then was that I was not the only one who spoke so badly of myself. That’s when I started on the journey of falling in love with myself.
Observe Your Thoughts
We have thousands of thoughts a day and many of them are about ourselves. Most of us think that these thoughts just come from nowhere and, even though this is trueto some level, it doesn’t that we can’t control them. The first way to fall in love with yourself is to observe what you are thinking about yourself. When you look in the mirror, what do you say? What is the tone you use to speak to yourself? What are the words that you use? If you have never taken the time to really observe the thoughts you have about yourself, start noticing and start writing them all down truthfully.
When you monitor your thoughts, you will realise that it is generally filled with a lot of judgement. It’s natural and we all do it, but you also need to start challenging those thoughts. The easiest way I did this was to ask myself, ‘Would I say this to my best friend?’ Start talking to yourself the way you would to your best friend. Be kind to yourself in the words andtonality that you use. Praise yourself. Tell yourself that you did well and have compassion for yourself. This takes time and practice, but it’s by far one of the most important parts of starting the process of falling in love with yourself.
Honour Your Needs
Another way to start falling in love with who you are is to honour your needs. For example, if you had a busy week at work and your friend asks you to help her move over the weekend, and you say yes – even though you’re physically and emotionally exhausted – then you are not honouring your needs. You’ve put your friend’s needs above yours. Learning to only say yes when you truly want to is one of the most powerful ways to honour your needs. Honouring your needs and wants as a woman means putting your own mental and physical needs before others.
As women, we tend to be people-pleasers and struggle to say no. And being a people-pleaser recoveree, I understand how hard this can be, but the power of being authentic and saying yes only when I really mean it has transformed my life. It means that when I say yes, I am not resenting doing what I have agreed to do. It means that I am not from an empty cup. It is not selfish to do that – in fact, it’s the most loving action you can take for yourself and the people in your life. Honouring your needs, both mentally and physically, is extremely powerful.
Love Your Body
As a woman, you might have a very complicated relationship with your body, and you could be very critical of it. Sometimes you might punish your body by overfeeding or underfeeding it. You could push your body to its limits at the gym or not stimulate it at all by living a sedentary life. A whole article can be written on this issue, but it needs to be mentioned here as so many of us base our self-worth on the size of a dress or the number on a scale. Learning to love your body, no matter what, is a big part of falling in love with ourselves.
How do you do this? Love your body for how it is right now. Think of it like this: if you had an object you loved, respected, and honoured, how would you treat it? You would treat it with care. You would look after it with everything you had. Our bodies are the same. If you treat your body with love and respect, you will nourish it with food that you know will fuel it properly. Moving your body and fuelling it from a place of love and respect is also one of the key ingredients to falling in love with yourself.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
Finally, I want to talk about the people in our lives. Learning to surround yourself with people who uplift you, bring you joy, inspire you, and motivate you is also important for falling in love with yourself. Allowing someone into your life who constantly brings you down or is toxic and berates you is not going to do anything for your self-love. However, learning to distance yourself from them and finding people who have positive things to say and can improve your well-being is essential to falling in love with who you are. One of the most powerful things you can do as a woman is to fall in love with yourself because, the more you love yourself, the more love you can give to the world.
Was this helpful? Learn more ways to improve your health and well-being in our Wellness section.
Let’s be honest, life is just that little bit tougher when we don’t feel loved, so it makes sense to prioritise what makes us feel most loved, right? Have you ever experienced a moment of confusion or disbelief when your friend, partner, or family member expressed that they just don’t feel loved by you, or that you don’t show your love when you know you’ve been doing everything you possibly could to make them feel loved?
How could they not feel my love? Are they just ungrateful? What do they want? I don’t understand. I’m sure these feelings sound familiar to most of us. In this article, I’m going to discuss love languages in the context of how we love in our romantic relationships, but they apply to our relationships with friends, family, and colleagues as well.
Deciphering love, in a nutshell, comes down to understanding the way we give and receive love. Five years ago, I went on a date with a girl who introduced me to a book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, and it blew my mind. I had no idea that the expression of love could be categorised so simply! That book went on to change and shape my life – both in my relationships and my career as a life coach. The book is an effortless read, with real-life anecdotes to back up every point, so if you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it.
