TIME relationships

6 Ways to Strengthen a Long-Distance Relationship

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You're defining and redefining your core values

Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and fans fire.” -Rochefoucauld

Love doesn’t always respect geographic boundaries, or easily take a backseat to educational pursuits, familial obligations, and career opportunities.

With an unprecedented number of dual-career couples in the modern world, being near the one you love is no longer always a guarantee.

Long-distance relationships (LDR) are proliferating, with an estimated 14 million couples defining their relationships as such and a staggering 75 percent of engaged couples reporting having been in a long distance relationship at some point.

Even as they become more common, in no way is a long-distance relationship easy.

They are hard … really hard. Living every day without the person you love most is like living on one meal a day instead of three. You can’t help feeling the gulf, the disconnection, the absence. You know ‘this is what it takes’ to keep the relationship going, and you don’t want to give up … but some days that pit in your stomach aches.

You wonder if, and for how long, you can keep this up, or worse, are you crazy for even trying. Surely no sane person could handle this, you tell yourself.

This is the unavoidable doubt and anxiety that accompanies all long distance relationships. Each day you consider how to make things work — and you wonder how many compromises you must make or how many other priorities must take a backseat before “too much” is just truly too much.

And then you remember how much you love this person, and like an alarm clock that snoozes, but won’t turn off, you push the anxiety away for awhile, delay thinking about it. But it’s always a part of the landscape of your relationship.

So, on the tough days when missing your far-away love feels like more than you can take, here are some ways to reframe the struggle to help make coping a bit easier:

1. Your relationship is stronger than you think! A 2013 study found that long-distance relationships are capable of being stronger and, even, more intimate than those that are more proximate. Long distance forces communication skills to develop and improve if a relationship is to survive. Not only is writing to each other a fantastic way to drill down into your true feelings and express yourself (which helps you), it is also builds needed intimacy with your partner and strengthens the relationship.

2. You’re defining and redefining your core values. Values are sometimes tricky to define and yet, they play a fundamental role in decision-making. Being away from your partner forces you to decide every day whether it’s worth it to continue, and ultimately helps you decide how to prioritize being together — these decisions are strengthening your values and personal sense of self.

3. The glass is half full. Instead of focusing on the separation, try celebrating the connection and love you feel. Research shows that gratitude strengthens relationships by promoting a cycle of generosity and other pro-social emotions. Yet another study found that gratitude boosts happiness … something that helps offset the misery of being alone. Next time you’re feeling like you can’t take another moment alone, redirect your attention to your blessings — that you feel love and connection with a partner who loves you. This a tremendous gift — one many never experience.

4. Novelty is boosting your bond. Doing something novel and interesting with your partner boosts your relationship satisfaction. What could be more novel than navigating the vicissitudes of connecting across time zones, and continents? You’re in this together, and that sense of teamwork creates a bond between you that deepens your relationship. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

5. Overextending isn’t necessary. Long-distance relationships require costly sacrifice that may tempt you to forgo your needs for the sake of the relationship. Skype sessions at extreme hours, expensive plane tickets, maxed out vacation leave, telling yourself that you’re “OK” being alone (when some days you just aren’t). You risk putting your wellbeing (and the relationship) in a dangerous place when you continuously overextend yourself. Just like we put on our own oxygen mask before helping others, apply that logic to your everyday life; taking care of yourself is critical to maintaining healthy balance in your relationship. Any partner worth keeping will understand and support you in this.

6. It’s OK if long distance isn’t for you. Long distance isn’t for everyone or every relationship — in fact, 20 percent of relationships are ultimately negatively impacted by the distance. If your relationship breaks under the pressure, it’s not necessarily the distance’s fault … or yours. This just isn’t the right relationship to fight that hard for. No matter how painful it feels at the time, this is an important truth for both of you to know. Recognizing the wrong relationship is a crucial step in finding the right relationship.

With our global culture, expanding professional opportunities, and technological advances … long-distance relationships are here to stay.

The good news is, both you and your relationship will gain strength through these obstacles — if you allow yourself to engage with your struggle and channel any anxiety into healthy choices for yourself, as well as the relationship.

In strengthening yourself, you’ll not only survive the distance, you’ll be better for it. Absence can indeed fan the flames of your passion, even if it’s for yourself and your own future.

This article originally appeared on YourTango

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TIME Sex/Relationships

Being Multiracial May Give You An Advantage In Online Dating

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But that's hardly the whole story, recent research suggests

In the otherwise newfangled world of online dating, an old secret remains: All is not fair in love.

