Category Archives: Couples Counselling

Why Valentine’s Day can make you feel Anxious

170112799Valentine’s day is a day dedicated to celebrating LOVE with those closest to you. However, for a lot of us without relationships this can be a day filled with fear, anxiety, and sadness because we might feel like we don’t have anyone to celebrate with. Even for those of us in a relationship, this day may create a lot of stress and anxiety. It can be confusing to have these thoughts and feelings when you are in a happy relationship and feel pressured to be happy and exude feelings of love. I will be exploring some of the reasons for these thoughts and suggesting ways to combat them to prevent them from becoming harmful to you/your partner.

1. You FEEL pressured to be a perfect couple and have the PERFECT date.

Both in the mass media and on our social media feeds we are constantly being flooded with pictures and images of ‘happy’ couples, decadent gifts, extravagant dates, etc. These images can make us feel like we need to live up to these standards in order for our relationship to be worth something. Trying to live up to these high standards is unrealistic and can be a source of stress and anxiety. Just as in other aspects of the media, the misconceived notion that happiness is about money and material wealth is a lie. I encourage you to stay true to yourself and your partner and do something you both want/love to do, rather than trying to show the world how ‘perfect’ your relationship is. That could mean going to the movies, going out for dinner, or even staying in and ordering a pizza in your PJ’s. At the end of the day, whatever you end up choosing, you will always have fun together!

2. You FEEL pressured to show your loved one you care.

The very reason for the day is to express the love we always feel for our partners (also, family, friends, etc.). For some of the same reasons as above, Valentine’s Day can put pressure on us to find a way to go above and beyond in expressing our love. We have to plan the perfect date, pick out the perfect gift, and even ensure that the ‘I love you’ message we give or send to our partner is perfect. Some of us rely solely on the material objects to convey this message, while others also want to say it or write it in a note or card. Don’t get hung up on what to say or how much to say, just write down how you truly feel. Remember that this isn’t a test or a contest between you and other couples, or even between the two of you. Anything you could possibly say in a card on Valentine’s Day, I’m sure you’ve already said to your partner and will continue to express through the course of your relationship. Valentine’s Day should not be a day to measure your commitment to your partner, but more of a fun day to self-indulge!

3. You FEEL like a bad partner if you don’t do something for them/you don’t know what to do.

Wanting to do something nice for your partner isn’t a bad thing at all. The only time this can feel uneasy is when you feel uncertain of what they’d like or uncertain if they’ll receive the message that you care and want them to feel loved. My advice would be to NOT overthink it. If you know your partner well enough, you’re bound to know a few things or dates that they’d like. All in all, I’m sure your partner will be happy simply with the idea that you thought about them and put time into planning a date or getting a gift, regardless of what you choose. If your partner is hung up on what you chose, there could be a reason for this. Do you express feelings solely through gifts, did you both set a limit that was or wasn’t met, or do they value your relationship only on gifts and dates, and not actual feelings? These are all questions that hopefully you don’t need to answer, but can be helpful if your partner is really unhappy when you try to do something nice for them.

The bottom line is: KEEP IT SIMPLE and HAVE FUN! If you’re single, take the day to treat yourself and relax! And if you’re in a relationship just tell your partner what you always do, that you love them, and be authentic if you are giving them a gift or going out. Happy Valentine’s Day!

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

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How to Have a Hard Conversation (with your partner)

conversation_5556628632Sometimes it’s easier to not bring up things that can be bothering you in a relationship: wishing they were more attentive, not feeling the spark anymore, or even feeling unsatisfied with your sex life. However, what I’ve found worse than having these hard conversations is not having them at all. When you don’t face certain problems in a relationship with your partner, it can feel like you are silently suffering with issues of your own. Your partner may be unaware you are even having these feelings or could also be feeling in a similar way, but be just as uncertain about how to bring it up. More so, nothing can change unless we admit we want them to. Always trying to make sense of feelings, I’ve learned that hard conversations are hard for different reasons: admitting we are unhappy is hard, facing difficult problems in a relationship can seem solely like a personal fault, not wanting to hurt yourself in the long run, not wanting to hurt the other person, and also not wanting a hard conversation to be the last conversation. Because of these reasons, here are some tips that might help when having a hard conversation:

1. Write down or say what you really feel beforehand

Sometimes when you are in the middle of a hard conversation, your mind can become cloudy with so many emotions and thoughts. This makes it hard to say what you really want to convey and it can leave you feeling worse, rather than better. The point of this is not to say what you write or practice verbatim, but to clearly articulate how you feel. Even if you get nervous or overwhelmed during the conversation, you can usually remember some of the things you wanted to say (instead of trying to think about how you feel, while also trying to have the conversation).