This book transformed my life because I was now equipped with a set of questions that would remove the pressure of trying to read the minds of the women in my life. I had five incredibly clear reference points to ensure that I was now able to express love in a way that would be best received by my partner and, at the same time, I knew how my own love tank could be filled.
Understanding your own love languages can help you feel seen, understood and, in doing so, create better harmony with your loved ones. Remember that if you need something, but are choosing not to express it, no one is going to give it to you. It’s crucial that you learn and understand the way love speaks to you and communicate it to those who care about you. This will empower you and strengthen the depth of your connections. It also removes doubt, and limits the time wasted on wondering whether a person loves you or feels loved by you.
The key to expressing love, in my opinion, is learning how to elevate joy and increase the feeling of happiness in the other person. Often, especially as men, we celebrate when our partner is ‘low-maintenance’, but what I’ve learnt is that apathy does not equal happiness. We could all do more to understand our loved ones so that we are able to connect with them more deeply and express love in a way that is truly felt.
How Can You Understand Your Love Languages?
You can start to easily identify your love language with two questions: Question 1: What brings you the most joy when you receive it? Question 2: What causes you the most pain when you don’t receive it?
Take a moment to ponder over them before taking the love languages quiz. What did the quiz reveal? Do the results feel right to you? Take some time to think about what exactly you would love to receive within these languages. For example, if you love quality time, what kind of quality time makes you feel most loved? Is it a deep conversation with attentiveness and lots of eye contact? Or is it a cute date night in a nice restaurant? Understanding these preferences will allow you to express more clearly how you feel most loved by your partner.
Top Tips to Navigating Love
Tip 1: Understand your love languages first (if you haven’t already, take the love language quiz).
Tip 2: Notice if the way you give love resembles the way you prefer to receive it.
Tip 3: Take time to really understand your partner’s love languages.
Tip 4: Create safety when expressing your love language, and ensure it comes from a place of “I enjoy” rather than “you don’t do enough of”.
I once had a girlfriend that would say, “Tell me something nice please”, and I would freak out. My ego would kick in and I would become silent. As you can imagine, this only made her feel less loved. I’ve learnt that there are more effective ways of communicating, for example, by saying, “I really love it when you compliment me, it makes me feel…” or “What is a quality you love most about me?”
Tip 5: Be sincere in your expression of love. Seek depth and authenticity rather than merely ticking a box.
Tip 6: Grand gestures are not always necessary. Sometimes, something as simple as allowing your partner to rest or asking them how their day was is all they need to feel loved.
Tip 7: Be mindful that not everyone will be able to grasp the concept of love languages or take a love test quickly, so exercise patience.
Tip 8: Consider that there may be other languages that are important to you and your partner in addition to the five outlined in the quiz.
Tip 9: Remember that being able to fill your own cup is also a beautiful way to ensure you’re not solely relying on your partner to feel loved.
Other Love languages
For me personally, safety and communication are huge love languages. The ability for my partner to be able to communicate how they feel and allow me to communicate how I feel without fear of judgement is incredibly important. Understandably, there are many factors that govern whether someone can embody this quality, but I wholeheartedly believe that it can be learned.
Think of other ways that you feel loved. How can your partner learn to speak your language? Also consider appreciating the love that your partner is trying to express – even if it isn’t quite the way you’d prefer it to be. It’s not always easy to learn to express yourself in a new way and perhaps this could even be an additional love language, so I’ll leave you with this final question: can you take a moment to appreciate all the areas in your life where love flows?
Trouble in Paradise? Here’s How to Avoid Post-Nuptial Woes
Newlywed life doesn’t need to be stressful.
One of the main anxiety-driven phases we go through in life is getting married. There are so many myths surrounding it – both liberal and conservative – that we tend to lose focus of the reason behind why we are actually getting married. From society’s perspective, marriage is an achievement, while divorce is a failure, so you need to get married and make it work if you want to appear successful.
However, this is not a healthy way of living life. No matter how many articles you read on getting married or maintaining a good relationship with your spouse, you cannot learn to maintain an ideal relationship. You have to define what an ideal relationship is to you and adjust your life to it in order to be content. There is no magic formula to consume and live happily ever after.
