Looking for love, sex, or intimacy? It all starts with a first date. Don’t screw this up.

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There are few things in life as nerve-wracking as a first date.

Could this person be The One? What if you mess up and say something stupid? What if it’s a complete disaster and you just don’t connect with the other person?

Any first date can be fun when you approach it with an open mind and try not to put too much into it. Even if you don’t find true love, you might be able to make a new friend. And that’s worth trying to make a good impression.

Take a deep breath. Step back. It’s time to explore the world of dating.

Concepts

  • Why do we to on dates?
  • The difference between being genuine and being a pickup artist.
  • Understanding boundaries.
  • Tips on things you can do to make a good impression on a first date.
  • Things to avoid on a first date.
  • The importance of following up if you are interested.No game-playing.
  • How to decide when it’s time to friend each other on Facebook.
  • What to do if things don’t work out like you hope.

“Do Nows” this week are all about taking action to get started. We talk about setting up an online dating profile and scouting good first date locations in your town. Also, make sure you do a little self-reflection to ensure that you are comfortable with yourself.

This week’s listener has cold feet about a potential first date. What happens when you think you might want to back out?

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Resources

Scientific Guide to a First Date

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Sometimes those LTRs sneak up on you. Here’s how to tell it’s time to stop wasting everyone’s time and just commit to your S.O.

The event horizon between every STR and LTR is as awkward as a prepubescent’s first kiss.

The duel inside each person pondering “do I like them” and “do they like me” makes Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance seem sane.

The time comes in all relationships when each must decide if theirs is a temporary or long-term ride.

How does one know when it’s time to commit to being two? Here are eight ways to tell when you and your S.O. should gel.

When your laundry detergent and fabric softener have moved in together.

More often than not, do your clothes take a spin together? When it’s no longer necessary to go home to do laundry and to own four gallons of concentrated detergent, there’s a good chance it’s time to commit to sticking together. If you’re washing each other’s unmentionables, there must be a reason you’re clinging together.

When the only vegetable in your fridge is mold.

When your home fridge is as bare as a frat house fridge, and the only thing inside that’s not questionably nuclear is your Arm & Hammer, it may be time to unplug your ice box. That Sriracha sauce must be able to survive time eternal, so grab it, cancel your electric, and take your security deposit to your new life of “we,” “ours” and “us.”

You’re cooking most meals together anyway.

When the water in your toilet has evaporated and left a ring.

Has it been so long since you did a Number One or a Number Two in your own bathroom that there’s a ring around the bowl? It’s time to sublet, sell, or cancel. Your exit plan is becoming a waste and it’s time to shit or get off the pot (all puns intended).

When your pet has moved to your S.O.’s.

If your pet has packed their bags and moved in with your S.O., it’s time for you to do so. Your dog can’t stand a minute without you, and your cat pretends they don’t care if you’re there, but both want you around. If your partner sees you more frequently than your best friend, bring everyone together and become a happy family.

When your apartment looks like a wheat farm.

If your once green and luscious plants look like they’re one mill from a cereal bowl, it’s time to transplant yourself with your someone else. Even the hardiest of plants get sad without some TLC once or twice a week. Don’t let your plants die. Consolidate them with your S.O. and make your single home homier.

Everyone wins. Especially the plants.

When your mailbox looks like your inbox.

When your postal box has as much mail as your email inbox, and the post office wants to charge you rent, it’s time to pick an address. Let’s face it, keeping that Plan B is costing you time and money. Save time and money and live with your honey.

You start saying “let’s go home” instead of “let’s go to your place.”

When you act like you have one place but still have two, it’s time to make a move. We have so many decisions to make each day that we often self-select which decisions to make and not make. When decisions about here or there, together or separate disappear, you may have unintentionally picked an L/T S.O.

Your mom knows where to send the Christmas card.

When even your mom knows you won’t receive your Christmas card before President’s Day if she uses the same address as the IRS does, it’s time to commit to your S.O. and update the P.O.

