Untangling Crossed Signals in Relationships

Miscommunication in couples

Src: twoofus.org

From the moment he walks into the house at the end of the day, an hour earlier than I expect, I can tell he’s already in a state. He looks at me with joyless eyes as he gives me a half-hearted hug. He engages in conversation politely, but the normal lively spirit isn’t there. He says he is simply tired, but I feel like my words suddenly either bore him or annoy him to no end.

When we finish with dinner, we chat about work and a new app he wants to invent. When I ask questions, he seems defensive. I stand to bring the dishes back to the kitchen, scraping some leftover off the plate. Without looking at him, I can tell he’s irritated by the sound so I quickly head to the kitchen.

I return from rinsing off dishes, and he has logged into Facebook on the computer/TV in the main room. I don’t think he was expecting me back so soon. As I begin to fold the freshly laundered clothes, including some of his own, he comments about a ridiculous post by one of his friends. He talks in a mocking tone, though he is part of that online dialogue, I point out. When I try to get at whether he’s being sarcastic or serious about his observation, he is visibly annoyed, cutting off the conversation and closing out Facebook with a “Whatever.”

After finishing laundry and putting my clothes away, I return to the living room and find the lights turned off and him nowhere in sight. I call out for him curiously, and he says he’s going to read in the room before disappearing again. Taking that as a sign he wants to be alone, I change my direction for the night. I do the dishes after all. I read for a bit. I do yoga for a bit, and then I read some more.

Somewhere during this time, we cross paths in the kitchen, and he reaches out for a hug. “Sorry for my lack of exuberance,” he says. I shrug it off, with a typical, “It’s okay,” even though I’m not quite sure what he means.

Src: Ink361.com

Src: Ink361.com

I know when he needs his space, I must respectfully give it to him, without questions, or there will be problems. Our relationship almost derailed permanently two years ago this month for taking his distance personally and for pushing too far, with attitude, about the way he disappeared. In similar situations, I’m still walking on eggshells, but so it is. I understand this occasional need for sudden space, after more than a year and half of living together, but I still wish he was able or willing to warn me ahead of time—or that I could read auras of mood immediately to ensure no feathers are needlessly ruffled.

In the middle of the dark, I grab my cell phone and send him a message on Facebook. I tell him if he needs more extended time alone to just let me know, and I’ll get away for a couple days. I think to myself, maybe it will give him a chance to miss me (and I him). Maybe not seeing each other at all for a couple days will remind him of how interesting and desirable to be around I can be.

When I am finally ready for sleep, I hesitantly go into our room and get into bed. Even though he’s fast asleep, I feel waves of discomfort. I’m still processing today’s sudden change in temperature of our interactions, plus the cough of my cold is picking up again. I head to the couch, where I run through the cycle of cough, toss and turn, sleep, and repeat.

At 5 a.m., I wake up with gooey cobwebs in my eyes. My body no longer feels comfortable balled up on the couch. I decide I’ll go back to bed, to have any chance of falling back asleep. Unfortunately, my cough picks up to an almost constant refrain. After more than half an hour, I can tell he is fully woken up by this. And I am too. I hear him get up, go to the bathroom, then head back to his office. I cough and cough, rolling onto my back, eyes closed, willing myself to fall back asleep.

He’s likely watching porn, as per his early morning routine. I imagine him deriving more pleasure from rubbing it out alone in the shower than the blowjob I had been planning to love him up with the night before. Before I was given the freeze out. I’m not upset; just tired and bewildered.

I wedge another pillow under me, raising my upper body. My cough begins to wane. But it’s too late for more sleep for him, for m….

An hour later, I awaken. He hasn’t said goodbye to me for leaving for work. This disappoints me a little, but I’m too distracted by my cold to get truly upset. That’s when I hear him walking the hallways. He’s moving slowly this morning apparently.

I get up and go to my “office.” When he gets out of the shower, I go into the bathroom to wash the cobwebs out of my eyes. He is standing in the kitchen, getting his bags together when I get out. I decide it’s ridiculous to wait for him to talk before saying anything.

