TIME

Meet Willow, the Dating App That Won’t Judge You By Your Looks

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Is this the 'anti-Tinder?'

There are a lot of apps on the market now for young folks in search of love: Tinder, Bumble, and OkCupid, to name a few. Though their rationales vary—Tinder and Bumble are both about the swipe, but on Bumble, ladies make the first move, and with OkCupid you can control how much information you reveal up front—they all have at least one thing in common: Potential mates judge one another based on looks.

But Willow, a new app hitting the App Store on Wednesday, is seeking a different approach. Instead of swiping left or right based on the first selfie you see, you’re prompted to answer a set of three questions—written by users—that are designed to spark up a conversation. What’s more, users decide when and if they wish to share photos with other users; at first, the answers to these questions are all future dates see.

The app’s founder Michael Bruch says Willow puts the “social” back in social media. Bruch, now 24, was fresh out of New York University when he launched the app last year. He says he was looking to fill a void he noticed when using dating apps that focused on swipes rather than what you like.

“You can match with a bunch of people that you think are good looking but you don’t really know much about them until you start talking to them,” Bruch tells TIME. “If I’m going to spend time with someone I want to know that we have something to talk about–that’s what’s important to me.”

Bruch is hoping that same interest in conversation is important to a lot of other young people as well. So far, Willow has gained some traction. Over 100,000 users downloaded the beta version of the app that launched in August, sending an average of three messages a day.

What’s more, people are using it for more than just finding love. “It’s become more about social discovery than strictly dating,” Bruch says. “If you just want to get on an have a casual conversation about video games you can, and you can also use it to spark up a romantic conversation with someone that’s less than 30 miles away.”

The version of the app released Wednesday also includes a “Discover” feature that helps users search what’s trending and better sort through questions they’d be interested in answering.

It’s an interesting approach given the perceived shallow nature of today’s millennials—the Me Generation, as TIME’s Joel Stein pronounced in 2013. Today’s dating apps seem to feed into their inner narcissists. And it’s much easier to turn someone down based on just their face rather than after you’ve started up a conversation. To see how users reacted to profiles without photos, OkCupid one of the largest dating sites, hid profile photos temporarily in January of 2013 dubbing it “Blind Date Day.” They found that their members were much more likely to respond to first messages during that time, but the minute the photos were turned back on, conversations ended–like they’d “turned on the bright lights at the bar at midnight,” wrote one Chris Rudder, one of the site’s founders.

Despite that somewhat depressing result, some millennials are finding that the pressure of putting your face out there for the public to judge can be intimidating—and in some instances, dangerous. Just one glimpse at the jerky messages posted to the Instagram account Bye Felipe (which aggregates negative messages women get online) gives a good sense of how frustrating it can be for many people, but particularly for women, trying to navigate in that visual space. People can be aggressive, fetishizing, and downright cruel.

Apps like Bumble seek to help women circumvent that by putting the power of striking up conversation in solely in their hands. But Willow wants to change the focus entirely, from the way someone looks to what his or her interests are. “If your picture is not being blasted out there, the amount of harassment and messages you’re going to get off the break is going to be lower,” Bruch says.

On its surface, the app’s mission sounds like a cheesy line from a rom-com: a hapless sap whining that they wish someone would take interest in their thoughts and not their looks. But, Bruch and Willow’s other founders are hoping it has carved a place among the myriad apps that cater to the millennial generation’s life online.

MONEY Love and Money

10 Luxe Valentine’s Gift Ideas for $25 or Less  

'I Love You' Ceramic Trinket Dish, available at Nordstrom
'I Love You' Ceramic Trinket Dish, available at Nordstrom

You don't need to spend a lot to show that special someone how much you care.

On a recent Money Match game show episode, couples said they estimate spending anywhere from $100 to $500 on Valentine’s Day gifts. And, wives tended to guess more than their husbands. (No pressure, fellas).

For those of us whose budgets fall more in the two-figure range, consider these seven special gift ideas, all for $25 or less.

Some of these items are available online only, but if you act now there’s a good chance you can still get your gift in the mail before Saturday.

On the cutesy side…

For her: Either the I Love You Ceramic Trinket Dish from Nordstrom ($8) shown above or the I Like You oval tray from Fishs Eddy ($25) is sure to put a smile on your beloved’s face. I speak from experience: My husband actually got the latter for me for Christmas. It’s a lovely decorative place to rest a necklace, small knick-knacks or treats.

