The first time I heard about the idea of an open relationship, I winced.  It didn’t sound like something I would like, or something that could be a viable possibility in a successful romantic relationship.  I vowed to myself early on that I would never be in one, and would never support one.  But when, to my surprise, my boyfriend of four years and I came to the conclusion that an open relationship may be what was best for us, I knew it was the right decision.  We had been going through a rough patch in our relationship, and had actually tried breaking up for a brief period of time, but had realized that we were still emotionally committed to each other.  However, we didn’t want to tie each other down to the commitment of a full blown relationship as we worked through personal and shared struggles. So we decided that we would stay emotionally committed to each other while allowing ourselves to explore physical relationships with other partners.  

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We did this for three months, with much success, before returning to a fully committed relationship.  (We chose to return to full commitment because our communication and connection with each other had strengthened significantly in our time in the open relationship.)  I would argue that our experience with an open relationship has made our relationship even better than it was before.  But how did this happen, and how can you make an open relationship work for you?  There are a few key things necessary to ensuring that your open relationship helps to strengthen your connection to your partner and enhance your relationship.

 

Set the Rules

It’s important to have an open, honest conversation about what you are and aren’t comfortable with before you jump into an open relationship.  What are the parameters of what each of you are allowed to do with other people?  Do you want to be told about the relationships your partner has with others, and if so, how would you like to be told?  Is there any particular person that you wouldn’t be comfortable with your partner becoming intimate with?  Don’t be shy.  Cover as much as you can so that you don’t miss anything or have any surprises along the way.  You can also set more rules as they come up following  individual situations, but it’s nice to feel like you have all of your bases covered before you start.  This way, feelings won’t get hurt at any point and you can both stay happy and keep your relationship healthy.

Communicate and Be Honest

Tell each other everything.  It can be easy in an open relationship to become worried that your partner is hiding things from you or constantly seeing other people when you’re not with them.  To ease these worries, make sure you and your partner are always open with each other about when you’re going to see someone else, and then afterwards, what happened with that person.  The detail you go into about your interactions with other partners is at you and your partner’s discretion–perhaps you don’t want to know anything, perhaps you want to know everything, but be prepared to share the latter.  It can be comforting to know everything about your partner’s encounter with another person so that there is nothing left to the imagination and nothing to wonder about or question.

Don’t be afraid, either, to share when you aren’t comfortable with something.  If you aren’t comfortable and don’t share it, you could become hostile or upset with your partner, which can get in the way of your emotional relationship.  The more open and honest you are about the way you’re feeling, the better.  You’ll actually find that the way that you communicate about the open relationship will significantly improve the way you communicate about other topics, too.  You’ll be unafraid to ask the tough questions or be open about how you’re feeling, which will strengthen your emotional connection with each other.

No Pictures, Please

It’s so easy for us to look up pictures of the people our partners are having relations with so that we can compare ourselves to them, but I advise  against this.  It doesn’t have any benefit, and just gets inside your head to get you to place judgment on yourself: are they prettier than me?  Skinnier than me?  Smarter than me?  Remember that your partner is emotionally committed to you; they love you for who you are and don’t judge you for who you are not.  Just because they are physically intimate with another person, doesn’t mean they are emotionally intimate with them.  Make sure that if either one of you does start to have romantic feelings for one of the people you are having relations with, you speak up and cut things off with that other person immediately.  An open relationship is not about finding another life partner, it’s about allowing yourself to have freedom to see other people when you’re not ready to be in a completely committed monogamous relationship with somebody you have strong feelings for.

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 I would argue that our experience with an open relationship has made our relationship even better than it was before.

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No Judgment

This goes for your partner and yourself!  You made this mutual decision, so allow yourself to enjoy it.  Seeing another person when you’re in an open relationship is not cheating, it’s part of the deal, and you have permission from the person you love to do it.  So have fun!  Don’t judge yourself for going out and exploring other people, and don’t judge your partner for doing it, either.  Also make sure not to judge how many partners you each have, and not to make it a competition of who can have more partners.  That’s not what it’s about. It’s possible that you’ll find, like I did, that casual physical relationships with others isn’t for you, while your partner finds themselves enjoying them immensely, or vice versa.  This is okay, and perfectly normal.  Make sure to support each other no matter what ends up happening, and, as always, speak up if you feel uncomfortable.