Img src: jeanneguy.com

Img src: jeanneguy.com

I apologize for waking him up so early with my coughing. He says he’s sorry my cold is so bad this morning. After a hug, he tells me not to overdo it today. I tell him that I’ll try. My IM goes unmentioned and hasn’t been replied to. I don’t know if he even noticed I wasn’t in the bed most of the night.

With too little sleep, it’s going to be a long day for both of us. I’ll definitely want to tread lightly in our interactions tonight. Hopefully we’ll both wake up on the right side of bed tomorrow, and neither of us will feel remnants of eggshells under our foot.

Why You Don’t Need a Ring on it For Christmas

FB EngagementsSo last night and this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw the beaming faces of multiple, old classmates announcing their Christmas engagements. While it’s a somewhat predictable time of year to propose–and where’s the fun surprise in that–I was genuinely happy for these women who are well deserving of lifelong love. But I must be completely honest with you—I was surprised by the twinge of envy I also felt. While I don’t consider myself a romantic traditionalist in general, a part of me couldn’t help wondering when—if—I will reach that exciting milestone in my own relationship.

There are a few things I share in common with my newly affianced friends. We’re no spring chickens. I’m the youngest, having just turned 37 two weeks ago. While we’ve never been married, all of us have been in more than enough relationships to genuinely recognize authentic, enduring love when it is staring us in the face. Our relationships aren’t new. Loved ones have long inquired when to expect the big day and babies. Friendships and families have blended. Lives and residences have been entwined.

In my case, I’ve been with Warrior Poet for more than two-and-half years now, and we’ve been living together for a year-and-a-half. He’s been by my side through the best and the worst of times. We’ve been each others cheerleader, champion and best friend. We have three families and a supportive circle of friends with whom to share special events together throughout the year. And in a couple weeks, we’ll be taking a trip of a lifetime together to one of the world’s most romantic cities and then to one of the most magical countries. Thinking about this, I was immediately chastened by how greedy and selfish it was to wish for more right now.

Christmas Love BouquetIn one of my FB groups, a woman posted about her disappointment that, after four-and-a-half years of a relationship, she wasn’t proposed to over Christmas. She said the only thing she wanted for the holiday was a commitment. People quickly responded to remind her that there is not time clock on commitment and that everything happens in its own, right time. While one couple got married after seven months together (15 years ago, btw), it took 16 years for another couple to get engaged. Yet the most sobering response was from a woman who said that while she understand the disappointment of the girl with no Christmas ring, there were many who wished that they had even a taste of what she already has—someone in her corner, someone by her side when the going gets tough.

It reminded me how important it is to recognize and express gratitude for the blessings we do have now. As single people, we can be grateful for the opportunity to really get to know ourselves, for the time to become our best selves, and for the experience of growing more complete and content on our own. If we’re in relationships, we can be grateful to have someone who sees, accepts and loves us for who we really are and has faith in who we can become. We can cherish the nurturing and support we receive. We can marvel in the process of getting to know each other even more with each passing day and the experience of our shared journey together. We can celebrate the continued acts of loving and the commitment it takes to show up for each other day in and day out, whether we’re wearing a ring or not.

What Couples Uncover When Chatting About Their Unique Relationships

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

Src: Flickr Creative Commons/ellenlove

This past weekend we went to a housewarming party, where we got to spend time with a few of our favorite couples. As always, the Warrior Poet and I learn so much from our conversations with them, giving us further insight into how others relate successfully and unsuccessfully in their romantic endeavors. Two interesting things arose in conversation that night—how couples communicate (or don’t) and how couples deal with conflict.

One of the surprising statements of the night was that having a max of 15 or so minutes of meaningful communication per day was the reality for others. “Neither of us are big talkers,” the guy in one of the couples explained. They enjoy being in each other’s company, but not don’t feel the need for much chatting. Another couple gets in fights frequently over communication blunders and misunderstandings.