This ugly truth was revealed in the book Dataclysm by OkCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, released last year, which used data collected from OkCupid users. It found that while we’d like to claim we have advanced as a society beyond judging people by the color of their skin, our habits show otherwise. Regardless of gender, according to the book, whites are most preferred, while blacks are least preferred. Asians and Hispanics fall somewhere in between. Toss gender into the quotient, and the facts get even more uncomfortable: Asian men, black women, and black and Latino men are considered the least desirable in the dating market, but Asian and Latina women are seen as the most desirable—perhaps because of fetishization, Rudder suggested.

But Rudder’s theory does not include a key, growing part of the American population: individuals who identify as multiracial. In a country where the number of people who identify as multiracial has grown substantially and 93% of multiracial people identify as white and black, what does dating data show about them?

A forthcoming study from the Council on Contemporary Families, to be published in August by the American Sociological Review, looks at this very question. Researchers analyzed data collected between 2003 and 2010 from a major online dating website and combed through 6.7 million messages exchanged between heterosexual men and women. The researchers were looking for how often Asian-white, black-white, and Hispanic-white multiracial people received responses to messages, compared to people of one race.

The three groups were the most common multiracial identifications on the site. Reciprocation, or response messages, were key to figuring out where multiracial people fell in perceived attractiveness because they were more “honest,” explains Celeste Curington from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of the authors of the study.

“We look at response rate versus attractive rate because of social desirability bias,” she says, noting that being multiracial often carries an added unspoken benefit of being “exotic.” “People will be less likely to claim what they will view. The response rates are more accurate [as a measurement] since we can actually see what they do.”

At first glance, there seems to be a remarkable advantage to being multiracial on the online dating scene.

“The most surprising finding from our study is that some white-minority multiracial daters are, in fact, preferred over white daters,” the authors write in a press release. Called the “dividend effect,” the authors found that three specific combinations were heavily favored in online dating: Asian-white women, Asian-white men, and Hispanic-white men.

But beneath the superficial results that being of mixed race is advantageous remains a more complicated, race-tinged story, write the authors, who note that the study’s results do not suggest a totally even playing field.

“White men and women are still less likely to respond to an individual who identifies as part black and part white than they are to a fellow white,” the authors write. And when they do respond, skin color still plays a role. “In some cases they [the preferences for the three multiracial groups] seem to be closely linked to a continuing partiality for lightness or whiteness,” the study notes.

But being lighter skinned is not the whole story. Virginia Rutter, professor of sociology at Framingham State University, and Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College, reviewed the results. The two warn against the takeaway that multiracial people are considered more attractive along skin color lines—a far too simple conclusion, they say.

It’s not as simple as societal preference for lighter-skinned people, and future consequences have yet to be measured, according to Rutter, who says that it helps to consider the results through “the arc of time.” Only 48 years ago, the ban on marrying a person of a different race was lifted nationally, and Rutter thinks societal acceptance of mixed race couples might indicate more acceptance—or, very possibly, less. Curington, one of the study’s authors, points to the multicultural movement of the 1990s that popularized identification of a person beyond being black, white, Asian or Hispanic as a key factor, too. “After those changes came about, there was an increased representation of mixed people in general,” Curington says.

“As these changes lead to a growing multiracial population, is it possible that the multiracial dividend will be extended, or at least begin to counter some of the racial penalties that have existed in the dating and marriage market?” ask Rutter and Coontz in their review. “Or will individuals perceived as mono-racial blacks fall even further behind?”

What further complicates these findings more is the exoticizing of multiracial people. Pop culture tends to mark “the ethnically ambiguous” person to be attractive to either sex for their enigma and lack of clear origin, Curington says. “If you look at cultural representations of multiracial people, going back to the early 1900s, they are often portrayed as exotic and sexually wanton,” she says.

But being multiracial might also act as a marker of progressiveness, particularly for Asian-American women. As Asian-American generations ground themselves in American culture and seek mates who can transcend their cultural tradition while also being able to understand their American upbringing, Asian-American women might prefer multiracial men for two reasons: First, they offer a dual upbringing that blatantly signals to Asian-American women the ability for the potential date to transcend both cultures; and second, they offer a “middle ground” of sorts for Asian parents—not quite white, and therefore more acceptable for older generations seeking to keep Asian culture intact in their offspring’s mating choice, but not quite Asian either, or having the “exotic” factor to come into play.

TIME Apple

This Tinder Apple Watch App Uses Your Heartbeat to Find a Match

The Apple Watch.

They’ve dubbed it ‘Hands-Free Tinder’

If you’re using Tinder for the Apple Watch, there may be no swiping required.

That’s because a Texas agency has created a way for the app to be used on the new Apple device, and to use the device owner’s heartbeat to determine whether the potential match is a yes, or a no.

The agency, T3, showed how the heartbeat monitor works in a YouTube video, which you can watch below. They’ve dubbed it “Hands-Free Tinder.” If the heart rate goes up, that’s a match. But if it doesn’t, well, that person’s passed for someone else.

