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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"

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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 Sex/Relationships

The Science of How Women Can Have Twins With 2 Different Fathers

It's rare, but not impossible

Paternity tests usually give a straightforward answer—a man either is or isn’t the father. But, for a woman in New Jersey suing for child support, things are a little more complicated. It turns out the man she thought was the father of her twins was only the father of one of the pair.

That result is rare—so rare that the condition has the improbable name “superfecundation.” But it turns out a lot of things can happen when it comes to birthing multiple children at the same time. Here are the different types of multiple births:

Superfecundation twins: When a woman has intercourse with two different men in a short period of time while ovulating, it’s possible for both men to impregnate her separately. In this case, two different sperm impregnate two different eggs. This is what happened to the woman in New Jersey. One child was the product of her relationship with the man she brought to court, and the other child was conceived during a separate encounter with another man. While this phenomenon is rare, research suggests it does happen from time to time. A 1992 study found that superfecundation twins were at the root of more than 2% of paternity suits in the United States involving twins.

Fraternal twins (50% shared genetics): Fraternal twins result when two separate sperm fertilize two separate eggs. Both babies are a mix of the mother and father, but they don’t share the exact same genetics.

Polar body twins (75% shared genetics): You might think of polar body twins as half-identical twins. They occur when an egg divides in two during ovulation, creating a primary body and a polar body, both of which have the same genetics. In most cases, the polar body, which has less cytoplasm, will die off, but in some cases both the primary body and the polar body will be fertilized by separate sperm creating twins with identical genetics from the mother and different genetics from the father. While the theory of polar twinning makes sense from a scientific perspective, there’s some disagreement among scientists about whether polar twinning actually occurs in the real world.

Identical twins (100% shared genetics): Identical twins result when a single sperm fertilizes a single egg and the resulting cell then divides in two. The two bodies, soon to be babies, share the same genetics and look the same.

Things can get complicated when you start dealing with triplets, quintuplets, and even bigger single-pregnancy broods. For instance, a mother having triplets could have identical twins from the same egg and a third child from an entirely different egg and sperm. Once you start to mix and match like that, the possible combinations—to say nothing of the dynamics of the playroom—can get very complex.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Why Menopause Isn’t the Sex Killer You Thought It Was

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A woman's sex drive isn’t as affected by menopause as we once thought

Hormones are generally at the center of any discussion about sex. At puberty, the surge in estrogen and testosterone is responsible for the emergence of a sex drive, launching the most fertile period in our lives, while at the other end, a decline in hormones means a waning libido.

But we shouldn’t be so quick to blame that change in hormones, at least in women, say researchers led by Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College, London.

In a report published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, Spector and his colleagues studied four years’ worth of answers that women provided about their sexual health both before and after menopause. It’s the first study to analyze how various domains in sexuality, including desire, arousal, orgasm, satisfaction and pain, interact with each other and change over time.

They expected that sexual drive and problems with sexual function would increase with time and be higher among women after menopause. But the rate of sexual dysfunction over the four-year study period was about the same—22% to 23%—for both pre- and post-menopausal women. That suggests that menopause, which marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and is biologically triggered by a decline in estrogen levels, isn’t as important a contributor to sexual issues as once thought.

“We were surprised by the results a little bit,” says Spector. “They suggest that menopause has been exaggerated as an excuse for everything.”

What’s more, the proportion of women reporting improvements in sexual function during the study also remained about the same in pre- and post-menopausal women, hinting that declines in things like desire or arousal can be reversed to a certain extent. “Women do see improvements in sexual functioning after menopause,” Spector says. “What that says is that you are not necessarily stuck” if you experience sexual dysfunction.

The best predictor of how your sex life will change, in fact, is where you start. Women reporting issues with desire, arousal or orgasm at the start of the study, for instance, were more likely to continue to have those issues at the end of the study. But, as the results show, where you start doesn’t have to dictate where you end up when it comes to sexual function. “By modifying your life and attitudes about sexual desire,” Spector says, “you can change things sometimes surprisingly for the better, although you are getting older.”

TIME Heart Disease

What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health

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When it comes to the fallout from a divorce, one spouse is harmed more by it’s biological and psychological effects on the heart

Dissolving a marriage is hard on everyone, but researchers say the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women.