WP and I exchanged knowing glances—our days wouldn’t be complete without some serious downtime talking with each other about more than just a play-by-play of our respective days. Whether we are discussing our goals for the next steps in our respective careers, contemplating the cosmos or trying to solve the world’s crises over lack of resource, or we’re making up parody lyrics or ridiculous names for our brood of non-existent dysfunctional children, a day doesn’t feel complete without looking into each others eyes and really jumping into each other’s minds for a good chunk of time. Two-and-a-half years into the relationship, we continue to lose track of time some nights because we’re so busy talking about whatever comes up.

Admittedly, we haven’t been together for more than a decade; as much as we already know and understand about each other, we still delight in discovering even more. And we don’t have children, which takes up a lot of time, attention and energy for parent couples. Nor are we a workaholic power couple spreading ourselves too thin to have the energy to do much more than the necessary check-ins. Yet, we also have our own, full lives we’re living.

I am working on building my own business, am constantly educating myself and following a half dozen passions—while also dealing with health and financial stress. WP’s work life is consistently frustrating, and he is extremely driven in his pursuits outside of work and rarely gets home before 8 p.m. at night. Yet on the two days we both work from home, we make an effort to briefly check in throughout the day. And each night, we eat dinner together and spend time in each others company until falling asleep.

Admittedly, sometimes the night is full chill mode of listening to podcasts or watching something or the computer. Or we decide to wind up the night reading side by side in bed. Sometimes, WP gets home late and exhausted, and we have barely enough time to prepare and eat dinner before he falls asleep. Yet, whatever we are doing, the time together is paramount, and we enjoy the time we carve out to talk to each other, no matter the topic. It’s what makes us feel happy and complete.

The other big thing that came up in our couples’ conversations the other night was how conflict is resolved. One couple is aware that it is made up of two, explosive and stubborn individuals. The longest they’ve gone without talking was a full week, which I cannot even fathom. The individuals in the other couple both hate conflict, but the man can’t stand leaving things unresolved for very long so he initiates airing things out. The rare times that things get weird between WP and me, I’m usually the one who has to bring up the topic to get us to directly address it.

Interestingly, yesterday I got on WP’s nerves because I was washing dishes while he was trying to cook meals for the week. I thought I was doing a good thing by cleaning new dishes that he would was going to need for the baking. He started sighing loudly and eventually went to sit in the corner and got one the phone until I was done. I left the room in an annoyed huff, mumbling, “I was just trying to wash the dust off the dishes for you.”

I sat and stewed for a while. I know WP is very sensitive to people and sounds, and it can drive him crazy not to have full reign of the kitchen when he is cooking. Yet he does all the cooking, and I feel better when I can do anything to help. Sometimes this is tolerated, but yesterday it was not.

It made me feel badly that I was just another annoyance to him at the time. I know how territorial he is about his kitchen at times and that I can’t take this too personally, but I would much rather have had him say something than just very audibly and dramatically sighing in annoyance over something that lasted less than five minutes. So I clung to my hurt feelings for a couple hours, though he seemed fine.

But after watching thought-provoking documentaries together, he initiated discussing the global issues the shows brought up that were much more significant than a kitchen showdown. Any awkwardness that had built up dissipated, and I openly engaged in the conversation as usual. No harm, no foul.

I know, like any couple, we can still improve on our communication, especially when neither of us is feeling at our best. We like to assume we can read each other’s minds, and get frustrated when it’s not always so. Yet I’m grateful that these moments aren’t very frequent and almost never lead to frustrated outbursts or tears. Neither of us thrives on such things.

It’s different strokes for different folks, and that’s what makes observing and learning about other relationships so fascinating. Different personalities have their own ways for navigating through the landscape of their relationships and making things work for them. Sharing our varied experiences can be a great way to learn from each other…and it definitely makes for entertaining group conversations.

How to Recognize What We Desire Most Comes From Within

What You Deserve And Desire

This past Saturday morning, I woke up to find a photo of a bare-chested man in my inbox. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going to complain about the view. However, its unexpected appearance was surprising to me for a number … Continue reading

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CA votes on bill for safety and accountability in adult film industry, performers plead to keep stringent industry health protocols and privacy

This morning, California voters are faced with a vote regarding regulations in the adult film industry. Sponsored by Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation introduced by California State Assembly member Isadore Hall (D-64th), AB1576 would require adult film industry (AFI) performers to use condoms at all times. It also includes a controversial government mandate on testing and requires all producers to keep health records of their models’ results indefinitely.