With that being said, keep in mind that your definition of things can be different from others, and that’s okay. You don’t have to follow everything you hear from others and implement it in your marriage because you think those who followed it lived a happy life. However, it’s important to understand the basic framework that can ensure a better relationship between you and your spouse.
You Are Marrying a Person
Obviously, you know you’re marrying a real person, but sometimes, you may not understand it that well. Usually, the aura of a wife or a husband is so stereotypical in everyone’s mind that we forget that one’s spouse is a real person – with their own qualities and weaknesses. As a partner, you need to accept all of that along with the person themselves.
It has been culturally engraved in our minds that a husband is supposed to earn for a family and provide them with security. In contrast, a wife must handle all household care. But going by these norms doesn’t always lead to a perfect relationship. You have to look at your spouse in terms of their strengths. Doing so can help you overcome their negative traits to create a sustainable relationship. This isn’t true in the case of marriage only – all sorts of relationships and partnerships work on this principle.
Newlyweds Need Space
In our society, newlyweds are expected to be in love all the time and spend all their time together. Due to this societal perception, a newlywed couple might try to be around each other all the time, ignoring their me-time. The results in the couple’s honeymoon period fading away very quickly. The lack of me-time results in building up false expectations from each side and resenting each other once you can’t meet up to those expectations.
This is quite normal, but when you are unaware of the reasons, you start finding other issues and therefore create more problems in your relationship. So, the solution here is to take out some me-time – even in the honeymoon phase. When you care for yourself and have your own time to think, relax, and enjoy yourself, you’ll prolong the honeymoon period with your partner too. This will help you build a strong base for your relationship.
Compromise Isn’t Always Negative
Compromises were common in marriages for centuries, yet today, our generation perceives them negatively. It is because they either don’t know the word’s definition or how to use it to strengthen their relationship. You don’t have to take ‘compromise’ as a negative word. It means to make space and room for your spouse in your life, which is possible when you adopt a few habits that your spouse likes and leave a few that they don’t. The key here is that it must be done from both sides. But which habits should you adopt, and which should you not? Only you have the answer to that question.
To know what to do, you must understand your boundaries, strengths, and weaknesses. You can only make space when you feel secure, so when you are expected to change a particular habit or adopt a new one, it’s better to think about it based on the impact it will have on your mental health. It is okay if adopting a new habit is not pleasant, but if you know that it will create problems for you and affect your wellness, then it might not be for you. Your partner should be understanding when it comes to this as a similar battle would be going on at their end, too.
What an Accidental Dating Guru Wants Women to Know
It’s time to make your move.
Jon Birger did not expect to be here. An award-winning business journalist and a former senior writer at Fortune, he admits to venturing into the self-help genre with a “snooty attitude” when he wrote his 2015 book Date-onomics, which analysed modern-day dating by crunching numbers. Having returned to the genre with his 2021 release Make Your Move, the author is not only more comfortable with advising single women worldwide, but also encouraging them to question the clichés that come with romance. Today, as the world marks the annual day of love, we share 10 takeaways from our conversation with this accidental dating guru.
Proceed with caution when online dating.
“The physical dangers associated with online dating are ruining romance. Every day, there’s some online dating horror story like this one. Science shows there is a profound connection between the stories of how we first meet and the stories of what we become as couples. What does that say, then, about relationships that begin not with magical moments, but with anxiety, fact-checking, and escape plans? It’s incredibly hard to fall in like or love if you’re spending the entire first date worried that Robert the handsome hedge fund manager might actually be Billy Bob the married ex-con.”
The so-called rules of dating are outdated.
“A big theme of Make Your Move is pushing back against the ‘play hard to get’ advice that has been the dominant message of most dating books written for women over the past 30 years. Of course, the bible of the play-hard-to-get crowd is The Rules, the success of which began a host of copycats like Why Men Love Bitches and Ignore the Guy, Get the Guy. Their underlying philosophy is that men will lose interest in you the moment you show interest in them. The problem is today’s men don’t actually think this way, which is why so many of the fabulous, 40-something women I’ve interviewed for my books can’t understand why they’re still single despite having followed all ‘the rules’.”