Women who divorced at least once were 24% more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married, and those divorcing two or more times saw their risk jump to 77%. In the study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Matthew Dupre of Duke University and his colleagues found that men weren’t at similar risk. Men only saw their heart attack chances go up if they divorced two or more times compared to men who didn’t split with their spouses. If men remarried, their heart risk did not go up, while for women who remarried, their chances of having a heart attack remained slightly higher, at 35%, than that of divorced women.

MORE: Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill

These findings remained strong even after Dupre’s team adjusted for other potential contributors to heart attack, including age, social factors such as changes in occupation and job status and health insurance coverage, and physiological factors including body mass index, hypertension and diabetes. Previous studies have found links between divorce or widowhood and heart disease that were explained, at least in part, by changes in people’s access to health care and their ability to keep up healthy eating and exercise habits.

But these are the first results from tracking people over a longer period of time—18 years—to capture the cumulative effects of changes in marital status, says Dupre. “We looked at lifetime exposure to not only current marital status, but how many times someone has been divorced in the past. What we found was that repeated exposure to divorce put men and women, but particularly women, at higher risk of having a heart attack compared to those who were married.”

MORE: Study: Marriage is Good For The Heart

And it wasn’t simply changes in health insurance coverage or financial status resulting from the divorce that explained the higher heart risk. Even after Dupre’s group accounted for these, the relationship held. While he admits that the trial did not investigate exactly how divorce is seeding more heart attacks, other studies hint at a possible explanation. Dramatic life changes such as divorce, which signal an end to not only a significant relationship but potentially to stable financial and social circumstances as well, can lead to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can push blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to unhealthy heights.

The long term scope of the study revealed the impact that social and life events can have on the physical functioning of the body. “The health consequences of social stresses are real,” says Dupre. For women, the 77% higher risk of heart attack connected to multiple divorces was on par with well-established factors such as hypertension (which boosts risk by 73%) and diabetes (which elevates heart problems by 81%).

MORE: Do Married People Really Live Longer?

That’s doesn’t mean, of course, that women should avoid getting divorced to save their hearts. “Another way to put it is to say that women who are stably married are at an increased advantage of preventing heart attacks than women who may have had to go through transitions where they weren’t,” says Dupre.

It also makes a good case for doctors including discussion about potential stressors, including lifestyle and social circumstances, in their health assessment of patients. Recognizing that divorce may be a life event that can contribute to higher heart attack risk, for example, they can monitor patients experiencing divorce more carefully, and be alert to the first signs of potential problems with cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar. “Understanding all of the factors that lead to a physiological response are equally important,” says Dupre. And potentially life saving.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Teens Aren’t Using the Most Effective Birth Control

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A new CDC report reveals few teens use IUDs and implants

American teenagers are getting better at practicing safe sex, but a new federal report reveals very few teens are using the most effective forms of birth control.

In the new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at 2005–2013 data from the Title X National Family Planning Program on teen contraceptive use and found that teen use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)—such as the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant—are up but still very low. The numbers show that U.S. teen LARC use increased from under 1% in 2005 to 7% in 2013. Implants were used more than IUDs by women of all ages. The state with the highest use of LARC among its teens in 2013 was Colorado at 26%. All other states ranged from use of less than 1% to 20%.

Currently, teens are opting for methods like condoms and birth control pills, which while still good options, are less effective and more prone to incorrect or inconsistent use.

MORE: Why The Most Effective Form of Birth Control is the One No One Uses

The benefit of contraceptives like the IUD and implant are that they are low maintenance and highly effective. For example, the typical use failure rate of the IUD is 0.2% and for the implant it’s 0.05%. By comparison, the birth control pill and vaginal ring have a failure rate of 9% and condoms have a fail rate of 18%.

In 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), considered an authority on reproductive health, concluded that IUDs and implants are safe and appropriate for adolescents and teens. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agreed and said it recommends LARC for adolescents.

“Long-acting reversible contraception is safe for teens, easy to use, and very effective,” said CDC principal deputy director Ileana Arias in a statement. “We need to remove barriers and increase awareness, access, and availability of long-acting reversible contraception such as IUDs and implants.”

CDC

According to the new CDC report, there are a variety of reasons why a young person may not opt for the IUD or implant. Many teens don’t know very much about them and they often think they are too young to use them. As TIME reported in June, some physicians may remember the IUDs of past, which caused severe problems for women and were discontinued. Modern-day IUDs are safe and appropriate but there are still misperceptions about the device that persist within the medical community. Many providers are also not properly trained on insertion or removal of the IUD and implant. However, a recent report showed that among female health care providers 42% use LARC, which is much higher than both the general population of teens and adult women.