“[It] will look to make all adult filmed in CA require mandatory condom use and will criminally penalize anyone charged with violating it. This is not just professional shows; this includes ALL webcam models, amateur performers and personal web content trade,” AFI performer Steven St. Croix wrote on Facebook. “We have to stop the intrusion of the government in our personal, private and professional lives.”

More than 500 performers have signed a Free Speech Coalition petition opposing the bill. Independent groups representing adult film stars, such as the Adult Performers Advocacy have joined the petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose the bill. The petition will be presented in Sacramento today at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

Lorelei Lee is a performer and vocal opponent of the bill, calling it “insulting and paternalistic.” In a YouTube video by AFI performers that encourages voters to oppose the bill, Lee said that the bill would require CDC requirements for testing that, according to her, are much less stringent than the requirements in the industry. “And these are performer-developed requirements, performer-development safety and health protocols that have been extremely effective,” she said.

FAIR (For Adult Industry Responsibility) claims that AFI performers have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) than the general population. According to FAIR, a 2012 study found 28 percent tested positive for gonorrhea or Chlamydia.  In 2011, a study found performers 34 times more at risk for Chlamydia and 64 times more at-risk for gonorrhea than the general LA County population. Female performers were also 27 percent more likely to have a repeat infection in one year. They also claim that 23 performers employed by the AFI tested positive for HIV between 2004 and 2010.

“On porn sets in the last decade, there has not been one onset transmission of HIV, despite what you may have heard,” Lee said. “Active performers who have tested positive have done so after an exposure in their personal life. And the moratoriums that have been put in place after those positive tests came to light prevented the HIV from being spread to other active performers.”

The state Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media cleared the bill for vote on April 29.

“For too long, the adult film industry has thrived on a business model that exploits its workers and puts profit over workplace safety,” Assembly member Isadore Hall said. “The Assembly’s Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media soundly rejected the opposition’s arguments because they were based on fear, not facts. The fact is adult film actors are employees, like any other employee for any other business in the state. A minimum level of safety in the workplace should not have to be negotiated. We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California.”

Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that at least two adult performers, Cameron Bay and Joshua Rodgers, became infected with HIV in the last year while working in the industry. Both Bay and Rodger testified in favor of the bill.

“AB 1576 expands and broadens worker protections for all California’s adult film workers on a statewide basis,” said Weinstein. “We are grateful that Assembly member Hall has shown the courage—and the vision—to recognize that workers in the adult film industry are entitled to the same safeguards and worker protections that any employee in California is, and we will do whatever we can to help pass this legislation.”

Weinstein has been in hot water with AFI performers since he fought the FDA approval of medication Truvada for use by people at high risk for HIV—including sex workers—to help prevent transmission of the virus. Weinstein allegedly called the HIV-prevention pill “a party drug,” and used plentiful resources to fight the drug’s approval.

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called the bill “a solution in search of a problem,” during testimony before the state Assembly in April. “There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.”

In the video featuring AFI performers who oppose the bill, Christian Wilde said that the AFI performers are safe and careful, and “don’t need outsiders telling them how to do their jobs properly and safely.”

Performer Anna Fox said, “I feel that every performer should have the right to choose whether or not he or she wants to use protection. And I feel that our testing definitely works for us.”

Wilde opposes AB1576 for imposing on his privacy. “[The bill states] that every performer would have to disclose very sensitive, personal and medical information to every studio that they shoot for. And not only that, the studios could keep that sensitive information and on file indefinitely,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like a very drastic break of personal privacy.”

In another PSA, Lee expanded on how the bill would impact performer privacy. “If our personal medical records are being kept by a content producer, that means not just a very established organization, like Kink.com, where we have airtight record-keeping,” she said. “It means anyone in the Valley who is shooting porn out of their bedroom and keeping your medical records who knows where.”

According to Stop AB1576, the bill would compromise performer safety and privacy, as well as choice. It would also drive adult production out of California, with a loss of a multi-billion dollar industry.

