couple in hotel room

Why Do People Cheat in Relationships?

Anyone who has been cheated on knows how emotionally devastating it can be. Many of us have gone searching for a reason our partner cheated, or—heartbreakingly—believed we were the cause of the infidelity. 

Unfortunately, cheating happens; research found that in 2018 and 2019, 20% of men and 13% of women admitted to sleeping with someone other than their spouse while they were married. 

Despite the pain, understanding why people cheat can give us insight into relationships and human behavior. We’re discussing what cheating is, why it happens, and how to move forward after cheating rocks your relationship. 

Whether you're trying to heal from infidelity or curious about the complex dynamics at play, we've got you covered. Cheating can shake up a relationship, but there are ways to move forward and grow from it. Let's explore the key things to know about cheating and how to regain control after it’s happened to you.

What Is Cheating?

Every relationship is unique, so it makes sense that everyone has their own definition of what qualifies as infidelity. Some define cheating as strictly sexual, while others see it more broadly to include things like emotional affairs. Even a solo act like watching pornography is considered a no-go to some. Ultimately, cheating is whatever you and your partner agree it is. 

As dating and relationship therapist, Dr. Gary Brown, puts it, "If you have an agreement with your partner that your relationship is monogamous, and you have an emotional and/or sexual affair with someone else, then you are violating your agreement with your partner — and you have cheated.”

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, without open communication between partners, the lines around what counts as "cheating" can get a little blurry. As you’ll see, cheating isn’t always cut-and-dry; one person’s expectations could be totally different from their partner’s. That’s why it’s important to have honest conversations about boundaries. Talking about what cheating means in your relationship can help you avoid misunderstandings and heartbreak down the line.

Types of Cheating

According to psychologist Gregory Kushnick, cheating comes in a few forms. He says it’s about where you direct your energy and your support. If those things are flowing away from someone’s partner and toward another sexual and/or romantic prospect, then it’s cheating.

“Cheating can be physical, emotional, and/or digital. Cheating involves channeling sexual energy or deep, emotional support toward someone who could potentially represent a sexual partner. It usually, but not always, involves some form of deceit and neglect of your partner's needs.” - Dr. Gary Kushnick, PsyD

 Physical Cheating: This includes secret rendezvous, one-off hookups, and, for some, less obvious things like getting a secret lap dance at a strip club. Many people place other kinds of physical intimacy in this category as well, not just sex. This includes things like kissing, cuddling, and intimate touches.

Essentially, physical cheating is any touch that you’ve agreed not to share with anyone outside of your committed relationship. While the offenses in this category vary widely in severity, it is the one that is most universally regarded as crossing a relationship boundary.

Emotional Cheating: An emotional affair can do just as much damage as a physical one, sometimes even more. In a relationship, emotional intimacy is incredibly important. Developing an intimate emotional connection with someone new can hurt and alienate your partner.

This is not to say that other relationships should have no emotional intimacy at all. In platonic relationships, it’s important to build a level of emotional intimacy. However, this can become inappropriate if your partner is left out of the loop. It can also be considered an emotional affair if the new relationship comes at the expense of your emotional connection with your partner.

Digital Cheating: As the name suggests, this is cheating that happens in digital spaces. This could include things like exchanging steamy photos or having phone sex with someone other than your partner. Many consider spending time in adult Internet chat rooms or other NSFW interactions online to be digital cheating as well. 

For some, pornography may fall under this label as well. While consuming porn is likely a solo act, it isn’t always totally innocent. If your viewing habits are a secret from your partner, it could be hurtful for them to find out. This may be especially true if the performers you typically watch don’t resemble your partner at all.

Intellectual Cheating: This one is a bit tricky to define. Many people consider their romantic partner to be their best friend, as well. Intellectual cheating happens when one partner in a relationship begins to rely on someone else for the same friendship and companionship that they once received from their partner. 

This is not the same thing as sharing interests with friends. While not every interest or intellectual philosophy needs to be shared between partners, it can be hurtful to be excluded. According to sex and relationship therapist Laura Berman, PhD, Intellectual cheating happens when someone begins sharing ideas and interests with a third party, even though their partner is also interested. Ultimately, it comes down to directing energy away from your partner, Berman says.

Do Cheaters Love Their Partners?

Life is complicated, and so are relationships. While cheating can happen because partners have fallen out of love, in reality, cheaters often do love their partners. A committed relationship is a lifelong project, and nobody is perfect. That said, it is always your choice whether or not to forgive a partner who has cheated, regardless of the circumstances. 

Opportunistic cheating happens when someone who genuinely loves and feels attached to their partner commits infidelity. These situations are typically one-off scenarios. As social psychologist Theresa E. DiDonato says, "Not every act of infidelity is premeditated and driven by dissatisfaction with a current relationship…Maybe they were drinking or in some other way thrown into an opportunity they didn't anticipate."

No matter the situation, experts say cheating is the result of poor impulse control and selfishness. As licensed marriage and family therapist, Jeff Yoo puts it, “All humans can be tempted. It comes down to the core of who the individual is.”

Why Do People Decide to Cheat?

People cheat in relationships for many different reasons. It’s important to remember that whatever their reason, it’s not your fault. 

Insecurity - it’s not about you.

There is an element of this in most cases where infidelity is an issue. When someone has low self-esteem, they might seek approval from any source they can. This approval-seeking could lead them to do things they otherwise might not even consider, like crossing a boundary in their relationship. 

For instance, a big argument with their partner might cause someone to feel like they’re not good enough. This could lead them to seek approval and affection from someone else. On a normal day, this might never happen. However, in a vulnerable state, the validation of someone else’s affection can make cheating seem more enticing.

Attachment issues

Attachment style has a big influence on how we behave in relationships. Someone’s attachment style alone can’t determine whether they’ll cheat in a relationship, but it can offer some insight when infidelity does happen. For example, cheating may be a way for an avoidantly attached partner to regain a sense of control and safety in the relationship. 

Being in love requires a lot of vulnerability, which can be scary. Someone with an avoidant attachment style responds to this call for openness with an instinct to run away, or to avoid the situation. This can make communication difficult, leading to resentment and setting the stage for infidelity.

Self-Sabotage

It’s sad but many people don’t believe themselves to be worthy of love. This is most often learned from past experiences where parents, trusted loved ones, or previous relationship partners have treated them poorly. Unless we can break patterns in our relationship choices, we learn to accept the treatment we receive. 

Sometimes, when a person is used to being in this kind of relationship, they haven’t learned how to behave in a healthy, peaceful relationship. They may cross a boundary in your relationship as a misguided way to “test” your love; your reaction to their infidelity is a way to confirm what they already believe about themself. 

Inability to End the Relationship

In some cases, someone may cheat because they believe it will make you break up with them. Instead of having a conversation about their concerns in the relationship, this kind of cheater chooses to force your hand by doing something that will make you stand up and say it’s time to go your separate ways.

How to Move Forward After Being Cheated On

While relationships sometimes do survive infidelity, cheating is often a catastrophic betrayal. Dealing with the emotional fallout of infidelity while grieving the end of a relationship can be overwhelming. It’s important to take steps to protect your mental health. 

It’s okay to take things slowly. Being cheated on can be difficult to bounce back from, so be patient with yourself. Don’t force yourself to get back out there before you’re ready. Your time will come; just take it one day at a time. 

