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A closer look at International Childfree Day

It’s Time to Talk About International Childfree Day

Let’s live and let live already?

As someone whose pre-pandemic life was dominated by travel, it was unusual – rare, even – for a country to leave behind an emotional imprint. Until Vietnam happened. I found myself on the unassuming island of Phu Quoc in 2015 after a traumatic series of events left me without a plan for the first time in years and, almost on impulse, started exploring the country from south to north and falling in love with just about everything along the way. However, it wasn’t until I reached Hanoi that I found purpose again – volunteering at a non-profit that serves children born with birth defects as a result of Agent Orange.

Spending my days with children suffering from severe autism and Down syndrome changed me forever. Between my heartfelt connection with them and seeing their everyday realities up close, I vowed that I would dedicate any surplus time, money, and energy to institutions that cater to children who are already here and in need of help. And with whatever is left of my limited resources (yes, there’s truth to the term ‘starving artist’), I’d rather pursue the travel experiences on my bucket list: sleeping in a yurt by Issyk-Kul Lake, hiking to Everest Base Camp, practising sunrise yoga in Bali, exploring the undiscovered corners of Balochistan, taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, and capturing a rainy day at Salar de Uyuni. And I don’t feel the need to apologise for my priorities – or do I?

The subject of childfree women, such as myself, is a prickly one. Just setting out to write this article in celebration of International Childfree Day, today, led to everything from uncomfortable debates to downright judgemental reactions. For the uninitiated, this annual event created in 1973 recognises “couples who have faced criticism, ridicule, and rejection because they chose to be childless”. And it’s due to the stigma around what is an incredibly personal decision that I felt the need to speak with three resolutely childfree women in the UAE. What I never could’ve predicted is how similar they are – despite their differences. These are women who dote on their nieces and nephews and feel passionately about animal welfare, thereby disproving the stereotype that childfree women are ‘selfish’. Here are their stories.


Born in the UK to an English mother and Iranian father, Deborah works in marketing and moved to the UAE 11 years ago. A few things that she’s passionate about? Animals, the environment, global warming, and everyday compassion. “I’ve become vegan over the last couple of years and, as a result of changing my diet, I think about a lot of things very differently now, including how we use the Earth’s resources and how we treat each other. More than the UK, you see stark differences between rich and poor in Dubai, and I’ve become more aware of that recently – how we treat those most vulnerable in our society, which includes animals that are completely dependent on kindness from others.”

Deborah says that it was a series of events – as opposed to one aha moment – that led to her decision not to have children. “Growing up, I never questioned that I wouldn’t have children. Like a lot of people, I thought I would get married by 27 and have probably two or three kids in my 30s. That was my plan and I never really questioned it, but there were a few different things that happened,” she says. “Firstly, I didn’t really meet anyone that I could see myself marrying. I spent a lot more of my adult life single than in a relationship and, while the relationships that I was in were very much by choice, they weren’t necessarily going to end in marriage.” Like so many of us, her light bulb moment happened in the shower.

“I got to a point where I was in my mid-to-late 30s and asking myself, ‘What if I don’t meet someone in time to have kids?’ And I’d never really thought about that before. I remember feeling a sense of shock that all of these things that I’d assumed would happen might not happen. But after taking a few days to really ponder it, I came out the other side feeling like it’s not the end of the world if I don’t have kids. I didn’t feel like I was going to be missing out on some universal life secret. And I was a little surprised by my indifference,” she explains. Her priorities were more rooted in meeting the right person.

“If I had to make a choice between meeting the right person and having children, I would always choose the former. I knew that I wasn’t going to do sperm donors or adoption if I hadn’t met anyone. And if I met someone who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and they didn’t want kids, I knew that I would prioritise them. I also didn’t want to have kids within a few months of meeting someone – that’s a huge commitment and you need to be really sure about the relationship. I was around 36, 37 at the time and starting to edge towards a point where it may not be suitable for me to have kids anymore. I never wanted to become a mother in my 40s,” she explains.

It was around this time that Deborah underwent a post-breakup period of emotional recovery that entailed both spiritual work and adopting cats. “I also started looking at life from all kinds of different aspects, including spirituality, which helped shake off the need to leave a legacy in this life. At the same time, fostering and adopting cats made me realise that I could unconditionally love something that I wasn’t connected to by blood, and it freed me from this idea that I needed to physically have a child. It also introduced me to the idea of other options, like I could adopt a five-year-old if I suddenly felt the need to catch up with everyone else. It sort of released from the fear that I couldn’t love a child unless it comes from my own body.”

As fate would have it, she ended up meeting her now-partner a few years after this phase of healing and introspection. “I was 41 when I met him, and we had the conversation about kids early on. He said he would be supportive of my decision either way, but admitted to feeling relieved when I told him that I didn’t want children,” she says with a laugh. “He has children from his first marriage – two teenage boys – and it’s really nice in many ways. We get along really well and, while I’m not their mother, we make a nice family unit when they visit. Those few weeks of activity drop-offs and cooking for them and family time together leaves me feeling like it’s enough.”

Elsewhere, family time comes in the form of nieces and nephews, who helped take some of the pressure off Deborah – not that she ever felt pressured. “Both of my older sisters have children, so I wasn’t depriving my parents of having grandchildren. They have six grandkids and that’s plenty,” she says. Explaining her stance on connections, she asserts, “If you are supposed to be part of somebody’s nurture, it doesn’t matter whether you gave birth to them or not.” While Deborah says she has never felt the need to explain her decision to people, she does occasionally address the proverbial elephant in the room – just in case they’re wondering.

“But I tend to find that people who have kids never really question me on it,” she tells me. “And people who’ve known me a long time understand that it wasn’t a snap decision. It’s just the way that life unfolded, and you go with it.” As for what advice she’d give to women who are facing pressure or judgement as a result of their choices? Two words: dog mentality. “My advice is the same as it is for a lot of stuff. I understand that people have opinions or beliefs based on where they’re from. And that’s fine. But the best way that you can ever address anything is with a bit of kindness and empathy – even if they’re not kind and empathetic towards you.”

Being an animal lover, Deborah says she always asks herself what a dog would think of a particular person. “Dogs don’t notice your designer shoes or the size of your apartment or your body type. They’re just going to go, ‘Oh, this person is lovely! Do you have something nice in your pocket? Do you want to play with me?’ Dogs – and animals generally – give people the benefit of the doubt and approach people with positivity. Humans on the other hand? We’re the exact opposite. We care what you wear or what you look like. Along those same lines, dogs are completely unaware of the vehicle they’re in. All they care about are the simple things – who will feed them and who will be friends with them. And that would be my advice to such women, you know? People are always going to have opinions that you can’t change, so be who you are and be really comfortable with who you are.”

International Childfree Day


Mia, who works in business administration and marketing, hails from the UK and has lived in Dubai for eight years. Her parents migrated from India to England back in the 60s, and she says that her mother (who she describes as a go-getter) has been instrumental in her ability to question social norms. “My mum broke a lot of barriers in her time. She was the first woman in the community to learn how to drive, for example. And it was her strength and courage that has not only inspired me achieve a lot in life, but also influenced where I am today – getting married and having babies feels like a bit of a social institution.”

As a result of witnessing the breakdown of several marriages around her, Mia started to look within at a relatively young age. “I started questioning the decision when I was 21. Why should I have kids? Because society tells me to? And getting married and having children is the be-all and end-all? Is it an expectation from my parents? Or is it because I don’t want to feel lonely when I’m old? None of these reasons felt meaningful enough.” She tells me that she was a serial dater in her late teens and early 20s, but that changed after some key realisations. “When I was younger, I had to be in a relationship because there was this kind of urgency – I need to get married, I need to have children. And then I realised that I didn’t have to get married if I didn’t want to. I’m not going to settle. And I don’t really need to have children. That was a real wake-up call and it enabled me to have quite a healthy relationship with myself.”