“This bill is written by people who have no understanding or knowledge of the way the industry actually works and what regulations might actually be helpful to performers,” said Lee. She added that performers lack a voice in this bill.

“The actual effect of the bill would not be to have condoms to suddenly appear in all porn films,” she said. “What would more than likely happen is that the industry would move to Nevada or underground. And if the industry moves to Nevada or moves underground, what happens then is the degradation of the health and safety protocols that we performers have spent over a decade getting into place…So this bill would make us less safe.”

Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, “Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies. We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults.”

Lee added, “This [bill] shows a total disregard for performers’ autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building…If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect.”

Wilde said that by voting no on this bill, AFI performers can “continue giving you the quality of work that we are destined to give.” He added, “We need our voices heard. We need our advocates out there—our fans who love us and watch our work—to take this into their own hands and help us get out the word…To say ‘absolutely no, thank you’ to this bill.”

Almost a mother, almost a wife on Mother’s Day

Kids Say the Darnedest ThingsThis past Sunday, I was sitting at the dinner table with my family—my niece and nephew, brother and sister-in-law, my beau, my dad and last, but not least, my mom. With the exception of the Warrior Poet and I, everyone was feasting on two scrumptious desserts when my 6-year-old nephew, who adores his tía, said he counted three mothers at the dinner table: “Mom, grandma and Tía [me].”

Considering that I have no biological or adopted children, I was a bit puzzled. I was a bona fide cat mom until a couple months ago, sure, and my family has a habit of saying Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. My nephew’s earnest grinning reminded me that the closest I’ve come to parenting was caring for him and his sister over the years.

I think it was my brother who asked his son what his criteria was for being a mother. He responded with a laugh, admitting he didn’t know what the word ‘criteria’ meant.

Almost a Mother

After the question was rephrased, my nephew clarified, “You’re almost a mother.”

“Why is she almost a mother?” my own mother asked.

The impish first-grader replied, “Because she has almost a husband.” He pointed to the Warrior Poet, whom he’s embraced with glee during the multiple family visits and holidays, as he’s not afraid to get playfully hands-on with my nephew.

Treating his observation seriously, my nephew was asked, “How does having an almost husband make Tía an almost mother?”

He responded, “Well, when you get married, then you have children.”

There was laughter and a little bit of embarrassment. But come on–he’s 6 and adorable. The Warrior Poet knows me well, but I wouldn’t put it a different person in a different relationship to stage that sort of cuteness. I was even getting paranoid that my family members would think that we were pregnant and that my nephew had somehow picked up on it.

Warrior Poet replied, “Well, I can’t argue with that logic.”

I sighed a breath of relief as the topic of conversation shifted. It’s not that we haven’t ever talked about the future. The fact that we plan to be together is a given in both of our minds. We’ve even discussed the kind of spare but lovely ceremony we’d like to have if we get married. We’ve come up with endless imaginary children that we’d have. But it’s all fantastical mind-play.

Last night, while talking about insurance, the Warrior Poet said, “I could marry you so you can be sure you get good coverage, but that’s not very romantic.”

True, but does that mean he doesn’t plan to marry me any time soon?

Throwing Out the Ticking Clock

Though there is no need to put any pressure on our relationship, we are not getting any younger. If I ever have children, I will already be an at-risk pregnancy because of my health conditions. I’m over age 35, so that just ups the risk factor. My parents always point out that I could adopt, which both Warrior Poet and I would theoretically consider, but that’s not as big a concern as it once was for me.

As much as the Warrior Poet enjoys other people’s kids, I don’t think he really sees himself ever being a father. Which is fine, really. I went from wanting a soccer team of children to being resigned to the fact that I may never have children of my own. Yet I have nieces and a nephew, my friends’ kids, and I’ll probably wind up teaching children again sometime in the future. It’s not the same as having your own kids, but it might be enough to satisfy the urge to nurture.

A Mother’s Love

This Mother’s Day was the first in eight years where I haven’t been able to officially proclaim that I was a cat mom. It may sound ridiculous to people who don’t love animals and welcome them into their home or who don’t pour their love and attention into caring for their pets. But when you allow yourself, you can form such a strong and powerful bond with your animals. And for those of us who aren’t mothers of children, our fur babies can often feel like the next, best thing.