2. Say what you need to say THEN allow room for them to speak

Hard conversations are hard because we care about the other person. Allow yourself to say what you need and don’t hold back. If you stop yourself from saying what you truly feel and only touch on some points, then you’re pretty much back to where you started. However, it’s also good to get their point of view as well. Knowing where they stand on the issue can help you understand their perspective. From there, it can be easy to make changes if you are both on the same page. If not, there are other conversations that might need to be had and perhaps it is worth working out, perhaps not. If anything, at least you get to be transparent and honest with each other and know where you both stand.

3. Be true to yourself

Sometimes we try to protect the people we love most but forget about ourselves. When having a hard conversation, it’s inevitable that you will always worry about the feelings of the other person or else it wouldn’t be a hard conversation at all. Empathizing with those we love is not a bad thing. However, you can’t let the possibility of hurting their feelings stop you from truly voicing how you feel. It will be tough, but keep in mind that 1) hurting your partner’s feelings is not (well, shouldn’t be) your intentions and 2) it’s worse for your relationship and wellbeing to bottle up your feelings just because you are afraid of the outcome.

By: Sarah Morrone

Sarah Morrone lives and works in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is an aspiring teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Life has taken her on a little detour and is currently managing a cosmetics shop while writing, painting, and getting to know herself.

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Sex After Pregnancy and Baby

GTY_baby_166272556_jt_131103_16x9_608“Not now, honey, I’m tired” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a new parent. You’re exhausted, sleep deprived and have a world of new responsibilities. You barely recognize your body in the mirror, let alone want someone else to see you naked. Sex may be the furthest thing from your mind. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. It’s normal to lose your libido after having a baby. There are ways to put the desire back into your relationship and balance family life with sex life. Here are my top three tips to finding (and keeping!) that balance in your relationship:

ONE: Be Realistic

Accept that you are both going to be over extended and less likely to be jumping each others bones. Being a parent is tiring. That’s just a fact of life. Your whole perspective and focus also changes when you become a mom. Yet, it’s still important to nurture your relationship with your partner(s). Just because you are now a mom doesn’t mean you stop being part of a couple. Try to focus less on the lack of wild sex and more on what you can do that feels comfortable. Even simple things like more eye contact, heartfelt compliments, and a long hug can go a long way in fostering that connection and intimacy as a couple instead of just parents. Everyone likes to be told they look nice – especially after having their body changed after pregnancy!

TWO: Channel Your Creativity

Sometimes, it really is the small things that make the biggest difference in our day-to-day lives.  Sure, you may want a weekend get away, but that’s not always feasible. Instead, try a ‘stay-cation’ by spending time relaxing in a bubble bath after baby has fallen asleep. You could even spice it up a bit by inviting your partner(s) to join you in the bath. You’re going to have limited time and energy as a new parent. Ask yourself “Do I want to spend my time picking up toys and making complicated dinners, or do I want to enjoy time with my partner(s) and order takeout?” The exhausted stage isn’t forever. Don’t put your energy in places you may regret, like vacuuming the house just because you are worried about what visitors may think! What do you think? You’re more important than a house guest.

THREE: Let’s Talk About Sex Baby

Communication is an important part of any relationship. The most effective way to get more of what you want is by talking about it with your partner(s). Open lines of communication about wants and needs in the bedroom are key to a happy relationship and healthy sex life. Think about it. You talk about money and parenting style, why not talk about sex? Just like anything else, if it’s not talked about, the problem will fester and become a bigger and bigger issue in the relationship. Don’t let your fear or talking about the subject inhibit you from building a stronger relationship. The bond is more than just physical. By talking through all aspects of your relationship with your partner(s) – from money, to parenting style, to sex – you only make the relationship stronger, not weaker. Talk it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Having a baby doesn’t have to mean the end of your sex life. It just brings a whole new dimension to your family and relationship. Savor your relationship with your baby, but also savor your relationship with your partner(s). You deserve to have it all.