Like many women who are childfree by choice, Mia says that seeing friends and family members with children doesn’t stir up anything. “I love children. I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews who I absolutely adore, but it doesn’t make me feel broody. I’ve got friends who hit 30 and panicked about their body clock ticking or being unmarried. I don’t have that feeling. I never have.” Mia says she gained newfound wisdom when she turned 30 and became a lot more accepting of her decisions, but not everyone followed suit. Over the years, her choice to remain childfree has been met by everything from incredulous gasps to patronising comments like, “You’ll regret your decision when you’re older and it’s too late.”

Like Deborah, Mia is the youngest of her siblings, all of whom went down a more ‘traditional’ route. “My siblings conformed to society, getting married and having children, which gives my parents the enjoyment of grandkids. But it didn’t spare me from the incessant questions about my future. There was this whole ‘it’s a part of your religion’ argument. But I’m Muslim, and part of my religion is also to give back,” she says emphatically. Between rescuing cats and educating children – tomorrow’s animal owners – on more humane treatment, Mia is determined to bring change in the future. 

“Look, I go around picking up all the disabled ones that really need help, so what’s stopping me from going to an orphanage and adopting a child that really needs help? That’s kind of my motto in life – giving opportunity. And I’m very fortunate to be able to do that. For me, having children is about bringing someone into this world with the intention that you’re going to create the best version of that person and give them the best kind of chance in life. I feel I can do that through adoption someday. I don’t necessarily need to give birth to be able to do that.”

Despite observing a move towards a slightly more tolerant mindset in general and across Indian-Muslim communities, Mia says there’s room for improvement when it comes to respecting one’s decisions. “I’m quite open about why I’ve chosen not to have children. And it’s not something that has come about recently, you know? I’m 35. This is a belief that I’ve been carrying for 15 years. I’m not going to start conforming just because I’m the only singleton at a dinner table with couples who are married and have children. And people need to respect that. We just have to respect how a woman chooses to use her reproductive organs, really,” she says wryly.

As for women in the Middle East? “We are entering into an era where women are able to challenge the longstanding limitations on their freedom. I think it’s crucial for women to be vocal, especially for those who are unsure of their decision or feel they aren’t allowed to think the way they do. This is a fundamental move to be liberated from the patriarchal system. Don’t be ashamed to speak up. I mean, we’re becoming more and more tolerant about people’s choice of gender identity and sexual orientation – why should it be any different for what a woman decides to do with her body? This particular subject doesn’t get as much publicity as it should.”

A closer look at International Childfree Day, 01 August


A homemaker and long-term expat, Pranjal has lived in Abu Dhabi for over 19 years, but what our chat reveals first and foremost is how her upbringing in India has shaped her into the real-life Dr. Dolittle. “I got my master’s degree in Marine Zoology from the University of Mumbai. I’ve always been a science freak and wanted to be a researcher, but I got married and moved here with my husband. As a child, I was a rescuer before the term was even coined. We had a house full of rescued animals – everything from dogs and cats to snakes, squirrels, and birds like egrets and cuckoos. In fact, if anyone ever found an injured animal or a baby animal in need of help, they would bring it to us. I was used to being around animals all the time,” she says.

Pranjal credits her paternal grandmother – who was an avid animal lover – for her penchant to rescue animals, but says animals were in much better shape back then. Her parents, like many, thought she would simply outgrow her tendency to pick up an orphaned puppy or injured cat on the way back from school. But luckily for the animal welfare scene of Abu Dhabi, she didn’t. “I remember people warning my husband that I was a bit mental about animals when we were getting married,” she chuckles. “But then it happened. I found my first rescue here. Being passionate about helping voiceless creatures, I picked up a poor cat helplessly lying on the asphalt in the summer. And that’s how my story in the UAE began. I’ve since been involved in areas like rescuing, humane trapping, and neutering. And I won’t stop unless I’m really old and unable to do things anymore.”

While I think of the capital’s stray cats as Pranjal’s unofficial family members, I can’t help but ask about her pets at home, and her reply is nothing short of fascinating. “Right now, I have a dog that I found in the street about nine years ago. He’s a big Saluki – and who throws a Saluki out in the street? But they do here. They’re thrown out once they’re considered no good for racing. He’s a hunter and an ex-racer, but he’s a submissive chap and became friendly with my five cats soon enough.” Her next anecdote is just as endearing as she recalls a puppy that she once rescued. “She used to collect shoes from all the villas around our house, and would dump them in the garden.  And in the middle of that, she once deposited a baby tortoise at my kitchen door. I remember being puzzled at the time, like, ‘Okay, this isn’t a shoe.’ That’s how I got Ninja, my tortoise.”

Pranjal goes on to recall more incidents – a 47-gram owl that needed to be force-fed by a vet before being released back into the wild, a sunbird that she found lying outside after it hit glass, and countless cats and dogs in need of help. The more I hear, the more I’m moved by her life purpose. Selfish? Childfree women are selfish? What’s more selfless than tending to an innocent animal that can offer nothing in return? Explaining the thought process behind her decision, Pranjal says the ever-growing human demands on natural resources was a big factor.

“I always was and still am a voracious reader, which is how I started learning about ecology and human encroachment on nature while I was in school. The Discovery Channel came to India soon after, which got me into all these wildlife documentaries. And then it just didn’t make sense – if this planet has finite resources and we are clearing things up for the sake of humans to exist, where will these animals go? They shouldn’t be in zoos for us to gawk at. Oh, and that owl I found? That’s because a new community was built in the middle of the desert, and wild animals were suffering. This is what human demand does to the environment. Forests everywhere are dwindling and, whether the land is cleared for livestock grazing or concrete jungles, the animals lose their habitat either way. I started asking myself what we should be doing as responsible humans.”

But while there are responsible humans, there are also nosy humans. Pranjal has been on the receiving end of both positive and negative reactions, some of which are just downright appalling. “I’ve never experienced a friend being judgmental – in fact, I met my best friend here because of our dogs. But I’ve also had women proactively give me phone numbers of fertility specialists. And then there are those who react to the fact that I don’t have kids by saying, ‘Oh no, I’m so sorry.’ At times like that, I ask myself if I should explain, but then I just let them assume what they want,” she says with a shrug. And in case you’re wondering, yes, she has also been called the S-word. “I’ve been called selfish, I’ve been called a child-hater, which I’m not. I love my cousin’s kids and I love kids generally – unless, you know, I’m on an airplane and the kid behind is kicking me,” she confesses with a laugh. Another classic? “You must have at least one child – who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?”

I ask Pranjal what advice she’d give to women who are on the fence about having a baby, but feel pressure in light of societal norms – particularly in this part of the world. “I would say to them what I said to myself: it’s your choice and nobody can make it for you. You should have a child only if you feel driven by your maternal instincts,” she explains, asserting that it’s not an experiment. “You cannot just have a baby and then see how you feel. But if you have made up your mind, like everything else in life, stand by your decision and know that your family will eventually come around. There’s no point making yourself miserable just because somebody else wants you to have a baby. Back then, a 20-year-old girl sitting at home was considered unacceptable, but it’s not like that today. You shouldn’t be pressured into becoming a parent.”