The announcement of the app comes as sales of the Apple Watch have been reportedly flagging since its launch. Fortune polled Apple analysts to see just how many Apple Watches they believed were sold during the first nine weeks of sales. The average? About 4.5 million units.

Check out the hands-free Tinder app here:

TIME celebrity

Arnold Schwarzenegger Calls Miley Cyrus a ‘Wonderful Person’

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the European Premiere of 'Terminator: Genisys' in Berlin on June 21, 2015.
Luca Teuchmann—Getty Images Arnold Schwarzenegger at the European Premiere of 'Terminator: Genisys' in Berlin on June 21, 2015.

He says his son, Patrick, had a "great relationship" with the singer

Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the Howard Stern Show on Wednesday to talk about Terminator, prank videos and his son’s relationship with Miley Cyrus.

“She was a wonderful person,” Schwarzenegger told Stern. “She has this career side where she has to be a little bit out there because she grew up in a music family. So what? It didn’t bother me, Patrick had a wonderful experience a great relationship, and then the whole thing eventually fell apart.”

Cyrus and Patrick broke up in April. “They’re just in two different places in their lives – he’s in college and she’s focused on her music and career,” a source told PEOPLE at the time of the split.

But the elder Schwarzenegger has fond memories of Cyrus. He said she spent some time with the family in Sun Valley, Idaho, during the holidays. According to the former California governor, Cyrus spent hours playing with the family’s little kids, buying them presents and hanging out in the snow.

Listen to a clip below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME society

14 Pieces of Practical Dating Advice From My 85-Year-Old Grandmother

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"Even though I married at 21, I think it’s alright to wait, especially in today’s dating world"

xojane

Dating these days can be frustrating and confusing. With all of the technology, dating apps and hook-up culture, things can get complicated.

My friends and I usually try to help each other out when it comes to crushes, but at 22-23 years old, we are all relatively new to the dating world. We all have different opinions on how to approach it. That’s why I decided to take a step back and talk to someone with a little more wisdom: my 85-year-old grandmother.

I am extremely fortunate to have two healthy and loving grandmothers that are still alive today. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own life that I forget to call, or more importantly, forget to listen to the people who always have time to call and listen to me.

I’ve come to realize by talking with my grandmothers that older people are often more than willing to give great advice if we are willing to listen.

While visiting home recently, I had the time to sit down with my grandmother, Kitty, and hear her stories about dating and seek her advice. She was in Pi Phi at the University of Ohio and has tons of interesting stories. She said that because of the time period, there were tons of young men coming home from World War II and she had four or five dates a week.

Eventually, Kitty met my grandfather at a sorority mixer, and after he spent a year trying to get her to accept a date with him, she said yes. They were married for 59 years until my grandfather passed away. I can only hope to find a love like theirs. Maybe with her advice, we all can.

1. “Look for someone who is compassionate.”

The first things people seem to look for in a date (whether they know it or not) is how good-looking they are or what kind of job they have. While you can’t completely ignore these factors, it is also important to look for qualities such as whether or not they are polite to the waiter at a restaurant. Look for little signs that show they are a compassionate person.

2. “If you get involved in something you like, then you might meet someone who likes the same things as you.”

It’s hard to meet people. My grandmother met her husband when she was in college at Ohio State during a sorority and fraternity mixer. When I asked her about how to meet someone, she said to worry about yourself first. Don’t go looking for someone, but rather join clubs or groups that you are interested in and make connections through that.

She does not recommend trying to meet people at bars.“I think it’s sort of crazy you think you have to go to a bar to meet somebody. Sometimes you meet the wrong people there anyway.”

3. “Usually the boy should initiate the first date, but I think sometimes the girl can subtly initiate it by flirting.”

Well, there you have it boys, don’t be nervous — just ask her. And girls, help a guy out by dropping a couple of hints; you don’t just have to sit back and wait for him, but let him know you are interested.

My grandmother said she used to ‘flirt’ or ‘drop hints’ by making sure she was where he was and had the opportunity to talk to him. She also said to smile a lot.

4. “I think being ‘official’ or not, and labels and all that crap are too much of a worry. It should be just sort of something that happens between you and the guy or girl you like.”

Communication is key, and figuring out where you stand with the person you are dating is important. Talking about whether or not you can call someone your boyfriend or girlfriend shouldn’t be a point of stress.

Grandma says, “It just happens. You know you don’t want to go out with someone else—you are happy with the person you are with. But you don’t have to figure it out right away.”

5. “I remember a fun date I went on when we just went to dinner and then we played ‘Fox and Geese’ in the snow (Google it), and decided to come back to the house and put music on and we were trying different dances. And acting just silly. It was spontaneous.”