By: Kelly McDonnell-Arnold

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The Secret to Keeping the Spark Alive

Dollarphotoclub_76286710-e1423206683651One of the challenges of a long-term relationship is trusting that our partner can change.  After years of the same irritations and missed connections it’s easy to assume that there’s very little you can do to make your relationship fresh again. But the truth is that relationships, like people, are always changing and with a little effort we can make sure that those changes are for the better.

The secret to keeping the spark alive and your connection to each other strong are not only in the grand romantic gestures that happen occasionally, but the small daily moments of connection. The most important thing any couple can do to make those moments count is to be intentional.

Each day ask yourself what you can do to show affection and kindness toward your spouse – then do it. With a little intentional effort you can change your relationship for the better in just a few weeks. Let me be clear, a month of intentional effort is not going to fully resolve major issues or long-standing conflicts but it is possible to change your attitude and set your relationship on a new, happier course.

One way to stay motivated and put my theory of small changes to the test is to have regular relationship check-ins. Our satisfaction with our relationship can fluctuate through out the day just like our mood, so daily or hourly check-ins are not the best approach. When evaluating how your relationship is going and the impact of your new efforts be sure to take the long view. While you may be annoyed at the moment, how would you describe things overall? This broad perspective is just a helpful when things are rocky as it is when things seem to be going well. A weekly check-in can be helpful as long as you aren’t using it only as an opportunity to air your grievances. Make your check-in a balanced conversation about what is working really well and what areas you want to improve – not just what your partner can do but what you want to do for them.

How do we create more connection?
Often we think it is the big things that make or break a relationship but the truth is that it is the small daily things we do that matter the most. Here are three simple ways to improve connection and shift your perspective on your relationship:

1. Hug and kiss at least twice a day.  For a couple that is very affectionate this may seem simple but it’s the non-sexual touches that often get overlooked in a busy week. Physical intimacy can do wonders for keeping you connected and expressing love and appreciation that you may unintentionally forget to say out loud. It also releases oxytocin, often called the ‘bonding’ hormone, which can stimulate a natural sense of trust and connection. To truly reap the benefits, you must be intentional about these moments and take your time. A quick peck as you run out the door is not the same as a 3-5 second kiss or 20-second hug which has demonstrated benefits to your relationship.

2. Use technology to increase the playfulness. It easy to blame our phones and laptops for keeping us apart but these devices can also bring you together. A quick text hello or a flirty message at lunchtime keeps your partner on their toes – in a good way. These messages are easy to send and they can infuse your day with a little unexpected novelty, which is something we all long for. It can also set the stage for conversation and connection when you are finally back together again.

3. Say thank-you. It’s so easy to overlook all the little ways your partner makes your life better each day. The cup of coffee they make in the morning, making sure the trash went out, or an encouraging phone call before a big meeting or project can all be forgotten in the blink of an eye. Yet when someone makes us mad or lets us down, we humans are quick to point out what’s wrong. Saying thank you for the good stuff doesn’t just make your partner feel good, it helps you keep perspective. If you look for something to appreciate each day, you will find countless reasons for loving your partner. That reminder will keep you both happier in the long run.

By: Esther Boykin

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One Best Tip For Improving Your Marriage

love picIt’s hard to come home to a bad marriage.  When the one place that is supposed to be loving and supportive, is actually cold and lonely, it’s a challenge to keep positive and have hope that things can turn around. As hard as it might be to believe, though, it is possible. I have one tip for you, something you can start doing right away, that will help improve your marriage. It’s a simple tip, but not always an easy one.

Too often, as our relationships start to slide, we begin to lose touch with the positives.  We notice all of the ways that our partner is letting us down, or all of the missed opportunities our partner didn’t take to let us know how much s/he cares.  Over the course of time, we can become very, very aware of just how disappointing our partner is, of how she or he has wronged us, of all of the things that have happened that we just can’t believe makes sense to him or her – why would she even do that?!