#MeToo has altered the dating landscape.
“Men like women who like them. Every time I use this line on the lecture circuit, men in the audience nod in unison, while the women look at me like I’m crazy. Too many women have been taught to believe that the way into a man’s heart is ignoring his messages and rebuffing his advances. Now, perhaps this was true 100 years ago, but I can tell you with great certainty that this is not true today.
The message that the rules-followers want young women to send to young men boils down to ‘not interested means keep trying’. Think about how this sort of messaging plays out in the post-#MeToo era. Men nowadays are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing – as they should be! Now, very few men are going to assume that uninterested means keep trying. If a woman seems uninterested, men have learned that the proper response is not to assume she’s playing hard to get. The proper response is to leave her alone.”
Steer clear of dating apps.
“How many single women have ever said something along the lines of, ‘I love dating apps so much. All the men are so kind and honest, and it’s just so easy to find true love on a dating app!’ I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between zero and zero? Online dating is a cesspool. Everyone knows this. According to Pew Research, 57% of women report experiencing harassment on dating apps, 55% of women believe dating is harder now than it was 10 years ago, and 19% say they’ve been threatened with physical violence while using a dating app.
If there were a singles bar where one out of every five women were being threatened with violence, who would go back? To be clear, I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a life partner on a dating app. What I am saying is it’s hard. According to one study, young singles are now spending 20 hours a week on dating apps! And that doesn’t even include time spent on actual dates! The problem, as I see it, is the FOMO mindset when it comes to social media. As much as they dislike online dating, singles are more afraid of not being on dating apps.”
Get back out into the real world.
“I reject the idea that we need the apps and that it’s impossible to date people you know from the real world. I recently gave a Zoom talk to a group of students at Rollins College in Florida, where the Life Launch class covers everything from personal finance to relationships. Much of my discussion dealt with concerns about the safety and efficacy of online dating. A young woman told me she understood my arguments, but wanted to know how she was supposed to meet someone if not through the apps.
In response, I posed the following question to the entire class: ‘How many of you already know someone from the real world whom you like and have considered dating?’ There were 40 people in the class. 40 hands went up. My point was: why would you start from zero with a complete stranger on an app when there’s already someone you know and like from the real world whom you could ask out instead?”
The paradox of choice is real.
“The problem with modern dating is that every first date is a blind date with a stranger. Even after a third or fourth date, you still don’t really know the person – and this is where the paradox of choice kicks in. If he does or says something wrong, you are going to be much more likely to pull the plug simply because there are so many other fish in the sea. You have little way of judging whether his mess-up was a one-time goof or an indication of a deeper personality disorder. But if he had been a co-worker or part of your friend group – someone you actually know – it would be much easier to put the behaviour in context and determine whether or not he deserves a little slack.”
Classism will only work against you.
“Categorising a non-college-educated man as ‘settling’ or ‘compromising’ isn’t just rude. It’s classist. As a society, we are making such progress towards compassion and equity, so when it comes to dating, do we really want to send out the message that marrying the gentlemanly electrician is ‘settling’ – but marrying the insufferable banker is not ‘settling’? The bottom line is this: I do not believe that a college degree makes someone a better wife or a better husband. Lastly, if this really is purely about income, I’d be careful about buying into the stereotypes. I bet most Oxford-educated English majors earn less than their plumbers. For what it’s worth, my own plumber drives an Audi.”
Don’t rule out younger men.
“It’s all about women expanding their dating pools, much the same way men have done by dating younger women. For whatever reason, 30-year-old women have been socialised to believe that 26-year-old men would never be interested in them. Again, maybe this was true 100 years ago, but it’s definitely not true today. If you read Make Your Move, you’ll learn why. The other point I’d make deals with the downside of dating educated men who never married – because of the way dating math works, the dating market gets better for them as they age into their 30s and 40s.
For the record, I’m not assuming everyone should or wants to get married, but if I were a woman who was looking to get married, I would be very wary of such guys, especially the better-looking ones with good careers. Many of them are having way too much fun playing the field. It’s one reason why I encourage 30-something women to consider dipping down age-wise. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I actually think the younger guys are likely to be more commitment-minded than a lot of the older ones.”