A first date doesn’t have to be at a fancy restaurant or expensive place, it just has to be fun. Maybe try and find out what the person you are taking out is interested in and do something along those lines.

Do they like music? Find a bar that has a live band to grab a drink. Google has plenty of date ideas. Just remember, too, that not everything has to be planned out but some of the best dates are spontaneous.

8. “If a guy asked me on a date over text, I would text back, ‘Let’s meet for a coke or something and we’ll talk about it.'”

I laughed out loud when my grandmother said this because I can totally see her doing it, but her words have some truth in them. She told me she would meet that person for a coke and then make them ask her on a date in person.

While maybe this isn’t always realistic in lives that are dominated by technology, we need to remember how much better it is to speak face to face than over text message. Grandma says, “Technology has changed things because you don’t hear someone’s voice anymore. Hearing someone’s voice and the feeling or tone of it on the phone is better than a text because then you can kind of feel what’s going on.”

9. “Why can’t your friends introduce you personally?”

When I asked her about dating apps, she just didn’t understand why people have to meet virtually instead of introducing one another. It’s okay to play matchmaker if you’ve got a bunch of single friends.

She says, “I know dating apps happen and they work. I just don’t like that stuff. But if you are sitting around and you haven’t met anybody and that might be something you could do.”

10. “Even though I married at 21, I think it’s alright to wait, especially in today’s dating world. You don’t get together half the time to date so no wonder it takes a while.”

Marriage is huge, so there is no need to rush into it until you’ve found the right one. When you do find the right one, don’t lose them!

11. “I think that you don’t have to see someone and say ‘Oh gosh, he or she is not very good looking, I don’t think I’m going to have fun with that person.’ Don’t rule people out so soon.”

With Facebook, dating apps and so much information readily available before you even go on a first date or meet the person, it is easy to rule people out.

Don’t be judgmental and be open to different people. You’ll never know what a person is really like until you give them a chance.

12. “Relationships are compromise and that’s kind of tough sometimes. Especially for me because I’m bossy.”

Perfection doesn’t exist. I hate to be a pessimist, but everyone you date will have something that eventually will bother you. They say you don’t know if you have a good relationship or not until you survive your first fight.

You just have to learn to work together to build a relationship; the long lasting ones don’t just build themselves.

13. “If you are in love with someone I think you just know that is the person you want to be with, you want to share things with and you know you are happy with them.”

I asked my grandmother, “What does love feel like?” and thought I would get a romantic answer of something along the lines of “flying” or “Your heart beats a million miles per hour.” But according to my grandma, the real kind of love is simple.

You know in your heart that you want to be with that person. It just feels right. Love makes you happy. She says, “There are different kinds of love—when you first get married there is a big romantic passionate kind of love, and then there’s a different kind of love, almost a deeper love. Love is something you have to work on.”

14. “Do what you feel in their heart is right and keep their head on straight. Be true to yourself, and don’t try and be someone else or fit the mold of who you think that person might like.”

Sometimes we are so desperate to find someone that we try and change who we are. This never works.

Besides, you don’t want someone to date you or fall in love with you who doesn’t know the real you.

And keep your head on straight; I guess that means don’t go out of your mind searching for love, it will find a way.

Charlee Dyroff wrote this article for xoJane.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Dating

Whitney Wolfe Wants to Beat Tinder at Its Own Game

The woman who sued Tinder for sexual harassment is back. And her new app, Bumble, could change the dating game

On a sunny May morning in NYC, Whitney Wolfe smoothes her hair (golden) takes a sip of her iced coffee (black) and points across the leafy patio at a handsome guy sitting with a friend. “You swiped right in your head just now,” she says. “So did I.” Wouldn’t it be nice, she continues, if there were a bubble over his head listing his job and his education? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just get up and say ‘Hi?’ And wouldn’t it be nice if there was no way he would think you were desperate or weird if you did?

A year after she was ousted from Tinder and nine months after she sued the company for sexual harassment, Wolfe is back with a dating app of her own, dubbed Bumble. In essence, the app is an attempt to answer her train of questions above. It works just like other dating apps—users see pictures of other users, swipe right if they like what they see, and get matched if the interest is mutual. But there’s one essential difference: on Bumble, only women can send a message first.

For Wolfe, 25, that key difference is about “changing the landscape” of online dating by putting women in control of the experience. “He can’t say you’re desperate, because the app made you do it,” she says, adding that she tells her friends to make the first move and just “blame Bumble.” Matches expire after 24 hours, which provides an incentive for women to reach out before it’s too late (the women-message-first feature is only designed for straight couples—if you’re LGBTQ, either party can send the first message.)