Overall, the CDC report shows that American teens are waiting to have sex, and when they are sexually active, nearly 90% report using birth control. The teen pregnancy rate in the United States appears to be steadily dropping, though in 2013 over 273,000 babies were born to girls between ages 15 and 19. The CDC says encouraging young women to consider LARC is an important strategy for further reducing teen pregnancy.

TIME celebrities

Eva Mendes Takes a Stand Against the Tyranny of Sweatpants

Eva Mendes during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on March 14, 2015 in Austin, Texas.
Michael Loccisano—2015 Getty Images Eva Mendes during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival on March 14, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

“Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!”

You know how every celebrity divorce is attributed to “irreconcilable differences” and you’re always like: What does that mean? Hollywood insider Eva Mendes is spilling the truth about the root cause of that phrase, and it is: sweatpants.

“No!” you cry, clutching your ratty Sorority Fun Run and Pancake Breakfast ’05 pair to your chest! “You can take my freedom but you can’t take my sweats!” But Mendes is here to deliver the cold, hard truth about your warm, soft pants.

“You can’t do sweatpants,” she said on Extra while promoting her makeup line, Circa. “Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America, sweatpants, no!”

This leaves the question of what she wears to lounge around the house when home with boyfriend Ryan Gosling. Caftans? Teddies? Nothing? What happens if he sees her after a workout? The only reason we ask is because we are looking to lock down a Gosling doppelgänger and will do whatever it takes.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Divorce More Likely When Wife Gets Seriously Ill, Study Finds

'Life-or-death experiences may cause people to re-evaluate what’s important in their lives'

A marriage is more likely to end in divorce when a wife is seriously ill, according to a new study.

The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, found that a marriage was 6% more likely to end in divorce when a wife was diagnosed with serious illness than in marriages where the wife remained healthy. The study looked at data from more than 2,700 marriages with at least one partner over the age of 50. A husband’s illness did not affect the chances of divorce.

The study did not explain how illness may have led to divorce, but lead author Amelia Karraker said that illness can stress a marriage in many ways.

“Life-or-death experiences may cause people to re-evaluate what’s important in their lives,” said Karraker, an assistant professor at Iowa State University. “It could be that women are saying, ‘You’re doing a bad job of caring for me,’ ‘I’m not happy with this,’ or ‘I wasn’t happy with the relationship to begin with.’”

Nearly a third of the marriages evaluated ended in divorce while nearly a quarter ended in the death of one spouse.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Teen Dating Violence Harms Both Genders, Government Report Shows

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New data on teen dating violence reveals problems among both sexes

Findings from a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reveal that nearly 21% of female teens who date have experienced some form of violence at the hands of their partner in the last year—and almost half of male students report the same.

The survey asked about 9,900 high school students whether they had experienced some type of violence from someone they dated. The results, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed that about 7% of teen girls reported experiencing physical violence, 8% said they experienced sexual violence and 6% experienced both. Almost 21% said they were the victim of some type of dating-related violence. For boys, about 4% reported experiencing physical violence, 3% experienced sexual violence and 10% experienced any type. Though girls were more likely to experience violence, the numbers show dating assaults affect young boys as well.

The new CDC survey adds to its prior research into the prevalence of dating violence, but the latest version asked updated questions that include sexual violence and more accurately portray violent behaviors, the study authors say.

Most of the teens surveyed reported experiencing such violence more than one time. The findings also showed that those who experienced some form of dating violence also had a higher prevalence of other health risks like drinking alcohol, using drugs or thinking about suicide.

Future research should look at the frequency of violence in teen dating relationships and how that may harm teens’ health, the researchers conclude.

TIME Sex/Relationships

IUDs Are Getting More Popular With American Women

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More U.S. women are using the IUD or implant

American women are increasingly opting for longer-lasting and highly effective forms of birth control, according to new federal data released on Tuesday.

New numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show women are choosing long-lasting reversible contraceptives (LARC) like the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant more than they have in the past. According to the numbers, IUD use increased 83% from 2006–2010 to 2011–2013 and implants tripled in use during the same time period. Both methods are approximately 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

“I am delighted LARC use is rising. It’s terrific and I would like to see even more,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.

