The lesson I learned about myself on my first Valentine’s Day with a partner

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Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone. 

It’s a very specific, sort-of-made-up holiday that tends to favor those in love and fans of cheesy gestures of affection. 

I have never in my life been one of those people. Sure, I was a self-admitted hopeless romantic but I usually kept my romanticism where it belonged: cheesy boy-meets-girl rom-coms. I’m not someone who has been counting down the days until a cute boy puts a ring on it with a secret wedding planner scrapbook under my bed since I was 16, nor did I want to be. Which is why it might seem fitting to say that Valentine’s Day was just never my holiday. 

I don’t remember getting a single card when I was younger and I honestly couldn’t tell you what my young adult (and very single) self thought of the holiday. 

I didn’t have a boyfriend until just before my 22nd birthday and, as luck would have it, he was a fellow Valentine’s Day hater. Although for him it largely stemmed from the fact that it was also his birthday, I only mildly minded that we didn’t celebrate the occasion during our two years together. My only other serious relationship afterwards didn’t fare much better. Although not a VDay hater, my then-boyfriend was going to be out of the country. Oh well! Although we did have a small celebration beforehand, it seemed that my destiny was clear: Valentine’s Day was just not for me.

I spent the next several years single AF, as I like to say. I dated, sure, but there was never anyone special to call my own for the five years between my last relationship and the man who has now become my life partner. 

I was never sad about it, though.

Deep down I did house some insecurities about my dating prospects and seeming inability to find love, but I brushed it aside to celebrate this holiday in different ways. I hung out with girlfriends, went out dancing, had dinner with cool married friends and even babysat one year. It was NBD, as they say. 

But this year something changed.

The obvious change in my life, of course, is that since my last Valentine’s Day I have met the person that I plan to be with for the rest of my life. I never imagined that my love life would transform into its own mini rom-com, but it did. Since meeting my now-life partner, I have learned a lot about love, relationships and life in general. 

I’ve learned about the importance of generosity in dating. I’ve learned about moving in with someone, how to unite our finances, why fighting is totally normal (and that making up afterwards really IS the best) and a million other little lessons that can only come when you suddenly become part of a couple. 

To my surprise, even my career has benefitted. Not only have I found my #1 fan (who has already done more to support me and my work than I could have previously imagined possible) but I also have a newfound courage to take more chances and seek new heights with my writing. And I know that much of this I couldn’t have done without the encouragement I receive from home. 

The one unexpected thing, however, is how my perception of Valentine’s Day has suddenly changed. 

It’s not that all of a sudden the day had meaning simply because I was in love for the first real time in my life (because, um, gross?) but it’s that out of nowhere I had expectations about this day. 

Whereas before, in my many years in bad relationships and even more years as a single gal, the day knowingly meant very little, now it had some kind of *meaning*. But what, exactly? 

I’m not proud to admit that I spent the better part of the week before Vday worrying that my boyfriend wouldn’t get me flowers, something which is particularly important to people from a culturally Russian background such as myself, and subsequently feeling ridiculously silly for putting such expectations on him. 

We had talked before that I wasn’t that into this fake-ish holiday, and I was relieved to find out he wasn’t either. But as the day approached, deep down that hopeless romantic I always knew I was started to come into my real life. She wanted to be surprised. She wanted to be wooed. And she wanted it NOW. It was hard to keep her at bay as I argued within myself whether or not I actually wanted to bring any of this up with Adam. Do I tell him now that maybe my opinion of Valentine’s Day had changed just a little, or do I keep silent and risk being disappointed when the day actually came? 

Eventually, I chose to open up.

After all, one of the major strengths of our relationship up until this point was our ability to be totally honest with one another. As cheesy as it sounds, we were totally one of those couples who *told each other everything* and quite proud of it, actually. 

But I was still afraid he’d judge me for my change of heart. On the one hand, I was a rational woman who knew that a single day in the year does not make or break how devoted he is to me and that being pressured into showing that devotion simply, well, CAUSE was silly. Yet on the other hand, I wanted to feel *special* in a way I never had before. 

When I actually brought the subject up, however, he pretended to have a mini argument with me about why this was so important. It wasn’t until days later that I realized he had pulled the wool over my eyes in order to actually be able to surprise me with a lovely dinner and the roses I’d always wanted. 

I was thrilled to celebrate the day with him, and a bit early to boot, in a way I had never been able to do in the past. 