This is not a post to trivialize motherhood. My own mother is the epitome of compassion and self-less love. She raised her three children with grace and great strength, and, along with my dad, instilled in us empathy for others a strong moral code, drive for creative expression, deep appreciation for education and learning, and the ability to value all aspects of life—work, play and travel.

As for marriage, Warrior Poet says he gains inspiration from the marriage of my parents, and that he has the same realizations about our love that my dad has shared about his love for my mom. But where he was seriously looking at rings and such for his ex, despite how wrong they were for each other, I know that his mind is not there as far as we are concerned. We’ve signed on for another year of our lease, but he hemmed and hawed when our insurance agent suggested we might save in our respective car insurance bills if we got it as a couple.

Our almost decade younger friends, who have been dating one month longer than we have and had a horrifically tumultuous first year plus of their relationship, are certain that they will get married. The guy knows he’s going to propose soon. With her child in the picture, they have already become a lovely family.

We are not young. We know what we want in life and in love. We know we have a near ideal relationship (though we’re definitely not perfect, haha) for each of us. We always are talking about how happy we are and how lucky we are to have found one another at long last. But there’s an unspoken barrier about the future that feels strange to me.

 Not Yet…But Ever?

Warrior Poet has been with me the through some of the roughest times and been an awesome champion through that—so maybe he’s just waiting to see if I return to the super energetic and active woman with whom he first fell in love? It wouldn’t be the first time, by any mans.

Or maybe he’s scared to make a wrong decision about someone again. Or maybe he just realized he doesn’t want to participate in the institute of marriage. Or maybe deep down, a lifelong partnership is just not the way he sees his life going in reality.

This would have put me in full panic 4 or 5 years ago—it did in fact put me in panic in the relationship I was in at the time. Yet that was largely because I knew the person I was with was not meant for me in the long haul. I know I don’t actually shrivel up in three-and-a-half years when I turn 40, but being single at 40 would be a completely different ballgame than single at 34.

Either way, sweet nephew, while the Warrior Poet and I may be almost husband and wife in a lot of ways, we are most definitely not married, nor does it seem to be in the picture for my love any time soon. But I think he’ll still be around to fake-wrestle with for a while longer yet.

Two Years To the Date of When I First Saw Your Face

Celebrating usIt’s been two years today since that fateful afternoon we first met face-to-face. After hours of talking, as late afternoon turned into night, warmth turned into a chill we tried to recapture by the outdoor stove, we realized we’d both been holding in our pee until we were about to burst, just so as not to part company. Unfortunately, by then every store in the area was closed. I suggested the Taco Bell that was less than a minute drive away. We laughed at ourselves that we wouldn’t stop talking until our bodies insisted we do, and we are still laughing about it today.

Not much has changed when it comes to the endless talking, which now continues right up until you fall asleep. We make each other laugh so hard, tears come out of our eyes sometimes, or I snort, which only makes us laugh harder. We cherish how words and emotions just pour out of ourselves when we’re together. There’s no façade or hiding parts of ourselves we’d like to keep in the dark. Together, we sort through the darkness until we find light, tend to each others wounds until it feels safe to breathe strong again.

You have done so quite literally for me on and off over the last six or so months. When my exuberant old, energetic physical self eventually sizzled out on me, you were there to pick me up, to hold my limbs until I stopped trembling, to care for me when I could not do so for myself, to feed and nourish my body, mind and soul.

You never stopped believing in me. You never gave up. You continued to search for answers, and rejoiced when I was able to strongly stand on my own two feet again. You gave me another reason to not give up and sink back into pity or despair.

Life is not perfection, nor do I think it’s meant to be. Stress has weighed on us in various ways along the path that has only tested our resolve. Our imaginations sometimes get the better of us. We super-sensitive souls occasionally face bumps when we misinterpret what the other really means but think is not really saying. A little more than a year ago, we almost allowed that to break us apart completely…But we always wind up reaching to come back to each other, stronger, more committed to filling our lives with joy and harmony together.