Wolfe says she had always been comfortable making the first move, even though she felt the stigma around being too forward. “I would say ‘I’m just going to go up to him,’ and all my girlfriends were like ‘Oh no no no no, you can’t do that,'” she says. “Guys found it to be ‘desperate,’ when it wasn’t desperate, it was part of a broken system.”

Like many startup founders, Wolfe has big ambitions for the service: “It’s not a dating app, it’s a movement,” she says. “This could change the way women and men treat each other, women and men date, and women feel about themselves.”

Bumble launched about six months ago and seems to be catching on. With around half a million users sending 200,000 messages per day, it’s growing about 15% every week, Wolfe claims. Some 60% of matches turn into conversations. While Bumble has not yet monetized and won’t disclose the details of its funding, Wolfe’s partner and major funder is Andrey Andreev, founder of Badoo, the multi-billion dollar European social network. Their Austin-based office has only six employees—and five of them are women.

Wolfe was a co-founder at Tinder and widely credited with boosting that app’s popularity on college campuses. She was fired in the midst of a breakup with Justin Mateeen, the service’s chief marketer. Last year she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company, alleging that Mateeen had publicly called her a “whore,” that then-CEO Sean Rad had dismissed her complaints against Mateen’s harassment as “dramatic,” and that her male colleagues stripped her of her co-founder title because they said that having a woman on the founding team would “make the company seem like a joke.” The lawsuit was later settled out of court and Wolfe is reported to have walked away with over $1 million, with no admission of guilt by either party. Tinder is owned by IAC.

Wolfe won’t discuss the lawsuit, except to say that anyone who expected her to disappear afterwards probably didn’t know her very well. “It was never like I was going to go hide in the bushes,” she says. And while the whole messy incident has been held up to illustrate the challenges women face in a notoriously bro-friendly tech culture, Wolfe stops short of calling out sexism in tech. “This isn’t necessarily a tech problem, this is a society problem,” she says. “I don’t think it’s been socially acceptable for women to drop out of college and start a tech company.”

Wolfe is adamant that “Bumble has nothing to do with Tinder,” but the comparisons are inevitable—they have similar matching mechanisms (the swipe) similar designs (Tinder designers Chris Gulczynski and Sarah Mick also designed Bumble) and similar marketing on college campuses. Still, Wolfe insists she’s not trying to beat Tinder at its own game. “It’s important to me that nothing we do harms Tinder,” she says. “I still hold equity in the company. It’s my baby.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s not using similar tactics to get it off the ground. One of Wolfe’s major contributions to Tinder was her ability to get college students to download the app. A former member of Kappa at Southern Methodist University, Wolfe shows up at sororities with yellow balloons, cartons of yellow Hanky-Panky lacy underwear, and always, she says, “a cute purse.” Then she hands out a thong to each sorority sister who sends out 10 invitations to Bumble. “By the end, I’d show up and they’d be like ‘Go away, we’re already all on it!'” she says.

Because of the female-first messaging model, Bumble seems to be free of some of the sleaziness that plagues Tinder, at least for now. Men post pictures of themselves wearing button downs (not muscle tees) or hugging their moms (not endangered species.) And because they can’t message first, guys can’t hedge their bets by swiping right on every girl they see and messaging all of them to see who bites.

Female users say they’ve been impressed with the guys on Bumble. “I felt like I was being punked or something, because all the guys are really good looking and had really good jobs,” explains Lauren Garzon, a 32-year old hotel manager in NYC. “So I was like, ‘Ya, I do want to date all of you.'” She says she was disappointed that few of the guys she messaged wrote back, but Jen Stith, a spokeswoman for Bumble, says the company is considering adding a time limit to encourage guys to respond more quickly to messages.

Why do men use the app? “Because girls like it,” says Bryan Oltman, a 28-year old Bumble user and software engineer who used to work at OKCupid. “And girls like it because it gives them more control over the conversation than other dating apps.”

Besides, just as women are sick of waiting for men to make the first move, some guys are sick of always having to come up with a line. “It’s flattering when someone reaches out to you,” says Larry Mahl, a 32-year old New Yorker who works at Yelp. “It’s easier as a guy, you’re swiping and then just letting the girls take the next step.” Plus, he adds, “the women are so impressive.”

Wolfe pulls out her cell phone, which is hot pink with a bright yellow bumble-bee decal on the back, and shows me a guy she matched with in Costa Rica, of all places. “Hot, right?” she says. (Wolfe is dating someone, but still swipes and messages in order to get user feedback.) She had messaged him that she was the founder of the company, and asked him for his thoughts. He only had one thing to say: “This is going to be the next big thing.”

TIME Behind the Photos

These Photographers Make You Swipe Right on Tinder

Dating apps offer new business opportunities for portrait photographers

With over 50 million singles on Tinder, distinguishing yourself from the flock can prove laborious. No longer will the bathroom-mirror selfies of chiseled abs or the dog-loving-frank-smile combo be enough. That’s why some photographers are banking on the popularity of the impish dating app by offering their services to make users look their best.