International Childfree Day may have been created nearly 50 years ago, but Pranjal (rightfully) feels that the overall mindset towards childfree women hasn’t changed much. “Honestly, I think that the you-must-have-children camp is much bigger than this small percentage of us who have decided to take this path. People simply need to respect others’ personal decisions – I mean, my neighbour has nothing to do with whether I have children or not. I’m happy there’s a specific day that recognises people like us, but I don’t think a discernible shift will happen anytime soon, especially in this region. Things are totally different in the West, but here, a husband and wife alone cannot be a family. There has to be a child in the equation.”


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8 Takeaways from Our Chat with a Text Whisperer

Psychiatrist Dr. Mimi Winsberg – aka the ‘text whisperer’ – has taken a deep dive into the nuances of texting for her first book, Speaking in Thumbs, in order to help us master today’s most dominant mode of communication. After all, when it comes to communicating in the 21st century, it’s our thumbs that do the talking. By combining behavioural research with real-world text exchanges, she has helped readers recognise red flags in the early days of online dating, examine the personalities and attachment styles of prospective partners, and avoid misunderstandings in romantic relationships. Here, we share the key takeaways of our conversation with this ‘text whisperer’.

1. Early text exchanges can cloud your judgment.

“I think it’s important to note that as we’re getting attached to somebody early on, we’re telling ourselves a story – first about who this person is, then about the kind of relationship we have. And there’s a fair bit of projection that goes into that story sometimes. We’re not necessarily looking at the data that’s in front of us, and that’s where people can get into trouble. Our early text exchanges can therefore betray important clues about things like an individual’s personality traits or attachment style, so it’s not so much about looking for red flags – although I do advise on that, too. It’s more about looking for clues as to who this person really is and whether they’re right for you.”

2. Fluency in texting is essential in modern-day communication.

“Texting is a relatively new language; we’ve only been texting since 2007 and, in some ways, our brains are still struggling to catch up with this notion of asynchronous communication – even though it’s how we conduct most of our lives. It’s certainly the primary form of communication in our romantic relationships. As I was sifting through all these real-world exchanges for the book, I was struck by how profound some of the conversations were. They were emotional, stirring, romantic, but also conflicted at times. That’s why we must acknowledge that our brains skip a few steps sometimes. We don’t read the message exactly as the person intended it. And as we type quickly, we hear the message in our head, but don’t really think about how it’s going to be received.”

3. You can use your text threads to your advantage.

“Our text threads are the electronic medical record of our relationship – there’s this whole history that you can see unfold from beginning to end. Are we supposed to have that? No. And is it doing us a disservice? Perhaps. But it’s here to stay, so I propose that people use it productively. Reviewing texts can help learn something from a relationship, perhaps one that has soured or ended. You want to track the inflection points as the relationship progressed, so by reading past text exchanges, you can see your partner’s patterns of communication and your own. If you tend to get defensive, for example, it will be obvious while reviewing the thread in a way that you couldn’t have seen in the heat of the moment.”

4. The absence of visual cues brings with it both advantages and disadvantages.

“The disadvantage of texting is that everything is distilled down into one bubble, but the advantage is that you can take your time and maybe take a deep breath before responding – and edit before you send. I give plenty of practical tips on how to avoid misunderstandings in the book, but I’d say the first is what John Gottman discusses, which is cultivating attunement. When we like someone in person, one of the characteristic things that we do is make eye contact, pay extra attention to them, and match their body language unconsciously. I think the same kind of thing can happen asynchronously, too – you’ll develop better rapport if you really pay attention to the person and what they’re writing.”

5. There are tell-tale signs of lying over text.

“There are certain linguistic features of people who are being deceptive, and the first is the tendency to drop the first-person pronoun, the ‘I’. Why is that? Because when we lie, we try to emotionally distance ourselves from the statement. It comes off more easily that way. As opposed to something like ‘running late’ – which is such a common abbreviation – an example would be something more personally descriptive. So, instead of saying, ‘I was out with Martin last night’, they’d say, ‘Was out with Martin last night.’ Liars also tend to say the same thing over and over again, hoping that makes it seem truer. It might be repeating the same thing three times about how the car broke down.”

6. It helps to understand your partner’s texting language.

“There’s been a lot of lip service given to Gary Chapman’s love languages and, in the book, I argue that there are five love languages of text, too – different ways to express and receive love over text. Get to know your partner’s preferred method of texting. If they don’t like getting memes or GIFs or article links throughout the day, maybe don’t do that. But if they like you to share such things without necessarily initiating a conversation, then great. I call that love language ‘spoon-feeding’. We’ve observed that various ways of expressing ourselves over text may or may not be compatible with another person.”

7. Instant intimacy can be a red flag.

“I coined the word ‘instamacy’, which of course is instant intimacy. And it’s not to say that I discourage it, per se, because I think one of the key indicators of chemistry is this feeling that it’s so easy to be with the person and you’ve known them forever. But I do think that when it’s too much too soon, it can also be a sign of poor boundaries or an insecure attachment style. Creating a sense of intimacy too quickly can be an exploitative technique. Somebody talking about meeting your family or getting married or going on honeymoon after the second date – those are all warning signs. It overloads the relationship, and it’s a presumption of intimacy that has not yet been built.”

8. Men and women text (very) differently.

“Women tend to perceive a lot of texting as a good sign. In contrast, men feel that things are going really well when there’s less texting going on – that no news is good news. I think that’s an interesting discrepancy. Women tend to favour more communication, and it goes with the volume of texting, too. We’re also more inclined to type longer texts and want frequent texting, whereas men prefer less communication in general. They get overwhelmed easily and can’t handle multiple questions within the same text bubble, so women, keep it short. Men, be metaphorical when you give compliments. Women don’t like reading texts that say, ‘You’re hot.’ Try to be a little bit more poetic in your delivery.”


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tips for a men to open up

A Men’s Coach on Encouraging Your Man to Open Up  

Yes, you can be his safe space.

Us men can seem like a bit of an enigma at times, appearing stoic, emotionless, carefree, and perhaps even cold and indifferent. The keyword here though is ‘appearing’. The truth is that we feel more than you think. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that the expression of emotion equals weakness – unless it’s related to sports or video games, of course.

I write this as a man who has struggled to express his truth with women for many years – a man afraid of reaction, rejection, judgement, and the truth I might hear reflected back at me. So instead, I lied, suppressed my truth, and consequently caused a lot of pain to those close to me. The battle between the man who wants to express his truth and the woman who wants him to when they both lack trust in each other is ongoing. 

As you read this, you may think that it’s normal for a man to lie and hide the truth – and whilst I might agree with you, it does not make it okay. The reality is that men want to be honest. A man wants to unburden his troubles, but the conditions need to be psychologically safe. Most men fear that their truth will hurt the person they want to be honest with, so they decide to say nothing. They fear rejection, and their ego struggles to accept it, so they avoid being vulnerable altogether.

How To Get A Man To Open Up

Cultivating Safety 

To the women reading this: you are the conductors of this journey and the experts of emotional expression – and we need your help. It’s not easy for us to switch between our emotions, especially with some of the vulnerable ones. They don’t feel nice, and we don’t know what to do with them. Most men want to escape a negative state of mind as quickly as possible, which is why we try our hardest to block our emotions or numb them.

So where do we go from here? It might sound cliché, but communication really is key. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can create psychological safety for the men in your life in order to encourage open and honest conversations together. Of course, there are many men who are comfortable being vulnerable, but this article is written with those who are emotionally closed off in mind. 