Remember that this is a conscious choice you’re making with your partner, and that in the end, you two are the most important people in the relationship.  If either of you feels uncomfortable, speak up.  Make sure your communication is the best that it can be.  Have no judgment with each other, and always remember that, at the end of the day, they love you no matter what.  They’re your best friend, and like any good relationship, an open relationship with them will take work.  But it’s worth it in the end.  You may find that your love for them is even stronger than it was before.

 

Madison Kitchen is an actor, singer-songwriter, lipstick enthusiast, and blogger here.  You can find her searching for new cookie recipes, frolicking through New York City, or staring at chandeliers for extended periods of time.

 

We often hear people say that communication is the cornerstone of all good relationships.  I, too, happen to subscribe to that belief.  However, people oftentimes disagree on what qualifies as effective communication.

Once upon a time long, long ago, there was a world without the Internet.  The only way people could communicate with one another was through speaking directly to one another or by putting pen to paper.  They couldn't tweet or text or send an emoticon to express an idea, and therefore were unable to have abbreviated responses to situations or scenarios.  They were forced to formulate their ideas and opinions fully before expressing them; there was an art to the written and spoken word.  

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To be fair, social media does play a valuable and irreplaceable role within today’s society.  It has a place but should not replace how we communicate.  All too often I feel that people rely too heavily on technology for interaction in lieu of real conservation.  

For example, some very dear friends of mine were experiencing marital difficulties.  Like all married couples, they went through periods of frustration and forgot how to communicate effectively.  Almost everyone argues, especially married couples, but ultimately their goal is to find common ground and reach some sort of compromise.  In order to achieve compromise, both individuals have to be able to make their point as well as hear the counterargument from their spouse.  In my humble opinion, one can’t successfully do this with a series of texts.  Texting, however, is exactly what this couple was doing rather than speaking, even though they were still living in the same household.  How can one fully convey what is in their heart through a text?

This form of parallel communication has become the norm in the modern world.  We tweet, text, comment, and give a thumbs up or thumbs down on Facebook and feel as if we've accomplished something.  Having an argument via technology, however, is not truly engaging and should not be considered debating.  One can only do that when they speak face to face.  Regurgitating sound bites or cutting and pasting an article from a Facebook newsfeed is not formulating an original thought or even defending a position, and yet we are all guilty of doing this.  

We have to go back to the basics and remember how to communicate, argue, and debate.  We also need to do this without adding insults, and instead remember that we’re communicating with other real people.  It’s easy to insult someone when you can’t see them.  Technology removes us from one another and removes the intimacy.  Where there is no intimacy, it's easy to lack empathy.  Without empathy, compromise cannot exist.

Once we learn to communicate effectively on a smaller scale with a significant other, a friend, or a family member, we become armed with a proper set of skills, which allows us to engage in healthy conversation and debate with others.

Use technology and social media as a tool for your voice to be heard.

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When I first decided to write about communication, I was simply going to focus on the difficulties and challenges we face within our own relationships.  Then, the inauguration happened, followed by several protests and the Women’s March.  I simply could not ignore our current political climate.  Social media was and still is buzzing with anger and hope.  Yet most arguments posted on social media were one-sided because,again, all one can do is post a comment or an emoticon. My advice to you, the reader, is this: Use technology and social media as a tool for your voice to be heard.  Do not use it in lieu of your voice as a mouthpiece, but rather as a platform.  If you want to effect change, gather, march, rally, and engage in healthy well-informed debate.  Communication truly is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships and therefore a healthy society.

With that being said, I will leave you with this parting thought, the same thing I used to tell my young students; 'Remember how to use your words.  Words matter.  Let me hear your voice and I will listen.'

 

April Leite is originally from Massachusetts, went to Barry University in Miami and received a BA in Communications.  She started her Masters at Fort Valley State in Education and finished at the University of Phoenix.  She has published two children’s books, has a novel coming out in the spring, currently owns and operates pupwalks.com and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs. Learn more at apriljean.com.