For him: Sticking with the V-day theme, how about heart-printed boxers from J.Crew ($15) or Gap ($13)? They’re cute and flirty, but also practical.

Geo Heart Boxers, available at
Gap Geo Heart Boxers

For the sweet-toothed…

More than half of consumers plan to buy candy for their sweetheart on Valentine’s Day – more than any other type of present. If you want to go for that box of chocolates, consider skipping the Russell Stover variety from CVS and, instead, splurging on a more luxurious treat. Fancy british chocolatier Charbonnel et Walker sells an adorable Milk Chocolate Handbag and Heels ($15) box in which the chocolates are in the shape of shoes!

For gifts that pamper…

For him: Give the gift of the perfect shave. The starter kit from the Art of Shaving ($25) features pre-shave oil, shaving cream, after-shave balm and a trial size badger shaving brush.

Unscented Starter Kit,
Unscented Starter Kit

For her: You can gift wrap the spa feel with a cozy bathrobe. This one is only $18 at Amazon and comes in a number of attractive colors. (My personal fave is dark pink.) Pair it with a shower and moisture set from The Body Shop, on sale currently for just $5. Or simply give her some aromatherapy with the grapefruit-rose scented Voluspa Pink Citron candle from Nordstrom ($16).

Maison Blanc - Pink Citron' 2-Wick Candle, Available at Nordstrom
Maison Blanc Pink Citron 2

And, finally, an alternative to overpriced roses….

Opt for a single orchid. It won’t be expected and is no less a symbol of love and strength. Plus, it should last longer and be a constant reminder of the fact that you didn’t forget Valentine’s Day! Purchased online they tend to be on the pricier side. I suggest buying at a local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, where they can be found for less than $25.

 

More from Money.com:

TIME relationships

This Is the Exact Number of Dates You Need to Go On Before Sex Is Acceptable

To two decimal places, no less

A global survey of the dating preferences of 11,000 people in 24 cities has come up with an answer to a frequent problem of modern etiquette: How many dates do you go on before it becomes reasonable to expect to sleep with someone?

The average answer, according to the Global Dating Survey 2015 by Time Out, is 3.53 dates — or “mid-fourth date, after the mains have been cleared and just before the crème brûlée arrives.”

Only 1 in 10 people feels that it’s O.K. to expect sex at the end of the first date.

Read the rest of the findings here.

TIME relationships

14 Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship

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Getty Images

No, you don't necessarily need to have everything in common

Nick Hornby once said, “It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favorite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party.”

I’m not a therapist or relationship expert, but after nearly a decade of marriage, I’m not convinced that your taste in movies or music determines if you and your significant other are destined for happily-ever-after or a bad break-up. My marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s satisfying and happy and it’s taught me a few things about what keeps long-term partnerships working. Thankfully, those things have nothing to do with musical preferences or I would have taken my country albums and left my Beatles-loving husband long ago. Instead, we’ve figured out how to compromise on music, and other things, and settle in for the long haul.

Here are a few of those things that I’ve learned do seem to say something about the strength of your union:

You Speak Your Mind
Relationships thrive when couples can express themselves freely and honestly. That means no topic is off-limits, and you both feel heard. Consistent communication is vital to building a lasting life together.

You Have Your Own Space

Just because you’re in love doesn’t mean you have to spend every moment together. Taking time to pursue your own interests and friendships keeps your relationship fresh and gives you both the opportunity to grow as individuals—even while you’re growing as a couple.

You Fight
Disagreements are normal, so if you aren’t fighting, chances are you’re holding back. But when people in healthy relationships fight, they fight productively and fairly. That means avoiding name-calling or put-downs. It also means striving to understand your partner instead of trying to score points. And when you’re wrong? You apologize.

You Like Yourself And Your Partner

Chances are your relationship won’t suddenly get better if you win the lottery, have a baby, or move into your dream house. So don’t base your partnership on the hope that it will change. You recognize that neither of you is perfect, and you accept and value each other for who you are right now—not who you might become.

You Make Decisions Jointly
You don’t call all the shots. Neither does your partner. From what movie to see to how many children to have, you make decisions together and listen to each other’s concerns and desires. Sure, this may mean you see Transformers on Saturday night. But on Sunday night, it’s your turn.

