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Love Affairs

Lisa and Jennifer: Finding super-love

In June 2011, Lisa Dazols and Jennifer Chang decided to leave their nine-to-five jobs to travel the world for a year in search of gay people creating change for the LGBT community through their project, Out and Around: Stories of a Not-So-Straight Journey, which is a collection of conversations with “Supergays” from around the world. This project took them throughout Asia, Africa and South America. It was also a celebration of their love for each other.

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Lisa Dazols and Jennifer Chang met five years ago (in 2007), “while riding our bicycles an hour outside of San Francisco. We both showed up for a training ride for an HIV fundraiser (i.e. the AIDS Lifecycle, a 500 mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV services),” Lisa recalled. At that time, though, “Jenni had a girlfriend, so we just became friends and shared a sandwich that day. Jenni had short hair at the time and was all sporty, so I thought of her as a buddy.”

So, yes, “it wasn’t love at first sight, because we were both dating other people,” Jennifer said.

That was, at least, for the first year of the couple’s friendship. And then “Lisa then needed a date to a wedding at the last minute after a breakup, and asked me to join her,” Jennifer said. Then, smiling: “Lisa was never interested in me until I put on a dress.”

But even early on, “I knew pretty early into dating Jenni that I was in love,” Lisa said. “She kept trying to break up with me because she had recently ended her first relationship and wasn’t ready to date. But I kept persisting and eventually won her over. I remember that I invited her to my sister’s house during the holidays, and I couldn’t contain my excitement for my family to meet her.”

As for Jennifer, “I already had the chance to get to know Lisa as a friend, so I knew I could trust her. We shared many of the same values and I could see her as a solid partner. On Lisa’s 30th birthday, we went skydiving together. I was willing to jump out of a plane with this woman! I told her later that day that I loved her.”

In June 2011, Lisa and Jennifer decided to leave their nine-to-five jobs to travel the world for a year in search of gay people creating change for the LGBT community through their project, Out and Around: Stories of a Not-So-Straight Journey, which is a collection of conversations with “Supergays” from around the world. This project took them throughout Asia, Africa and South America.

On their website, the couple noted that “we’re at a pivotal point for gay rights in the world. Significant change has been made for gays in terms of civil rights and societal acceptance. To think that 10 years ago, there was not a country on this planet where we could get legally married as a lesbian couple. Now, 10 countries have legalized same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, more progress must be made. Gay youth still get bullied every day, gays everywhere still face a tremendous amount of homophobia, and gay rights still don’t exist in much of the developing world.” They hoped, therefore, that “with our project, we can change this.”

Lisa and Jennifer were able to interview New Zealand Olympian Blake Skjellerup, Australia’s former High Court judge Michael Kirby, China’s jazz musician Coco Zhao, Filipino philanthropist Ricky Reyes, Nepal’s member of Parliament Sunil Pant, and India’s Price Manvendra Singh Gohil, among others.

The journey was, of course, very personal (“I figure that if we can survive 365 days of traveling together, it’s a good test of our long-term commitment,” Lisa was earlier quoted as saying). A few months into their journey, Jennifer surprised Lisa by proposing to her on the beach on Boracay Island.

There remain challenges that the couple face – both as LGBT advocates, and on a more personal level; though the two tend to be connected, as their experience shows.

“The biggest challenge Lisa and I face as a lesbian couple is that my parents don’t accept our relationship. They’re faithful Evangelicals who believe in their Church’s teaching that homosexuality is wrong. I’ve spent time in therapy with my parents to find a way that they can participate in our lives. We’re so often in opposition that now they feel as if they’ve lost their daughter,” Jennifer said. “I just want them to see that I am happy. Like many same sex couples, not having the support of our families adds stress on the relationship.”

“In the U.S. we still don’t have marriage equality. Jenni and I got engaged while traveling in Boracay. We feel like second class citizens not having the same rights as every other couple,” Lisa said. But while “we’ve used our website as a way of starting conversations about international LGBT rights, at the same time, there are still over 70 countries where homosexual activity is illegal and can result in incarceration. When we visited East Africa on our travels, all of the activists had received death threats for their advocacy work. So, we’re pretty lucky in the States and need to stand by our LGBT family in countries with far less tolerance.”

Lisa and Jennifer have set a date (June 8, 2013) to get married “whether or not our State recognizes it,” Lisa said. On August 10, though, the two “felt somewhat vulnerable without legal protections, so we decided to complete our domestic partnership paperwork.”