Overall, the use of LARC has increased fivefold in the past decade among women between the ages of 15 to 44, though overall usage remains low. Use spiked from 1.5% in 2002 to 7.2% in between 2011 and 2013. Women ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to choose LARC at 11% compared with 5% of women ages 15 to 24 and around 5.3% of women ages 35 to 44.

As TIME previously reported, one reason for the slow uptake among American women is that older versions of the IUDs from the 1970s and ’80s were plagued with problems. The new CDC data shows that LARC use declined between 1982 and 1988 and remained stable from 1988 to 1995. Today, IUDs are considered very safe and effective. Planned Parenthood told TIME it has experienced a 75% increase in IUD use among its patients since 2008.

“I think the current generation of women haven’t heard about the errors of the past, which is good,” says Minkin. “They are looking anew at LARC and looking at them for the value they have. People can forget their pills. These other methods take the human variable out of it, and they work very nicely.” (Minkin was not involved in the new study.)

MORE: Why the Best Form of Birth Control Is the One No One Is Using

New, separate data published Monday in the journal Contraception showed that among 500 female health care providers, 42% used LARC, which is significantly higher than the general population.

Women in other countries are significantly more likely to use LARC, especially the IUD. Separate research has shown that 23% of French women using contraception use an IUD as well as 27% of Norwegian women and 41% of women in China. In the U.S., cost may be a factor: the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health nonprofit, reports that their research shows sharp increases in the numbers of women who don’t have to pay out of pocket for LARC thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Without insurance coverage, LARC can be prohibitively expensive for some — around $900 for an IUD, for instance.

“If you have contraceptive coverage that makes it much more doable,” says Minkin, “I think it increases the availability and viability for women.”

TIME relationships

The Valentine’s Day That Should Have Stopped Me From Getting Married

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

All I wanted to do was to give him a special gift for Valentine's Day

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I think it’s safe to say the color most closely associated with Valentine’s Day is red. Red hearts, red roses, red wine. Or in the case of my 2003 Valentine’s Day, red flags.

I was never super-into Valentine’s Day — at least not after elementary school; I would actually take a lot of care choosing my mass-marketed, perforated Valentines at CVS and deciding whichGarfield & Friends” character made the most sense to give to which classmate. Once I got to middle school, I quickly realized it served as an opportunity to feel rejected if I didn’t have a boyfriend or disappointed if I did and he didn’t put as much thought into a gift as I did. (I’m sorry, but a personalized dude-bracelet from Things Remembered is a way more thoughtful gift than a made-in-China teddy bear from Drug Fair.)

Come high school, Valentine’s Day just became uncomfortable. My freshman year, a sophomore boy who had a girlfriend snuck an extremely intense, handwritten poem into my backpack — my first taste of how terrible people can be to their significant others on a day that’s supposed to celebrate them. After that, I don’t even think I acknowledged Valentine’s Day until my sophomore year of college, when I bought the guy I’d been dating for two weeks a frame for his favorite picture of him and his best friend, and he bought me a white negligee; that sufficiently creeped out sexually inexperienced 19-year-old me.

Because every day is Valentine’s Day when you’re in love, I got engaged on a random October day in 2002, at age 23, to a guy I’d been dating for only about half a year. We just knew, you guys, we just knew. Terry (most definitely not his actual name) and I had met through The Onion‘s online personals (do those even exist anymore?) before Internet dating was even remotely normal, and in addition to all the lovey-dovey stuff we were pretty sure we were genuinely feeling, we were intent on proving that rushing into marriage in one’s mid-20s after meeting through a satirical-news website was a totally reasonable thing to do and also probably the wave of the future.

MORE 17 Memorable Kisses Throughout History

The following Valentine’s Day would be our first together. Neither of us cared about it, but in the grips of excited fiancéehood, I thought, hey, why not do a little something special? My idea: Print out and frame the deactivated Onion dating profiles that brought us together.

A few months earlier, I had made the mistake of forgetting to deactivate my profile and was very publicly reminded to when, early in the summer, I became a “featured single” in Time Out New York, which mined The Onion and Nerve for its personals. Terry’s profile was also still active at the time; it was our first time doing online dating and we honestly just forgot that we’d have to proactively disable our listings. After my embarrassing appearance in TONY, he and I both turned off our profiles. We actually took turns doing so at the same computer, and he even unsolicitedly told me his password as a symbol of his trustworthiness.