Before you read ahead, know that I fully understand there are times when the things I list will be difficult to do, perhaps because your own emotions may be heightened or the topic you wish to bring up has been on the table for quite some time. Every relationship is unique and relationship goals may vary. This is a journey and it will take time, but I promise that if you really work on creating safety, the man in your life will begin to open up.     

Is this the time or place?

He’s just come home from work or hanging out with his friends, and you’re ready to talk to him about something that’s been on your mind all day – after all, you’ve had all the time to go over it and now you want to let it all out. But this is not the time. This scenario does not create safety. As mentioned before, it is difficult for a man to switch between emotional states and after having just come home, he’s in no state to talk about his feelings, so give him time to truly settle.

Talking to him just before sleeping is also a bad idea. Most men just want to sleep once their head hits the pillow. I can fully appreciate that you may have something on your heart and mind – possibly something that’s been bothering you for a while – but if you really want to have the best shot at an open conversation, find the right time and place to do so.

Are you really ready to hear his truth?

Before embarking on a journey to create safety for him to open up, ask yourself if you feel safe with yourself to receive his truth. Are you ready to accept whatever he says with an open heart, to listen and not react? What is your intention for the conversation? What do you want to achieve together? Check in with yourself to recognise if there has ever been a time where he has attempted to express his truth and you mishandled the situation, emotionally hijacked the conversation, or even used his vulnerability against him. It doesn’t take a lot for a man to shut down and never attempt to speak his truth again. 

  1. Be patient with him. Understand that he won’t always know what he’s feeling, Many men have been conditioned not to feel and he may need time to find his words. Try not to jump in or finish his sentences and just listen. It may even be necessary for him to go away and reflect on the topic and come back to you, so be prepared to hit walls.
  2. Commit to holding space for him – even if his truth triggers you. 

This also means a commitment moving forward that you will not use his truth against him. It’s important that you work to ensure that safety is maintained within your relationship. Try your best to remain open and take your own time to process anything that triggers you. Be mindful of jumping in with advice or rebuttals. We already get a lot of advice from other men, so what we want from you is to feel seen, heard, and understood. Turn up the dial on empathy and approach with curiosity. Use phrases like ‘I hear you’ and ‘tell me more’ to encourage the flow.

Ways To Get A Person To Open Up

Approach with Loving-Kindness

Think ‘how can I open his heart?’ rather than “I want him to be more expressive’. Use physical touch to show affection, allow him to see and feel your presence, and reaffirm that he is safe. Use this as a moment to bond with him and build your connection. To foster more openness, you could even express your own truth and fears to show your vulnerability. I find that when working with men, they are far more likely to open up when I share a story about myself with them. 

Ask Better Questions

Avoid asking big questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” It’s a very direct and important question, but such questions can be incredibly daunting to a man who finds it difficult to open up. If your aim is to create safety and encourage openness, start by asking softer and more specific questions like, “When do you enjoy connecting with me most?” Be playful and ask questions that he can answer. If a man begins to feel pressured or overwhelmed, he is likely to close and retreat. Try not to let him feel that he can’t keep up with the conversation. 

  1. Catch him doing it right and reinforce the behaviour. When he is opening up, let him know that he’s heard, thank him for his vulnerability, and tell him that it makes you feel good when he opens up to you. Men love to feel that they’re doing a good job, and positive reinforcement will create new neuro-associations in the brain that will likely encourage him to continue opening up. 
  2. If you’re not quite getting the response you desire, do not punish him. Instead, speak from your heart and express how it makes you feel when he struggles to express himself – but do so in a calm and loving way. This is more likely to elicit a response from him, but also be prepared for no reaction. 

I know this can appear intense, but I cannot stress to you how hard it is for men to open up about their feelings. Real safety is so important in making a man feel comfortable. If we sense even the slightest bit of disingenuity or judgement, we’ll either stop talking altogether or get into our heads and begin disguising or playing down our truth.  

It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

I have an exercise for you to try. This is something I used to do on a weekly basis in my last relationship. We would have a ‘check-in’ every week on Thursday at 7pm with the intention of creating a safe space for us. We’d used it to share how we’re feeling in our lives, towards each other, and the relationship. By having it at the same time every week, it allows you both to mentally and emotionally prepare yourselves for the connection – this is especially important for men. Here’s my check-in guide:

  1. Pick a day and time that suits you both. Put it in a diary and honour it.
  2. Both of you must take ownership in creating a safe environment. This can mean lighting candles, putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, or burning some incense – whatever works for you both.
  3. Sit facing each other and spend around five minutes looking into each other’s eyes (you can blink!) and settle yourself into the moment.
  4. Next, take turns expressing how you’re feeling, knowing that anything can be said. The one listening can only listen, and is then to repeat back everything that their partner said. Try your best not to paraphrase and use their words. The aim of this exercise is to make each other feel heard and seen. 
  5. After each share and reflection, say thanks for listening to each other and embrace.   
  6. If there is anything that needs further discussion, continue with loving kindness while taking care to maintain physical touch and openness throughout.

If you would like support or are curious to know more, follow Adil Hussain here.


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Set Healthy Boundaries

Let’s Talk Healthy Boundaries – and How to Set Them

Benefits, myths, and more.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable and had a feeling that you were being pushed into a corner when interacting with someone? If so, chances are that the person in question violated a boundary that you considered sacred. As a practising therapist, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of establishing healthy boundaries in our journey of inner-growth and healing. Yet, this remains grossly misunderstood and judged. 

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Healthy boundaries are a set of rules or guidelines that we set for ourselves, defining how we behave with others, respond to situations, and consequently a directive of how we expect others to treat us. Self-honesty and awareness are the two main pillars on which healthy boundaries are created. They are essential in identifying and practising personal integrity.

Healthy boundaries usually have these characteristics: 

  1. The limits set are clear and reasonable.
  2. Boundaries are based on your needs as well as the needs of others. 
  3. It comes from the intention of being authentic. 
  4. Boundaries are not based on other’s approval or from the feeling of being a victim. 
  5. The limits help channel any anger or frustration into positive action rather than aggressive behaviour or a shutdown. 
  6. Boundaries are not based on fear, guilt, or shame. 
  7. The boundaries are based on what reality is, not on expectations of what it should be. 

Talk Healthy Boundaries

Common Myths About Boundaries

The most common myth is that setting boundaries means being selfish or narcissistic. On the contrary, setting boundaries means ensuring role and identity clarity for ourselves and others. ‘Setting boundaries makes us lonely, unwanted, and isolated’ is another myth, and this comes from a deep fear of rejection and validation. Boundaries actually help us overcome this fear. They provide a haven to experiment, heal, and integrate lost parts of our own selves. 

Benefits of Establishing Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are certainly a very important ingredient for self-care and self-compassion. They help protect our sense of self and identity. They keep us safe and relaxed, both emotionally and physically. Boundaries also develop into a subtle yet firm way of speaking our truth, and it builds self-confidence and empowers our inner being paving the way for wellness in your life. 

Top Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

  • Take Baby Steps: If you are making a start, start small and choose easy goals. Begin by setting and practising simple boundaries and then move on to the more challenging ones. Build on your small successes, rather than trying to prove a point. 
  • Set an Intention and Follow Through: Don’t beat around the bush, and be direct instead. Define your boundaries and write them down, if required. Be crystal clear of your intention before you begin.  
  • Speak Up: Communicate and communicate more. Speaking out loud not only helps others, but also brings clarity to you. Choose to be assertive. 
  • Be Mindful: Honour other people’s boundaries. Be self-aware and build awareness of others’ boundaries.
  • Seek Professional Help: Contact a trusted mental health practitioner and let them assist you in your journey.