You Find Joy
Healthy relationships are full of laughter and fun. This doesn’t mean you’re giddy every hour of the day—or that she doesn’t drive you up the wall sometimes—but it does mean that your life together is mostly happy in sometimes simple ways. (Making dinner, laughing at the same things, finishing each others’ sentences…)

You Find Balance
Sometimes your partner needs to work longer hours while you play chauffeur and chief cook. Or you must devote time to an elderly parent while your spouse tackles the chores. That’s life. What matters is that, in the long run, your trade-offs seem fair.

You Treat Each Other With Kindness
Nothing is more important than treating the person you love with care, consideration, empathy, and appreciation. If you find yourself showing more respect to people you hardly know than you show your partner, take a step back and revisit your priorities.

You Trust Each Other
Healthy relationships are built on trust and a commitment to communication without reservations or secrets. Want to know how much you trust each other now? Take this quiz from the University of California, Berkeley.

You Let Things Go
Your partner will annoy you. You will annoy him or her, too. You will say things you don’t mean. You will behave inconsiderately. The important thing is how you deal with all this. So he forgot to pick up milk for the second time? Tell him you’re disappointed, of course—then let it go.

You Are Intimate
Sex is an important part of healthy relationships, but it’s only one part, and it’s different than intimacy, which is less about physical satisfaction than about bonding, friendship, and familiarity. If you’re in a healthy relationship, you’ll feel connected—in and out of bed.

Your Relationship Is Your Safe Place
Your relationship should be a safety net—a stable place to come home to at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you don’t fight—it just means that when things are hard, you’d rather see your partner than commiserate with coworkers at Happy Hour.

You Talk To Your Partner, Not To Other People
When you have issues and concerns, you share them with your partner, not your Facebook friends. You can use pals as a sounding board, of course, but not as a crutch to avoid hard conversations with your significant other.

You Say The Magic Words
“I love you”, “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.”

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

More from Real Simple:

Read next: The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems — and How to Fix Them

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MONEY Love and Money

This Is the Sexiest Financial Habit

businessman laying on field of money
iStock

A new survey asked people what money management traits they'd find attractive in a mate. Prepare to be surprised by the answer.

Money matters when searching for a mate—and it’s not just how much you have, but how you handle your cash, according to a survey released Wednesday by Ally Bank.

Three quarters of people think it’s important to find a partner with a similar financial philosophy. Okay, that figures. But the survey also revealed which financial habits people found most appealing in a potential mate.

And it turns out that… wait for it… a strong budgeting and saving strategy is the hottest, with 55% of respondents putting it at the top of the list. The older people were, the more fiscal discipline mattered.

Surprised? Budgeting is indeed sexy.

To make yourself more of a catch, check out “How Do I set a Budget I Can Stick To?” in our Money 101 section, or start using Mint.com, which does a lot of the work for you.

Paying off credit card bills in full every month (21%) and bargain hunting (18%) were other attractive attributes. So maybe you’ll fall in love over a Presidents’ Day sale.

And since only 3% were titillated by higher credit limits and liking finer things, consider tacos instead of T-bones on that first date.

Read more Love & Money:
The Most Important Talk You Need to Have Before Marriage
5 Super Easy Online Tools That Can Help Couples Feel More Financially Secure
5 Smart Financial Moves for Unmarried Couples Who Live Together

TIME relationships

These Texting and Social Media Habits Could Sabotage Your Love Life

A Match.com national survey reveals the biggest digital turn offs for men and women

Here’s some pleasant pre-Valentine’s Day news: You might be torpedoing potential relationships and not even know it.

Match.com’s new Singles in America Survey uncovered a host of seemingly innocuous digital behaviors that the study’s sampling of 5,675 single adults see as the relationship equivalent of leaving the toilet seat up. (Those surveyed were a nationally representative group and not all Match.com users.)

“We are swimming around in this amorphous soup of emerging rules and taboos and nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who helmed the survey, tells TIME. The digital faux pas range from incompatible texting habits to hashtag addictions. And while you might guess a few of these relationship deal breakers (70% of singles want their suitors to keep their phones off the table during dates) others are less inherent.