Others can often see something about us better than we can. If your friends and family see you as more permanent than temporary, it may be time to commit.

Committing to an LTR is sometimes scary, but if any of these or other quirks suggest your LTR is your reality, update your relationships status on Facebook and in your head and put in 100%.

Life is too short for 50% and maybes. When you give your relationships your all, you’ll see how much your relationship has to give. Only then will you learn if your long-term thing will be a forever thing.

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Don’t sabotage your relationship with trash talk about your S.O. No matter how tempted you are to rag on your partner, keep it to yourself.

It’s a common TV and movie trope: there’s a woman sitting around with her girlfriends complaining about her husband. Each woman takes a turn talking bad about her man, all the while refusing to talk to him about it.

While it looks like harmless fun, this behavior is actually destructive for relationships.

Talking crap about your S.O. isn’t a fun pastime to do with your best friends. It’s a toxic habit that can destroy the foundation of your relationship.

Talk to your spouse, not about them.

You reinforce negative opinions.

You ever notice that the more you complain about something, the more negative you feel about it?

I’ve noticed there’s a huge difference between how I feel about something depending on if I’ve ranted about it for an hour or if I’ve simply let it go. Every sentence I say reinforces the negative thoughts in my head.

Marriage is also susceptible to negative talk. The more you complain about your spouse, the more your brain will reinforce those opinions — and the harder it will be to see anything positive.

If you want to have a happy marriage (or any relationship), you can’t inflate the negativity.

It’s O.K. to ask for advice from your friends. But it’s another thing altogether to trash talk your S.O.

Remember: this is the person you chose to be with. If you have respect for them and your relationship, you should keep quiet.

You make other people dislike your spouse.

Have you ever had a friend share something bad about their partner? What was it like the next time you saw them together? Did you think about what they’d told you? Were you able to look at the person the same way?

Every time you complain about your spouse to your friends or family members, you tarnish their perception of your partner.

Not only are you hurting your own opinion of your spouse, but you’re also ruining their relationships with other people without them knowing it.

That isn’t fair to your spouse, especially if you’re not bragging about them getting a raise at work or making a delicious cheesecake.

You’ll hurt their feelings.

Everyone has experienced finding out that someone they trusted was talking bad about them behind their back.

I can still remember every time someone close to me has done this. Imagine how your S.O. would feel if they found out what you were saying? Would they feel hurt, embarrassed, angry, ashamed?

If you think your spouse wouldn’t mind what you’re saying, then go ahead.

But if you have even the smallest inkling that your words could hurt them, you should stop. Long-term relationships are built on trust, and knowing that your partner is betraying you behind your back could destroy it completely.

When you get married, you enter a partnership that it’ll be you two against the world. Don’t break that agreement with trash talk.

It doesn’t help you figure it out.

There have been a few times when talking about my relationship problems with a friend has helped me see my husband’s point of view.

But unless you’re actively looking for a solution or a way to understand what they’re thinking, talking openly can make it worse.

The next time you feel tempted to dish about your S.O., question your motives. Are you trying to get an honest perspective from your friends or do you want someone to agree with you? Are you looking to see their point of view or for someone else to shit talk?

If you do get a friend’s advice and they disagree with what you’re thinking, don’t try to convince them. They might be seeing things from your partner’s point of view.

Talking crap to talk crap doesn’t help you work through the relationship issues. Any committed relationship takes work. And you don’t need to make that work harder.

What to do instead.

When I’m feeling upset, the first thing I turn to is my journal.

Writing out how I feel is the easiest way to let out my emotions without them affecting anyone else. I try to write down specifically why I’m feeling upset and then examine if what’s bothering me is worth bringing up.

If you’re having trouble articulating your problems, talking to a counselor can help. You can see one individually or as a couple. An objective third party can help you decipher what’s going on and how you can fix it together.

Anyone struggling to avoid complaining about their spouse should tell their friends why they’re trying to avoid it. Asking other people to help keep you accountable can make it easier to stay on track. Plus, it might help your friends to avoid repeating the habit.