The end of a relationship is an opportunity to begin a new chapter of your life. Try to take some time to reflect on your past relationships, and acknowledge the ways you’ve grown through heartbreak. Don’t forget that you can choose how to move forward now, too. 

You can choose to be loved by people who value you and treat you well. We often internalize things from life experiences that can lead us to relationship trouble later on. If you find that your past relationships bear similarities, it’s worth looking closer. 

When you recognize and understand the patterns that are holding you back, you can interrupt them. This is a vital part of the healing process and the path to a happy, healthy relationship.

In Conclusion

Someone’s reason for cheating isn’t always obvious or straightforward. It could be because they feel insecure, have issues with how they connect to others, or they’re just not sure how to handle being loved. Sometimes, people cheat because they're trying to push their partner away.

If you've been cheated on, it's important to take care of yourself and not rush into anything. Take your time to heal and think about what you want for yourself moving forward.

Cheating hurts, but it can also teach us about ourselves and what we need in a healthy relationship. You deserve to be treated with love and respect, and understanding the “why” behind infidelity can help you find that in the future.


brain sex organ sexual excitement

Why Your Brain is the Most Powerful Sex Organ

We think of sex as something that our bodies do, but most of the action starts in the brain. Our minds and bodies are intricately linked.  From feeling attraction to reaching the peak of pleasure, it's all connected to what's happening in our heads. The brain acts like a conductor, moving things along at just the right time to keep the sexual response cycle going.

Sexual Response Cycle

According to pioneering sexuality researchers Masters and Johnson, the body’s responses to sexual stimulation happen in four sequential phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. In every stage, millions of chemical reactions light up different parts of the brain. 

Excitement: During the excitement phase, the body starts getting ready for sex. This phase begins when any erotic physical or mental stimulation leads to sexual arousal. Sexual arousal can be separated into two components: the psychological (i.e., sexual thoughts) and the physiological (i.e., bodily reactions like erection and vaginal lubrication).

Plateau: As the body enters the plateau phase, changes that began in the excitement phase continue to intensify. Breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure all continue to increase. Blood flow to the genitals continues to increase, making them more sensitive to stimulation. Muscles in the abdomen and pelvic region become tense.

Orgasm: This is both the most well-known and the shortest phase of sex. Muscle tension built in the plateau phase is released suddenly and forcefully. Occurring at the peak of sexual pleasure, orgasm is usually less than one minute long

Resolution: After orgasm, the body begins returning to a normal resting state. During the resolution phase, engorged body parts return to their normal size and color. 

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts in this process (pun intended). In order to reliably pull off such an elaborate operation, the brain and body work together like a well-oiled machine. 

Your Brain is Wired For Sex

From arousal to orgasm, sexual activity is a storm of chemical reactions and firing neurons. The mechanisms involved in sexual behavior are located throughout both the central and peripheral nervous systems. 

central nervous system
Changes that happen to the body during sex are controlled by the nervous system, including the brain.

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain controls higher functions like thoughts, emotions, and planning. It sends and receives signals from the rest of the body via the spinal cord. The spinal cord is connected to the peripheral nervous system.

The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is made up of millions of nerves and ganglia that branch out from the spinal cord into the rest of the body. This includes nerves connected to the skin, which can become more sensitive due to increased blood flow. This is also what causes the flush reaction commonly associated with sex. 

What Happens in Your Brain?

During sexual activity, parts of your brain that control higher reasoning are less active. Instead, the limbic system, which contains the brain’s reward circuit, is in the driver’s seat. According to Jason Krellman, PhD, assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University Medical Center, this means that sex is “driven more by instinct and emotion than rational thought.”

The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure that processes some of your most primal instincts. It’s connected to your olfactory sense, or your sense of smell, where many scientists theorize it detects pheromones from potential sexual partners. If your amygdala likes the way your lover smells, then it sends information to your orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).

The orbitofrontal cortex, among many things, is responsible for making pleasure feel good

It takes information from what you see, hear, and feel, along with signals from your nervous system, to figure out how you should react to the pleasurable things around you. This includes things like food, drink, and importantly, sexual pleasure. It does this using something called hedonic motivation.    

Hedonic motivation is what creates that “one thing led to another” energy. Your brain is wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. During hedonic processing, your orbitofrontal cortex makes the pleasure signals in your brain stronger and louder, encouraging you to continue.

When you start getting turned on, different parts of your brain kick into action to prepare your body for sex. The cingulate cortex and insula handle autonomic responses—things that happen in your body without you thinking about it. They talk to the brainstem and hypothalamus, which manage the release of sex hormones and control various nervous system functions, including the flow of blood to the genitals, vaginal lubrication, and erection. 

As you get close to orgasm, the part of your brain that manages your body's movements (the cerebellum) starts sending signals to your thighs, glutes, and abs, telling them to start tensing up. This increases both blood flow and nerve activity in the pelvic region. 

The tension builds until it reaches a peak, and then it's let go with a burst of feel-good chemicals. When you orgasm, the muscles in your pelvic floor squeeze in a rhythmic pattern, usually about 5-8 times together. At the same time, your brain gets a flood of dopamine and oxytocin, making you feel pleasure and a sense of closeness. This is why you may feel closer to a sexual partner after orgasm. 

Sexual Dysfunction

It’s normal not to be in the mood sometimes, but persistent feelings of being unable to have or enjoy sex can become a problem. If you find that you’re unable to perform or sex is uncomfortable for you, even when you want to get it on, you’re likely experiencing a form of sexual dysfunction. 

Sexual dysfunction can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • Stress
  • Diabetes, heart disease, and other medical conditions
  • Hormonal changes
  • Trauma
  • Depression or Anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Certain prescription medications

Sexual dysfunction can manifest in various ways in both men and women. While these issues mostly affect the body, their root cause is often in the brain. 

For example, stress can cause both erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation issues. After a traumatic brain injury, 30% of men struggle with erectile dysfunction, and a staggering 40% have problems with orgasm. This further highlights the brain’s critical role in sexual activity.

Women may struggle with issues like vaginal dryness, vaginismus, or other issues that can make sex uncomfortable, even painful. While these issues often have an underlying physical cause—such as hormonal changes brought on by menopause—they are also likely to be influenced by stress and fatigue. 

Treating Sexual Dysfunction

Since sexual dysfunction can be caused by many things, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment. In many cases, consulting a healthcare professional is the first step to treating sexual dysfunction disorders. 

Stress Management: Stress is a major factor in many people’s sexual dysfunction, so taking steps to manage it can have a huge positive impact on your sex life. Techniques like deep breathing exercises, visualization, and practicing mindfulness can help you healthily cope with stress. Spending time with loved ones has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress.

Medications: Several medications have been developed to help both men and women treat sexual dysfunction. Viagra and Cialis, among the most well-known of these drugs, are used to treat erectile dysfunction in men. For women struggling with sexual desire, there are two options, Addyi and Vyleesi. Unfortunately, both drugs have only been approved by the FDA for use by pre-menopausal women.

Assistive Devices: There is a massive selection of devices to make sex easier and more enjoyable for those suffering from sexual dysfunction. A wearable harness that holds a prosthetic penis can allow men with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation issues to continue with sex even when things aren’t going to plan below the belt. For women, using a vibrator or a dilator set can help with dryness and vaginismus, respectively.