“People have this tendency to create their dating profile in less than 10 minutes even though it could be the most important thing they do for their love life,” says British photographer Saskia Nelson. In May 2013, she set up Saturday Night’s Alright after spending eight years on online dating sites and growing tired of seeing the same blurry and dingy portraits. “My pet peeves are red eyes and messy bedrooms in the background. For one, people want to connect with your gaze. If they see two scarlet lasers coming out of your eyes, they’re going to move on. And, having a pile of dirty clothes behind you is not a great way to make an impression. Remember you’re trying to sell yourself and your lifestyle.”

To help her clients figure out what characteristics of theirs to put forward, Nelson sends them tips and a questionnaire ahead of the photo shoot. She advises them to treat the session as they would a date, and thus prep for it in a similar manner. Wear clothes (and underwear) that make you feel good, trim your beard, bring props that showcase your interests. She also has them thinking about who their current inspirations are or when they are at their happiest. “I go from photographing a senior to a 22-year-old.” she says. “With that kind of range, I like to know whom I’m meeting ahead of time so I can prepare.” Then, they go out for a stroll through a neighborhood of London that fits her customer’s personality. Battersea Park, Ladbroke Grove or Southbank for the even-tempered; Brick Lane, Shoreditch or London Fields for the edgier ones.

In New York, similar online dating experiences led Charlie Grosso, an advertising and editorial photographer, to launch Tinder Photography last October. She sees it as a way to supplement her income between assignments, have a bit of fun and elevate the standards of the images she comes across when perusing the app. “I wanted to apply my storytelling skills to creating dating profile pictures,” she says. Therefore, she spends a few hours with her clients wandering the city in hopes of uncovering their endearing idiosyncrasies and capturing them using both a single-lens reflex and an iPhone. The latter, she claims, helps make people look more relaxed. “The time I spend walking and talking with them is just as important as those when I point my camera at them. The goal is to make images look less staged, and more like snapshots,” she adds.

Though photographer Max Schwartz is not one for deception when it comes to dating profile portraits, his start in the business came after he jokingly created a fake website called Tinder Headshots. It quickly went viral. As it took a life of its own, he felt compelled to follow through. Used to working with actors and male models, this new practice helped him hone in on his people skills. “It’s like speed dating,” he says. “I have thirty minutes to get to know the sitter and have them warm up to me enough that they relax in front of the camera. I found that when people talk about themselves and their passion, their expression changes. That’s often the sweet spot.”

Rather than try to recreate candid moments, Schwartz favors the traditional headshot. “It’s more straightforward and as engaging, especially if the person comes across as warm and approachable,” he says. “Guys often try to look too stoic or overly manly.” And, in keeping as close to the truth as possible, he refuses to retouch the resulting images. “There’s nothing worse than going on a date and realizing that the person looks nothing like their pictures. They should look like themselves, just the best version of themselves,” notes the Brooklynite with marketing acumen. He recently developed a spin-off, Look Like a Boss, headshots meant for LinkedIn.

No matter the style, online profile photo services are thriving. Nelson dedicates herself entirely to it now and has hired a second shooter. She has plans to expand to other cities, and perhaps other countries. “I have such an extensive experience of online dating,” she says, “that I want to share it with others.” She recommends trying to spend 20 minutes a day on dating website or apps and allocating no more than one hour to a first date. “The photographs are just the beginning.”

Laurence Butet-Roch is a freelance writer, photo editor and photographer based in Toronto, Canada. She is a member of the Boreal Collective.

TIME Dating

High School Couple With Disabilities Crowned Prom King and Queen

Schmid Family Hannah Schmid and Garrett Chaney at prom.

"The love they have for each other is unconditional"

When Hannah Schmid and Garrett Chaney met in preschool, they instantly gravitated toward each other without saying a word.

Hannah, who has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal, and Garrett, who suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Cohen’s syndrome, became instant friends – and over 13 years later, on April 11, they went to prom together and were crowned king and queen.

“The love they have for each other is unconditional,” Hannah’s mother, Brenda, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, tells PEOPLE. “It’s so pure and real.”

The Beginning

Garrett, 20, who needs help with everything from bathing to eating and getting dressed in the morning, started to sit next to Hannah, 17, every day when they were children.

“He could hardly speak then, but he had this communication book and every day something about Hannah was in it,” his mother Lori tells PEOPLE. “We didn’t see this friendship start to form because they were at school, but their teachers started to tell us about it.”

Although Hannah couldn’t go home and talk about Garrett, Brenda started to hear that he was a big part of her daughters day.