If you’re complaining about the same topics, it’s likely time you discussed them with your spouse.

It’s easier to let them stay in the dark about what’s bothering you, but that’s a fast way to build a marriage full of secrets and lies. And that’s not a relationship that’s fulfilling on any level.

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Not excited about a long-term relationship with your partner? Up your breakup game.

Some people love falling in love and being with just one person.

Then, there are the people who love to “hit it and quit it.”

We don’t think much about another category. This third category of dating is evident when you’re just not as excited about the person you’re with. You’ve been clear about it and they just don’t seem to be getting the message.

You’re just not that into them.

And you certainly don’t want a long-term relationship.

The fun beginning.

In the beginning, it was great to have someone to do something with.

After all, normally you’re at home with the cat or the dog. On the one time you ventured outside of your home, you ended up meeting someone.

They seemed really nice until you went out to eat dinner and you were appalled by their table manners and how they treated the wait staff. At this point, you’re kind of turned off. But, you continue to hang out anyway, even though you’re just not that into them.

Trust me, this is a recipe for disaster.

If you’re not sure about how all of this will play out check out the following movie: He’s Just Not That Into You. It’s basically the Cliff Notes of what to look out for when you’re confused by what your boo is doing.

You’re a pretty nice person (you think) so you decide to cool it off because they aren’t the one for you. But, they just don’t seem to be getting the message.

What to do?

Be honest.

There’s nothing worse than being strung along in a one-sided relationship.

As kindly as possible tell them the truth. It’s not you, it’s me.

List all of the reason why you’re just not the right person for them or why you’re just not in the place to date them. Maybe you’re just not ready for a long-term relationship.

When you have this conversation, don’t leave the door open for confusion. Be clear that there is no possibility for you to be together in the future. Ever.

The real story.

We’re all adults here.

So the next one is all about asserting your awesome sexual self.

Maybe it has been a long time since you had sex. Your temporary partner fits your booty call requirements but not your long-term bae needs. Be clear that you just wanted to “hit it and quit it” and that nothing was going to happen beyond that.

Don’t be cruel, though. You may be the best that they’ve ever had, so understand why your persistent lover may be unwilling to get the hint, especially if they have been hoping for a long-term relationship.

Don’t be mean about saying you’re not the one for them, but do be firm about the fact that you are moving on and that you won’t be moving on with them.

Don’t be stupid.

It’s at this point when the dumper sometimes makes some ill-thought out mistakes.

One of the worst mistakes is taking back the annoying previous lover because you just got tired of them bugging you (which was probably what they were hoping for).

Don’t do this. It just creates an endless cycle of crazy that you are a willing participant in. You said you don’t want a long-term relationship with this person, so don’t encourage them.

Don’t accept any gifts your old bae wants to give you. It’s confusing to them and inconsistent with the message that you’re moving on.

Things to keep in mind as you press forward.

When it’s time to communicate with the persistent person who just doesn’t want to let you go, take a look at the entire situation.

Are they acting crazy? If that’s the case you need to keep your safety in mind and let your friends and family know that you’re becoming concerned about the situation.

Trust your gut. Do you feel like your safety is threatened because they just can’t let you go or they don’t seem to be responding to the message that you’re communicating? Get law enforcement involved if you feel like your safety is at risk.

Finally, if you’re not dealing with someone who is crazy but just not picking up on your message, don’t be mean. Ghosting? Not cool. The slow-fade? Not so cool either.

Just balls it up, meet for coffee, and get it done.

Move on.

Finally, don’t feel guilty about moving on.

We have all been on both sides of the dating coin. It’s a natural part of the dating process. Sometimes the person is just not right for you and that’s ok. Like the Bachelor, there is always another person out there waiting in the wings to find you.

Create that space by letting go of relationships that just aren’t working. That way you will be able to welcome the amazing new person in your life.

That might be the right person for you.