Therapy: There are many reasons therapy can be helpful to treat sexual dysfunction.  Sometimes, the cause of sexual dysfunction is rooted in our past experiences. Other times, we don’t even know why sex is uncomfortable or difficult to enjoy. A licensed therapist can be an incredibly valuable resource for answering the questions you may have about your own body, sexuality, and pleasure.  

Our brains play a big role in how we experience sex. It's not just about the physical stuff—our brain chemicals and neural pathways work together to create pleasure and connection. 

Recognizing the brain as a crucial part of our sex life helps us understand intimacy better and leads to a more thoughtful and satisfying sexual journey. As you explore desire and connection, try to appreciate how your mind and body interact. Ultimately, our brains are the real architects of our most intimate moments.


couple meeting at bar

12 Alternatives to the Question “What Do You Do for Work?

Tips For Great First Date Conversation

First-date conversations are tricky. The difference between dull, boring small talk and asking overly personal questions can be difficult to see in the moment. Often, singles opt for the safe bet and spend their dates talking about their jobs. Discussing what you do for work isn't a bad place to start, but can we do better? Yes!

Don’t waste a great opportunity to genuinely connect with your date. This is the time to get to know them, not just learn about their job. Asking interesting questions can help keep the connection going and reveal the shining personality of your new love interest. Read on for our advice for having great conversations and some fun thought-provoking questions to get you started.

Start With “How Was Your Day?”

Dating and relationship coach and author of The Secret Rules of Flirting, Fran Greene recommends starting off simply. By asking your date how their day went, you can show them right away that you’re interested in hearing their perspective. It can also help your date get more comfortable talking to you. “It sets the stage for your date to start talking about something they know,” she says. From this point, they can share as much or as little as they’d like.

Stay Positive

It’s true that your mindset matters. The way you think about things can profoundly affect your behavior. That means that believing your date will go poorly makes you more likely to behave in a way that makes your date go poorly. You can avoid this self-fulfilling prophecy by being conscious of your negative thoughts and trying to reframe them in a more positive light. For instance, you might find yourself worrying that your date won’t like your outfit, your hair, or your jokes. You can try to change your mindset by reminding yourself that you look and feel great in your outfit. 

You are funny, smart, and charming, but your date won’t see that if you allow negative thoughts to control your behavior.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening means being fully present, giving your date your undivided attention, and genuinely hearing what they have to say. When your date speaks, pay attention to their words, the emotions behind them, and their body language. Get rid of distractions and make eye contact to show that you’re interested in the conversation. Active listening sends a powerful message to your date that they are valued, and what they have to say matters to you.

12 First Date Questions

The key to great first-date conversation is giving your date opportunities to talk about things they enjoy. These questions will keep the conversation positive and allow both of you to show off your best selves.

1. Do you have any passion projects that you're excited about right now?

Learning about someone's passion projects can give you a sense of their drive and what they find fulfilling outside of their job and regular responsibilities. Asking the question in this way also invites them to share something they are enthusiastic about, hopefully sparking an interesting conversation about your date’s passions.

2. What is something you've always wanted to do but were afraid to?

This question invites your date to share something personal and potentially vulnerable. It shows that you are interested in getting to know them on a deeper level. Discussing your fears and aspirations in a lighthearted way can lead to a more genuine and meaningful conversation.

3. If you learned a giant meteor was going to hit the Earth in 48 hours, how would you spend your time?

This is a silly question that will encourage your date to reflect on their values and priorities. Their choices and the reasons behind them could give you a fuller understanding of who they are. Depending on the answer, it may help you understand if your values are aligned. If their priorities align with yours, it could be a positive sign of compatibility.

4. If you could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be?

This is a fun and lighthearted way to find out more about your date’s values and interests. By inviting your date to share details about someone they admire or find interesting, you can learn more about what they’re paying attention to regularly. For example, if they name a political figure, you can infer that political action is important to them. 

5. What is one thing you know now that you wish you had learned at 18?

We all find things out the hard way sometimes, and your date is bound to have a story or two about lessons learned. This allows your date to tell an anecdote from their past and to show off some of the ways they’ve grown. This honesty creates a sense of openness and authenticity, fostering a stronger connection between you.

6. What’s the most fun thing you’ve done recently?

Asking this will give you some insight into what your date likes to do for fun. They might tell you about a recent beach vacation, a sunrise hike, reorganizing their pantry, or something entirely unexpected. You may be able to discern how adventurous or spontaneous they are. Their answer could also give you insight into whether they’re a social butterfly or a more quiet type, what kind of activities they enjoy, and so much more.

7. What’s your favorite meal?

Food is a universal topic. Asking about your date’s favorite meal can serve as a great conversation starter and a way to bond over shared culinary experiences. Their answer may also tell you more about their background. They might love an old family recipe, or maybe they’re still in love with a dish they tried on a trip abroad.

8. What is something that people are always surprised to learn about you?

People often have hidden talents, unexpected quirks in their personalities, or unique life experiences. This question allows your date to talk about something they might not think to bring up otherwise, letting you see another facet of their unique personality.

9. What was your dream job when you were a kid?

While this question is likely to segue into a conversation about careers, it introduces the topic in a fun and light-hearted way. Kids’ career aspirations typically range from unrealistic to outlandish. Superhero, Movie star, and Professional Athlete are all popular answers. Whether this sparks a deeper conversation or just a good laugh, it’ll be a fun chat.

10. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Talking about personal advice can help build a sense of connection with your date. It creates a shared space for vulnerability and understanding without crossing boundaries. Your date might tell you about someone they love who helped them, giving insight into their life. This question can help you have a more intimate and meaningful conversation without veering too far into heavy subjects.

11. What’s your favorite way to unwind after a long day?

How someone chooses to relax says a lot about their interests, hobbies, and social habits. You could discover they like to unwind by going for a relaxing three-mile run, or they could reveal that the time they spend with loved ones is the most relaxing part of their day. 

12. Who is the person you talk to the most? 

This question can tell you about the important relationships in your date’s life. Do they talk to their best friend most? The way someone talks about their friends can be very revealing of their character, so pay attention. You might also learn that their #1 conversation partner is their boss, their mom, or their cat. 

When in Doubt, Be Yourself

Knowing what to ask on a first date can be difficult sometimes but don’t get too hung up on doing things “right”. Be yourself and keep your intentions well-meaning. The art of asking good questions is about having a genuine curiosity to want to know someone on a deeper level, not about getting the scoop on their past or sniffing around for red flags. Unconventional questions will help you see a less rehearsed side of your date, which will help gauge if a real connection is possible.


How to Have a Successful Second Marriage

When you walk down the aisle for the second time, it’s different. It's not just saying "I do" again; it’s saying yes to a second chance at lifelong love and connection. In remarriages, we may feel extra pressure about what's at stake, but with teamwork, understanding, and solid communication, finding success in a second marriage is wonderfully possible.

Why Second Marriages are Harder

While remarriage is a fresh start for happiness, the statistics reveal that reality is a bit different from “happily ever after”. Data shows that over 60% of second marriages in the United States end in divorce, compared to around 50% for first marriages. Second marriages often face challenges that can lead to big problems down the road. 

