Remember when Valentine's Day meant dropping a handmade card into your crush's cubby? We recently spent an entire team brainstorm discussing—and laughing about—our past experiences with "love" because it isn't always as easy as heart-shaped cards and chocolate. Here are some of our thoughts, breakup stories, and relationship memories:
1. Do you believe in love at first sight?
Emily: To a certain extent, yes. I remember when I first met Geoffrey, I had a feeling that I'd met my future husband. It just felt right, though I wouldn't necessarily call that "love" since I still believe you have to truly know someone to feel that deep of a connection with them.
Geoffrey: Not really, aside from the first time I saw Sloan. I believe you can have a strong attraction at first sight, but I feel love is a deeper emotion built through emotional connections, physical attraction, and mental compatibility.
Alina: Absolutely 100 %. I fell in love with my now-boyfriend at first sight and it was instant, hit-you-over-the-head lovestruck unlike anything I'd ever felt before. They say you know when you know, and I knew. Emily calls that lust, but my answer to this question is yes. Victoria Beckham agrees.
Leslie: Not literally love at first sight, but I do believe in getting a feeling about a person and falling in love within the first few moments. Within seconds of meeting my current boyfriend, I knew that we'd end up together at some point, even though we were both in other relationships and remained friends for years before we started dating.
2. Longest relationship and what made it that duration?
Emily: This December we'll have been together for a decade, which is roughly 5x longer than my previous relationships. The things that make our marriage successful are: respect, appreciation, laughing together often, making one another feel like a priority, and always being each others' biggest fan.
Geoffrey: Going on ten years, with the person above. The key has been constantly improving the way you communicate, which includes being a better listener and making an effort to understand your partner's perspective.
Alina: Five years. What made it last five years was respect, values, and genuinely liking the other person. We just enjoyed each other to the point where there was nothing that made the other one sick of the other. We didn't fight, we operated at the same pace. Life was easy together and we were confident and secure in the relationship.
Leslie: I've had two relationships now that lasted roughly three years (my college boyfriend and my current boyfriend who I started dating at the end of college), but they couldn't be more different. At some point, my first boyfriend and I stopped asking ourselves why were were together, and started changing ourselves and adapting our personalities for the sake of staying in the relationship. I was considering ending things for about two years before we even broke up, but didn't because I was so devoted to keeping our relationship in tact for no real reason. With my current boyfriend, the time has flown by—I actually nearly forgot our most recent anniversary, not because I'm not head-over-heels for him, but because I'm not counting down to just checking off another year like I was in my past relationships. I know three years isn't that long in the length of a relationship, but I attribute its staying power to the fact that we genuinely respect and admire each other. I'm more and more impressed by his sense of humor, kindness, and intelligence every single day.
3. Favorite celebrity duo?
Emily: Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell (also cool to note that even though they've been together for over thirty years, they never got married).
Geoffrey: Apologies, but I don't have one.
Alina: Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes!
Leslie: Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher. I love that they were friends for so long before they started dating!
4. Have you ever been dumped?
Emily: Yup, it rocked me to my core. I was 23 and had been in L.A. for a little over a year. I was still adjusting to my life in a new city where I didn't know many people and admittedly was too dependent on my then-boyfriend. He was moving to Boston for law school and we'd arrived at that fork in the road (that often happens around the two-year mark) and it just didn't make sense to stay together. When we first broke up, I was petrified of being alone—I hadn't really been single since I was 15—but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I remember sobbing on the phone to my mom, "but what am I going to do on the 4th of July when I'm all aloooooone?" I began seeing a therapist who taught me about the importance of being a strong, independent woman who doesn't need a partner in order to feel fulfilled or happy. It made me a much more well-rounded person and served as a reminder that I always need to put myself first.
Geoffrey: Yes, it sucked, but it was definitely for the best. She had given fair warning that she wasn't an emotionally "stable" person, but I tried to white knight the relationship and make her feel like it could work. In the end, it was very dysfunctional but because I was too prideful, I wouldn't end it, since I thought I could help. I was wrong, she did the right thing by leaving me and while it hurt, it taught me a lot about myself and the perception of my value in a relationship.
Alina: Yes but it was a weak dump. It was like...I saw him canoodling with another girl in a hot tub and asked what's going on and he said something like he wanted to explore things with her. (We were 18, it makes me laugh to talk about). I've never been outright called and told: "this isn't working." Personally, I think guys do more of the weaker move where they misbehave and make you force the conversation and/or break up with THEM, versus clearly breaking up with a girl.