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Tired of feeling lonely and left out as everyone around you finds true happiness with a partner? It doesn’t have to be this way. Embrace solo life.

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Is everyone you know getting together with someone?

We’ve all been there. You’re routinely the only person without a “plus one.” But does it feel like it’s getting a little ridiculous?

There’s nothing wrong with being single, and some people even love it. But it’s hard to get comfortable with solo life when you feel like everyone else is finding true happiness while you miss out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even if you are looking for a special someone to spend part of your journey with, you can still enjoy the solo life.

Concepts

  • Society focuses a great deal on relationships, and that can add to anxieties about finding “the one.”
  • The basic need of belonging.
  • How the idea of marriage as a societal need influences us — and why it might be wrong.
  • Pressure from social media and the need to show off a relationship.
  • Some of the drawbacks of living the solo life.
  • Problems with feeling desperate and settling for someone.
  • How to strangle feelings of jealousy for your friends.
  • Tips for learning to love being alone.
  • Ideas for finding other people to spend time with while still enjoying the solo life.

Plus, don’t miss out on this week’s “do nows.” They focus on developing non-romantic connections with people in your area so you don’t feel as big a hole when you don’t have an S.O. and setting a “date night” with yourself.

We’ve also got a great listener question about how to deal with those nosy folks who keep bugging you to find a boyfriend/girlfriend and “get on with it.”

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Resources

When everyone around you is in a relationship
The AtlanticSociety will be just fine without marriage

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Don’t get in a serious relationship just because everyone tells you that you “should.” Do a little self-exploration first.

We’re encouraged to look for soulmates and at least try to get serious with others.

“Single” is still kind of a dirty word in our society.

The fact that everyone around you might be getting together, or your parents wish you would find someone, are not good reasons to enmesh yourself in a serious relationship.

Not everyone is ready for a serious relationship. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s better to be single than stuck in a bad relationship.

Before you decide that you need a serious S.O., here are some things to consider:

1. Do you even want a serious relationship?

We all desire to connect to other people. Humans are social animals, after all.

However, wanting connections doesn’t necessarily mean that you are ready for a serious relationship.

I love my connections with family and friends. I also enjoy dating. There are people I like spending time with more than others. But none of this means I want a serious relationship.

Because I don’t.

like being single.

If you find yourself happy being single, there’s no reason to end that because those around you say you need to “grow up” and find a serious relationship.

2. You feel incomplete without someone.

This one is tricky. Perhaps you want a serious relationship. But before you dive in, you need to figure out the why behind this desire.

Do you feel incomplete without someone? Do you feel like you need another half to be whole?

This might be an indication that you aren’t actually ready for a serious relationship. Before you can be a good partner, you need to be comfortable with yourself.

Part of being ready for a serious relationship is knowing that you can hold up your end of the bargain as a whole person. If you require another person, you probably need to get a handle on yourself before you take things to the next level.

3. You feel like your potential S.O. just needs someone.

I’m not in the business of “saving” others. And you shouldn’t be, either.

In many cases, you might look at a potential S.O. and decide that s/he is perfect — except for one little thing.

Or maybe you see great potential, as long as the other person chooses the right partner (you) to mold and shape him/her.

Whenever you go into a serious relationship with the idea that you are going to help the other person become different or better or whatever, that’s a serious red flag.

If you go around seeing others as people to save, you aren’t ready for a serious relationship. Yes, you should want to help other people and be there for them. But at the same time, you shouldn’t view your relationship as a way to change someone or “save” them.

Any serious relationship should be a partnership of equals. You and your S.O. should be at the same point in life, and ready to progress toward the same goals together.

4. You try to fit yourself to what someone else wants.

Back when I was younger, I tried to project a certain image. Even though I didn’t fit what I was told a woman should be, I tried to be that thing. Well, sort of.

I wanted to “prove” that I could be a good housekeeper, and that having a couple of kids would be just fine, even though I was a little unorthodox. I tried to force myself into a gender role that wasn’t really me.