“Her smile couldn’t have been bigger when she was around Garrett,” Brenda says. “And that has never changed.”

Throughout the years, Garrett and Hannah have spent almost every weekend together and most days in the summer.

She goes to all of his baseball games, they frequent the local zoo and a nearby lake, and they exchange gifts on Valentine’s Day. Last year, he bought her a butterfly ring on the special day because he knows how much she loves them. They hold hands, and Garrett plays with her hair when they watch movies together. They both look at each other during a funny scene to make sure the other didn’t miss it.

Despite their disabilities, very little can hold them back. Garrett goes to concerts, and they attend many school events together and always embrace life.

“Garrett asked her to marry him,” Lori says, laughing. “He said they were going to get married in Vegas.”

Even when they can’t be together, they’re never too far away from each other. Garrett sleeps with a picture of Hannah near his head every night.

Families Coming Together

As Hannah and Garrett became closer, so did their families.

Lori and Brenda are great friends and recently went on an overnight trip together. The continue to be amazed on a daily basis by their children.

“I don’t know how I can describe the way they look at each other,” Brenda says. “How do you put a relationship into words when it’s not based off of words?”
Although Hannah can’t speak, she is extremely expressive. She smiles the second she sees Garrett and laughs at almost everything he says. She is always looking around and understands everything.

He too laughs with her, but is also very protective. “Hannah is my girl,” he tells everyone at school. “She’s taken.”

Both Lori and Brenda say Garrett always knows what Hannah is thinking and even helps feed her at school, which is done through a feeding tube. Hannah has spent time in the hospital over the years because of her condition and Garrett, who understands how severe it can get, becomes extremely concerned.

“He feels responsible for her and wants to make sure she’s healthy,” Lori says. “He will even take my cellphone and call Brenda to make sure Hannah is feeling okay.”

Their Special Day

When it came time to ask someone to prom, there was no doubt in everyone’s mind that Hannah and Garett would go together.

“The fact that our children are even here to go to their prom is such a huge milestone for us,” Brenda says. “I never thought I would have the chance to buy Hannah a prom dress.”

Lori also admits how big this is.

“We have goals for our children but they’re different than parents who have healthy children,” she says. “While most teenagers at their high school are going off to college, our children will be with us forever.”

And Brenda and Lori are both impressed with Hannah and Garrett’s classmates.

“The fact that they were nominated says so much about their high school,” says Brenda. “But we were speechless when they were crowned king and queen.”

Garrett, who was wearing a brand new tuxedo, pushed Hannah’s wheelchair around as everyone took pictures of them and clapped.

“The crowd went crazy,” says Lori. “It was such a surreal moment.”

Before the prom, about 20 of their closest friends and family gathered at Brenda’s house for a pre-prom dinner. Hannah had her nails and hair done and wore a green sparkly dress.

Both moms admit that while it might be an unconventional relationship, it’s also the most genuine.

“There is nothing artificial about the love they have for each other. It’s honest. They don’t judge the other. They accept each other for who they are,” Brenda says.

Although only the only people who truly understand Hannah and Garrett’s relationship are the ones closest to them, their parents say everyone can understand one thing – true love.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re disabled or not. Everyone needs love, compassion and understanding from others. We can’t live without it,” says Lori.

This article originally appeared on People.com

 

TIME Dating

This Book Perfectly Captures All Your Insecurities About Dating

Dey Street Books

Written entirely in texts and emails, this novel seems like it's ripped right out of your own inbox

It’s rare to pick up a book that perfectly captures love in the digital age, but that’s exactly what Neel Shah and Skye Chatham’s all-too-realistic novel succeeds in doing.

Through the strings of email chains and forwarded texts that comprise Read Bottom Up, readers meet Madeline and Elliot, a couple whose meet cute at a restaurant spirals into an over-analytical relationship that any millennial will be able to relate to. Though the format may sound gimmicky, there are real insights here: anyone who has dated with technology will recognize themselves, or someone they’ve dated, in these pages.

TIME talked to Shah, 32, an LA-based screenwriter, to learn about his writing process and skeptical take on texting and romance.

TIME: Tell us how you decided on this medium—screenshots of texts and emails.

Neel Shah: I have a friend in New York, and every time we would be dating people, she would always forward me emails or texts from a guy, and I would do the same with her, and a lot of times we had different takes on what the texts or emails meant. One time specifically she forwarded me this email chain from a guy, and she was like “Isn’t this great, it looks like he wants to take this relationship to the next level,” and I read it and it almost seemed as if he was breaking up with her. Now so much of dating is done online—not even just via apps, but texting and emailing is such an important part of how people court, and I felt like it had not been captured in a way that felt real.

You’ve said you and your co-author both composed your parts totally separately, right?