Leslie: Yes! You know the guy I was talking about who I didn't break up with for years even though I knew things weren't working? Turns out, he felt the exact same way. He texted me one morning at 8 a.m. to say that he was outside my dorm and as soon as I walked out he said, "I think we should break up." Boom. It was obviously the right decision to make and I'm thankful he was brave enough to finally be the one to do it, but in retrospect I think he made two big mistakes: 1.) He did it without any warning, which was a little harsh. 2.) He let me think for a few weeks that there was some possibility of getting back together.
5. What’s your breakup playlist?
Emily: I go for reallllly sad stuff. It helps me lean into the moment and feel all the feels. Bon Iver, Ben Harper, Joni Mitchell, Amos Lee, Coldplay. There's this Mindy Smith song called "One Moment More" that I'd play on repeat for days. I mean, could I have been any more literal? Also the one from Grey's Anatomy where Meredith is crying in a supply closet? "Scratch." I'm pretty sure I wrote the lyrics out on a note and sent them to my ex hoping they'd make him reconsider. I was really deep (*face palm*).
Geoffrey: It's been a while, but I used to/still listen to a lot of shoegaze bands (My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Jesus and Mary Chain), so anything in that genre would work.
Alina: Hah, I remember one playlist very clearly, after the high-school-hot-tub-heartbreak referenced above (there's a Lifetime movie title for you). I had a mixed CD and I listened to two songs on repeat that really spoke to me: Fleetwood Mac "Dreams," and Modest Mouse "Float On." Of course the lyric in Dreams, "players only love you when they're playing," really resonated. And the phrase:
Listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost, and what you had, and what you lost
I remember being in my room being like, "that's right. you'll be a sad, lonely old man remembering what we had that you lost." It's hysterical to me to think back on. Bless Stevie Nicks for writing lyrics I could hook my first heartbreak emotions into, and feel empowered.
After a college heart ache I really vibed with the Arcade Fire song "Rebellion."It's so fun and inspiring and it really builds. I looooved the line: "Come on baby, in our dreams, we can live our misbehavior." Pretty sure that was my Facebook "bio" for a long time there. (Painful).
In the last few years, the Weeknd's first mixtapes were my heartbreak soundtrack: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. They're incredible.
Leslie: There's one song I play after every single breakup that really gets me on a deeper, emotional level. It's "Who's Got Your Money Now?" by Tina Parol. With such evocative lyrics as, "Everyone knows / How much I adored you / That's that / And I ain't look'n back / Move'n on / In my brand-new Cadillac," it just really gets me. (But in all honesty, this song has magic abilities to get over a breakup.)
6. Do you stop eating or carbo-load after a breakup?
Emily: After a breakup used to be the only time I'd lose my appetite. You know how when some people are sick or stressed or angry that they just kind of unintentionally lose weight? That never happens to me—only when a relationship has ended.
Geoffrey: Neither, I don't attach my diet to emotional trauma.
Alina: Laughing at what Geoffrey just wrote. I stop eating. Not intentionally!! My nerves just operate such that when I am anxious, I lose my appetite versus get voracious. When I'm happy, calm, and content is when I reach for the snacks. Heartbreak makes me ill.
Leslie: A bad breakup can feel like a punch in the stomach and I usually have a hard time eating after them, which is why it's so important to have a good group of girlfriends who are willing to come over, pull you out of your wallowing, and take you out for dinner and a drink (or five).
7. How embarrassingly deep have you gone stalking your exes?
Emily: Prettttty darn deep. But in order to make myself not seem quite as pathetic, in all fairness, I do that with just about everyone. If there's a guy friend I had in high school that's started dating someone new, I'll most likely know where she she works, her favorite clothing brands, and go-to snacks.
Geoffrey: I did a semi-stalkerish thing in high school where I'd drive down the cross street of a girl I had dated, but wouldn't go down her street. After doing it three or four times, one of my friends told me I was being creepy and I realized it was wrong.
Alina: Fairly embarrassingly deep.
Leslie: I couldn't care less about anyone I dated in college, but I knew a ridiculous amount about the girl my high school boyfriend dated right after me. Some advice: Don't put anything on Facebook you wouldn't be comfortable with your boyfriend's high school girlfriend seeing (a.k.a., me).