 

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New weather almost always summons a new wardrobe, but there’s something about fall that’s particularly best for closet revival, and not just because sweaters and coats are celebratory rewards to a summer of failed dieting.  I’ve heard it said that September is the ‘January of Fashion’—that is, a sort of New Year when fresh looks hit the runways and windows, and the pages of our favorite magazines seem to chant in unison that as our Earth makes yet another rotation around the Sun and the climate adjusts itself accordingly, it’s time once again to revamp our closets and get ourselves some fresh, new attire.  

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For me, though, this changing season beckoned more than just a change of clothes.  As I finished reading a Harper’s Bazaar essay titled ‘The Best of What’s New' ('Welcome to a new season, one [of] a myriad of possibilities…,' it began) and browsed emails shouting subject lines such as ‘Introducing THIS’ or ‘3 NEW UPDATES You Need To Check Out…' it seemed that October’s chilling winds were nipping at me to evaluate the previous season’s mishaps that were not wardrobe-related, urging a restructuring of my emotional baggage, in addition to my handbag collection: 

For me, this fall meant a friend cleanout.

The ex-friend-in-question was one of the closest people in my life.  He was one of my cooler accessories, like a really trendy pair of worn-in Stan Smiths or a Céline bag that has everyone jealous the minute you walk into the room.  As a confidante, he warmed me for many years like a favorite wool sweater that’s so cozy but also just itchy enough to remind you that it's not synthetic but raw, real, honest, and very much there.  He knew everything about me from my deepest romantic regrets to my most embarrassing bowel movements.  He’d seen me through the questionable fashion choices of freshman year of college, horrible dating choices senior year, the woes of finding homes in New York, the emotional instability of finding (or not finding) employment.  

Yet all of a sudden he wasn’t fitting correctly anymore.  Something was too tight for comfort, too scratchy.  We were fighting all the time.  I couldn’t wear my pants properly.  Everything seemed discolored.  I decided I was moving on.

'Changes may have taken place on the home front, Aquarius, perhaps unexpected repairs or someone moving in or out…' my October horoscope stated matter-of-factly.  It was true: amongst other things, my September marked a move from my home of two years in quiet and arty Williamsburg, Brooklyn to the touristic and imposingly Manhattan neighborhood of FiDi—a move that forced me to finally contend with my collection of old, unworn, or ill-fitting garments stretching hinge to hinge across a closet that would not fit into my new closet also known as my new bedroom. Hashtag, New York.

Usually, no matter the weather, I hoard clothes.  I hoard them for the memories of when and where I bought them—say, this dress from Prom (…I do mean high school), this scarf because my grandmother made it, these old Converse that helped me navigate a semester abroad, from the Boulevard Saint-Germain to class on Rue de Passy, to trains from Milan to Bologna.  Clothes tell my story; they allow moments and memories to live on much longer than the temporality of events can allow.  Wardrobes are like wearable photo albums that allow us to revisit places, and people, or ourselves from times past just by digging through the backs of our closets.  Consequently I’ve always felt that throwing things away is a bit like throwing away a diary. 

This attachment is rather to my detriment, however.  My refusal to purge means I end up continuing to wear things I don’t actually look great in anymore, or which no longer have a place in my 'adult' life.  I’ll admit that I am one to keep vintage blouses with pit stains from too many parties, jeans purchased in 2008 that no longer fit my maturing, 25-year-old ass and/or have big holes in their crotches...which was like, maybe a cute look that one time at that beach party I attended during my dalliance with life as a slutty Sophomore.  Simply put, such garments could not reflect whatever centimeters of personal growth that I have clumsily inched towards as the sun rises and sets according to the Earth’s spinning. 

So it goes, they say that death must preempt life, or that only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.  This is also what they’re getting at when they say, simplistically, over-cheerfully, out with the old, in with the new.

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Only through the death of something can we ever truly find or experience renewal.