These are a few of the most common turn-offs to look out for so you don’t get discarded before you make it to drinks. (And some are worth considering whether you’re dating or not…)

You’re Facebook-ing All Wrong
Singles said their top social media turn-offs include

  • Emotionally dramatic posts: 73% (65% male, 78% female)
  • Excessive selfies: 57% (46% male, 65% female)
  • When you ask a current date to de-friend an ex: 55% (49% male, 59% female)

Your Texting Habits Are Questionable

Men said their top three texting turn-offs included

  • Too many typos and improper grammar: 36%
  • Responding with short answers like “k” and “cool”: 33%
  • Using ALL CAPS: 30%

And 47% of single men also don’t like getting texted at work.

Women hated when potential partners:

  • Have too many typos and incorrect grammar: 54%
  • Ask too many personal questions: 37%
  • Respond with short answers: 37%
  • Use ALL CAPS: 28%

No, I Will Not Favorite That Instagram

Men said their biggest Insta turn offs were:

  • Using too many hashtags: 35%
  • More specifically, too many #trending hashtags like #TBT, #WCW, #MCM: 25%
  • Pictures of kids and babies: 24% (Editors note: Good riddance baby haters)
  • Inspiring quotes/sayings: 22%

Single women said their biggest turn offs were:

  • Pictures showing off their body: 45%
  • Too many hashtags in a caption: 41%
  • Gym and workout pictures: 34%
  • Trending hashtags: 27%
  • Selfies: 26%
  • Party pictures: 25%

All these new dating pitfalls might seem disheartening, but Fisher sees a silver lining: “The beauty in this is we can make new rules,” she says. “Everything is so free-wheeling. It is kind of exciting.”

TIME relationships

People Who Use Emojis Have More Sex

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Match.com's annual dating survey found that people who use more emojis in text messages have more active sex lives

While this probably isn’t news to fans of the eggplant emoji, a new study found that single people who use emojis have more sex than those who abstain.

Match.com’s annual Singles in America survey — which polled 5,675 (non-Match using) singles whose demographics were representative of the national population according to the U.S. Census — found that people who have more sex, tend to use emojis more.

“It turns out that 54% of emoji users had sex in 2014 compared to 31% of singles who did not,” Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University who helped lead the study, tells TIME. And the more emojis singles used, the more sex they tended to have, as illustrated by Match’s handy emoji-to-intercourse graph:

Match.com's Singles in America Survey
Match.com’s Singles in America Survey

According to the data, released Wednesday, these statistics held true for men and women in the 20s, 30s and 40s.

And, food for thought, women who use kiss-related emojis have an easier time achieving orgasms with a familiar partner. That may be because emoji users cared more about finding partners who consider communication a desirable trait.

It’s notoriously difficult to read tone in texts and emails, but emojis can bridge the gap. “[Emoji users] want to give their texts more personality,” says Fisher. “Here we have a new technology that absolutely jeopardizes your ability to express your emotion… there is no more subtle inflection of the voice … and so we have created another way to express emotions and that is the emoji.”

Because it’s not all about that rocket ship/volcano/insert-other-suggestive-emoji here.

“Emoji users don’t just have more sex, they go on more dates and they are two times more likely to want to get married,” Fisher says. “Sixty-two percent of emoji users want to get married compared to 30% of people who never used an emoji… that’s pretty good.”

Thankfully there are appropriate diamond cartoons for your inevitable Instagram engagement announcement.

TIME Sex/Relationships

20 Ways to Fall In Love All Over Again

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Rekindle your love with these 20 tips

There are lots of great things about being in a long-term relationship: Research shows that happy couples, in many ways, have better health and overall wellbeing than their single or divorced peers. After all, a loving partner can offer companionship, comfort, and physical and emotional support when you need it.

But after years of marriage or dating, a significant other can start to feel more like a roommate than a romantic partner. Maybe you’ve grown apart, you’re busy with work and kids, or the spark’s just not there anymore. For whatever reason you’ve found yourself falling out of love, here’s how the experts suggest you find your way back in.