Unresolved Issues From the Past

One big obstacle second marriages often face, according to remarriage expert Terry Gaspard, is jumping into a new marriage without really figuring out why the first one didn't work. Carrying issues from a past divorce into a new relationship can cause problems before your new relationship has a chance to blossom fully.

If you've been through tough times before and still find it hard to trust people in your current relationships, that's a big clue that there might be some unresolved issues from the past. You might unconsciously be looking at your past experiences and using them to figure out what to expect now.

When you're going about things based on templates from painful past experiences, it's pretty natural to feel afraid or paranoid that those same bad things might happen once more. Unresolved trauma can make people feel more intense feelings than they might have otherwise. Holding onto past relationship issues can make it difficult to trust your future partners, making your new relationship vulnerable to conflict and tension.

Finances

Money issues, especially when there's child support or spousal maintenance involved, can add extra stress to a relationship. According to the American Psychological Association, nearly one in three married couples say that money is a major source of conflict. Arguments about finances also tend to be more intense and less likely to be resolved. 

Partners are more likely to bring personal assets into a second marriage, so money expectations should be discussed before tying the knot. Couples should consider whether a prenuptial agreement is appropriate, especially those with complex financial situations. 

Stepparenting

Not being ready for the challenges of step-parenting is another thing that can go wrong. Although kids are not the ones deciding whether or not their parent marries someone new, experts say they do play a major role in deciding whether the marriage is successful.

Stepfamily expert Maggie Scarf says that a stepparent’s role is distinctly different from a traditional parent. She says that many stepparents go wrong by leaning into a disciplinarian role when what kids need is a friend and ally. A solid family unit requires buy-in from everyone, not just the adults. A major part of being a stepparent is earning your partner’s child’s trust.

How to Strive for Success

A successful second marriage, much like any enduring relationship, demands a healthy dose of realism. Despite the desire for a better marriage, the reality is that second marriages aren't automatically smooth. The key to a successful second marriage is being aware of the challenges, approaching the relationship with openness, and working together to build a stronger foundation.

Disagree When You Need To

Disagreements may not be anyone's idea of fun, but steering clear of conflict may not be the best approach either. A 2013 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research revealed that suppressing emotions can lead to poorer health outcomes. The study also found that in extreme cases, holding in your feelings can lead to premature death. 

Licensed professional counselor Dr. Mark Mayfield says that it’s much better to address negative feelings than to bottle them up. He says that healthy conflict can bring couples together. This is because working through an issue together can make you feel more committed to your partner. In times of stress, remember that you and your partner are a team; you’re working together to solve a problem, not against each other.

Appreciate Each Other

In any relationship, it's important to let the other person know you appreciate them. Malini Bhatia, founder and CEO of Marriage.com says that she notices when couples are not appreciative of each other. According to her, making each other feel appreciated is the key to maintaining a healthy relationship. 

When you acknowledge and value things about your partner, it boosts their spirits and shows them that their efforts matter to you. Especially if one or both of you are still processing the effects of a previous relationship, it is so important to share your appreciation freely and often. 

Bhatia says that couples can benefit from developing the habit of thanking and appreciating each other for “every little thing they do.” Doing this will help you acknowledge and appreciate things you may have taken for granted. A culture of appreciation and understanding will help keep your relationship solid through stressful times.

Forgive and Move On

Dr. Lisa Fierstone argues that people will always be flawed, so forgiveness will always be crucial to maintaining a healthy relationship.  Forgiving doesn't mean you're okay with the pain caused, but it helps you move forward and reminds you that you're on the same side. It’s also important that both partners are willing to apologize when necessary without causing resentment to do so.

Forgiving couples tend to show better control over their actions and a positive attitude towards their partner. They’re more likely to let go of issues instead of holding onto anger or resentment. Instead, they focus on maintaining a positive relationship and not being harsh or punishing.

It’s not as simple as it was the first time around. Some unique challenges and pressures come with getting married again. It helps to talk openly and understand these things to make a second marriage more likely to succeed. Building a strong foundation of trust and closeness is crucial to overcome these difficulties.

While it might seem challenging, a successful second marriage is possible through teamwork, understanding, and good communication. Remember that second marriages aren't automatically easy, but by acknowledging the challenges and working together, you can build a solid foundation for a successful and enduring connection.


Professional couple walking together after work

5 Signs You’re Ready for a Serious Relationship

You've been navigating the dating scene, but lately, something feels different. Could it be that you're ready for a committed, serious relationship? Here are five signs that could be telling you it's time to jump into the deep end and get serious about your relationship.

You’re Emotionally Equipped

The work that goes into building a serious relationship begins before you even know the person you’ll spend your life with. It might be cliche, but the work really does start within; being a good partner requires a certain level of emotional intelligence.

In 1995, Daniel Goleman popularized the term emotional intelligence in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” He breaks the concept down into five basic areas:

Self-awareness

Being self-aware means that you recognize patterns in the way you behave and realize the impact your emotions and actions have on others. You have learned how to name your emotions and pinpoint what sets them off. You embrace humility as a key part of being human, and you’re not scared to apologize when you mess up. If you've had previous relationships, you've learned from them and are ready to apply those lessons to your next relationship in a new, more mature way.

Self-regulation

If you're good at self-regulating, it means your emotions match up with what's happening around you. You don't overreact or underreact – your feelings are appropriate for the situation. You know how to pause, reflect, and control your impulses. You think before you act and consider the consequences. You’re able to adapt to changes, showing that you can handle your emotions well. You also know how to manage conflicts and ease tension when necessary. 

Motivation

If you’re intrinsically motivated, you have a thirst for personal development.  It's not just about external rewards like money or fame; you have an internal drive for personal growth and understand how it directly enhances your ability to be a good potential partner. It's about being inspired to succeed—whatever success looks like to you—as a way of developing yourself. 

Genuine growth isn't motivated by a need to satisfy someone else's image of you—but by the desire to focus on your own goals of self acceptance and happiness. This is important when you’re building a life alongside someone else because, in a serious relationship your success in life will impact your partner and vice versa. 

Empathy

The fourth part is empathy. This means understanding where other people are coming from in conversations. It allows you to put yourself in your partner’s shoes, drawing on your own experiences—and even when you can't relate-you extend compassion.. When you can be compassionate to what others are feeling, it's easier to remain non-judgmental and recognize that everyone is doing their best in their circumstances. You respect others as individuals and are ready to build a partnership based on mutual respect and understanding.

Social skills

If you’ve developed your social skills, you know how to play well with others. It means being aware of their needs during conversations or when resolving conflicts. You understand that a relationship requires compromise and are willing to work together to find solutions to conflicts. Effective communication, active listening, and open body language all contribute to building connections. These social skills improve your ability to navigate and thrive in all relationships, but especially with your significant other.

You Have Time to Date

Even with a matchmaker to do the heavy lifting, carving out time to date can be difficult. Co-founder of the Gottman Institute Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman says that career is a major factor for many singles, especially those still establishing themselves professionally. The demands of a budding professional career make it difficult to prioritize a budding romance. 

This is reflected in the continual steady rise in the median age of marriage in the US. In 1970, men and women were married for the first time at about 23 and 21 respectively; by 2023, median ages had risen to 28 for women and 30 for men.