And as time goes on, we begin to focus more and more of our attention on what our partner is doing and how our partner is behaving.

Maybe we use his bad behaviour as an excuse for our own petty behaviour. Or maybe we’re just so hurt that we are hyper-aware of every little thing that she does or says, and we interpret it all to mean that she doesn’t really care.

However it happens, for whatever reasons it happens, it can become very easy to spend much more time thinking about our partner’s behaviour, which we can’t control, rather than focusing on our own, which we can.

So here’s my tip: Start noticing small actions you can take to improve your marriage.

If you’d like your marriage to improve, focus on what you can do that would start to move things in a better direction. Are you coming home grumpy and gearing up for a fight each night after work?  Make a point of doing some deep breathing before you walk in the door, and focus on what was good about your day, so that you’re not accidentally giving off a “Don’t talk to me” vibe. Have you been waiting for your partner to make the first move in apologizing/planning a date night/unloading the dishwasher? Don’t tell yourself that it’s ok to base how you behave on how your partner is behaving; instead act from a place of integrity and be the person you would like to be in your marriage, regardless of what your partner is or isn’t doing.

Perhaps you feel that you’ve been doing all of the work in your relationship already, and you’re tired of feeling as though you’re going it alone. Fair enough. You know yourself how hard you’ve been trying to get things on a better track. But if you’re still interested in seeing your marriage improve, it’s never too late to look at what you have been doing and asking yourself, “If this isn’t working, what might work better?  In this situation, what is in my power to change, what might make a positive difference in our relationship?”

If we only focus on what we want or need someone else to do, and then they don’t do it, it can lead to a real sense of despair and helplessness. While we can’t make anyone else do something, we can create an environment between us that is fertile ground for a positive shift in both our behaviours which leads to a positive shift in our relationship.

Maybe this means asking about your partner’s day and showing a genuine interest. Perhaps it means sharing more of yourself, contributing more to the conversation and the atmosphere at home, rather than hiding in the den all evening. It could even mean that you need to count to 10 before responding when your partner is short with you, especially when you feel that attitude is uncalled for.  Maybe you’ll need to do the same thing a few times before your partner trusts that you really are trying to do things differently, and s/he starts to respond in a kinder manner.

When we tell ourselves that we’re not going to change what we’re doing until our partner changes what he or she is doing, we’re setting ourselves up for a stalemate. Someone has to break the ice, make the first move – let it be you. Do something kind, genuine, loving or different, not because it’s your job to fix your relationship, but because it empowers you to know that you have the ability to positively influence the situation, the ability to control how you behave in any situation, and that you also have the ability to start the snowball rolling in the direction of a more loving and satisfying relationship.

By: Andrea Ramsay Speers

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5 Signs You’re Dating a Psychopath

Dating a psychopath is more likely than you think!

About 1% of the population suffers from psychopathy, meaning in a town of about 100,000 people, 1000 are psychopaths. It is important to mention that psychopathy is a personality disorder made up of specific characteristics and can only be diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. But even if you’re not dating a psychopath per se, these are some traits to be weary about in a partner.

Extremely Charming and Over the Top

A Psychopath will shower you with gifts and compliments, and make you like you’re the only one in the world. Being extremely charming is good way of getting people to fall in love with you, and this characteristic is also what enable a psychopath to control or manipulate you.

Manipulative

Psychopaths tend to be able to get their way. They turn their ideas into your ideas in such a subtle way that you have no idea that it has happened. Ever confronted your partner about something they did to upset you, but you end up being the one apologizing? This may be a sign you’re dating a psychopath.

No Sense of Responsibility

Pyschopaths tend to deny responsibility for their actions. They end up blaming you, saying that your actions lead to them to acting they way they did. And they honestly believe that they did nothing wrong due to lack of remorse.

Risky Behaviour

Psychopaths can’t grasp the idea of punishment and this will lead to doing things that puts them and you at risk. This can be dangerous behaviour, promiscuity, cheating, drugs, and so on. Definitely behaviours you should avoid!