You are not a failure.
“One of the reasons I wrote Make Your Move is because some Date-onomics readers found the message depressing. It was wrong of me to write a whole book all about why dating sucks for young, educated women without offering up real solutions to the problems these women were experiencing. This is why I wrote Make Your Move, which I believe offers solutions along with an uplifting message. I guess my words of wisdom would be: it’s still not your fault, but it is time to try something different.”
Make your move already!
“Stop worrying about ‘ruining the friendship’. I do not assume that everyone aspires to marriage or even monogamy. But if ‘happily ever after’ is indeed your goal, do not be shy about going after what and whom you want. If there’s a guy you know and like from the real world – a guy who gives you a happy feeling every time you’re around him – just ask him out. Stop waiting for him to realise you like him. He’s probably oblivious like most guys are! And if it blows up in your face? Feel free to blame me. But just remember what’s at stake. You’re not shopping for a used car here. You’re searching for a life partner, and anything that is important is worth taking some risks.”
We are all social animals, but as much as we enjoy spending time networking, interacting, and making vacation plans with friends and family, there comes a point where we need space and time to spend alone – being around others can sometimes be conflicting, draining, or even depressing. In essence, everything is energy, and who you spend time with determines the energetic vibrations you carry around you, be it negative or positive.
The kind of effect a person has on you depends on how similar your level of consciousness and your vibrational frequency is in comparison to the other person. It can pave the way for either a meaningful or a toxic relationship. Do you often feel exhausted or maybe bored after speaking to a friend for prolonged periods of time? Does it get so difficult to spend time with your partner that you end up craving personal space instead? Do you have family members who barely allow you to make decisions, hampering your growth in the process?
If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably experiencing a conflict of interest, and the other party is likely becoming toxic for your mental health. Every relationship dynamic is different, yet having said that, we are all unique in our own way and how we perceive our reality. Being around like-minded people can greatly shape your reality and set you up for success. Being around people who keep you begging for more, make you feel miserable, or leave very little room for understanding is bound to hamper your growth and well-being whilst they ensure theirs is in check.
As the famous saying by self-help guru Jim Rohn goes, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
These core people in your life determine the life you’re living. For instance, studies have shown that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if they had a friend who became obese. Similarly, another study found that happy and unhappy people visibly cluster around each other, and that having a friend around you when you are happy can increase your happiness by 25%. Thus, having the right relationships with the right people has a direct effect on your overall health and wellness.
As simple as it may be, the right people in your life won’t judge you, make you feel uncomfortable or guilty, or take advantage of your nature. They’ll respect your privacy, encourage you, often share the same likes or dislikes as you, and (most importantly) hold the same level of consciousness as you. So how do you attract the right people into your life? Read on.
1. Know Yourself Well
A lot of issues and conflicts happen due to lack of or improper communication. It’s only when you know how to communicate with your mind and heart that you can do the same with others – only when you learn to love yourself can you learn to love others. At the same time, it also helps to know your personality type or traits as they can be indicators for why and how you attract people in your life. Ask yourself the following: Am I adventurous, introverted, mellow, or straightforward? What are the traits I value most? What hobbies or priorities in my life are non-negotiable?
2. Curb Your Time with the Wrong People
People are not necessarily wrong – it’s just that their way of life might not coincide with yours, and that’s okay. A good way to cut out the wrong people from your life is to first cut them out of your mind. Remember: where attention goes, energy flows. Don’t give them your mind space. Whenever a thought comes to your mind that involves a negative person, refocus your attention and think of someone who you admire or consider a positive influence.
Also, let go of feelings of hate and revenge. When you hate someone, you are automatically bound to think about them a lot, which is counterproductive. The best thing to do is to let go of these negative feelings and make room for positive energy to freely flow. Similarly, if you wish to distance yourself from someone, try to minimise your interactions with them. Keep it to a bare minimum and, with time, those relationships will either get stronger and better or simply fade out. Rest assured, whatever happens will happen for the best.
3. Start Putting Yourself First
As you let go of your layers, get vulnerable with yourself and accept yourself for who you are. You will realise that being you comes first and what follows is being with like-minded people who match your vibe. You aren’t required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.