For younger singles, single parenthood is another factor that can make it hard to find time for a relationship. Gottman says that younger singles tend to be more focused on their careers than those looking for companionship later on in life. Coupling this with the time and financial demands of single parenthood, it becomes difficult to emotionally invest in a new partner.

This should also be a consideration for those who have gone through a divorce or experienced the loss of a spouse, Gottman says. It may be tempting to suppress your feelings with the excitement and novelty of a new relationship, but it’s essential to take time to grieve. According to Gottman, leaving these feelings unaddressed can allow them to “sneak out the side door” and affect your new relationship.

You Crave Stability

When you’re ready to get serious, confusion and playing games are not attractive; they're a turn-off. According to AASECT certified sex therapist Caitlin Cantor, when you’re ready for something more serious, casual hookups, dating people you know won't work out, and engaging in relationships that bring intense highs and lows will all become less appealing to you. A connection that’s based on lust just won’t cut it for you.

When stability becomes something to look forward to, you’ll notice. If someone is distant or playing games, you won't see it as a challenge but as a warning sign; you don't have time for that kind of behavior. When you find yourself ready to exchange the excitement of chaos for the steadiness of stability, you're prepared for a serious relationship.

An unfulfilling relationship won’t make you happy. You deserve a stable relationship, and recognizing this is another sign that you’re ready. Cantor says that this is critical because accepting less than you deserve will not lead to a happy or fulfilling relationship. Stability also comes in the form of emotional reassurance; someone who makes you question their feelings about you is not a good relationship partner. 

You Found a Compatible Partner

Sharing similar values is a great indication of compatibility, according to licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “The Seven Destinies of Love,” Claudia de Llano. Seeing eye-to-eye on the important things leads to greater relationship satisfaction, while the opposite is a recipe for conflict and stress.

She says that some important areas to consider are family, finances, lifestyle, politics, and religion. While your partner doesn’t need to share your exact set of values, a fundamental difference in your worldview can make a serious relationship hard to maintain.

When you’re seeing someone new, dating expert Julie Spira recommends testing this by talking about your values and desires about the future generically at first. This will give your new partner a chance to chime in with their own opinion, giving you an idea about whether they are on the same page. Then, you can decide to be more vulnerable and share more if you’d like.

If you and your partner feel emotionally connected and comfortable sharing vulnerable aspects of yourselves, it may be another sign to take the relationship to the next level. Consistent and open communication is essential in a serious relationship. You should feel able to share your feelings with your partner, and talking to them about things that interest you—shared interest or not—shouldn’t cause you anxiety. In fact, the feeling of being seen for who you truly are can deepen the intimacy of your connection.

You See a Future Together

To assess whether a baseball player should become a Hall-of-Famer, statistician Bill James created a list of 15 questions. Oddly, these were based on something other than scientific evidence or data; James created the list based on his expert intuition. Relationship Psychologist Gary W. Lewandowski put together a list of questions that can be asked and answered in a similar way to see whether your relationship is “Hall of Fame worthy”.

The questions are pretty straightforward, but they’re not all easy to answer. They include: ‘Do you and your partner think more in terms of “we” and “us,” rather than “you” and “I”?’, and “Do your close friends, as well as your partner’s, think you have a relationship that will stand the test of time?”. The questions are not meant to have definitive answers but rather are meant to make you reflect on different aspects of your relationship. 

Trying to imagine how your current partner might fit into your life in ten, twenty, or thirty years can be hard. By thinking about the questions here, you can reflect more deeply on what being together long-term might be like. Being able to answer the questions on Lewandowski’s list honestly and affirmatively is a great sign that your relationship has a future. 

Love is a journey, and sometimes, you find yourself at a crossroads, wondering if it's time to take a detour into something more serious. If these signs hit home with you, it could be a signal that you're ready for a serious relationship. Trust your gut, take things at your own pace, and when the moment feels right, dive in.


In Conversation with Lindsay Mills: Mastermind Behind Executive Matchmakers

In the fast-paced world of top executives, finding time for love can be tough. Executive Matchmakers is a seasoned player in the matchmaking arena specializing in connecting male clients with exceptional women. I sat down with Lindsay Mills, the brilliant Director of Matchmaking here at Executive Matchmakers, to unravel the secrets behind this brand's success. According to The Atlantic more singles are seeking professional help in their dating lives. In our conversation, Lindsay shares the common misconceptions people have when it comes to matchmaking and why her clients trust her so much. 

Aly: How does this brand differ from other matchmaking services?

Lindsay: One thing that is critical to this business is understanding the delicate balance that high-profile individuals maintain between their careers and personal lives. Having worked with hundreds of clients that live the CEO life, we really understand how their needs differ from other singles. Our approach is personalized and flexible because we acknowledge the demanding schedules our clients juggle.

We aim to take the stress out of the dating process. We have a tailored concierge service that handles the logistics of date planning for our clients, allowing them to focus on making meaningful connections.

Privacy is paramount for public figures, and our commitment to confidentiality is woven into every step of our process. Our network of matchmakers and recruiters specializes in understanding the intricate preferences of high-profile individuals, going beyond basic compatibility to consider lifestyle preferences, social circles, and the unique expectations that come with their public image.

We take a proactive approach to networking within exclusive circles, as well as discreet and targeted outreach, and a recruitment strategy that goes beyond external appearances. Our recruitment process delves into personalities, lifestyles, and aspirations, ensuring connections are not only compatible on paper but have the potential for a genuine and lasting connection.

"Our recruitment process delves into personalities, lifestyles, and aspirations, ensuring connections are not only compatible on paper but have the potential for a genuine and lasting connection."

Aly: Where are the bulk of your clients located?

Lindsay: Well, we are a nationwide company. Currently, our hot spots are Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Nevada.

Aly: What should potential matches understand about the high-profile clients we work with?

Lindsay: Potential matches should understand that working with high-profile clients involves a nuanced and personalized approach that goes beyond the surface level. It's not just about connecting people based on external factors, it's about understanding the complexities of their lives, values, and aspirations while respecting their need for discretion and confidentiality.

Aly: What does it feel like when you hear back from a client who found a relationship through the process?

Lindsay: That’s easy! It's an incredibly rewarding experience! It's more than just a professional achievement. It's a deeply personal accomplishment too. Knowing that I played a role in bringing two people together who have connected on a profound level is both gratifying and humbling. You get to witness the whole love story start to unfold before your very eyes! Matchmaking is a genuine passion of mine but when someone finds a true connection that grows into something magical, it becomes a sense of purpose!

"Knowing that I played a role in bringing two people together who have connected on a profound level is both gratifying and humbling."

Aly: Tell us one of your favorite client success stories.

Lindsay: I was working with a client (let's call him Jack for the sake of this story) who initially had reservations about the match I had selected for him. Despite careful consideration and an in-depth interview process with his match, Jack struggled to fully trust that this particular match would lead to a lasting relationship. 

It was a delicate situation because he had been taken advantage of in previous relationships by women who were in it for the wrong reasons. It required an understanding of the client's fears and insecurities and what those triggers were that were affecting his trust in the process. What made this story stand out is the remarkable transformation in the client's perspective and the ultimate success of the match.