This resulted in a couple of relationships that didn’t really work out. After all, I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I wanted to project an image of someone my S.O. liked, rather than looking for someone who liked me for me.

Yes, we all grow and change as people. It’s a good thing. But you should be changing for you, and making progress with your own life.

If you are changing because you want to be more attractive to someone, that’s a problem.

There’s a difference between compromising (which we all have to do in all of our relationships, romantic or not), and changing to fit someone else’s ideal.

Really think about how you behave in a relationship. If your relationship becomes about how you can adopt your S.O.’s opinions and hobbies wholesale, that’s a pretty good sign you aren’t ready for a serious relationship.

Instead, work on figuring out who you are, and what you like about yourself. Once you are comfortable enough with who you are that you don’t feel like you need to subordinate that to make someone else happy, you’re on the right track.

5. You don’t know what you really want.

This isn’t just about what you want in a relationship. It’s also about what you want out of life.

Do you have an idea of who you are and what you want?

One of the reasons my marriage finally died after a little more than a decade was because my ex and I got married before we really knew what we wanted from life.

By the time we realized that some of the things we wanted didn’t really mesh, we were a few years in. Looking back, I know that I, at age 21, was not ready for a serious relationship — especially not one as serious as marriage.

There are people who do just fine at serious relationships at that age. It’s not really about age (although a few more years and perspective can help). It’s more about where you are in life, and whether or not you actually know what you want.

A little time for exploration doesn’t hurt. It would have helped me out. By the time I got married at 21, I had already had two relationships that had lasted more than a year. (The time from meeting my ex to our marriage was slightly less than three months.)

I had no idea what it meant to be in a serious relationship. I had no idea what I wanted. In fact, at age 36, I spent an entire year exploring my life and what I wanted.

Everyone should take a little time to explore themselves periodically. But it really helps to do it before you get into a serious relationship. If you know what you want out of life, it makes it easier to find someone to take that journey with you.

Bottom line: know thyself.

How do you know if you’re ready for a serious relationship?

The bottom line is you should know yourself. Intimately.

Once you really know yourself and are happy with that person, it makes sense to decide if you’re ready for a serious relationship.

However, even if you know yourself, you might still find you’re not ready to get serious. In fact, I know that I don’t want a serious relationship right now.

I am happy with myself. I am mostly happy with my life. I like the dynamic I have with my son. A serious relationship changes all of that. I like dating, but I’m not interested in taking it the next level with anyone.

Don’t start a serious relationship just because you feel like you “should” or because it’s “the next step.”

Only do it when you know yourself, and you actually want it.

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Can’t find a date? You’re probably not looking hard enough. Stop being so picky, say yes a little more, and see what’s out there. It’s just a date.

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As you get older, looking for a date becomes more and more challenging.

Once you get done with school, you’re left with your co-workers (usually a bad idea) or hitting up the bar (those beer goggles could lead you astray).

People are actually meeting their S.O.s with the help of friends and family, though. And, really, there are a surprising number of places to find someone to date — even if you think there’s a serious drought in your hometown.

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We’ll get to the bottom of what it takes to get a date, no matter where you are. Let’s start scouting out those options.

Concepts

  • Are setups really that bad?
  • Some of the places to try when looking for a date.
  • Pros and cons of different places to find dates.
  • Could online dating be the solution to your dating problems?
  • Why you consider saying yes more.
  • Do you know why you’re looking for a date?
  • How to figure out whether or not someone would make a good date.
  • Does it matter if you really hit it off, as long as you are at least trying?
  • Ideas for dating when you want to stay single.
  • Why you can’t be TOO picky when looking for a date.
  • How to let your friends know you’re looking.

Use our “Do Nows” to shake things up in your dating life. Figure out how to try something different in your approach and maybe even take a second look at someone you rejected. We’ll even talk about what to do AFTER the date. Is that date worth a second try?

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Resources

How most people meet their S.O.s
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