We have created so many wonderful memories over the past two years. We’ve created a home and life together that promises to only get better and better with age. You inspire me and encourage me every day. You lift me out of my despair. You rejoice in my accomplishments and triumphs as if they were your own, just as I beam with pride over your own success. I’m proud of how we’ve grown individually and together since we decided to take this journey. I love who we are now and where we are headed.

No matter how long it has been since we last set eyes on each other, I look forward to your embrace as we return to each others presence. I look forward to the time we will fill with our voices and laughter tonight and the next night and the next night. I look forward to all the amazing adventures and experiences we have stretched out endlessly before us—together.

Learn What Singles in America Are Saying About Dating, Sex and Relationships From Match.com

MatchOn February 8, Match.com presented its first Singles In America panel to announce the results from its 2014 Singles in America study. The event was hosted by Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger, who was joined by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and other sex and relationship experts. This is the fourth year Match.com has done a comprehensive study of singles in the U.S., and as always, there were some surprising findings.

Stanger opened up the discussion by asking, “Who in the audience went on a first date and knew it was the one—so much so that you planned your future?” While none of the dating and relationship bloggers in the audience admitted that they had, Stanger said she’s done it a million times. And she is not alone.

According to the Singles in America study, 51 percent surveyed in America said they imagined a future together with someone on their first date. What is perhaps even more surprising is that men do it more often than women.

Dr. Helen Fisher, biological anthropologist and chief scientific adviser to Match.com, felt the results made perfect sense. “Men are much more romantic than women are. They fall in love faster because they are so visual,” she said. “When they meet somebody that they really love, they want to bring them home to friends and family sooner. They want to move in sooner. Man have many more intimate conversations with their wives than women do with their husbands because women have intimate conversations with their girlfriends.”

Not sure who these husbands are having conversations with if their wives are chatting with their girlfriends—I think that’s more accurately called a monologue, but what do I know?

The panel was mixed as to whether the velocity of emotions that come with a man’s visual mindset gave their counterpart power.

“I do believe it’s about power, but what I’m searching for is equality.” Perez Hilton said of the very visual mindset of the gay male community.”

Leading sexpert and Bravo TV star Emily Morris said that while she loves her power, she felt that men’s visual mindset made them more fickle. A man might believe his Friday night date was the one…until he went out on his Saturday date.

Fisher disagreed. “I don’t think it’s about power—that’s a feminist thing that’s gotten into everyone’s head,” she said. “It’s about love and about trying to figure out, you know, who you’re going to spend your life, about who you’re going to spread your DNA into the next generation with.”

Another surprising study finding was that 59 percent of singles want to plan their first date together. Audience members and the panel agreed that the person who asks for the date should plan it. Stanger asked how this works.

“It’s entirely possible that they’re already beginning to negotiate who’s flexible, who’s dominating, who’s gonna play some sort of false impression of who they are,” said Fisher. “The first three minutes of meeting somebody are powerfully important for many, many reasons. The brain is constantly categorizing…”

In last year’s survey , the top two things dates were judged by were their teeth and grammar. This year, the top three were grammar, confidence and teeth. Respectively, they show youth and health, your psychological stability and your background.

Dinner reigned supreme for a first date activity. Stanger put it like this:

Drinks are an audition

Lunch is an interview

Coffee is cheap

And dinner is for romance

After a first date, 46 percent of men and 35 percent of women want there to be follow-up within 24 hours. Only 6 percent of men still abide by the 3-day rule. Fifty-one percent prefer a phone conversation, but texting is a close second.

Speaking of texting, ladies, put down your cell phones and breathe. Texting multiple times before the man replies is their biggest turn-off. And men, stop sending sexy photos—for women, that’s a big turn-off.

Statistics try to scare you into thinking that marriage-minded singles are a rare commodity these days. However, the Singles in America Study found 53 percent of singles want to get married, and a whopping 89 percent of singles believe you can still live happily ever after. And a big proportion of gay men and women also indicate they want to get married.

So where are people most likely to meet their last first date? You guessed it—online!

For more on singles, sex, dating and relationships, watch it here!