Often, this feeling of choosing yourself can feel lonely, so we tend to choose temporary moments of happiness with people we barely like. But life works in mysterious ways and the moment you strive for what you truly want (even at the cost of others), life starts rewarding you with what you truly deserve. For all you know, you might find out that the right people have always been around you – maybe just not in your inner circle.
In spite of how much we’ve progressed as a society, sexism is still a common issue that many of us face every day. It’s so widespread that, sometimes, we might not even recognise it as it’s happening. Or, because it’s so normalised, we might not even feel that it’s wrong anymore.
What Is Sexism?
Sexism is the stereotyping, discrimination, or prejudice towards a particular sex of which usually women or other minority gender groups are often the victim of. Whether it is the workspace, or any other public place for that matter, women and minority groups usually have to face a lot – you might get cat-called, ignored at your workplace, or mistreated at your university. Aside from the obvious, there are several things in our lives that we come across daily, but do notusually regard as sexism. Here are two examples.
1. Receiving Unsolicited Comments on Your Body
We often hear that we are too slim, too tall, too short, or too fat. Sometimes, even our skin colour makes other people feel like they need to comment on it. This is hardly pleasant for most people, but unfortunately, the majority of us never think of it as something worth taking action for, which is partly why it’s so normalised in society.
2. Being Asked About Marriage and Children
A common topic that comes up in everyday conversation is related to marriage and children. Believe me, this is sexism, too. Sometimes, even random people might ask if you’re married and, if not, they often have the audacity to ask the reason behind your marital status. They may also ask about the number of children you have, the reason for not having any or not having more, and other intimate details that shouldn’t concern them. All these questions are to single you out from others and judge you based on stereotypical traditions.
Another problem that women today face is the perception of ‘normal’ and the set of expectations placed on us to live by – irrespective of our feelings and thoughts. This, too, is a sexist approach as it does not let us live according to our beliefs, norms, and comfort. Instead, the world tries to change us to fit into a mould.
Even when women become successful despite all the odds set against us, sexism can still permeate in how we’re perceived. For instance, if employees at a company get to know that some women at work earn more than them, they might not consider their skills and abilities to be good enough to deserve the paycheck they get. Instead, they might point at their character and highlight the flaws in their personality – just because they can’t accept that women might be better than them at something.
I’m sure that you would’ve experienced at least one of the above-mentioned scenarios in your life. Depending on the social group you belong to, there is a chance that all these scenarios might apply to you in different ways. Interestingly, maybe you or others you know might not feel too bothered by this kind of behaviour, regardless of whether it’s directed at you or not. That is because of how normalised sexism is.
The problem is that we might think this is part of everyday life, but that’s simply not true. This behaviour has been informally taught from generation to generation – it’s not naturally occurring. Another thing about sexism? It isn’t always strangers or people we’re not close to who are responsible for discrimination or sexist behaviour.
Often, people we call family or those in our close circle – even women – are unaware of the part they play in promoting sexism and how it poisons society. That is why this is the right time to raise a voice against sexism, especially in our personal lives, as not doing so will only let the status quo continue and enable the creation of future sexist generations.
Déjà Vu: Keeping the Kids Motivated While Home Schooling
Here we go again.
Last week brought it with headlines declaring that not only had remote learning been extended in some schools across the UAE, but in-person examinations have also been postponed until “at least January 28”. No parent will ever say that home schooling during this pandemic has been anything other than incredibly tough. Right?
And with a combination of the technical difficulties that come with getting several students on a Zoom call, ensuring children stay motivated and on-track with their studies, as well as ensuring their emotional needs are tended to, adding ‘teacher’ into the mix of rolesjuggled daily by a parent doesn’t make life any easier. To help parents navigate the return of remote learning, here are five key pointers that can help encourage children to keep a consistent and healthy home-schooling schedule.
1. The Stability of a Routine
One of the most important things for home schooling is to create a study schedule or structure at home. Routines help children feel safe, secure, and comfortable. A consistent step-by-step routine helps them comprehend the predictability of their day and allow for fewer disruptions to occur. Study routines also help children quickly accomplish day-to-day tasks that are required for school.