Instead of dismissing his concerns, I took the time to engage in open and honest communication, addressing his apprehensions and ensuring he felt heard and understood. Building a relationship of trust was paramount in Jack's case. The initial skepticism Jack had gradually transformed into genuine connection and affection with his match. It reinforced my belief in the transformative impact this process can have on individuals who are willing to take a leap of faith. It's moments like these that make all the challenges truly worthwhile.

Aly: What’s the hardest part of the job?

Lindsay: One of the significant challenges is managing unrealistic expectations that clients may have. While we strive to find the best possible matches based on a thorough understanding of their criteria, chemistry, and compatibility, the intricacies of human connection mean that not every match will result in a lasting relationship. Balancing the optimism of our clients with the realities of the dating landscape can be emotionally challenging, especially when there are high hopes invested in the process.

Another difficulty lies in navigating the delicate task of informing a client that a match they were excited about has chosen not to pursue an introduction.  These are individuals accustomed to success and achievement, and the prospect of someone declining an introduction can be a blow to their confidence. My responsibility is not just limited to making successful matches, it extends to guiding our clients through the emotional journey that comes with the territory of matchmaking. I always say that rejection is just redirection.

Aly: What is a common misconception people have about matchmaking?

Lindsay: One prevalent misconception is that individuals turn to matchmakers as a last resort. In reality, our clients are successful, busy professionals who recognize the efficiency and personalized approach that a matchmaker provides. Seeking the assistance of a matchmaker and recruiting team is a proactive and strategic choice for those who value their time and are serious about finding a compatible partner. 

Another misconception is that using a matchmaker implies a lack of dating skills or an inability to find a partner independently. Our clients are highly capable individuals who understand that finding a genuine connection requires a specialized and targeted approach. Matchmaking complements their efforts by introducing them to carefully curated matches.

"One prevalent misconception is that individuals turn to matchmakers as a last resort. In reality, our clients are successful, busy professionals who recognize the efficiency and personalized approach that a matchmaker provides."

Aly: How do you handle clients who are hesitant to trust a matchmaker?

Lindsay: Building trust is a delicate and essential aspect of my role. I believe in fostering an open line of communication and transparency from the very beginning. I also discuss the very personalized and tailored approach we take by highlighting the thoroughness of our process and the effort we invest in understanding each client's unique preferences, values, and lifestyle. With all clients, I take the time to build a rapport and personal connection that demonstrates genuine care and continued support.

Aly: So, what’s the key to successful matchmaking?

Lindsay: Trust is the cornerstone of any successful matchmaking service, especially when dealing with high-profile clients. Transparency, personal connection, ongoing communication, and support are key elements in building and maintaining trust. I understand the intricate balance of chemistry and compatibility. Matchmaking is more about understanding the unique dynamics that lead to a successful and lasting connection. 

Aly: What’s your advice for high-profile singles?

Lindsay: Take care of yourself – self-love is the best foundation for a healthy relationship. Be crystal clear about what you want, and don't settle for anything less. Focus on quality over quantity in your dating adventures. Trust me, it makes all the difference.

Thank you for sharing these insights with us, Lindsay!


What to Wear on a Date According to Science

You know what it’s like to get ready for a date. The nerves, the excitement, the clothes strewn all over the floor as you look for something—anything—to wear. Deciding on a date outfit can be nervewracking, and it’s the last thing you need to worry about before meeting your next potential Mr. Right. That’s why we’ve studied the research and expert opinion to create your ultimate guide for what to wear on a first date.

How to Choose a Date Outfit

When deciding what to wear, style psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell recommends thinking about someone confident you know, either in real life or online, and figuring out what styles they wear that you like. These styles can be great choices for a first date because they can make us feel more self-assured. This is because of something called "enclothed cognition". 

Essentially, it’s a “fake it ‘til you make it” strategy. Enclothed cognition proposes that the clothes we wear can influence how we feel about ourselves. Fashion psychologist Dr. Dawnn Karen says there are three main reasons we do this. When we’re not dressed for utility, we use clothing to tell others how we feel or to make ourselves feel better somehow.

Forbes-Bell also suggests trying on clothing you associate with a really good memory. It works the same way that scrolling through your favorite celeb’s Instagram does. Your lucky belt or a special jacket will remind you of good times, stirring up positive feelings and helping you feel like your best, most confident self.

What Color is Best For a Date?

When we meet someone new, our brains go into overdrive, picking up on more information than we’re even aware of. We unconsciously judge potential partners on a primal level. This is why the color you wear can have a noticeable impact on the way your date sees you.

If your first instinct is to reach for a sleek black dress, you might be onto something. Black is associated with luxury, elegance, and sophistication. Your date might also perceive you as more powerful and more intelligent in black. The high-end associations make this a great choice to wear to a nice dinner date or to somewhere more formal.

But what if you need something to wear on a casual date? Forbes-Bell says to go with a long-wavelength color, such as yellow, orange, or red. These vibrant options make us feel more energetic and active. That makes them a great option to match the exciting energy of a casual brunch or a happy hour. 

Of course, if you want to make a big impression, you can’t go wrong with the color of love. Research shows that men view women in red as more attractive and sexually desirable. The association between the color red and desire is baked into our biology. The study’s authors concluded that the effect of the color red on a female partner was pretty similar in human men and male non-human primates. 

Women have noticed these effects, and they’re testing out the theory in real life. In early 2022,  something called the “red nail theory” started gaining traction online. Basically, the theory is that men are most attracted to red nails, so wearing them is a way to easily catch their attention. The wildest part is that women are saying it works! So if a red dress isn’t your style, try a pop of red on your nails.

What to Wear on a Date

The perfect outfit to wear on your date depends a little bit on your venue. For a casual date, Forbes-Bell says to go for something approachable, like a pair of great-fitting jeans. Casual styles are associated with sociability, extraversion, and friendliness, she says. Especially if you wear them regularly, the familiar feeling of your jeans will help you to feel more at ease, making them a great choice. 

Or you could try the opposite strategy and lean into your nerves a bit. Opting for something bold can showcase your unique personality and serve as a conversation starter. Choosing the right unique accessories will add visual interest to your outfit, helping you come across as more fun and adventurous.

A bold fashion choice can help you get out of your head, too. Wearing something outside your comfort zone can also help you embrace escapism for a little while, Forbes-Bell explains. This has the counterintuitive effect of reducing anxiety, helping you to relax and enjoy the moment on your date. 

She also recommends a form-fitting dress for a more striking look. Research shows that well-fitting clothes can make other people see you as more confident and successful. And that’s not the only good reason to opt for something a little more fitted. According to Forbes-Bell, this can have a similar effect to deep touch pressure techniques, which have been shown to reduce anxiety

How to Choose Shoes For a Date

When it comes to shoe options, high heels are a good choice for a few reasons. Our brains associate height with power and authority, so seeing yourself with a couple of extra inches can give you an extra boost of confidence. The way high heels change your body language can also accentuate your body’s natural curves and make your walk appear more sensual. 

Not surprisingly, high heels were found to attract male attention far more often than other types of shoes. However, they’re also more uncomfortable and can cause widespread damage to your body over time. Dr. Sajid Suarve explains that high heels pull your muscles and joints out of their proper alignment. This commonly causes back, neck, and shoulder pain in frequent wearers.