Big Ego

Most psychopaths have a sense of grandeur. Your needs come second because actually believe that you are less important. You are there to serve their needs. As long as you are doing that, why would the person put any effort into helping you grow as an individual?

All of these are some tell tale signs that you could be dating a psychopath. But don’t take my work for it! Listen to Kim!

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3 Ways To Communicate In A More Meaningful Way

Speech-Bublé2We are all constantly told that communication is key when it comes to any type of relationship or human interaction. And that’s true! How can we better communicate in our daily lives and make our words genuine? Sometimes it just means taking a few extra steps with respect to how we express ourselves.

1. Elaborate on your thankfulness

Instead of just saying thank you, say:

“Thank you, that means a lot to me”

“Thank you, I really appreciate help..”

“I am very thankful that you are doing ___”

Gives your thank you a bit of an extra punch and helps communicate that you are really thankful and why you are really thankful.

2. Express how you feel in the moment even if it seems obvious

It’s important to express how you feel when speaking to others because even though your feelings might be clear to you they may not be clear to others. We can’t assume that others know what we are feeling and thinking if we do not express ourselves clearly. People can be very intuitive but they are not mind readers. This is especially true in romantic relationships where there might be some differences in how men and women choose to express their emotions.

3. Learn what not to say

To make your words more meaningful and important, examine what you say. We express what we value in our words and if our speech is frequently full of nonconstructive negativity, criticism, insensitivity and empty or trivial words we will probably push friends away and maybe attract “like-spoken” people. Try to keep your thoughts balanced so that your words will be positive, genuine and important.

By: Danielle Taylor

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3 Ways To Lessen Your Anxiety About Your New Relationship

Toronto Psychologist Healthy RelaitonshipsYou are in a new relationship. It’s magical yet unpredictable. Things seem to be going great but you may not always know what tomorrow might bring. You may have some concerning thoughts. Is trust a problem? Will the spark fizzle out in a few more months? Will your partner commit to you forever? Do you want to marry this person?

There are countless reasons why a person might be feeling anxiety in his/her relationship. However, anxiety early in a relationship often stems from issues such as commitment and trust.

It will probably be helpful to have a meeting with yourself to examine the source of your anxiety and think about the meaning of your nervousness.

It is very normal to experience some anxiety and worry during the early part of your romantic relationship. In a way, it’s a good sign. It means that your relationship is meaningful to you and that you are allowing yourself to experience some vulnerability. However, it can be uncomfortable and unhealthy to experience too much anxiety so here are three ways to bring more calm to your exciting romantic experience:

1. Examine your partner’s actions

You might feel as if you want your relationship verbally validated very regularly. However, depending on the person, this may not happen as often as you would like. Instead, look at other ways your partner tells you that he/she wants to be in the relationship. There are many ways of expressing affection other than through words and these ways can be even more powerful. Recognize the small things your partner does for you. Basically, if a person wants to be in your life, he/she will make the effort to stay there.

2. Communicate

If a relationship is starting to feel too all over the place and causing you stress, it might be time to sit down with your partner to discuss your relationship. Gently inquire where your partner’s thoughts and feelings are at and check to see if you are both on the same page. This type of conversation might be best down in a private and relaxed setting when it is an appropriate time for both of you.

3. Try to develop balanced thoughts about your relationship

The harsh reality is that many relationships end. Therefore, it might be important to value your relationship for what it is now and recognize its importance even if it will end one day. Try to remember that even if you feel a relationship ended in failure it is still a valuable lesson for the future. Remind yourself that even though you might be very sad if your relationship does not work out, you will be able to recover and move on. Empowering yourself with balanced thinking allows you to have more control over your thoughts and emotions. When you have more control over your thoughts and emotions it may help you feel more control over your anxiety about your relationship.

In the end, it is always a leap of faith!

Best of luck with your relationship! 🙂

By: Danielle Taylor

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Emotional Sunburns

purple-beach-sun-setWhat is an emotional sunburn?

Think about your last trip to sunny Miami!

There, you are soaking in the sun, partying and having the time of your life.

Then, you arrive back to cold Toronto with a painful and blistering sunburn only to have to cover up in layers, long pants, turtlenecks, extra sweaters, boots and long down filled coats.