Live streaming video by Ustream**This is a sponsored post for Match.com**

Need Last-Minute Valentine Gift Ideas for Your Love? Make it Mosaic!

Capture Loving Memories with Mosaic Photo Album for Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gift IdeasMaybe you’ve waited until the last minute to get your sweetheart something for Valentine’s Day because the “perfect gift” hasn’t magically revealed itself to you yet. Maybe you’re all spent, emotionally and financially, after the holidays—and in my boyfriend and my situation, after two birthdays as well. Maybe you’re all done with this commercially overblown holiday when, really, you are someone who shows your love every day of the year. Perhaps a thoughtful gift that captures fun memories might be just what you’re seeking. Here’s why I decided to go with Mosaic Photo Books.

Using Mosaic Photo Album for Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gift IdeasMosaic is a really cool app, available for iPhone and Android, which allows you to create a physical photo book of 20 of your favorite photos for $20. You simply download the app for free and upload 20 pics to their platform. From there, you can shuffle the photos to your liking to create a personalized cover that features glimpses of your favorite memories with your number one man or woman. Fill in your billing and shipping info, click ‘order,’ and you’re done in less than 10 minutes.

Within four days—or so they promise—you’ll have a hard copy photo album in your hands! But Valentine’s Day is on Friday—can I really be sure it will get here in time? Perfect for procrastinators, Mosaic promises that you will get your custom photo album by Valentine’s Day if your order by the end of Monday, Feb. 10.

Mosaic Photo Album for Last-Minute Valentine's Day Gift IdeasI’m still waiting for my album to arrive, but I love the super-easy, user-friendly interface that is also visually appealing. You can see quite clearly which photos will or won’t work, and the ability to switch up your cover, which is a mosaic of the photos you’ve chosen, gives you even more opportunity to personalize the album and put your own creative stamp on your unique and heartfelt Valentine’s Day gift.

To start creating your photo album on your iPhone or iPad, visit the App Store. Android users can visit the Google Store.

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This is a sponsored post for Mosaic.

How to Turn Your Online Flirting Into a Real Life Date

When Dating Online Turns to Real Life

Couple on a date, Src: Flickr/sblackley

When it comes to meeting dates online, there will always be an interim period where you get to know each other through messages before meeting up. This can be an exciting time, where every new email in your inbox can make your heart beat faster and you look forward to the next stage in the conversation. But what about when it comes time to meet? How do you turn your online flirting into a real life date? Here are five steps to lead you in the right direction.

1. Take it Slowly

There’s no need to rush. While you don’t want to spend too long going back and forth with messages, if you want to get to know your match a little better then feel free to wait. If the first meeting is awkward, you’ll be less likely to want to meet up again, so it may be better to wait until it feels right.

2. Don’t be Too Forward

Flirting online is all about keeping things light. You might have already discussed what you’re looking for in a relationship but using loaded words like ‘marriage’ or ‘motherhood’ may not be a good idea before you’ve even met. You’re looking to suss out the potential for a match, not commit yourself for life.

3. Ask for Their Personal Email

If you’ve been messaging each other for a while on a website such as eHarmony, and you’re getting impatient waiting for the next step, try asking for their personal email address. It’s a good first step towards a face-to-face meeting and it’s not too intimidating.

If they’re hesitant to give it, they may just be enjoying the attention without wanting to take things further.

An online dating success

An online dating success? Src: Flickr/adam_jones

4. Suggest a Relaxed First Date

When it comes to meeting up for the first time, you might both be feeling nervous about talking through the details. Try keeping things simple – if you have a favourite coffee shop or laid-back bar, ask your interest if they’ve heard of it and suggest meeting there for a drink. A relaxed, familiar atmosphere will help set the scene for a good first date.

5. Look for Partners Close By

If you’ve been messaging someone who lives far away, there may always be a reason why you can’t meet up. Long-distance relationships can blossom into long-term partnerships, but it’s hard to get things off the ground when you’d have to take a week off work to arrange to even meet them.

Try finding singles in your area by using online dating (click here to find out more) and you’ll be better placed for real-life encounters with potential matches.

**This is a sponsored post by eHarmony**