We wanted to make it feel like people in a real relationship. And we realized the easiest way to do that that was for my co-author and I to pretend we were in a relationship. We set up our own email accounts for our characters and did the whole thing blindly. We figured out the rough beats of their relationship, but everything else we didn’t really plan. We wrote the whole thing as if we were conducting a relationship in real time, and I didn’t show her any of my responses with my friend, and she didn’t show me any of her responses to her friend until the very end. But generally all the responses and their micro-analysis was all done blindly.

Do you have a real male best friendship that resembles this one?

I actually do, his name is David. It’s weird—for me, those conversations that are real and vulnerable don’t really happen in person. But when it’s just a Gchat or a text I find it a lot easier to emote and talk about feelings in general. Digital makes that stuff a lot easier for guys. I would think girls generally do have those conversations a lot more in person. Even with my group of guy friends now, I’m on tons of text and Facebook message threads, talking about relationships and feelings.

Was part of your goal with this to create a kind of time capsule for how people conduct relationships?

When I was in New York I dated a girl for a few years and I remember so much of our initial courtship, and so many of our fights happened on email. I typed her name into my Gmail inbox now and I have this long, archived rundown of what exactly our relationship was, and it’s very accessible. I think most people probably have that in their inboxes. And it’s so acceptable. And I imagine that that won’t be the case as people get older, and those types of longer correspondences will move away from email. Especially now, after that Sony hack, people are more wary of putting things down on paper than they were before. This book feels specific to a place and time, but in a way that I am very fond of, and want to capture.

What do you think this book says about dating, and how we communicate in general?

I can almost tell immediately whether I’m going to like a girl or not based on how we text. Sometimes there’s this definite disconnect between the person you can pretend to be and the person you actually are, which makes dating a little difficult. What this says about dating in general, I can’t tell if it’s a really a good thing or bad thing ultimately.

The fact that it becomes so easy to date people, multiple people, to fire off a text and email, to literally dozens of people a day, that type of stuff is a little unseemlier and it’s harder to tell whether it’s a good thing or not. To me it feels easier in a way that is probably not good.

Did you notice certain male tendencies or flaws? Was this a chance at self-improvement for you?

It does make you aware of your own behavior. This book is only going to be successful if it feels relatable and real. I think Elliot in a lot of places is a doofus: he’s a very specific type of guy, he’s not an outright liar but he can be a little bit unseemly and slippery in a way that I certainly have been guilty of. But for sure, I do think that getting older, you feel like you don’t have to put on a pony show for every girl you meet because sometimes that can lead to people feeling like you really like them, even if you don’t, and that’ll lead to people’s feelings getting hurt. Just trying to be more honest with yourself, if that makes sense.

Can you boil all this down to three tips for dating?

1. Sometime people you have the best text chemistry with are horrible matches in real life. Kind of a bummer, but true.

2. Girls like plans. Like with time and location and stuff. (“Yeah we should totally do something!” isn’t a plan, unfortunately.)

3. Don’t ever lie about anything that happens at a wedding because you will be found out because everything that happens at weddings is now on Instagram. Also don’t ever lie. But definitely don’t at weddings.

What do you think about friends who want to stalk people you’re going out with?

You don’t need to be doing that so early. Just calm down, everyone just take a breather. There are definitely benefits. It’s very easy to go on someone’s Facebook or Instagram page and you can tell pretty soon if that’s someone you’re going to like or not, or at least whether that persona is someone you’d like.

Sometimes not being so stalkery and parsing every single thing you can find on every single social media platform is really good. Sometimes even people who are now dating who I know, initially they were like, “Oh yeah you know, we didn’t have great chemistry on text or email and then we went out and it was actually really good.” Sometimes, you have to go meet them to figure out if you’re going to like them. That’s something I’m so bad at doing. I will discount someone if I don’t feel like we have good banter chemistry, but I’m also single and there’s a reason for it.

TIME Dating

This Is The Most Popular Place to Have a First Date

You probably won't be surprised

It turns out that your dating life is just as predictable as you thought it was.

According to a recent study by mobile dating app Clover, the most popular place to have a first date is none other than Starbucks. (Hopefully one that serves alcohol.)

The app offers an on-demand dating option that allows its users to select a nearby location to meet up with a date. After analyzing data from its 200,000 users (between the ages of 18 and 65), Clover tracked the most popular first date spots. Note: Olive Garden is very high on the list.

Clover

Here’s how favorite date spots differed based on age. Unsurprisingly, Chipotle reigned supreme for the 18-to-24 demographic.

Clover

Clover also found that men prefer restaurants for a first date while women opt for coffee shops.

Clover

Starbucks might seem like a pretty basic first date meetup, but look on the bright side: If it goes well, at least we already know that the chain hosts weddings!

 

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