Boundaries are not a cue for healthy relationships – they are the foundation for self-love and self-respect, so give yourself permission to set boundaries and hold them in high regard.


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Woman crying and two men having a conversation

Why Divorce Isn’t the End of the World

And why your mental health during the process matters.

In certain cultures, divorce is one of the least accepted decisions a couple can make. People often expect two individuals to be in a relationship throughout their lives – even if they can’t cooperate enough to spend a day with their sanity intact. Deciding on getting a divorce is already a long and complicated decision, and the societal pressure around it makes it even more complex. Couples can feel burdened under this pressure, even though it is a decision that only concerns them and the family they’ve created.

The Grief Cycle

People might assume that the couple must be ‘okay’ if they’ve made the decision themselves, but the actual reality can be different and depends a lot on the level of emotional attachment they had. If two individuals had a close relationship, they would’ve likely developed an emotional attachment, too. This can cause some couples to wonder why they are even separating. Multiple factors could be responsible, with compatibility and adjustment being some of the common reasons we might have heard of.

Today, however, change is starting to become an even more important factor that we are now normalising. It can come in the shape of difference in career, goals, relationship choices, lifestyle – the list goes on. A couple going through a divorce could experience grief like that of a loss. The emotions of the individuals involved could swing from the passive to the active stage.

Getting a divorce

But one crucial thing to keep in mind here is that the two individuals must be emotionally attached at some level to go through the grief cycle. Even the intensity of emotions associated with each stage differs depending on their emotional attachment. The same is true with time. You cannot determine how much time a person will take in moving from one phase to the other or accepting the decision. It can vary from hours and days to months or even years.

Going from the shock stage to the acceptance stage requires patience and accepting reality. Besides, the timeline for reaching the acceptance stage is not the same for everyone – it ranges from individual to individual. Once you accept the divorce papers as reality, you are usually in a state of shock where you do not want to acknowledge things at first. People may be in denial and make excuses for each situation and circumstance, assuming that it must not be happening to them.

Once the realisation of the situation starts to set in, then comes the anger. This is usually rooted in how they feel cheated of the time and emotions they invested into the relationship. If children are involved, the anger stage might last longer as they feel obligated to fight for the ‘perfect family’.

Divorce counselling & advice

This then brings us to the bargaining stage, where they are willing to give away a few things in return for others. This stage can easily turn sour when both individuals try to deal with the reality of things by bargaining and realise that it’s simply not working. This stage can lead to depression – either acute or deep – where they feel they cannot change their situation.

Usually, after this stage, they start testing new alternatives like continuing their career, co-parenting methods, remarrying, or pursuing other priorities. Once they find out what works for them, they usually accept the situation and move on in life. All these processes are natural, and the pain people face is a sign to change and grow. This is the time when others need to show support. Help them understand the advantages of their situation and let them realise that it was the best decision that they could’ve made, given their circumstances.

Although such pain and emotional trauma is natural, the social pressure and lack of support from friends and family makes it worse. We, as a society, need to normalise divorce. If two people are not happy living together, then they shouldn’t be forced to be with each other anymore. Instead of pitying them, we should congratulate them for ending a relationship that was not meant for them.  

Working Through the Guilt

No matter what the emotional attachment was during the active relationship, one or both parties are often left with a certain amount of guilt. This guilt can make them doubt the right time to start enjoying their life again. The result? They get stuck in this emotional cycle and do not freely live a happy life. Loved ones of divorcees can be especially vital in such cases, helping them focus on the fact that the uncomfortable part is done and they’re now walking into happiness. 

Therapy to Cope

Things you should know about divorce

Therapy can be a great aid in helping people navigate their divorce. Therapy, in general, is great for adjusting to any change of state – be it big or small. We should normalise therapy as an essential part of life, not something to be ashamed of or something reserved for ‘broken’ people. Therapy can also help in maintaining and distancing oneself from their ex-partner. This is important, especially if you need to co-parent, as an ugly divorce can have adverse effects on children’s mental health.


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A woman looking at sun

How to Fall Madly in Love (with Yourself)

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish.

Last Monday was centred around the celebration of romantic attachment, with people going all out to express their love for their significant other. But what about self-love? Are you madly in love with yourself? And does that question seem alien to you? Having worked with hundreds of women, I can safely say that womengenerally struggle to love themselves wholeheartedly. Some cannot even fathom what it feels like. Here, I’m going to show you what it looks like to be in love with yourself and provide you with tips on how to get started on that journey towards self-love. 

When I was nine years old, I remember feeling special and loved. Looking back, it was because I loved myself. I would wake up excited and eager to see what the day held for me. I would say what I wanted when I wanted. If I did not want to do something, I would simply say no. If I wanted something, I would ask for it. I was very clear with what I wanted, needed, what I liked, and what I did not like. I loved myself wholeheartedly. I was happy. 

Fast forward to my 20s, and I was filled with self-doubt. I would constantly censor myself when I spoke as I didn’t want to look stupid or sound silly. I always wanted to lose weight, regardless of how I looked. I would repeatedly criticise myself. “Why did I just say that?” “What must they think of me now?” “I can’t believe I did that!” “I wish I was thinner/smarter/richer.” It’s exhausting to just remember the endless barrage of self-doubt and judgement that seemed so normal to me at the time. 

When I hit my 30s, I decided that I’d had enough and wanted to return to feeling as good as I did when I was nine. At that point, I started studying the brain and was already a Master NLPpractitioner who was obsessed with being the best version of myself. What I noticed then was that I was not the only one who spoke so badly of myself. That’s when I started on the journey of falling in love with myself.

Observe Your Thoughts

Fall Madly in Love

We have thousands of thoughts a day and many of them are about ourselves. Most of us think that these thoughts just come from nowhere and, even though this is trueto some level, it doesn’t that we can’t control them. The first way to fall in love with yourself is to observe what you are thinking about yourself. When you look in the mirror, what do you say? What is the tone you use to speak to yourself? What are the words that you use? If you have never taken the time to really observe the thoughts you have about yourself, start noticing and start writing them all down truthfully.

When you monitor your thoughts, you will realise that it is generally filled with a lot of judgement. It’s natural and we all do it, but you also need to start challenging those thoughts. The easiest way I did this was to ask myself, ‘Would I say this to my best friend?’ Start talking to yourself the way you would to your best friend. Be kind to yourself in the words andtonality that you use. Praise yourself. Tell yourself that you did well and have compassion for yourself. This takes time and practice, but it’s by far one of the most important parts of starting the process of falling in love with yourself. 

Honour Your Needs

Fall Madly In Love with With Yourself

Another way to start falling in love with who you are is to honour your needs. For example, if you had a busy week at work and your friend asks you to help her move over the weekend, and you say yes – even though you’re physically and emotionally exhausted – then you are not honouring your needs. You’ve put your friend’s needs above yours. Learning to only say yes when you truly want to is one of the most powerful ways to honour your needs. Honouring your needs and wants as a woman means putting your own mental and physical needs before others.

As women, we tend to be people-pleasers and struggle to say no. And being a people-pleaser recoveree, I understand how hard this can be, but the power of being authentic and saying yes only when I really mean it has transformed my life. It means that when I say yes, I am not resenting doing what I have agreed to do. It means that I am not from an empty cup. It is not selfish to do that – in fact, it’s the most loving action you can take for yourself and the people in your life. Honouring your needs, both mentally and physically, is extremely powerful.