Be more touchy-feely

“Long-term couples don’t touch enough,” says Wendy Walsh, clinical psychologist and founder of AskALoveGuru.com, a site that matches relationship therapists with potential clients. “When we touch—especially skin-to-skin—we get a little rush of the brain chemicals that help trigger those loving feelings.” Think about how often you and your partner actually share physical contact on a daily basis. If it’s just a quick peck on the lips before and after work, make an effort to step up your game, says Walsh. She cites research showing that a 20-second hug can trigger a significant oxytocin release. “Most married couples hug for three seconds or less,” she says. “So I advise them, two to three times a day, to stop what they’re doing and hold a long, calm embrace. It can change your biochemistry, and you’ll begin to bond again.”

Sleep closer together

That same rush of brain chemicals can also come from physical contact in bed—and not just during sex, either. Sleeping skin-to-skin, whether it’s full-on spooning or even just touching toes, can have relationship benefits, too. In fact, a 2014 survey presented at the Edinburgh International Science Festival found that couples who slept the closest to each other reported having more relationship satisfaction. “Of course we don’t know if sleeping apart causes dissatisfaction or if happier couples simply sleep closer, but why not just try to get closer and see if it helps?” says Walsh. “Get the toddler or the dog out of the bed and try snuggling for at least a few minutes.”

Limit technology

“If you haven’t put your family and your relationship on a technology diet yet, this is the year to do it,” says Walsh. “Nothing is killing communication faster right now than guys starting at their iPhones while girls are trying to talk to them at the dinner table, or vice versa.” Science supports her claim, too: In a 2014 Brigham Young University survey of heterosexual women, 70% felt that smartphones and other devices were interfering with their love lives.

Walsh recommends forming an agreement with your partner to cut out phones and television at mealtimes and in the bedroom, or deciding together about specific times you will and will not use technology. “Otherwise, you won’t give each other your full attention, and it’s easy to become annoyed or feel disconnected.”

Take a vacation

If work and family obligations have forced you and your partner to put your love life on the back burner, schedule some time off from your regular responsibilities. Getting away may help you focus on each other (instead of distractions like the bathroom that needs repairs), but even a staycation or a long weekend at home—if you treat it right—can be enough to refresh your bond. Before you go, though, have an honest conversation about your expectations, says Alexandra Solomon, licensed clinical therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University. “It’s important to discuss how much time you’ll spend together, whether you want to have more sex than usual, and what you hope to accomplish in terms of your relationship,” she says. “It can feel unromantic to lay it out ahead of time, but it will reduce your chances of feeling disappointed if you both have different goals in mind.”

Read more: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

Say thank you

When you fall into habits in a relationship, you may take for granted the nice things your partner routinely does for you. And even if you do notice them, do you let him or her know you’re thankful? Gratitude is important, says Walsh. “Put a note in his briefcase letting him know you appreciate that he gets the dry cleaning every week,” she says, “or touch her on the arm and thank her for bringing you Starbucks every day.”

Solomon suggests keeping a gratitude journal, and writing down three things every day you’re thankful for—whether it’s related to your relationship or not. “It can foster a sense of wellbeing and openness that can improve your connection with your partner.”

Pucker up

Locking lips can play an important role in the quality of a long-term relationship, according to a 2013 study from Oxford University. In fact, researchers found that frequent kissing was even more important to relationship satisfaction than frequent sex. “A 30-second kiss gives us a warm, fuzzy, safe bonding feeling from that cuddle hormone, oxytocin,” says Bonnie Eaker Weil, relationship counselor and author of Make Up, Don’t Break Up. “Partners can give this feeling to each other by practicing a hug and a kiss—a mini connection—in the morning before work and before bed at night.”

Compliment each other

When you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, it’s easy to focus on the negative, says Walsh—which can lead to nagging, hurt feelings, and dissatisfaction on both sides. Instead, she says, try to focus more on the good things and less on the bad. “To use a garden analogy, water what you want to grow; don’t water the weeds.” Letting your partner know what you love about them—whether it’s physical, intellectual, or emotional—can actually help you see him or her in a more positive light, says Solomon. “When I have couples in therapy who are growing apart, I make sure they start our time together by sharing some compliments back and forth.”

Incorporate surprise

To relive the feeling of falling in love, says Eaker Weil, you’ve got to find new ways to trigger that rush of feel-good dopamine and oxytocin—like by incorporating novelty, excitement, and surprise into your not-so-new-anymore relationship. You may try “kidnapping” each other, she suggests, taking turns on different weekends to plan secret activity or destinations. Or try something simpler: “Date night but with something new—a new restaurant, or even new food at the same restaurant,” she says. “A weekend overnight in a new place, or a vacation without children; anything with the element of surprise.”