That they found happiness being with each other is nonetheless what’s apparent.

“I feel so fortunate to have Jenni in my life. She’s gotten me to travel around the world and jump out of my comfort zone. Spending a year traveling together, we had the luxury of time. I really enjoy her company,” Lisa said.

“We’re always laughing. Even when we fight. She truly makes my everyday very happy. After a year of traveling, the best feeling is building a home together and feeling settled with one another,” Jennifer said.

Lisa and Jennifer are now working on taking their short films and making a larger one to reach an international audience. This in their attempt to “continue educating people on global LGBT rights,” Jennifer said.

This education also comes in celebrating Lisa and Jennifer’s togetherness.

Know more about Lisa Dazols and Jennifer Chang at www.OutandAround.com. A video and summary of their Philippine visit is available here; while a trailer of Out and Around is available here.

Love Affairs

New study explores if flirting is real and shows it can work

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

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“She was totally flirting with you,” my friend told me after the hosts left our table.

“No, she wasn’t. She was just being polite,” said another friend.

Misunderstandings about flirting can potentially result in awkwardness or even accusations of sexual harassment. How can we figure out what other people mean when they smile at us? Is there a unique, identifiable facial expression representing flirting — and if there is, what does it convey, and how effective is it?

Although flirting is mentioned a lot in the general media, and examples are everywhere, there is relatively little scientific work on the topic of flirting, its underlying mechanisms and function.

Now, a new paper by researchers based at the University of Kansas has been published in the Journal of Sex Research examining if flirting has a particular facial cue effectively used by women to indicate interest in a man.

“There are very few scientific articles out there that have systematically studied this well-known phenomenon,” said Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at KU, who co-wrote the paper. “None of these studies have identified the flirting facial expression and tested its effects.”

Gillath’s collaborators were lead author Parnia Haj-Mohamadi, a doctoral student in psychology at KU, and Erika Rosenberg of the University of California-Davis.

The researchers found internal states — such as being romantically or sexually interested in someone — can be conveyed to others nonverbally through facial expression.

In other words — flirting works.

Some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

“Across our six studies, we found most men were able to recognize a certain female facial expression as representing flirting,” Gillath said. “It has a unique morphology, and it’s different from expressions that have similar features — for example, smiling — but aren’t identified by men as flirting expression.”

In the studies, women — some professional actresses and some volunteers from the community — were asked either to spontaneously pose a flirting expression (similar to what they’d use at a bar to get attention from a potential mate) or to follow instructions based on existing anthropological literature for what researchers define as flirting.

The team found some women are more effective than others in effectively conveying a flirtatious facial cue, while some men are better at recognizing this cue. Beyond these individual differences, a few expressions were identified by most (if not all) men as flirting.

The researchers used the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to classify the morphology of highly recognized flirtatious facial expressions. The coding showed the most effective flirting cues include a head turned to one side and tilted down slightly, a slight smile, and eyes turned forward toward the implied target.

After identifying these most recognized expressions of flirting, the researchers used them in experimental studies.

“Our findings support the role of flirtatious expression in communication and mating initiation,” Gillath said. “For the first time, not only were we able to isolate and identify the expressions that represent flirting, but we were also able to reveal their function — to activate associations related with relationships and sex.”

The new paper puts flirting in the same category as other well-studied emotions and provides researchers with tools to further study the functions of flirting. It can also give sometimes-clueless men, like the one in the example above, a more concrete way to figure out if a woman is truly flirting.

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Love Affairs

5 Top tips for a fantastic anniversary with your partner

From thinking of the small details to planning a grand gesture, here are some top tips to ensure that both you and your partner have an enjoyable anniversary that will rival your big day itself.

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Whether you love the thought of celebrating your anniversary or are dreading the attention, there are many ways that you can enjoy your special day and ensure that it is an unforgettable occasion. From thinking of the small details to planning a grand gesture, here are some top tips to ensure that both you and your partner have an enjoyable anniversary that will rival your big day itself. 

1. Get Your Loved One a Romantic Gift 

Gift-giving can be difficult at the best of times, especially if you feel that you are running out of unique presents to give your partner between birthdays and the holiday season. When you are planning your anniversary gift, it is the thought that counts rather than the price tag, and some of the best presents are those that can keep the romance going on your anniversary and beyond. For instance, Scent Magic offers a cologne subscription box that can make your partner feel loved every month of the year, and that can spruce up your date nights. You should also pair this gift with a beautiful card that contains a personal message affirming your love for them and your hopes for the future.