Your friend greets you at the airport and in his excitement to greet you after your trip, he gives you a big bear hug. Ouch!!!

Not realizing that you have a sunburn on every part of your body, you scream and push him away.

What did he do? How does he feel? How do you feel?

He had no intention of hurting you and did not realize what was covered up underneath your bulky winter clothing. Yet his hug still caused you to scream and pushed him away.

Most people are walking around weighed down with their emotional sunburns. These are individual areas of sensitivity. They are our bruises from our past. They come from past negative experiences; experiences with our family, friends, and lovers.

Many people do a great job of covering their bruises up. Often, no one can see them on the outside and no one knows about them except for you. Sometimes you may not even realize how the past is affecting you in the present.

Your partner doesn’t know about all your emotional sunburns and how they are affecting you today. Next time you have a strong emotional reaction of anger, sadness, anxiety or any powerful feeling to a situation that doesn’t seem to warrant it, take some time to question your reaction and determine if your response is triggered by the present situation or perhaps if it is triggered by a past experience or relationship. Stop and think of the reasons pushing your reactions and identify your emotional sunburns.

If your current relationship is healthy, strong and safe, start sharing your experiences with your partner and work together to help to see how your past is affecting your current relationship. Your partner can become more sensitive to your reactions and you will begin to realize that what happened in the past in not reoccurring again in the present and slowly you will be able to let it go.

Keep in mind emotional sunburns are more painful than your bad burn at the beach last summer!

If you are experiencing an emotional sunburn, especially one that isn’t healing, you may want to invest in working with a therapist to help identify and work though these past hurts. This might enable you to live with renewed emotional equilibrium, without being pulled back into the past.

By: Ilana Brown

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7 Things He Wants You to Know About Dating

keep-an-open-mind-101-happy-quotes-and-tipsDating can be fun, frustrating, exciting, and miserable all at the same time.  After failed attempts to
make it to relationship status, we often ask ourselves, “What are they thinking?!” Ladies, fret no more, here is what he wants you to know about dating.

1. “Playing hard to get is a turn off to a mature man and like a crack addiction for boys.”

My dad always told me, “Men value what they earn.” Although true, it sounds like we need to make sure we give them the opportunity to earn it.  One man explained “We like the chase but don’t forget you agreed to meet. Don’t be afraid to show some interest.”

2.  “Give your honest opinion about date ideas.”

Many of the men I asked shared their frustration with women either not helping to provide date ideas, not having opinions on their date ideas, or giving too many date ideas. One fellow reported, “If a guy asks a gal’s opinion on date options, be honest.  It’s hard enough to guess what she likes, let alone what she could be allergic/scared of”.

3. “It’s just a date.  Lighten up.”

This seems like something we all know but with so much pressure to “find the one”, all your friends walking down the aisle, and the goal to not hit geriatric pregnancy age by the time we are ready to have kids, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to hook the guy.  One man wanted to remind us, “We already like you (thus the date).  We’re asking questions because we are interested in more than your looks.”

4. “Don’t talk about your ex.”

One man explained “On the first date, only bring up history if we ask.  We don’t really care at this point about your ex or dating history.”

5. “Less is more”

Trends tell us we look best with long flowing hair (hair extensions), thick bushy lashes (lash extensions), tan skin (fake tan), and perfect skin (foundation).  But keep in mind that trends that women enjoy are different than what guys necessarily find attractive.  I guess he isn’t just sweet
talking you when he says you are beautiful when you wake up.

6. “Ask us questions”

Guys said they know the importance of asking questions on a date, especially to keep
conversation flowing, but that it can be a turn off if ladies spend the date only sharing about
themselves.  In fact, some men reported a ladies’ interest and ability to ask questions is a turn
on.  So ladies, try to make that convo 50/50.

7. “An offer to pay goes a long way”

Men agreed that women should offer to pay, but also that you should only let them pay if you
are interested.  They also recognized that more women are practicing “casual dating” than in
the past and if that’s the case, more power to you, but transparency is appreciated prior to
letting them fork up the cash.

By: Ashley Callahan

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