Read more: 10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

Cultivate your own interests

Falling in love with someone isn’t all about what happens when you’re together; a lot of it has to do with what you’re doing on your own, says Solomon. “People become passive in their relationships when they become disengaged, and one of the main reasons they become disengaged is because they’re not satisfied with their own lives.” That’s why she encourages clients to make sure their lives contain something they feel passionate about individually—something their partner doesn’t necessarily share. “Say you love horseback riding,” she says. “If you come home from a ride feeling energetic and alive, you can bring a fuller, more engaged self to your relationship, as well.”

Observe your partner’s passions

Likewise, Solomon says, it’s important for your partner to have a passion, as well. And if you want to remember why you fell in love in the first place, find a way to witness your loved one in his or her most passionate state. “I have a friend who’s married to a fisherman, and while she’ll never share his love for fishing, she’s happy to navigate his boat and just honor his talent and watch him in his element,” says Solomon. “She gets to see him being alive and excited, and that’s really the best way to see your partner.”

Create something together

Once you’ve got your individual passions figured out, it’s also helpful to have something you can both pour your love and attention into. “The couples who last the longest tend to be the ones who create something together,” says Walsh. Often that something is children, she adds, but it can also be a business, a charity, or even a home-remodeling project. “Look for something you are both interested in—not just something you’re into and you think your spouse can get on board with,” she says. “When you work together on something you care about, you can see your partner in a different light.”

Go on double dates

You don’t need to spend all of your couple time one-on-one. In fact, inviting friends along once and a while can help you and your partner reaffirm your love for each other. In a 2014 Wayne State University study, people who went on double dates with other couples they were close with said they felt more affection and romantic feelings toward their partners. It turns out that watching your other half interact with friends can help you remember what you love about him or her, say the study authors—and praising each other in front of other people (bragging about her new promotion, or telling stories about what a good cook he is) can be a turn-on for both of you, too.

Read more: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

Stare into each other’s eyes

In 1997, psychologist Arthur Aron published a study suggesting that any two people could fall in love by asking each other a series of 36 questions, then staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes. In January, writer Mandy Len Catron wrote in the New York Times about trying the experiment herself with a former college acquaintance. “I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life,” Len Catron wrote in the newspaper’s Modern Love column. There’s no guarantee Aron’s method will work for everyone, but it did for her—she and her test subject soon fell in love.

Flirt with each other

Staying happy in a long-term relationship requires balancing two basic needs, according to Solomon: “We crave security and knowing somebody’s got our backs no matter what, but we also crave excitement and novelty and mystery,” she says. “The challenge is trying to have both of those things met by the same person—and one way couples can do that is by flirting with each other like they’ve just met.”

Flirting can be different for every couple, but anything affectionate, sexually suggestive, or playful can fit the bill. And while it may feel awkward to send an inappropriate text to the person you’ve been married to for years, it can help add excitement to a romance that feels stalled, says Solomon. “They key is finding a way to do it so you both feel comfortable and you’re having fun.”

Work out together

Breaking a sweat with your sweetie may increase your physical attraction, as well as your emotional bond. Research has found that after being physically active together, couples reported more relationship satisfaction and being more in love with their partners—and that physical arousal (elevated heart rate, heavy breathing, etc.) can often elicit romantic attraction. Eaker Weil recommends hitting the gym together, or finding a class or activity you can both enjoy. “It could be dancing or Jujitsu—anything that involves high energy play can cause a rush, and bonding toward your partner.”

Engage in pillow talk

In 2013, University of Connecticut research found that couples who disclosed positive feelings to each other after sex reported more relationship satisfaction than those who didn’t. This may be part of the way committed couples maintain their closeness and their romantic bond, the researchers say.

For an even better relationship boost, spend a few extra minutes after sex chatting and snuggling. Couples who engaged in post-sex affection (such as cuddling and caressing) during a 2014 University of Toronto study were generally happier with their sex lives and relationships overall, even three months later. “The findings suggest that the period after sex is a critical time for promoting satisfaction in intimate bonds,” the authors wrote.