Love Your Body 

Fall In Love with With Yourself

As a woman, you might have a very complicated relationship with your body, and you could be very critical of it. Sometimes you might punish your body by overfeeding or underfeeding it. You could push your body to its limits at the gym or not stimulate it at all by living a sedentary life. A whole article can be written on this issue, but it needs to be mentioned here as so many of us base our self-worth on the size of a dress or the number on a scale. Learning to love your body, no matter what, is a big part of falling in love with ourselves. 

How do you do this? Love your body for how it is right now. Think of it like this: if you had an object you loved, respected, and honoured, how would you treat it? You would treat it with care. You would look after it with everything you had. Our bodies are the same. If you treat your body with love and respect, you will nourish it with food that you know will fuel it properly. Moving your body and fuelling it from a place of love and respect is also one of the key ingredients to falling in love with yourself. 

Surround Yourself with the Right People 

Self-Love Tips Every Woman

Finally, I want to talk about the people in our lives. Learning to surround yourself with people who uplift you, bring you joy, inspire you, and motivate you is also important for falling in love with yourself. Allowing someone into your life who constantly brings you down or is toxic and berates you is not going to do anything for your self-love. However, learning to distance yourself from them and finding people who have positive things to say and can improve your well-being is essential to falling in love with who you are. One of the most powerful things you can do as a woman is to fall in love with yourself because, the more you love yourself, the more love you can give to the world.

Was this helpful? Learn more ways to improve your health and well-being in our Wellness section.


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A couple holding hands on a bridge.

Decode the Language of Love with This Quiz

Love doesn’t need to be indecipherable.

Let’s be honest, life is just that little bit tougher when we don’t feel loved, so it makes sense to prioritise what makes us feel most loved, right? Have you ever experienced a moment of confusion or disbelief when your friend, partner, or family member expressed that they just don’t feel loved by you, or that you don’t show your love when you know you’ve been doing everything you possibly could to make them feel loved? 

How could they not feel my love? Are they just ungrateful? What do they want? I don’t understand. I’m sure these feelings sound familiar to most of us. In this article, I’m going to discuss love languages in the context of how we love in our romantic relationships, but they apply to our relationships with friends, family, and colleagues as well.  

Deciphering love, in a nutshell, comes down to understanding the way we give and receive love. Five years ago, I went on a date with a girl who introduced me to a book called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, and it blew my mind. I had no idea that the expression of love could be categorised so simply! That book went on to change and shape my life – both in my relationships and my career as a life coach. The book is an effortless read, with real-life anecdotes to back up every point, so if you haven’t yet read it, I highly recommend it. 

This book transformed my life because I was now equipped with a set of questions that would remove the pressure of trying to read the minds of the women in my life. I had five incredibly clear reference points to ensure that I was now able to express love in a way that would be best received by my partner and, at the same time, I knew how my own love tank could be filled. 

A couple laying in bed and staring at each other.

Understanding your own love languages can help you feel seen, understood and, in doing so, create better harmony with your loved ones. Remember that if you need something, but are choosing not to express it, no one is going to give it to you. It’s crucial that you learn and understand the way love speaks to you and communicate it to those who care about you. This will empower you and strengthen the depth of your connections. It also removes doubt, and limits the time wasted on wondering whether a person loves you or feels loved by you. 

The key to expressing love, in my opinion, is learning how to elevate joy and increase the feeling of happiness in the other person. Often, especially as men, we celebrate when our partner is ‘low-maintenance’, but what I’ve learnt is that apathy does not equal happiness. We could all do more to understand our loved ones so that we are able to connect with them more deeply and express love in a way that is truly felt. 

How Can You Understand Your Love Languages?

A couple holding each other by their pinkie.

You can start to easily identify your love language with two questions:
Question 1: What brings you the most joy when you receive it?
Question 2: What causes you the most pain when you don’t receive it?

Take a moment to ponder over them before taking the love languages quiz. What did the quiz reveal? Do the results feel right to you? Take some time to think about what exactly you would love to receive within these languages. For example, if you love quality time, what kind of quality time makes you feel most loved? Is it a deep conversation with attentiveness and lots of eye contact? Or is it a cute date night in a nice restaurant? Understanding these preferences will allow you to express more clearly how you feel most loved by your partner. 

Top Tips to Navigating Love

  • Tip 1: Understand your love languages first (if you haven’t already, take the love language quiz). 
  • Tip 2: Notice if the way you give love resembles the way you prefer to receive it.
  • Tip 3: Take time to really understand your partner’s love languages.
  • Tip 4: Create safety when expressing your love language, and ensure it comes from a place of “I enjoy” rather than “you don’t do enough of”. 

I once had a girlfriend that would say, “Tell me something nice please”, and I would freak out. My ego would kick in and I would become silent. As you can imagine, this only made her feel less loved. I’ve learnt that there are more effective ways of communicating, for example, by saying, “I really love it when you compliment me, it makes me feel…” or “What is a quality you love most about me?”

  • Tip 5: Be sincere in your expression of love. Seek depth and authenticity rather than merely ticking a box.
  • Tip 6: Grand gestures are not always necessary. Sometimes, something as simple as allowing your partner to rest or asking them how their day was is all they need to feel loved.
  • Tip 7: Be mindful that not everyone will be able to grasp the concept of love languages or take a love test quickly, so exercise patience.
  • Tip 8: Consider that there may be other languages that are important to you and your partner in addition to the five outlined in the quiz.
  • Tip 9: Remember that being able to fill your own cup is also a beautiful way to ensure you’re not solely relying on your partner to feel loved.

Other Love languages

Love Language

For me personally, safety and communication are huge love languages. The ability for my partner to be able to communicate how they feel and allow me to communicate how I feel without fear of judgement is incredibly important. Understandably, there are many factors that govern whether someone can embody this quality, but I wholeheartedly believe that it can be learned. 

Think of other ways that you feel loved. How can your partner learn to speak your language? Also consider appreciating the love that your partner is trying to express – even if it isn’t quite the way you’d prefer it to be. It’s not always easy to learn to express yourself in a new way and perhaps this could even be an additional love language, so I’ll leave you with this final question: can you take a moment to appreciate all the areas in your life where love flows?


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Couple frustrated after a fight

Trouble in Paradise? Here’s How to Avoid Post-Nuptial Woes

Newlywed life doesn’t need to be stressful.

One of the main anxiety-driven phases we go through in life is getting married. There are so many myths surrounding it – both liberal and conservative – that we tend to lose focus of the reason behind why we are actually getting married. From society’s perspective, marriage is an achievement, while divorce is a failure, so you need to get married and make it work if you want to appear successful. 

However, this is not a healthy way of living life. No matter how many articles you read on getting married or maintaining a good relationship with your spouse, you cannot learn to maintain an ideal relationship. You have to define what an ideal relationship is to you and adjust your life to it in order to be content. There is no magic formula to consume and live happily ever after.

With that being said, keep in mind that your definition of things can be different from others, and that’s okay. You don’t have to follow everything you hear from others and implement it in your marriage because you think those who followed it lived a happy life. However, it’s important to understand the basic framework that can ensure a better relationship between you and your spouse.

You Are Marrying a Person

Obviously, you know you’re marrying a real person, but sometimes, you may not understand it that well. Usually, the aura of a wife or a husband is so stereotypical in everyone’s mind that we forget that one’s spouse is a real person – with their own qualities and weaknesses. As a partner, you need to accept all of that along with the person themselves.

It has been culturally engraved in our minds that a husband is supposed to earn for a family and provide them with security. In contrast, a wife must handle all household care. But going by these norms doesn’t always lead to a perfect relationship. You have to look at your spouse in terms of their strengths. Doing so can help you overcome their negative traits to create a sustainable relationship. This isn’t true in the case of marriage only – all sorts of relationships and partnerships work on this principle. 