2. Choose a Romantic Anniversary Event 

Whether you are planning a big do or are simply trying to find a personal way to say, ‘thank you’, finding a celebration that is perfect for your relationship is important. One of the best ideas is returning to the place that you first met, trying something different, or traveling to a location, such as a restaurant or a bar, that you both loves. If you want to travel further afield to enjoy your anniversary away from the chaos of everyday life, why not plan to go on a vacation for your special occasion? Taking some time off work to spend together can help to cement your love and can allow you to remember what you originally saw in one another.

3. Celebrate with Family and Friends 

However, family and friends are an integral part of your relationship, and even the strongest couple will have needed their support throughout their partnership. Then, if possible, you should try to get your family and friends involved and show them that they are appreciated. You can do this by planning an anniversary party with an extensive guest list, or even just by hosting a meal at your favorite restaurant. 

4. Consider Staying In 

For all the fireworks and splashy, Instagram-worthy events that many couples decide upon, there is also something special about staying in for your anniversary and spending your day in absolute comfort. There is no reason why staying in cannot be perfect, though, and re-watching your wedding video or even cooking a candle-lit dinner can help to make the occasion stand out. 

5. Discuss the Occasion with Your Partner

Whatever you do, it is paramount that you can discuss the occasion with your partner. There is no point in simply planning something that you will enjoy or deciding to throw them a huge surprise if they are not likely to enjoy it. Then, you must sit down before your big day and discuss what you would both like to do for your anniversary until you reach a compromise that suits both of you.

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Lifestyle & Culture

How to choose a dating site that works for you

There are hundreds of sites to choose from and millions of people using them from all around the world. So, how do you choose the right dating site for you?

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Online dating can be a really easy and fun way to meet new singles and put yourself in with a chance of finding a great relationship. Today, online dating is one of the most popular ways to meet somebody new, and every year thousands of partners meet online. Whatever kind of relationship you’re looking for and no matter what stage you’re at in your life, online dating can be a great way to find what you want. However, online dating can also be quite overwhelming.

There are hundreds of sites to choose from and millions of people using them from all around the world. So, how do you choose the right dating site for you?

Be Clear on What You’re Looking For

Knowing what you’re looking for in a relationship before you get started will make it easier for you to find the right dating site for your needs. If you’re not sure what you want, this #1 trusted dating site in San Jose ticks all the boxes and offers a wide range of features to suit everybody. Whether you’re looking for a casual fling or want to eventually get married, find a site that caters to those needs and is likely to attract people who are looking for the same thing as you are. 

Consider Your Location

It’s a good idea to consider your area when choosing a dating site. The last thing that you want is to end up signing up to and potentially paying for a site that isn’t very popular with singles in your area. If you’re not sure then it’s a good idea to sign up to a site that’s popular in many different areas so that you can be sure you will meet local singles. You can sign up for Meetville here: https://meetville.com/catalog/us/ca/95631/woman

Check the Reputation

Don’t waste your money on a dating site that doesn’t have a good reputation. Before choosing the right site for you, take some time to research your options and find one that is well-known for bringing successful couples together. There are some other important considerations to make, too, such as the level of security on the site and how seriously any untoward messages or abuse towards members is taken. 

Try it Out

The good news is that many good dating sites and apps offer a free version or a limited free trial that you can take advantage of before you decide to commit to paying. Sign up for as many free trials as you can find so that you’ve got a good chance of finding a site or a couple of sites that work better for you than others. Remember, if you find a few different dating sites that you like there’s nothing wrong with using a few different once at the same time to get even more matches. 

The world of online dating can be a fun way to meet new people when you’re single and potentially find your perfect partner. Keep these tips in mind and find a dating site that works well for you. 

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Love Affairs

Interesting things to know about open relationships

Open relationships are becoming commonplace that even the elite in the entertainment business are opening up to what they believe in. Whatever makes the other party happy, that’s what we’ll roll with. That has been the motto of modern relationships.

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Gone are the days when everyone believed that relationships were between males and females. Well, you can thank the traditional upbringing for that. Today, you have relationships that to a naive eye, can seem kind of weird. But let’s face it, it’s not about what they think about you but it has everything to do with what makes you happy. You have all these types of relationships and to be honest, there has never been a better time like this day and age where you’ll never have to hide your sexuality. 