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Thus, I cleared my closet to clear my thoughts.  To purge my past self.  To welcome new beginnings.  I reassessed my existence and worked to connect with my authentic, future, better self after years of exploration, mistakes and revelation.  I did what the magazines and emails said to do and I evaluated, mended, hemmed, donated, replaced. I hit refresh.  It was with bittersweet relinquishment that I got rid of much of the fabric of my life, making room for a new sweater (or five), in a new size, in a new place, for a new me.  Actually, I got rid of so much clothing that I had to beg my old college roommate to trek her car across the Manhattan Bridge, let me stuff it to the brim, and drive me to a Goodwill to unload two years worth of fashion baggage. 'My God, Anne,' she’d said, seeing the mountain I was giving up, despite knowing all too well (after three years of living with me) about my attachment to sentimental, wearable clutter.

'My God, Anne,' she’d said, when I told her my former BFF and I were no longer speaking. 

I had never been through a friend break-up before. A phase-out, maybe. A succumbing to the strains of long distance. But never an active choice to remove a person—as we remove a blouse—from my phone’s Favorites.  I prided myself on loyalty for at least sentimental reasons (re: the same reasons I hoard clothes): so many people dared shoulder me through my various stages of development, helping me through hard times, loving me despite my (albeit continued) youthful stupidity.

But while rummaging through my old things, the main question became just how long one should keep and/or put up with fabulous shoes that give you blisters, with clothes that don’t actually work for your body anymore, or are broken in or down to the point of no return.  And I wondered, as I threw my resulting discernment on the curb and wiped my hands of all that, why we don’t tend do the same thing with the people in our life.  We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.

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We make friends and we expect them to fit us forever.

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But what happens when your companions, once trusted to bring you comfort and happiness, no longer measure up to what you need them to be?  The magazines offer lots of advice when it comes to cleaning out and enhancing our closets, but not much about how to sift through the Rolodex without killing your social circle, hurting people’s’ feelings, or getting lonely.  Loneliness—like nakedness—is a real threat, which causes us to hang on to our friends like an old shirt that’s pilling, stained, out-of-style, or slightly discolored but that’s just so comfortable and, you know, tells the story of an amazing night in Bushwick or Bastille or Boston—a keepsake that is very difficult to discard.

But if the blister-giving shoes, though fabulous, are always hurting you?  It’s one thing to buy a new shirt.  It’s not so easy to replace comrades.  We can’t just hang up our besties like we hang up an old shirt, or toss them aside to the Goodwill pile.  Our friends aren’t just old boots which we can place on a higher shelf when we get tired of looking at them.  

That, and an old shirt never offends so deeply as does a text that screams 'I NEVER want to speak to you again.'

And we all know that no retail therapy can fully heal a broken heart.  Anyone who has been through a breakup can tell you it is never an easy decision, especially after you’ve invested time, effort, money…blood, sweat and tears, probably, too…in the creating of a more perfect union.  But everything needs some dusting every now and then.  And so, as I stared into the starkness it occurred to me that this fall also marked a death of a very dear friendship in my life, which was perhaps the biggest, most jarring change of all.  The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'

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The question was no longer 'What will I wear?' but 'Who will I call?'

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It does seem a bit silly to compare a toxic relationship to an ill-fitting blouse.  Growing tired of a shirt is of course nowhere near as painful as falling out of love with a human—even if both clothed you, either physically or metaphysically, in love and confidence and joy, and the smells of shared cigarettes and perfumes. Each knows of your physical flaws, your bad drinking habits, your muffin tops and yet leaves the house with you anyway, helping you, empowering you, carrying you through stressful interviews or long nights out that ended with your face covered in either pizza grease or tears, or both.

Each helped you emulate you, even if by coming loose at the seams in a worn and likely inadvertent way of urging you to move on and go shopping for something else that fits you better.

And thusly, my friendship folded.

The silence that ensued in this 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,' as Keats called Autumn—the empty hum of cold, still air left behind when the geese have migrated south and the waters surrender to ice’s imminent reign—was a really a reverberating sense of, if not withdrawal, then a somber mix of reflection and apprehension.

My closet rack clacks with empty hangers, bare like trees that have dropped their foliage and await what I, too, now face, without my favorite sweater—as the season now gracefully transitions to winter, as my friendship which dangled like a crispy leaf withering in chilled November wind, which one soft blow proved too overpowering for any resistance to its falling fate—

Frost.