Read more: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Don’t play games

If you’re feeling distant from your partner, you may think that putting on a sexy dress or doubling up on your sessions in the weight-room is the best way to get his or her attention and jump-start your flagging romance. And that may work—but it could also backfire: “If he or she doesn’t read your mind or notice that you’re trying to impress him or her, you could end up feeling worse and resentful,” says Solomon. Instead, Solomon suggests sitting down to talk honestly about how you feel. “Say something like, ‘I don’t feel particularly connected to you right now, and I have some thoughts about what I’d like to do differently to make us feel closer,'” she says. “That way, it’s less of a test that your partner passes or fails—you’re in it together, and you’re both making an effort.

Redefine date night

Scheduling regular time to be by yourselves as a couple, away from your work and home responsibilities, can help you stay connected and remember what you love about each other. But that doesn’t have to mean getting all dressed up and going out to a fancy dinner—it can be as simple as taking a walk together every night and discussing your day. “Going on a date can be the time you look at your partner not as a co-parent or a co-homeowner, but as the person you built your life with,” says Solomon. But couples should decide what’s romantic to them, she adds. “It doesn’t have to look like an episode of The Bachelor, with high heels and candles and roses. For some people it looks like Subway sandwiches on the beach, and for some people it looks like sitting at Barnes and Noble playing chess.”

Be there for each other

A 2009 study from Stony Brook University found that, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be in a long-term relationship and maintain feelings of romantic love (and not just comfortable companionship) for many years. One secret to this lasting attraction? Having your partner’s back, and knowing that your partner also has yours. Adults who feel secure in their relationships tend to have higher self-esteem, the study found, which correlates to more feelings of “intense, exclusive focus” on their partners. “Thus, having the felt security that a partner is ‘there for you,’ not only makes for a smooth functioning relationship, but also may facilitate feelings of romantic love,” the authors wrote.

Adjust your expectations

Even with all of these tips, says Walsh, no relationship will be perfect—and that’s the most important thing to remember if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your love life. “We live in such a sexualized culture, people come in thinking something’s missing if they’re not having 50 Shades of Grey sex and swinging from the chandeliers,” she says. Before you decide your romance isn’t good enough, she says, remember that all long-term unions have ups and downs, and that love can be felt and expressed in many different ways. “A lot of people end up in therapy because their expectations don’t match the reality of their life, and they’re hoping to change their environment,” Walsh says. “Sometimes, what they really need to change is their outlook.”

Read more: 12 Ways Your Relationship Can Hurt Your Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: 10 Rules to Make Your Relationship Last

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TIME Dating

These Are the 20 Best Cities for Singles

New York, NY
Noe DeWitt New York, NY

Here are the liveliest singles scenes, whether at bars, bookstores or bowling alleys

The singles scene in New York City is a little crazy, maybe even certifiably so.

“This is a city with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but only in the best ways,” says Rachel Harrison, a Brooklyn-based public relations exec. “You can dress a little wilder, slap on some fake eyelashes—you can do anything you want, at any age. There are no judgments.”

Unabashedly batting those faux lashes got the Big Apple more than a few second glances this year. New York City landed in the top 10 for the best cities for singles, according to Travel + Leisure readers. In this year’s America’s Favorite Places survey, readers ranked 38 cities on dozens of appealing qualities, including good-looking locals, cool shopping, and hipster-magnet coffee bars.

The winning cities in the singles-scene category excel in the off-hours, ranking highly for nightclubs, dive bars, and even great diners, where you might lock eyes with someone over a late-night order of fries.

But the most singles-friendly cities also put a creative spin on conventional meet-up spots. Plenty of big attractions—from the Brooklyn Museum to the San Diego Museum of Art—offer monthly happy hours, wooing artsy singles with cocktails and live music. In Boston, one of the coolest bookstores does Trivia Nights, while in downtown L.A. a popular bar stocks old-school video games.

Another strategy for uncovering a city’s best singles scene is exploring the activities that locals love most. “New Orleanians live and breathe festivals—like Jazz Fest, and even Creole Tomato Fest,” says native Stephen Schmitz. Just be warned: “The heat and humidity,” he says, “can make for a rough appearance.”

Read on for the full results. And make your point of view heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.