Open relationships are becoming commonplace that even the elite in the entertainment business are opening up to what they believe in. Whatever makes the other party happy, that’s what we’ll roll with. That has been the motto of modern relationships. 

What’s An Open Relationship

Whether you are gaslighting or bread crumbing, an open relationship could open you up to possibilities that you’ve never experienced before. But then again, you’ll still want to be careful about your safety by using protection whenever you are engaging in sexual activities with strange characters. 

An open relationship is one where a couple mutually agrees to involve and engage with other partners either sexually and/or romantically. Some of the reasons to get involved in an open relationship include:

  • Unparalleled libidos between you and your partner
  • The desire to have more sex
  • Exploring sexual fantasies
  • There’s lots of love to go around 

Enough said, here are interesting things that you need to know about an open relationship. They include: 

1. More Spice In Your Love Life 

Do you desire more intimacy, love, romance, and more orgasms? This shouldn’t be a question but a confirmation of what your love needs to be like. Unfortunately, the intimacy in your bedroom can become stale due to dwindling sex drive, time, or the fact that you’ve grown out of love with your partner. It’s time to get back your intimacy and spice your once romantic relationship by getting a partner with whom you can break that boredom. Having another partner can help you – as a couple – act out all those cuckold fantasies that you’ve always locked deep inside.

An open relationship could be the gateway through which you can revamp your sex life. But as earlier mentioned, ensure that you practice safe sexual interactions and it’s also wise to mention this to your partner. 

2. Honesty And Open-mindedness

Just like in any other relationship, honesty is an important pillar to help strengthen and grow your relationship. You should be honest with your partner – the one you are in a relationship with – especially before you decide to introduce the element of an open relationship. To avoid the aspect of cheating and ruin your existing bond, communicate early enough with your partner, and present them with all the info you might think is necessary. Equally, be open-minded if they don’t share your enthusiasm or your line of thinking. After all, open relationships aren’t for everyone.

3. It’s Not The Solution

An open relationship has its many perks such as spicing up your relationship, sharing love, and helping in communication. Be it as it may, an open relationship is not the solution to the many issues ailing your relationship. Spicing up your marriage by bringing in the extra partner will only spice things up but this should not be used to correct all those mistakes from the past. Instead, you may consider going to sex therapy or talk it out with your partner to get things straightened out. 

4. Get Ready To Be Jealous

Jealousy and fear are all-natural and understandable human emotions. On date nights, your partner could be going on a date that can probably end up in hot steamy sessions of lovemaking in the shower. It’s okay for you to be jealous of them. But then again, think of them having fun. The best thing is to communicate your feelings openly before they get the best of you. 

An open relationship can be great when done right. While you are at it, its imperative to always practice safe sex to prevent and protect yourself and your partner from infections and unwanted pregnancies. If you think you are up for it, have a sit down with your partner and come up with ground rules. It’s about time you brought your sexy back!

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Love Affairs

Small towns have highest risk of intimate partner violence

“We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

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Photo by Sydney Sims from Unsplash.com

Despite common perceptions that big cities have more violence, women living in small towns are most at risk of violence from current or former spouses and partners, according to a recent study by Washington State University criminologist Kathryn DuBois.

For the study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, DuBois analyzed the responses of more than 570,000 women from the National Crime Victimization Survey from 1994 to 2015. She found that women from small towns were 27% more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) than women from the center of big cities and 42% more likely than suburban women.

“In criminology, we often have this urban bias. We assume big cities are the worst and paint other places as idyllic,” said DuBois, associate professor at WSU Vancouver. “We tend to think in a continuum from urban to suburban to rural, but for intimate partner violence, it’s actually the suburban areas that are the safest, and small towns that have the highest risk.”

The National Crime Victimization Survey collects information through a large sample of interviews about a range of personal crimes committed every year. Part of the intent of the survey is to uncover the “dark figure” of crime, DuBois said, those crimes that may not be reported to police.

While the survey defines many locations as simply urban or rural, DuBois analyzed the data by population density to delineate urban, suburban, small town and rural areas. Small towns were defined as urbanized portions of non-metropolitan counties with populations up to 50,000. They are distinct from suburban areas that exist just outside of big cities.

“Many surveys assume that everyone in those nonmetropolitan counties are the same, but there’s a lot more heterogeneity across them,” Dubois said.