In the end, I realized that it’s not that the day itself became more significant because I was now part of a societally acceptable pairing that would be welcome at any restaurant in town. The truth is that stressing about Valentine’s Day plans – and subsequently being surprised anyway – helped me to understand just how much outward opinions of this day had come up to confront me this year. 

And maybe I’m still understanding the bits and pieces that make me who I am, and certainly all of the parts that make me who I am in my relationship. Thankfully, the lessons I learned this year are ones that I can take with me for years to come. 

Sure, those lessons include that I secretly want to do *something* a little more special than usual on this day… but then again, hadn’t I always done something special with people that I cared about? I’m just lucky that now that list of people includes someone who also happens to be the kindest, sweetest, most generous and incredible person I’ve ever met. 

That’s certainly something to celebrate, isn’t it?

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2016 was an exceptionally happy year for me (and I’m not afraid to admit it)

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We’ve all been saying it all damn year, haven’t we? 2016 IS THE WORST.

I know that I’ve definitely been guilty of this sentiment, and it wasn’t really just because of the election (although that contributed to my year-end complaints). But in the past few days, I realized just how much we’ve all been doing it lately…

Look, I get it. This year has kicked us all (figuratively) in the balls. Between the celebs that died throughout the year and especially around Christmas/Hanukkah, it’s been tough. The election was, well, pretty awful for those of us who care about other people and maintaining our rights. And that’s not even to mention Aleppo and Brexit and… ugh, I can’t go on. This year has been the WORST, right?

Or has it?

The truth is that 2016 is not killing people, but people die because of complicated things like a history of drug and alcohol abuse. That’s not the only reason why so many of our fave celebs passed away this year, but that’s certainly a theory that makes sense too.

Then there’s just the general thinking that… Hey, if we call 2016 the worst, then what about all of the bad years that came before it or the bad years that are still to come? (Ya know, with President Trump actually possibly accomplishing some of the vile things he said he planned to do during his campaign.)

Here’s an idea: Let’s all stop calling 2016 “the worst” ASAP.

The truth is that a lot of bad things happened this year. I’m not going to deny that. But a lot of bad things happen every year. When we put all of our blame on a year for doing bad things to us, then we’re taking away our choice – our choice to do something about it, our choice to see the positives, our choice to move on with something more than just feelings of anger.

So I’m done. I know it’s the last day of the year, but I am not going to look back at this year and talk about how it was “the worst” because, especially for me personally, it simply wasn’t.

In a nutshell, two major things happened to me this year that have actually made 2016 my happiest year yet:

1. After 12 years, I moved out of New York City and started a full-time freelance writing career that’s actually been going really well.

2. I met Adam, who turned out to not only be the most generous and loving person I’ve ever met but also an incredibly supportive life partner.

In fact, the first decision actually led to the second. I had been dealing with some recovery issues in NYC and simply no longer felt all that happy there. Plus I was turning 30 and needed to do something different in my life. By circumstance (not all under my control), the best thing for me was to move back home to Florida for a while.

I decided that I would do this for six months to a year, and that this would be my time to figure out what my next steps were and what I wanted to do for my career. It turned out that going all-in on my freelance writing was the right move, and I love where that part of my life is now.

Of course, when I moved to FL, I didn’t think that my personal life would go anywhere. I had been single for many, many years… And although I was sick of that life, I also thought: Who the F am I gonna meet down here?

Well, you know what they say: Life is what happens when you’re making other plans. In comes Adam…

Here’s the story that I tell friends when they ask how we met:

I moved out of NYC after 12 years on a Friday and, needing to find something to do and feeling like I was ready to “get back out there” after a 5-month dating break, turned my favorite dating apps back on the following Tuesday (meaning OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble).

Meanwhile, Adam had finally signed up for online dating after an even longer break when his last relationship ended… And so there we were, both finally “ready” for something real. We started talking on Bumble that Wednesday morning. By the next Saturday (exactly a week and a day after I moved to Florida), we had our first date. It lasted four hours, and only ended because I had a family obligation.

The next week, I cancelled another date in order to have a second date with Adam… and the rest is history. I never went on a date with anybody else. Neither did he. And we moved in a month and a half later.

Not only has my career and my new relationship made me really happy this year, but I learned a lot about myself throughout 2016 too. I’ve also met some great new people (mainly, my boyfriend’s family, and also many other writers who I now call friends) and I learned how to accept love.

Before this year, I never truly knew how to be kind to myself (my NYC therapist’s parting words to me). I still have trouble with that, to be honest. But Adam reminds me every day that I am worthy of love.