Nobody wants to be in pain because of their date outfit, so choosing a well-fitting supportive heel is critical. Next time you’re shopping, take a moment to measure your feet. Your shoe size can change over time, so it’s worth checking that your shoes really do fit. After that, focus on finding a shoe that balances height with support.

In general, heels that are chunkier and positioned directly under the heel of your foot are most supportive. Stiletto styles, while a great fashion statement, are a poor choice for this reason. For a more comfortable option, try a pair of pumps with a block heel. Toe and ankle straps can help hold your feet in place more firmly, while a slight platform base can add a bit of height without changing the angle of your foot. 

Getting ready for a date can be stressful, especially when it comes to choosing what to wear. But your outfit is more than just clothes – it can impact how confident you feel and how your date sees you. Your fashion can show off your unique personality and make your date more memorable. So, whether you prefer a classy black look, vibrant colors, or a form-fitting dress, make a choice that says something about the real you.


The Secret to a Long Life? Love.

Love, family, and friendship are basic human needs. People around the world consider their relationships with family and close friends as their most significant source of meaning, purpose, and motivation in their lives. This is for a very good reason—studies have shown that not having enough social connections increases the chances of dying by at least 50%.

If that’s shocking to hear, just wait. Social isolation has serious and far-reaching consequences for our health and well-being. Science has many theories on how to live past 100, but there’s one that stands above the rest. Of all the “secrets” to living a long life, the truth to longevity might just lie in our ability to deeply connect with one another.

Loneliness is a Disease, Too

The link between a lack of strong social relationships and detrimental health outcomes is impossible to ignore.  It can lead to chronic activation of different systems in our body, such as the immune, neuroendocrine, and metabolic systems.

These systems are involved in the development of common age-related health issues like heart problems and some types of cancer. Having less social support, being socially isolated, or just feeling lonely, can increase inflammation similar to the effects of physical inactivity.

Chronic inflammation throughout the body is connected to various chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer's disease.  It also contributes to various mental, cognitive, and physical health issues that raise the risk of premature death.

Earlier this year, the United States became one of a list of countries that have declared loneliness to be an epidemic. The US Surgeon General released an 82-page report titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation”. It details many of the causes of social isolation, as well as its effects, both societal and individual. According to this report, research indicates that poor social connections are associated with a 29% higher risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.

Additionally, chronic loneliness and social isolation in older adults can elevate the risk of developing dementia by approximately 50%.  Studies have found connections between social relationships and markers of inflammation, poorer immune function, and overall bodily stress.

The study also found that people who are more stressed tend to have fewer friends or social connections. Those dealing with stressful relationships often engage in unhealthy habits like poor eating and increased smoking. Stress can have widespread effects throughout our body, and the way our body’s systems handle stress plays a big role in how long we live.

Treating the Loneliness Epidemic

The Surgeon General’s plan also detailed a plan to combat the effects of social isolation from individual, community, and national perspectives. The plan includes specific recommendations for governments, healthcare workers, and regular individuals, as well as many others. The US isn’t the only country dealing with a loneliness epidemic; it’s spread worldwide.

In some parts of the UK, family doctors (GPs) are now suggesting activities like book clubs to help patients with both health and personal issues. This survey found that one in five visits to GPs in England is because of non-medical problems, like feeling lonely or having trouble with work or relationships.

Here's how it works: When a GP sees that a patient has non-medical needs, like needing help with money, getting around, or making friends, they connect them with a social prescribing link worker. These link workers are not doctors but professionals who talk to the person, figure out their problems, make a plan together based on what the person wants, and connect them with the right resources.

The results seem positive. About half of the 9,000 people helped by British Red Cross link workers said they didn't feel lonely anymore after about 12 weeks. This shows that addressing non-medical issues through social prescribing can really make a difference in people's lives.

The Japanese government has tried something even more surprising. One in five Japanese women in their fifties have never been married; more shockingly, one-third of Japanese men in their fifties said the same. Over time, young people’s lack of interest or ability to start a family led to a steadily declining birth rate. To alleviate this problem,  In 2020, they unveiled plans to invest in AI-powered matchmaking software.

The jury is still out on whether this attempt at playing cupid for its citizens will have an impact on Japan’s birth rate. It takes time for couples to meet and decide to settle down together, so we won’t see the results of this matchmaking experiment for another few years. What we can see is that even governments around the world are noticing the powerful effects of connection.

Connection is the Best Medicine

More diverse social networks were associated with greater resistance to the common cold. People who have strong connections with others are more eat well, smoke less, and are a bit more active. A comprehensive study found that respondents who reported close friendships saw a 9% increase in their likelihood to exercise and reduced the risk of depression by 17%.

Researchers also noticed the relationship between social bonds and major health consequences. They saw a 19% lower likelihood of having a stroke, and a 24% lower chance of passing away before the end of the eight-year study.

In a 2016 study, researchers found that people who have more friends or a bigger social circle are also better at enduring pain. The reason behind this is linked to a natural chemical in our brains called endorphin, which is a powerful painkiller, even stronger than morphine.

Endorphins not only help us cope with stress, whether it's physical or emotional, but they also give us a good feeling when we're around others, making us want to connect socially. The presence of longstanding social connections promotes our brain’s ability to produce endorphins, making them more readily available to us in times of physical discomfort.

In the context of chronic health conditions, social support has also proven to be beneficial. In diabetic patients, family involvement and support have consistently demonstrated positive effects on disease management for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

In both the long- and short-term, being with the people we love is good for our health. From reducing stress to increasing cognitive functioning, the benefits are evident. So, if you’re looking for your personal fountain of youth, start by exploring your friendships and family relationships. That’s where the real magic is.


Explaining the Chemistry of Lust

When we talk about love and lust, we're diving into the feelings that make human connections so complicated. It's not just about the excitement and nervousness; there's a whole emotional landscape at play. And that’s not to mention the explosion of chemical reactions happening all around your brain and body, making you feel a million things all at once.

Lust and love might seem like similar experiences on the surface. Truthfully, they aren’t all that different from a chemistry standpoint. They both cause faster heartbeats and sweaty palms, and they both make your brain light up like a Christmas tree. If we look deeper, however, we can see they have some key differences.

The Chemistry of Lust

Let's start by talking about lust, which is like a powerful magnet that can pull people together. A mix of hormones, neurotransmitters, and chemical reactions are in the driver's seat. These all contribute to our libido, or our sex drive, and they play a crucial role in stoking the fiery feelings of lust.

Before you even speak to your intended mate, the communication has already begun. A mix of chemicals called pheromones act as chemical messengers in the air between you and your possible bedmate. All over the animal kingdom, smell is hugely important in mating. Pheromones can convey things like health, fertility, and evolutionary fitness.

Scientists disagree on how important pheromones are to human sexual response, but there is evidence to suggest that our olfactory system—that’s our sense of smell—can read these signals and use them to decide the viability of our intended mate.

Testosterone is closely associated with male libido. This means that when the heat turns up in the bedroom, testosterone spikes. In female libido and health, testosterone plays a relatively small but important role as well. It works with estrogen, the most important sex hormone for women, to increase sexual desire and arousal.

Increased estrogen production is also the reason many women feel an increase in their libido around ovulation, about two weeks after their menstrual cycle begins. This is when estrogen production peaks, before slowly declining through the latter half of the cycle. This causes an increase in sex drive as well.