On the afternoon of February 14, while Terry was at work at a wine shop in our neighborhood, I signed back into The Onion personals for the first time since I’d deactivated my account back in the summer. I figured if I couldn’t find his inactive profile by directly typing in its old URL, it would be okay to sign into his account using the password he’d told me — just this once — so I could access the old profile and print it out. Even the idea of innocently doing that for the sake of the gift made me uncomfortable, though, so I was relieved when, after typing in the URL of his old profile while still signed into my account, it was viewable.

The relief immediately turned to nauseated distress when I realized the profile was still active. I had seen him deactivate it months ago; either he hadn’t done it correctly, or he’d reactivated it at some point since we’d gotten engaged.

It soon became clear that it was the latter, because the content of his profile was completely, horribly, devastatingly different.

“I’m engaged to an idiot who doesn’t know the difference between merlot and cabernet,” it read. “I’m miserable. If you’re an oenophile and aren’t put off by my current situation, let’s talk.”

It took every muscle in my body to keep vomit down; I literally clenched my feet to help stop myself from throwing up. My face was tingling painfully, like when a limb falls asleep. I was too upset to cry — yet.

Feeling like my body was being held together by safety pins, I called Terry. I knew he wasn’t allowed to have his cell phone on the store floor, so I wasn’t surprised when it went to voicemail.

“Terry, you need to come home as soon as possible,” I said, knowing the anger I was trying to keep contained was clear in my voice. “If they let anyone go home early tonight, please make sure it’s you.”

As I waited for him to come home, I started digesting what I’d seen. My fiancé hated me, apparently due to my wine ignorance, and he was actively looking to either cheat on me or leave me for someone else. He hadn’t let on to me that he was unhappy, that my lack of interest in wine or anything else about me was enough to do something so cruel.

An hour later, and shortly after I’d finally started crying, Terry walked through the door.

“What’s wrong?” he said, seeming genuinely concerned.

I handed him a printout of his profile — a much different printout than I had intended to frame for Valentine’s Day.

“What is this?” he said, playing dumb.

“Oh, come on,” I said, my volume already bordering on a yell.

“Uh… wow,” he started. “One of the guys must have done this as a joke,” meaning one of the guys in his sketch-comedy group. He knew I was insecure about whether or not they liked me, so they were an easy scapegoat.

He looked up at me, and one of his eyes crossed. That was his tell. That was what I’d come to identify as the sign he was lying.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, Terry, don’t lie to me,” I shouted, my face red and wet.

He was quiet for a while. I could tell he just wanted to run, or at least go into a different room, but we lived in a studio apartment. If he felt stuck with me before, I imagine it was infinitely intensified in those moments.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, sighing. “I’ve been freaking out lately.”

“Why not tell me?” I think I was screeching at this point because our dog, Max, had hidden in the bathroom. “Why do this? Why call me an idiot and look for someone to cheat on me with, and on a public website? The one we met on!”

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” he said. He looked like he might start crying, too.

“Do you want to marry me?” It was a question, but my inflection went down at the end of the sentence.

Without hesitation, he said, “Yes.”

“I don’t believe you,” I replied.

And I shouldn’t have. He wasn’t ready to marry me or anyone else. He wasn’t ready to admit that there were many things about me — many non-wine-related things — that he didn’t like. But after several days of his timid attentiveness, I forgave him.

And after several months of trying to forget a flag so red it was practically on fire, I married him.

I think we actually did love each other, at least a little bit; but more than anything, I think we wanted to not be wrong. We wanted to believe two twentysomethings who couldn’t even make ends meet had made the right decisions, no matter how hasty and immature and delusional those decisions were.

About two years after we got married, we separated — and far more amicably than we’d spent the second year of our marriage. Our goodwill toward each other had run out, and we had matured enough to admit we weren’t right for each other and never had been.

Although I know, looking back, that I should have swallowed my pride and called off the wedding after that Valentine’s Day, there’s no point wasting time regretting how things panned out.

I’m actually really pleased with the balance I’ve developed between being guarded and trusting, and it’s something I’m always fine-tuning. My tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt might prevent me from fully honing my red-flag-detecting abilities, but I’m pretty sure I’ll never marry another guy who calls me an idiot — to my face, on a dating website, or otherwise.

Marci Robin wrote this article for xoJane.

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