Newlyweds Need Space

In our society, newlyweds are expected to be in love all the time and spend all their time together. Due to this societal perception, a newlywed couple might try to be around each other all the time, ignoring their me-time. The results in the couple’s honeymoon period fading away very quickly. The lack of me-time results in building up false expectations from each side and resenting each other once you can’t meet up to those expectations.

This is quite normal, but when you are unaware of the reasons, you start finding other issues and therefore create more problems in your relationship. So, the solution here is to take out some me-time – even in the honeymoon phase. When you care for yourself and have your own time to think, relax, and enjoy yourself, you’ll prolong the honeymoon period with your partner too. This will help you build a strong base for your relationship.

Compromise Isn’t Always Negative

Compromises were common in marriages for centuries, yet today, our generation perceives them negatively. It is because they either don’t know the word’s definition or how to use it to strengthen their relationship. You don’t have to take ‘compromise’ as a negative word. It means to make space and room for your spouse in your life, which is possible when you adopt a few habits that your spouse likes and leave a few that they don’t. The key here is that it must be done from both sides. But which habits should you adopt, and which should you not? Only you have the answer to that question. 

To know what to do, you must understand your boundaries, strengths, and weaknesses. You can only make space when you feel secure, so when you are expected to change a particular habit or adopt a new one, it’s better to think about it based on the impact it will have on your mental health. It is okay if adopting a new habit is not pleasant, but if you know that it will create problems for you and affect your wellness, then it might not be for you. Your partner should be understanding when it comes to this as a similar battle would be going on at their end, too.


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Jon birger dating guru smiling

What an Accidental Dating Guru Wants Women to Know

It’s time to make your move.

Jon Birger did not expect to be here. An award-winning business journalist and a former senior writer at Fortune, he admits to venturing into the self-help genre with a “snooty attitude” when he wrote his 2015 book Date-onomics, which analysed modern-day dating by crunching numbers. Having returned to the genre with his 2021 release Make Your Move, the author is not only more comfortable with advising single women worldwide, but also encouraging them to question the clichés that come with romance. Today, as the world marks the annual day of love, we share 10 takeaways from our conversation with this accidental dating guru.

Proceed with caution when online dating.

“The physical dangers associated with online dating are ruining romance. Every day, there’s some online dating horror story like this one. Science shows there is a profound connection between the stories of how we first meet and the stories of what we become as couples. What does that say, then, about relationships that begin not with magical moments, but with anxiety, fact-checking, and escape plans? It’s incredibly hard to fall in like or love if you’re spending the entire first date worried that Robert the handsome hedge fund manager might actually be Billy Bob the married ex-con.”

The so-called rules of dating are outdated.

“A big theme of Make Your Move is pushing back against the ‘play hard to get’ advice that has been the dominant message of most dating books written for women over the past 30 years. Of course, the bible of the play-hard-to-get crowd is The Rules, the success of which began a host of copycats like Why Men Love Bitches and Ignore the Guy, Get the Guy. Their underlying philosophy is that men will lose interest in you the moment you show interest in them. The problem is today’s men don’t actually think this way, which is why so many of the fabulous, 40-something women I’ve interviewed for my books can’t understand why they’re still single despite having followed all ‘the rules’.”

#MeToo has altered the dating landscape.

“Men like women who like them. Every time I use this line on the lecture circuit, men in the audience nod in unison, while the women look at me like I’m crazy. Too many women have been taught to believe that the way into a man’s heart is ignoring his messages and rebuffing his advances. Now, perhaps this was true 100 years ago, but I can tell you with great certainty that this is not true today. 

The message that the rules-followers want young women to send to young men boils down to ‘not interested means keep trying’. Think about how this sort of messaging plays out in the post-#MeToo era. Men nowadays are afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing – as they should be! Now, very few men are going to assume that uninterested means keep trying. If a woman seems uninterested, men have learned that the proper response is not to assume she’s playing hard to get. The proper response is to leave her alone.”

Steer clear of dating apps.

“How many single women have ever said something along the lines of, ‘I love dating apps so much. All the men are so kind and honest, and it’s just so easy to find true love on a dating app!’ I’m guessing the answer is somewhere between zero and zero? Online dating is a cesspool. Everyone knows this. According to Pew Research, 57% of women report experiencing harassment on dating apps, 55% of women believe dating is harder now than it was 10 years ago, and 19% say they’ve been threatened with physical violence while using a dating app. 

If there were a singles bar where one out of every five women were being threatened with violence, who would go back? To be clear, I’m not saying it’s impossible to find a life partner on a dating app. What I am saying is it’s hard. According to one study, young singles are now spending 20 hours a week on dating apps! And that doesn’t even include time spent on actual dates! The problem, as I see it, is the FOMO mindset when it comes to social media. As much as they dislike online dating, singles are more afraid of not being on dating apps.”

Get back out into the real world. 

“I reject the idea that we need the apps and that it’s impossible to date people you know from the real world. I recently gave a Zoom talk to a group of students at Rollins College in Florida, where the Life Launch class covers everything from personal finance to relationships. Much of my discussion dealt with concerns about the safety and efficacy of online dating. A young woman told me she understood my arguments, but wanted to know how she was supposed to meet someone if not through the apps. 

In response, I posed the following question to the entire class: ‘How many of you already know someone from the real world whom you like and have considered dating?’ There were 40 people in the class. 40 hands went up. My point was: why would you start from zero with a complete stranger on an app when there’s already someone you know and like from the real world whom you could ask out instead?”

The paradox of choice is real.

“The problem with modern dating is that every first date is a blind date with a stranger. Even after a third or fourth date, you still don’t really know the person – and this is where the paradox of choice kicks in. If he does or says something wrong, you are going to be much more likely to pull the plug simply because there are so many other fish in the sea. You have little way of judging whether his mess-up was a one-time goof or an indication of a deeper personality disorder. But if he had been a co-worker or part of your friend group – someone you actually know – it would be much easier to put the behaviour in context and determine whether or not he deserves a little slack.”

Classism will only work against you.

“Categorising a non-college-educated man as ‘settling’ or ‘compromising’ isn’t just rude. It’s classist. As a society, we are making such progress towards compassion and equity, so when it comes to dating, do we really want to send out the message that marrying the gentlemanly electrician is ‘settling’ – but marrying the insufferable banker is not ‘settling’? The bottom line is this: I do not believe that a college degree makes someone a better wife or a better husband. Lastly, if this really is purely about income, I’d be careful about buying into the stereotypes. I bet most Oxford-educated English majors earn less than their plumbers. For what it’s worth, my own plumber drives an Audi.”

Don’t rule out younger men.

“It’s all about women expanding their dating pools, much the same way men have done by dating younger women. For whatever reason, 30-year-old women have been socialised to believe that 26-year-old men would never be interested in them. Again, maybe this was true 100 years ago, but it’s definitely not true today. If you read Make Your Move, you’ll learn why. The other point I’d make deals with the downside of dating educated men who never married – because of the way dating math works, the dating market gets better for them as they age into their 30s and 40s. 

For the record, I’m not assuming everyone should or wants to get married, but if I were a woman who was looking to get married, I would be very wary of such guys, especially the better-looking ones with good careers. Many of them are having way too much fun playing the field. It’s one reason why I encourage 30-something women to consider dipping down age-wise. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I actually think the younger guys are likely to be more commitment-minded than a lot of the older ones.”

You are not a failure.