All the hormones coursing through you create a mix of intense feelings, drawing you in. Then dopamine, one of the pleasure-causing chemicals in our brains, rushes in, making you feel euphoric. It works with oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone” to make sex feel rewarding, driving you to keep going.

A burst of oxytocin floods your brain during orgasm. This helps make a one-off romp feel more intimate. Oxytocin fosters feelings of trust and attachment. This contributes to a sense of connectedness. It also helps explain why you might feel emotionally closer to a partner after some time in the bedroom.

A chemical cocktail in your brain is telling you this is perfection, but don't trust it blindly. The feeling of lust is all about temporary, physical attraction. A passionate introduction doesn't always mean there's a deeper connection.

Love vs. Lust

So, what’s the difference between love and lust? One big thing is timing. Lust peaks in the early, exciting phase of a relationship, fueled by the novelty and mystery of a new partner. It activates the brain's reward center, making you feel euphoric and ready for another hit. This sudden rush of passion may create a strong initial connection, but according to relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch, lust always fades over time.

Love can certainly grow from this place. However, lust alone cannot form the basis of a lasting romantic connection. Lust puts us into a heightened state of arousal, making it difficult to sustain over a long period. In simple terms, what goes up must come down.

Unlike lust, love sustains itself over time through a more steady and consistent release of oxytocin and serotonin. When you're in love, parts of the brain associated with attachment and memory light up too. However, the differences aren’t just chemical; Dr. Orbuch says that love and lust are two completely different emotions.

The Complexity of Love

While lust is about sexual gratification, falling in love is about deep emotional attachment. This is the basis of a lasting connection that goes beyond the temporary excitement of lust. According to Dr. Orbuch’s research, there are four key features that distinguish love from lust.

The first of these is connection. While lust makes it easy to connect with our partner, people in love want to connect with each other’s friends and family as well. Whether we like it or not, the approval of our loved ones is a big factor in our choice of relationship. We want our loved ones to spend time with our partner and be impressed by them.

The second sign is something Dr. Orbuch calls mutuality. Someone in a relationship with mutuality might say things like “We went to the store” instead of “I went to the store.” Their partner is a main character in their story, because their lives are intertwined. Lust won’t drive you toward mutuality; thinking of yourself as part of a couple is a sure sign of loving feelings.

The next difference Dr. Orbuch says to look for is self-disclosure. Lust is a temporary feeling that doesn’t leave much space for emotional vulnerability. As you fall in love, you’ll begin to trust your partner with more intimate details about yourself. This could be anything from discussing your hopes and dreams to confiding something private.

Finally, Dr. Orbuch says that you’ll know it’s love when your relationship has a degree of interdependence. She describes this as the influence you and your partner have on one another. This might mean asking for their advice about a big decision. It could also look like asking them for support when you’re going through a hard time or calling to celebrate your successes.

Please note that this is different from codependency. In any relationship, it’s important to maintain a sense of individuality and to be present in your other relationships. At the end of the day, you should still be making your own decisions in a healthy relationship. Your partner should add to your life, not take over it.

Love and lust might start from a similar place, but they have different purposes in our lives. Lust might spark the initial attraction, but it's love that keeps the fire burning. Neither is morally better; in fact, both are important in our emotional lives. The key is finding a balance and learning the difference between these emotions. So, the next time you feel passion flaring up, ask yourself—is it the temporary thrill of lust or the lasting warmth of love?


What Does Vulnerability Look Like in New Relationships?

Vulnerability is the foundation upon which healthy and long-lasting relationships are built. It involves being open and honest with your partner about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even when doing so is uncomfortable or challenging. When seeing someone new, vulnerability is especially important because it allows you to establish trust and create a deeper connection with your partner. 

In new relationships, vulnerability can take many forms, but it often involves sharing personal information that you might not typically share with others.  For example, it may look like sharing your hopes and dreams, even if you think they may seem silly or unrealistic. It may look like opening up about your fears, insecurities, or past traumas. It can also take the form of expressing your feelings and emotions, even when they're difficult to articulate or understand.

Vulnerability also involves being honest about your expectations and needs in the relationship. For instance, if you're looking for a serious commitment, it's important to express that to your partner so that you're both on the same page. It can also look like asking for help or support when you need it. This can be challenging, especially if you're used to being self-sufficient, but it's important to recognize that asking for help is okay.  By doing so, you are showing your partner that you trust and value their opinion.

Why is vulnerability Important?

When we enter into a new relationship, it can be tempting to present ourselves in the best possible light. We may hide our flaws and vulnerabilities, hoping to impress the other person and win their affection. However, this approach can ultimately backfire, as it prevents us from developing deep and meaningful connections with our partners.

As Brene Brown shares, the ability to be vulnerable requires you to believe that you are worthy of a deep connection. By doing so, we allow our truest self to be seen and heard. We give our partner the opportunity to know us on a deeper level and to connect with us in a more authentic way. Feeling seen and understood can lead to a deeper sense of trust and intimacy within the relationship. 

When we are willing to be vulnerable, we are taking a risk. However, we are also becoming more resilient. There is always the possibility of being hurt or rejected, but by facing these fears, we develop tools to cope with difficult emotions when they arise. We are also sending the message to our partner that we trust them enough to share our true feelings and in doing so, we encourage them to do the same. Trust and authenticity are essential for building a lasting connection. 

Steps to being vulnerable in your relationships

Starting a new relationship can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be intimidating and scary. Vulnerability requires you to let your guard down and expose your true feelings and emotions, which can be difficult, especially if you have been hurt in the past. However, it is an essential part of building a strong and healthy relationship. Let’s look at some practical steps you can take.

  1. Recognize the Benefits of Vulnerability

Vulnerability allows you to connect with your partner on a deeper level, build trust, and strengthen your emotional bond. It also allows your partner to understand your true feelings and emotions, which can help them support you better.

  1. Identify Your Fears

Take some time to reflect on what makes you afraid to be vulnerable. Is it the fear of rejection? Or, are you afraid of being misunderstood or judged? Once you identify your fears, you can work to address them and overcome them.

  1. Practice Active Listening

When your partner shares something with you, make sure to actively listen and respond in a supportive and empathetic way. Giving your full attention, asking follow up questions, and validating their feelings will help build trust and make your partner feel safe and comfortable.

  1. Be Honest

Honesty is key in any relationship, and it's especially important when it comes to vulnerability. Be honest about your feelings, even if they are difficult to express. Your partner will appreciate your honesty and will be more likely to reciprocate.

  1. Take Things Slow And Set Boundaries

Building a strong and healthy relationship takes time, and there is no rush to share your deepest fears and insecurities on the first date. Begin by sharing small things about yourself and your life, such as your interests, hobbies, and goals. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually build up to more personal topics. Set some healthy boundaries in the beginning and only share what you are comfortable with. There’s plenty of time to talk, so you don’t need to overshare early on.

If you are in a new relationship, take some time to reflect on your level of vulnerability. Are there certain areas where you could be more open and honest with your partner? Remember, vulnerability is a process and it takes time to build. By taking these steps, you can work to overcome your fears and become more vulnerable with your partner. Remember, vulnerability is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it's an essential component of any successful relationship. While it can be difficult at times, the rewards of a deeper emotional connection and a strong relationship are well worth the risk.