Although I’ve had a few relationships, even a two-year one where my ex lived with me, I never truly knew that I was worthy of love. In fact, I had never heard anyone say the words “I love you” to me. Sure, I mean, family and friends… but never anyone who truly loved me in every way that a person deserves to be loved. Until Adam.

He taught me how to accept love and that I deserve it. He continues to teach me that every day and, the more I am with him, the more that I realize that he is truly the love of my life.

I know how cliche that sounds. I know that it’s a funny and kind of ridiculous statement to be saying at 30 years of age. And yet… I’ve had boyfriends and I’ve had countless dates in the past 14 years of my life. But I’ve never had love. And now I do.

So when I look back at 2016, I can still recognize all of the bad things that happened this year. This year, though, is about more than that. This is the year that I fell in love for the first real time of my life. This is the year that I truly found what I want to do with the rest of my life. And this is the year that I learned what it takes to be my best self (even if I’m not totally there yet).

To be honest, I don’t know what 2017 will bring. But I have plans! Plans for my career and plans with my love. If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that a year isn’t to blame for bad things and it’s not really to blame for the good things either.

My year was great because I made it great. Because I learned what I wanted and went after it and accepted the things that came to me unexpectedly too. 2017 will hopefully be more of the same.

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Why is it so difficult for us to accept generosity when we date?

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We’ve all done this: Signed up for online dating and then spent the next few days or weeks or even months just swiping right on dozens of people. We chat, we flirt, we even go on dates sometimes.

The whole point of online dating is to find someone to date, right? But although I suspect many of us venturing into this world want true love, we rarely take a chance and open up to just one person. In the world of casually swiping right, it’s easier to say “sure, why not?” to ten people than to say “yes, definitely” up to just one special someone.

But without opening up, how can we truly know and accept the kind of love, kindness and generosity that we all deserve? In my latest article for Dose.com, I explore why it’s just SO DARN DIFFICULT to accept generosity when dating, why it’s so much easier to allow bad behavior and why we all deserve mutual self-giving and vulnerability.

Check out my piece on The Difficulty of Accepting Generosity When We Date on Dose.com today!

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Here’s the absolute best of the worst dating advice I’ve ever heard

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I’m lucky to have found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with (finally!), but before that… Well, I was a single and dating girl for many more years than I care to count. And while I can look back and appreciate the times I was single and the times I was coupled up, there’s one thing that I’ve never appreciated: bad dating advice.

The truth is that, whether you’re in a long-term relationship or are happily without a life partner, you’re bound to hear tons of advice from well-meaning strangers, acquaintances, coworkers, friends and family members. I’ve compiled some of that oh-so-horrible dating advice. While most of it applies to single folk, the #1 bad piece of advice is actually the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

Click here to read the (sadly hysterical) article, An Exhaustive List Of The Worst Relationship Advice You Should Ignore on Dose.com.

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My life turned into a rom-com cliché and I’m okay with it

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I have a confession to make.

Just over two months ago, I was single AF.

Like seriously… I haven’t been in a serious relationship since 2011. Not for a lack of trying, necessarily, but it just hasn’t been in the cards for me lately. I’ve dated – a LOT, in fact – but with a few notable exceptions, I haven’t really found anyone that I wanted to spend more than a couple of evenings with.

The guys were always pleasant enough. Unlike most of my fellow single females in New York City, I never had any insane dating stories. I always joked that it was because I had an amazing screening system (mainly my ability get a good sense of people from an online conversation, I guess?) and am the luckiest girl on the planet.

No, seriously. Really, really lucky that I haven’t run into anyone that made me pay on the first date, suggested something totally disgusting or who just was horribly awkward or boring AF. Instead, my dating life was pretty average.

The journalist in me could always keep a first date going for hours. In fact, I half suspect that several of the guys I’ve gone out with in the past were fairly disappointed when I declined their invitation for a second or third date. But I liked learning about people, and always had a pleasant time – perhaps something that ultimately gave some people the wrong impression of my true interest in them.

But anyway. Dating was fine. Nothing special, and frequently frustrating, but ultimately just fine.

And then I moved back to Southwest Florida, where I grew up, at the end of April. It was a little bit of an unexpected move at the time, but something that I needed after 12 years of living in NYC and five years of being single and kinda hating it more every year.

In fact, I had taken a dating hiatus through a large part of 2015 and, after “getting back out there” in October and November, decided to take another one in December. So when I packed my bags into the back of a van and drove the 1,250 miles back home, I didn’t exactly have very high expectations for a social life.