No. 1 Miami

Gorgeous locals, a wealth of nightclubs, and a wild streak as long as the beach: Miami climbed from second to first place this year, thanks to its flair for throwing a big party. Hot spots like Wall at the W South Beach or the Italian-restaurant-meets-cocktail-lounge Cavalli get a big boost when celebs grace the premises, whether it’s Bieber or the formerly single Clooney. Other trendy hangouts are a little more accessible to the non-red-carpet crowd: Tamarina, for one, features an oyster bar and alfresco champagne bar, plus a reasonably priced happy hour. You might meet other singles while strolling through galleries and past street art on the Wynwood Art Walks, held the second Saturday of the month. And in this otherwise well-dressed town, your best secret-weapon accessory may be a smile: readers found the locals to be a little aloof.

No. 2 Houston

Houston sashayed into the top five for singles this year, and why not—the locals ranked as both smart and stylish, and the city landed near the top for both its decadent barbecue and world-class art. Gallery Row, at the intersection of Colquitt and Lake streets, offers both great art and conversation starters: check out Hooks-Epstein for contemporary surrealists or Catherine Couturier Gallery for vintage photos. Houston also pulled off an upset by winning the wine bar category this year. Pull up a stool to chat at La Carafe—the city’s oldest bar, with a fabulous jukebox—or try the newbie, downtown’s Public Services Wine and Whisky, which is located in the old 1884 Cotton Exchange building and serves a wide range of global wines, sherries, and whiskeys.

No. 3 New Orleans

Last year’s No. 1 city for singles still knows how to whoop it up, ranking at the top of the survey for festivals, bars, and wild weekends. But a good singles experience in NOLA need not be limited to collecting beads: some cool places to meet a more local crowd, off the tourist grid, include the Saturday night dance party at the Hi-Ho Lounge in the Marigny; Bywater wine bar Bacchanal, with its live-music-filled courtyard; or Fulton Alley for late-night “boutique bowling,” with shareable, andouille-sausage tater tots.

No. 4 Austin, TX

The seat of Texas government is also the nation’s capital of hipsters, according to readers, who also ranked Austin No. 1 for cool locals. Given Austin’s high density of both college students and bearded Peter Pan types, the can’t-miss spots for meeting singles include dive bars and food trucks: you can find both at Wonderland on East 6th, a stylishly low-key bar that provides space outside for the Thai-flavored East Side King truck. To mingle with fellow foodies, check out The Picnic, a trailer park on Barton Springs Road, which is home to Turf N Surf Po’ Boy and Hey Cupcake! If you need an excuse to let down your emotional walls, consider that Austin also ranked well for feeling safe.

No. 5 Atlanta

The Georgia hub scored well for its java, and Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, a single-origin coffee and donut bar in Ponce City Market, is a fine place for a pick-me-up (and perhaps a pick-up line). If you prefer snobs of the burger variety, head to Holeman and Finch, where every night at 10 p.m., you can line up for one of the 24 acclaimed double-patty (grass-fed chuck and brisket) cheeseburgers, served on house-made buns. Atlanta’s residents also made the top 20 for being smart.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME relationships

Investors Are Putting Millions Into ‘Tinder For Elitists’

481289569
Getty Images Modern Dating

Unemployed need not apply

There’s a Tinder for dogs, a Tinder for Jews, and now… a Tinder for elitists.

Or, as The League creator Amanda Bradford prefers to describe the dating app that only allows a selective cohort of singles to join, “curated.”

“The best universities curate students,” Bradford said to Business Insider. “Employers curate their employees. Work and school are the top places where 20-somethings meet each other. So it makes sense for a dating community [as well.]”

And even though the power couple-making app is only in beta with 4,500 San Francisco-based users, The League just announced $2.1 million in investor funding Thursday.

“I was just going to raise a small seed round, but we had a bunch of interest and we went from $500,000 to $2.1 million almost overnight,” Bradford told Tech Crunch.

What are investors putting their money into?

The League is all about selectivity. Singles apply to join, and then wait for approval by administrators. While apps like Tinder, Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel pulls user data from Facebook, The League also goes to LinkedIn to curate its community — largely made up of lawyers, doctors and tech execs.

Business Insider reports:

The acceptance algorithm that The League uses scans the social networks to ensure applicants are in the right age group and that they are career-oriented. That doesn’t mean they have to be Ivy graduates or work for a big-name firm. But they should have accomplished something in their 20s.

Those accepted not only get to check their 5 p.m. “happy hour” matches, but they also get a pass to refer a friend.

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