 

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Loneliness is a topic that some people might be hesitant to talk about because who wants to be lonely?  It's not a good feeling, and for some it can be quite uncomfortable to express out loud to someone.  This kind of loneliness comes from being away from friends and being so enveloped in your work so much that the concept of having a social life is nonexistent.

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My routine has been work, home, and freelancing on the side on a continuous loop since graduating college.  I haven't really had the time or extra finances to catch up with friends and it has really begun to take a toll on me.

So far, I've been reminiscing on my past college experiences and I've realized that I miss my friends.  It's not enough to text each other; I'm longing for a face-to-face chit chat over drinks, good food, and a bit of shopping on the side.  Since moving back home, it is starting to become less about me and more about making sure that my family is okay.  I'm someone who loves to be helpful in any way possible to those close to me, and because of that, sometimes I can lose a bit of myself.  Also, adding work into the mix, I've become a huge hermit (more so than I already was.)

Being in the social media age, I see friends from my graduating class going on vacations with their friends and I'm sitting at home wondering when it will be my turn. I know timing is everything but social media allows you to think that you do not have it all together.  But I’m here to tell you that there are ways to overcome  loneliness or feeling left out:

1) Reach out to your friends

If you feel that you need to see your friends, don’t be afraid reach out and ask.  Don't wait for them to text you, be the link that sets up the social event, then be the one to make it happen.

2) Join Meetup.com

This is an app designed to help you meet new people based on your location and interests.  I have used this app to meet local friends in my area based on common interests that I listed in the application.  I currently keep in touch with two other members and we occasionally meet up and have coffee and chit chat.  This app allows me to meet other people and not be too bothersome to my other friends.

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Social media allows you to think that you do not have it all together

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3) Allow each other to separate

Sometimes with our greatest friends, there will be times when you aren't going to see each other as much; living abroad, getting married, and having a baby are all good examples of times when lives and friendships change.  As a friend you need to allow your friends to live their lives.

4) Be comfortable in your lonliness

You’ll be surprised by how many things you get done when you have no one to meet up with.  About a year ago, I decided to use this time of loneliness to get things done like creating a blog.  Focus on your goals such as trying yoga, read a book you've been putting off, and many other activities you wish you had the time to do.  Being lonely can be frustrating, but if you use it to accomplish your personal goals it can also be very rewarding.  I’m starting to appreciate my loneliness in an effort to figure some things out for myself, and I've made so many strides that I am very proud of.

Being lonely is something that I’ve had to deal with for a while and I’m getting used it to little by little.  I do miss my friends and I now know that we will all have our get together one day.  We're all working to make the best lives for ourselves, so that makes waiting not so bad.  In the meantime, I am steadily working on my crafts and pursuing my goals as much as possible.


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They say that love blinds you… and I would say that is definitely true for me.  When you finally stumble upon that person who you know is the one, it seems effortless to give up your entire life and dedicate everything to him or her from then on to keep that relationship.  WRONG CHOICE!  If that person really is the one, your relationship with them will stay intact on its own -   you should never have to even think about giving up anything in your life, for another person. 

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When it comes to relationships there are going to be compromises that both people must make for each other, but these compromises shouldn’t interfere with who you truly are as a person.  These compromises are important because you are both learning to love each other for who you truly are, not trying to take values away from one another.

Sadly, you often do this unintentionally.  You don’t even realize that you are losing yourself because you are so in love with the idea of love or the idea of finally having found a soulmate, that nothing else matters.  You suddenly start to let your world revolve around our significant other!

As women, we're independent and driven to live our lives and accomplish great things.  Letting a relationship come between this desire and having it take precedence over everything you’ve ever wanted is a major no-no.  You might think that love and that person are all you will ever need, and you are okay with having your dreams crushed — but that feeling will end shortly.  Think about the life you had before this special sweetheart entered it - you had goals and ambitions to actually be you!  Don’t let all of that go because you feel tied down to your relationship.  A true love will contain all of this without any need for dream-crushing and interruption.