My plan in coming here was to take a year “off” to find myself again, to focus on some personal writing projects and to just figure out exactly what my next steps in life would be. And, because I only have a couple of friends here and no other semblance of the kind of life I was used to leading, I decided to get back out there on the dating scene after my five month break.

I had pretty low expectations, to be honest. Dating in NYC was its own very special kind of crazy, but I was used to it. I was used to the endless texting before setting up a date, I was used to the “let’s get drinks” question and then taking a week to coordinate our schedules, I was used to meeting emotionally unavailable men (my specialty) and I was used to coming out of a date feeling like the guy was “too nice” but just not for me.

It was frustrating, but it was familiar.

And then I met Adam.

When I say that I “went back out there” upon moving back to Florida, I mean that it really didn’t take very long. I officially arrived back on a Friday and, by the next Tuesday, I had reactivated all of my online dating profiles: OKCupid, Tinder and Bumble. After all, how else do young people meet other young people these days?

Adam was one of the first people that I swiped right with on Bumble (cause Tinder sucks, just as it did in NYC, and OKC took too much time). Immediately, I liked him. He was cute, a little nerdy and just my type – even had an adorable photo of his dog as part of his profile. So I started a conversation asking about Moose (what I learned his pup’s name was), and from there it went.

We switched to texting not long after, and on Saturday, I was meeting him for an afternoon coffee. Just a week after moving down here, I was going on my first date in Florida and my first date in months.

The date lasted four hours, followed by just as great of a second date and then a third date that lasted another seven hours and ended (finally!) in a kiss.

I. was. HOOKED.

Flash forward to two months later, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world more than ever. Adam turned out to be absolutely everything that I had ever been looking for in another human being, in a boyfriend, in a partner-in-crime for life.

He is generous when I don’t feel I deserve it, he is kind when I feel like I am being needy and he is sweet on a daily basis.

The love and support he has shown me in these last couple of months has been far beyond my wildest dreams. Really.

When I dreamed of the kind of relationship that I wanted, I couldn’t have dreamed that it would EVER be this amazingly wonderful. When I saw friends enter into happy unions and wanted the same for myself, I never thought that I would get it in spades and then some. When I thought about what I hoped my future love would have in terms of physical, mental and emotional qualities, I never ever imagined that I would find exactly what I always wanted. And more than that, I could have never planned to meet the literal man of my dreams in freaking SOUTHWEST FLORIDA.

I say that with incredulous shock primarily because neither of us fits in very well down here. First of all, we’re not old or Republicans (hah! quite the opposite, in fact). Secondly, neither of us enjoys the various outdoor (and indoor) activities that are popular down here. And with the exception of him loving the weather down here and me preferring the four seasons, we seem to have more in common than is probably realistically possible.

And that’s how I realized that I ended up in what must be some sort of rom-com cliché movie: the girl that moves back in with her parents to “find herself” only to find the love of her life instead.

But that’s exactly what happened.

So here I am, a mere two months into a relationship, and already planning far ahead into the future. I find myself almost rolling my eyes as I think “you find it when you least expect it” and “when you know, you know.” Yet that’s how my story went, and I couldn’t possibly be happier that it did.

The best part? My new love feels just like I do. For the first time in my entire LIFE, in fact, I don’t have to guess if he cares for me. I don’t have to fight for him to devote time for me over his friends (thank you, boyfriend #1 for that trauma) because he prioritizes the “us” as much as I do. I don’t have to live with the knowledge that he’s going to eventually leave me to move somewhere else or isn’t ready for something long lasting (oh, boyfriend #2, you messed up fool) because we talk about our future all the damn time.

And I mean that. It’s our future. It’s my future, and his future, and what we both want – and what we want together on top of it all.

It feels wonderful.

It’s nice waking up with him and knowing that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully never, if I have any kind of say in it (and I do). It’s nice feeling comforted and loved and supported in everything that I do. In fact, as I write this, he’s just made me tea and given me some breakfast. Now he’s patiently keeping himself busy until I finish my daily writing for the day so that we can get lunch and go on with all the other things we had planned to do today.

Because, for the first time ever, I realize that a great relationship isn’t about second guessing myself or wondering if he loves me as much as I love him. I know that he loves me just as much as I crazy love him. And with his love and support, I feel stronger.

So much for my “finding myself” year, huh?

When I set out to figure out my next steps in life, I never thought that my next steps would involve building a life with the amazing person I was meant to meet in the unlikeliest of places.

But let me tell you… It’s much more fun this way.

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