DuBois originally undertook the study to try and reconcile the inconsistency between national surveys, which typically find rural areas have less or similar rates of IPV to urban areas – and ethnographic research, in-depth qualitative studies that have indicated that rural isolation can exacerbate gender-based violence.

Many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

While the study data cannot reveal the reasons behind the violence, the finding about the high rate of IPV in small towns indicates that there may be a different set of factors at play, DuBois said.

“Small towns have populations large enough to have the difficult problems of a big city, while at the same time these are some of the hardest hit areas economically, so they don’t have specialized services and policing needed to deal with family violence,” DuBois said.

IPV is also a big issue in the LGBTQIA community, even if this doesn’t particularly get as much attention.

In June 2020, for instance, a study found that domestic and family violence (DFV) and IPV were perceived by community members and professional stakeholders to be a “heterosexual issue that did not easily apply to LGBTQIA relationships.” In particular, many community members held the view that relationships between LGBTQIA people could avoid the inherent sexism and patriarchal values of heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and, by implication, avoid DFV/IPV.

Earlier, in July 2018, another study noted that abuse among gay couples stems from stress factors that also apply to heterosexual couples, such as money issues, unemployment, and drug abuse. However, gay couples are said to face additional stress from internalized homophobia, which may also contribute to IPV.

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Love Affairs

How women and men forgive infidelity

If partners feel the relationship is threatened by the cheating, it’s harder for them to forgive – regardless of their gender.

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Photo by @thoughtcatalog from Unsplash.com

Infidelity is one of the most common reasons that heterosexual couples break up. Researchers who have studied 160 different cultures find this to be true worldwide.

However, men and women look at different types of infidelity differently.

Men usually regard physical infidelity – when the partner has sex with another person – more seriously than women do.

Women regard emotional infidelity – when the partner initiates a close relationship with another person – as more serious.

Despite experiencing the different types of infidelity differently, men and women are about equally willing to forgive their partner. And the new findings show that the degree of forgiveness is not related to the type of infidelity.

“We’re surprised that the differences between the sexes weren’t greater. The mechanisms underlying forgiveness are more or less identical between genders,” says Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

He has co-authored a new article – “Breakup Likelihood Following Hypothetical Sexual or Emotional Infidelity: Perceived Threat, Blame, and Forgiveness” – in the Journal of Relationships Research. The article addresses infidelity and the mechanisms behind forgiveness.

A research group at NTNU recruited 92 couples for the study. These couples independently completed a questionnaire related to issues described in hypothetical scenarios where the partner had been unfaithful in various ways.

One scenario describes the partner having sex with another person, but not falling in love.

In the other scenario, the partner falls in love with another person, but does not have sex.

So how willing are people to forgive their partner? It turns out that men and women both process  their partner’s infidelity almost identically.

Most people, regardless of gender and the type of infidelity, think it unlikely that they would forgive their partner’s infidelity.

Despite experiencing the different types of infidelity differently, men and women are about equally willing to forgive their partner. And the new findings show that the degree of forgiveness is not related to the type of infidelity.

“Whether or not the couple breaks up depends primarily on how threatening to the relationship they perceive the infidelity to be,” says first author Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology.

The more threatening the infidelity feels, the worse it is for the relationship.

Whether partners believe the relationship can continue also depends on how willing they are to forgive each other, especially in terms of avoiding distancing themselves from their partner.

Of course, great individual differences exist, even within each gender. People react differently to infidelity, according to their personality and the circumstances.

“A lot of people might think that couples who have a strong relationship would be better able to tolerate infidelity, but that wasn’t indicated in our study,” says Professor Mons Bendixen at NTNU’s Department of Psychology.

Another aspect plays a role in cases of emotional infidelity, where no sex has taken place. To what extent can the unfaithful partner be blamed for what happened?

If you willingly have sex with another person, it pretty much doesn’t matter whether you feel it’s your fault.

“The degree of blame attributed to the partner was linked to the willingness to forgive,” says Bendixen.

The relationship is at greater risk if the partner is required to bear a big part of the responsibility for ending up in an intimate relationship with someone else.

“The blame factor doesn’t come into play when the partner is physically unfaithful,” Grøntvedt says.

If you voluntarily have sex with someone other than your partner, it’s more or less irrelevant whether you think it was mostly your fault or not. Possible forgiveness does not depend on accepting blame.

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