At first you don’t even know what is happening, and then all of a sudden you realize your life has slipped away from you. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to prevent this life-changing situation from happening to you.  You have to really want it and put your mind to it, and not be blinded by this new love.  You must stand your ground and not let this happen to you.  If you are now realizing that you have lost yourself in favor of your relationship and you are starting to freak out–don’t.  There are plenty of ways to prevent this life-changing situation from happening to you.  You have to really want it and put your mind to it, and not be blinded by this new love.  You can turn this around and put a stop to it.  Live your life the way you are meant to live it.

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A true love will contain all of this without any need for dream-crushing and interruption.

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Learn to Love Being Alone

It’s important to take a closer look at yourself and evaluate your true interests and passions, and how you want your life to balance out.  Take some time to start a journal or jot down some notes about yourself, and how you would want others to see and describe you.  This is an important exercise because we don’t usually take the time to look at ourselves from a different perspective — we see what we want to see and act without thinking most of the time.   Your lifetime is finite, so make sure you are putting it to good use.  Always do you.  No matter what anyone else tells you, keep listening to that voice in your head telling you what you want, because it’s your life and you can have everything you want.  No one can take anything away from you.

Friends are Forever

Major key: always keep your friends close by.  This is one of the hardest parts of getting into a new relationship.  You might be  used to constantly being with your friends and attached at hip, but as soon as you take an interest in someone it can be easy to forget all about those friends and drop everything for this person.  Avoiding this mistake is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind.  You definitely do not want to lose your girls.  Once you stop making plans with them or showing up to things they invite you to because you are only spending time with your 'soulmate,' you’ve hit a dead end.  Yeah, it’s nice to spend a lot of time with the person you love at first, but it’s extremely unhealthy to your life more than it is to your relationship.  There is a reason you have friends!  You shape each other’s lives.  You need those honest, caring, loving people that you trust with your life, especially when getting into a new relationship.  Once your honeymoon phase is over and you’ve completely let these important people slip out of your life, you will realize what a big mistake you’ve made.  Especially if your new lover has his own group of friends, you will need your girls to hang out with when he’s with them!  You don’t want to end up sitting alone, upset, wondering where you went wrong. Keep your friends close...

Family First

Don’t forget about the people who have always been there for you.  Just like your ugly stage and your awkward stage, through thick and thin family is always going to be there.  That is why it is so important to not lose touch with them, especially if a relationship is what is getting in the way of these values.  To overcome this potential sacrifice of your time, introduce your new lover to your family. Not only do you want your family to build a relationship with your significant other, bringing him or her around will encourage him to bond with your family as well. 

Have Boundaries from the Start

Make sure your partner knows that your independence isn’t a result of you trying to push him away.  Explain what you want to happen regarding your schedule and your time, and talk about when you two can be together and when you can’t.  Doing this at the beginning of a relationship sets up a steady flow for the rest of the relationship, because by knowing and understanding your partner's wants and needs, without thinking that you did something wrong, helps you both feel better. 

Make Sure This is What You Want

It might seem obvious and simple at first, but if you’re not happy, then leave.   It’s not always that easy, but it can end up being best for you.  To first let yourself believe that this person isn’t right for you is hard, but to then convince yourself to get up and leave is the harder part.  You might want this to work so badly, and you do everything you can to stay in the relationship and not let go.  That’s where you know it's wrong!  If you are trying so hard to make something work, then trust me, it is not meant to work.  Don’t force anything, slowly start to let go.  Awareness is extremely important because, remember, love blinds you and you must find a way to see through it. 

The list goes on and on, but it is up to you to decide what you want and to carry out the correct plan for your life.  Independence is the key to living a healthy life and having a healthy relationship. So go out and make a change for yourself right now, start living the way you want to!

 

Joli Rose is a 19 year old aspiring globetrotter who admires puppies and baking delicious chocolate chip cookies. she considers home to be anywhere that she is spending time with loved ones in her life. her heart belongs to the ocean, one of her biggest passions in life, along with DIY crafts, tie dying and writing short stories, blog posts and poems. if not found walking on the beach, she is probably shopping, baking, or striking a pose in front of a camera.

 

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