8. Most awkward ex run-in?
Emily: G and I ran into my ex (again, the one mentioned above) outside of one of our favorite restaurants. I didn't even know that he lived in L.A. so it was almost like seeing someone come back from the dead. When he saw me, he froze. I went in for the awkward hug and G said that when he shook his hand, it was clammy and limp. It was just so uncomfortable for all of us. The worst part was that we were going into the same small restaurant, so the three of us had to walk, single-file into the place together.
Geoffrey: Emily and I ran into my ex at a wedding, one month into our new relationship. It wasn't as awkward as it could have been, since I knew she was going to be there and I had given Emily a heads up, but it's never a comfortable scenario.
Alina: I truly have not had one!
Leslie: I've run into exes and even met them for drinks, but never an awkward run-in!
Emily: Someone that thinks they're more important than others. If I see someone treating anyone with disrespect, whether it's a busboy at a restaurant, a librarian, or a pedestrian, that's a deal breaker. I think it shows more about who you are as a person than just about anything else.
Geoffrey: Thinking your opinion is fact, hypocritical behavior, lack of patience.
Alina: Disrespect and insecurity. If someone is even remotely derisive, controlling, or manipulative, bye. So turned off.
Leslie: If he expects me to change my personality for him or judges something I do. I'm happy with who I am—faults and all—and so should the person I'm dating.
10. Most embarrassing thing you’ve done in regards to someone you’re interested in/dating?
Emily: There was a guy in college that I noticed on my very first night there and proceeded to obsess over the next four years. Nothing happened while we were in college, but during a particularly impressive stalker search on Facebook after we'd graduated, I saw that he also lived in L.A. I found a round-about way to reach out to him and he invited me to the beach the next day where he was playing in a volleyball tournament. I showed up and we shared the single most awkward embrace that's ever taken place. He was shirtless and sweaty, so it felt weird to dive in for the hug, but a handshake felt equally as inappropriate. Instead, we morphed the two and my hand curled into an awkward claw and got smothered in his large hug. The chemistry was clearly lacking, so after watching him play a few games from the sideline, I headed home shortly thereafter.
Geoffrey: There's probably some really awful poetry I've written, floating around somewhere. To be fair, I'm sure whoever I sent letters to most likely threw them away after reading, but in my mind, a few still exist as a testament to my terrible attempts at seduction.
Alina: I sent my college boyfriend a 'love book' with photographs to convince him to get back together with me after I felt like our break (that I'd initiated) had been a big mistake. It was a weird mixture of immature desperation and guilt. I cringe thinking back on how embarrassing it was that I put it together. He sent it back to me in a box after we broke up for good. I kept it for like 6 years but then last December while cleaning out my apartment after my 5-year boyfriend and I broke up, I looked through it one last time with new clarity, and then threw it out.
Leslie: Pine after someone who dumped me. When my college boyfriend and I broke up, I had such a hard time coming to terms with the fact that the relationship was over that I made a fool of myself trying to "win him back." I wrote him a long and humiliating letter apologizing for everything I'd ever done, when he in fact had been terrible to me. I wish I'd had the wherewithal to stand up for myself.
11. What’s your breakup mentality for what you do with the sentimental stuff? (Notes, cards, presents, etc.) Do you give it back? Hold onto it?
Emily: Once the relationship was done, I never wanted to hold onto things.
Geoffrey: Everything goes, except for presents that serve a purpose (i.e. clothing, appliances). If someone asked for something back, I returned it immediately, but when things end, I purge the keepsakes.
Alina: I used to hold on to certain things but at a certain point there's no purpose in keeping it around. Marie Kondo that sh*it!
Leslie: I keep all my letters from exes on the off-chance that I'll want to wistfully look back on the trysts of my youth when I'm 90 years old.
12. What’s your take on taking a break?
Emily: I never believed in taking breaks, but I know plenty of people for whom they've been enormously helpful.
Geoffrey: I think life is too short and dating is meant to be an adventure across various paths, so if you're unsure about a relationship, end it and move on to a new phase. Not to say your paths won't cross again, but to actively "take a break" does a disservice to both people, as they may not be emotionally disconnected from the other to truly appreciate a new experience.
Alina: They're a bad idea. What do they even mean? It's murky and weird. They confuse me. I like clear boundaries. Breaks feel like purgatory. My college boyfriend and I did a break. It lead to a breakup.
Leslie: It definitely works for some people, and I think it's incredibly mature when people are able to take time for themselves before returning to a relationships, but I don't think it would work for me. I don't want a relationship that I'm willing to leave, even for a week—I'd rather have a clean breakup and look for a better fit.