2. Encourage Them with Incentives
Make a list of what can encourage your child to stick to a home-schooling schedule. Buying a gift may not be a good idea as it may get financially difficult to keep it up, but things like ordering their favourite takeaway, choosing a movie on family movie night, or extra screen time over the weekends can help motivate a child. For younger children, you can make it a bit more fun by giving them gold stickers and, perhaps, they can take a longer break from schoolworkafter every third gold sticker. Incentivising your child can help them develop a sense of pride and self-confidence in the tasks that they have completed.
3. Take Time to Hear Them Out
Home schooling on Zoom calls can be hard for children, especially those who are used to a slower kind of learning, where they are able to interact face-to-face with a teacher and clear their doubts. Check in on your children to see if they are facing difficulties tackling their studies. It’s also an opportunity for you to spend quality time with them – perhaps you can teach them fractions using baking ingredients and bake cookies together? Or share tools that you may know on how to study and take notes better?
4. It’s Okay to Make a Few Screen-Time Concessions
Quarantine and home schooling are a new normal, so it is prudent to adjust your expectations of your children in order to help the family remain connected. If your child is struggling with a math assignment for a few hours, it’s okay to give them some additional screen time as a break. Mental health matters a lot, and it’s important that you avoid unnecessary conflict. Instead, aim to keep a healthy balance of indulgence, fun, and routine.
5. Allow Them to Have Some Fun
School time means fun conversations with friends, passing notes in class, and playing games during break time. Home schooling takes away the charm of regular school because it does not offer that fun environment. Let the children play in the backyard during recess or put on their favourite music – this can help add a dose of joy into their days.
Is Your Relationship in Need of a Holistic Sexologist?
It’s time to cultivate sexual intelligence.
As a board-certified sexologist, I have spent the last 23 years advocating for holistic sexual intelligence and empowerment. I offer help and support to both individuals and couples, having specialised in Sexological Counseling, Sexuality Education, and Sexual Health Promotion at the Nordic Association for Clinical Sexology (NACS) and the Finnish Association for Sexology (FIAS).
Today, men, women, and couples are increasingly consulting a sexologist, cultivating sexual awareness and sexual intelligence in order to access accurate information and make informed choices before engaging in intimacy with their beloved, if they choose to. After all, overall sexual response – or the lack thereof – can be a barometer of the health of the entire relationship.
For the uninitiated, sexual dissatisfaction is the result of one (or more) of the following conditions:
Lack of knowledge of one’s own body, especially genitalia.
Lack of knowledge of how to experience and share sexual pleasure, if one chooses to do so.
Guilt and shame about one’s body, feelings, thoughts, and sexual activity, often as a result of their upbringing.
Issues related to intimacy, arousal, libido, sexual discomfort and pain, and other sexual problems can also be used as an arena in which a couple chooses – usually subconsciously – to work out their power or other issues.
Some women experience sexual pain at times, and most prefer to identify and manage the root causes of why sex hurts and why they feel dry and tight. They would rather successfully manage the causes of vaginal dryness and possible sexual side effects of menopause as opposed to ignoring them. It is, however, essential to seek female-friendly sexual health and enhancement solutions for women’s sexual difficulties such as low sexual desire, orgasm challenges, and female sexual arousal disorder (FSAD). Most women wish to overcome painful sex and other sexuality worries via safe, evidence-based, lasting, and non-invasive solutions beyond the clinical or medical model.
There are four approaches that a sexologist may use to treat sexual dysfunction.
1. The Cognitive-Behavioural approach has three significant components:
Replacement of sexual anxiety with sexual comfort.
Adopting positive sexual attitudes and learning sexual skills.
A programme of individually designed sexual exercises (CBT) such as Sensate Focus to be done alone or with the partner between consultations with the expert.
2. The Biopsychosocial approach, which recognises that biological and medical factors, as well as psychological and cultural aspects, are involved in the onset of a sexual problem.
3. The Psychosexual approach, which combines clinical sexology (PLISSIT, MEBES, REASSURE models).
4. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, an evidence-based system to build moment-to-moment awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in order to reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.
Christina Lindea is a board-certified sexologist based in Dubai. Visit https://docnoor.com to learn more or book a session.