“One of the reasons I wrote Make Your Move is because some Date-onomics readers found the message depressing. It was wrong of me to write a whole book all about why dating sucks for young, educated women without offering up real solutions to the problems these women were experiencing. This is why I wrote Make Your Move, which I believe offers solutions along with an uplifting message. I guess my words of wisdom would be: it’s still not your fault, but it is time to try something different.”

Make your move already!

“Stop worrying about ‘ruining the friendship’. I do not assume that everyone aspires to marriage or even monogamy. But if ‘happily ever after’ is indeed your goal, do not be shy about going after what and whom you want. If there’s a guy you know and like from the real world – a guy who gives you a happy feeling every time you’re around him – just ask him out. Stop waiting for him to realise you like him. He’s probably oblivious like most guys are! And if it blows up in your face? Feel free to blame me. But just remember what’s at stake. You’re not shopping for a used car here. You’re searching for a life partner, and anything that is important is worth taking some risks.”


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Happy Women posing for a photo

How to Find the Right People in Your Life

Say goodbye to negativity!

We are all social animals, but as much as we enjoy spending time networking, interacting, and making vacation plans with friends and family, there comes a point where we need space and time to spend alone – being around others can sometimes be conflicting, draining, or even depressing. In essence, everything is energy, and who you spend time with determines the energetic vibrations you carry around you, be it negative or positive.

The kind of effect a person has on you depends on how similar your level of consciousness and your vibrational frequency is in comparison to the other person. It can pave the way for either a meaningful or a toxic relationship. Do you often feel exhausted or maybe bored after speaking to a friend for prolonged periods of time? Does it get so difficult to spend time with your partner that you end up craving personal space instead? Do you have family members who barely allow you to make decisions, hampering your growth in the process?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably experiencing a conflict of interest, and the other party is likely becoming toxic for your mental health. Every relationship dynamic is different, yet having said that, we are all unique in our own way and how we perceive our reality. Being around like-minded people can greatly shape your reality and set you up for success. Being around people who keep you begging for more, make you feel miserable, or leave very little room for understanding is bound to hamper your growth and well-being whilst they ensure theirs is in check. 

As the famous saying by self-help guru Jim Rohn goes, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Helpful Tips In Finding The Right People

These core people in your life determine the life you’re living. For instance, studies have shown that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if they had a friend who became obese. Similarly, another study found that happy and unhappy people visibly cluster around each other, and that having a friend around you when you are happy can increase your happiness by 25%. Thus, having the right relationships with the right people has a direct effect on your overall health and wellness.  

As simple as it may be, the right people in your life won’t judge you, make you feel uncomfortable or guilty, or take advantage of your nature. They’ll respect your privacy, encourage you, often share the same likes or dislikes as you, and (most importantly) hold the same level of consciousness as you. So how do you attract the right people into your life? Read on.

1. Know Yourself Well 

A lot of issues and conflicts happen due to lack of or improper communication. It’s only when you know how to communicate with your mind and heart that you can do the same with others – only when you learn to love yourself can you learn to love others. At the same time, it also helps to know your personality type or traits as they can be indicators for why and how you attract people in your life. Ask yourself the following: Am I adventurous, introverted, mellow, or straightforward? What are the traits I value most? What hobbies or priorities in my life are non-negotiable?  

2. Curb Your Time with the Wrong People

People are not necessarily wrong – it’s just that their way of life might not coincide with yours, and that’s okay. A good way to cut out the wrong people from your life is to first cut them out of your mind. Remember: where attention goes, energy flows. Don’t give them your mind space. Whenever a thought comes to your mind that involves a negative person, refocus your attention and think of someone who you admire or consider a positive influence.

Also, let go of feelings of hate and revenge. When you hate someone, you are automatically bound to think about them a lot, which is counterproductive. The best thing to do is to let go of these negative feelings and make room for positive energy to freely flow. Similarly, if you wish to distance yourself from someone, try to minimise your interactions with them. Keep it to a bare minimum and, with time, those relationships will either get stronger and better or simply fade out. Rest assured, whatever happens will happen for the best. 

Tips In Finding The Right People

3. Start Putting Yourself First

As you let go of your layers, get vulnerable with yourself and accept yourself for who you are. You will realise that being you comes first and what follows is being with like-minded people who match your vibe. You aren’t required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm.

Often, this feeling of choosing yourself can feel lonely, so we tend to choose temporary moments of happiness with people we barely like. But life works in mysterious ways and the moment you strive for what you truly want (even at the cost of others), life starts rewarding you with what you truly deserve. For all you know, you might find out that the right people have always been around you – maybe just not in your inner circle.


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Woman looing toward broken glass

Let’s Talk About the Sexism That Surrounds Us

(And how normalised it is.)

In spite of how much we’ve progressed as a society, sexism is still a common issue that many of us face every day. It’s so widespread that, sometimes, we might not even recognise it as it’s happening. Or, because it’s so normalised, we might not even feel that it’s wrong anymore.

What Is Sexism?

Sexism is the stereotyping, discrimination, or prejudice towards a particular sex of which usually women or other minority gender groups are often the victim of. Whether it is the workspace, or any other public place for that matter, women and minority groups usually have to face a lot – you might get cat-called, ignored at your workplace, or mistreated at your university. Aside from the obvious, there are several things in our lives that we come across daily, but do notusually regard as sexism. Here are two examples.

1. Receiving Unsolicited Comments on Your Body

We often hear that we are too slim, too tall, too short, or too fat. Sometimes, even our skin colour makes other people feel like they need to comment on it. This is hardly pleasant for most people, but unfortunately, the majority of us never think of it as something worth taking action for, which is partly why it’s so normalised in society.

Unsolicited Comments on Body

2. Being Asked About Marriage and Children

A common topic that comes up in everyday conversation is related to marriage and children. Believe me, this is sexism, too. Sometimes, even random people might ask if you’re married and, if not, they often have the audacity to ask the reason behind your marital status. They may also ask about the number of children you have, the reason for not having any or not having more, and other intimate details that shouldn’t concern them. All these questions are to single you out from others and judge you based on stereotypical traditions.

Unrealistic Expectations

Another problem that women today face is the perception of ‘normal’ and the set of expectations placed on us to live by – irrespective of our feelings and thoughts. This, too, is a sexist approach as it does not let us live according to our beliefs, norms, and comfort. Instead, the world tries to change us to fit into a mould.

Even when women become successful despite all the odds set against us, sexism can still permeate in how we’re perceived. For instance, if employees at a company get to know that some women at work earn more than them, they might not consider their skills and abilities to be good enough to deserve the paycheck they get. Instead, they might point at their character and highlight the flaws in their personality – just because they can’t accept that women might be better than them at something.

Normalising Sexism

I’m sure that you would’ve experienced at least one of the above-mentioned scenarios in your life. Depending on the social group you belong to, there is a chance that all these scenarios might apply to you in different ways. Interestingly, maybe you or others you know might not feel too bothered by this kind of behaviour, regardless of whether it’s directed at you or not. That is because of how normalised sexism is.

Normalising Sexism

The problem is that we might think this is part of everyday life, but that’s simply not true. This behaviour has been informally taught from generation to generation – it’s not naturally occurring. Another thing about sexism? It isn’t always strangers or people we’re not close to who are responsible for discrimination or sexist behaviour.

Often, people we call family or those in our close circle – even women – are unaware of the part they play in promoting sexism and how it poisons society. That is why this is the right time to raise a voice against sexism, especially in our personal lives, as not doing so will only let the status quo continue and enable the creation of future sexist generations.


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