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Let's imagine for a moment that the annual occasions which help to punctuate our year were comparable to the various elements that help comprise your standard Catholic mass.

Christmas is – no prizes for guesses – the moment the priest tells you to go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

"We did it, lads. We made it. And now there's a roast at home!"

Halloween is the slow walk back to the pew after Communion  – you haven't quite made it to Christmas, but you're almost there.

"Not long to go now, gang. Hold tight."

And Valentine's Day is the moment you're forced to shake hands with everyone around you.

"Jesus, are we still doing this? Sorry… sorry… and also with you."

You understand the sentiment behind it, you know you should probably embrace it, but Jesus Christ, it's awkward, it's unnecessary and it's something you tend to forget about until the bloke next to you shoves a meaty palm in your direction.

There's a common misperception that men are the ones who dismiss Valentine's Day as a moneymaking scam while us women dreamily trail our hands along shelves which are heaving under the weight of doe-eyes teddy bears, just hoping our other half will see fit to present us with one in February.

For Jaysus sake.

There are very few women I know who wouldn't, when presented with a soft toy clutching a satin loveheart, not immediately think "And where am I supposed to put the shaggin' thing?"

Common folklore would also have us believe that the single, ready-to-mingle Pringles among us actively loathe couples on Valentine's Day, but they're not the only ones.

The truth is, couples loathe couples on Valentine's Day.

Couples loathe everything on Valentine's Day, in fact.

The loathe the pressure, they loathe choosing cards, they loathe their attempts at sentimental prose, they loathe the fact they can't get a table at their favourite restaurant, and they really loathe being told that they're lucky they're in a relationship on February 14.

Because, really, what difference does it make? Single or taken, you still end up envying the couples who seem to do it… well… right.

Just picture it — while you're hissing at your other half across the table of your fourth favourite restaurant (pre-covid), your peripheral vision is drawn to a couple behaving exactly how they should be – in love.

While you're muttering that your other half doesn't have the decency to help you into your coat, you notice some bloke practically carrying his girlfriend's handbag.

And while you question your inability to eat without getting it all over yourself, you spot two gobshites practically feeding each other across the table.

Valentine's Day is little more than 24 hours which abruptly throws your relationship into the spotlight, and forces you to acknowledge its various shortcomings while you agonise over everyone else's strengths.

And if you're one of those couples that doesn't hate Valentine's Day, rest assured everyone hates you.

And it's mostly because we're jealous.
 

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Moving in together is a big step.

Yeah, it's exciting and the thoughts of having your own place with the person you're mad about sounds fab but think of it realistically.

All privacy is gone and you no longer even have your own personal space, your own bedroom. 

So what about…separate rooms?

It might not be as horrifying as it sounds as a survey of 2,000 couples suggests that sleeping apart could lead to better quality sex.

The research found that four in ten couples sleep apart most nights, and that of these, 34% claim they have better quality sex and more of it, while 38% say that sleeping apart improved their relationship.

Sounds great to us.

So what were the reasons for not sleeping together? 

They included different sleep cycles, their partner moving around too much in bed, having different shift patterns, and snoring. 

A good night’s sleep can help our sex lives, as it increases sexual desire and pleasure so separate beds might do the trick. 

Now it can reduce opportunities for intimacy – 24% of those who slept separately said they had sex less frequently as a result.

So to ensure sexy time stay near the top of the list, schedule sex or just making time for skin-to-skin contact during the day to replace the late-night spooning.

Mind coach Anna Williamson told Metro, ''If your partner is restless in the night, perhaps they snore or breathe heavily, and as a result, keep you awake or disturb you throughout the night, it can be a good idea to sleep apart from your partner in order to catch up on some much-needed sleep.''

She continued, ''Physical contact is essential in keeping a relationship connected. Touching each other releases feel good, love endorphins, and often being in bed can be the best time of the day to communicate effectively with each other. Pillow talk is a really emotionally positive thing to do and it can help you feel safe and secure as you both hopefully drop off to sleep together.''

So why not try it out and see if it works for you and your partner?

Yo never know, it could be the spark to lit both your fires…

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Christmas is officially one month away! We have yet to start our shopping and the stress of what to buy our other half is weighing us down. Finding the perfect gift for someone is a nightmare but some people have taken the stress out of Christmas by making a deal with their beau. According to new research commissioned by FUJIFILM, over half (53 percent) of women this year are planning not to gift to their partner this Christmas. 

Delving into the insights provided by over 1,000 women in recent weeks, the rationale for not giving to their other half at Christmas can be summarised under three main headings:

  • Money: After purchasing gifts for children and extended family, on top of forking out for the festive food, there is just no cash left to buy for their other half according to 48 percent of participants.

  • Inspiration: What do you buy the person who ‘has everything’ or simply ‘does not need anything’? This was the response of 27 percent of participants who are planning on ditching the Christmas gift for their partner this year.

  • Time: With women taking on the lion’s share of the Christmas preparations, it’s hardly surprising that 25 percent say that they simply won’t have time to purchase a gift for their other half on top of everything else.

The Christmas countdown is on and while some people (13 percent) will have started ticking off their gift list as early as January this year, not everyone is as organised. However, the common theme amongst this year’s savvy buyers is to shop local, with over 77 percent avoiding online UK purchases for fear of problems getting product guarantees honoured in the future or returning items in the new year due to Brexit. 

Parenting Expert Laura Erskine, has some advice for those of you who put yourself and your partner last on the Christmas list this year:

“Choosing not to buy your other half a gift this Christmas may seem like the easy option this year, especially when done on the basis of a joint pact. However, I would advise couples to think very carefully about what this says about the health of your relationship.”

“When a relationship is under strain, the lack of a gift or indeed a poorly thought out gift tend to take on symbolic proportions where the recipient believes their partner doesn’t care for them as much as they used to. This is particularly true when you witness the giver gift to family members at the same time. Likewise, when your other half nails your gift, irrespective of how much money was spent on it, you tend to feel loved and connected to your mate.”

Gift giving to your partner at Christmas time is an important part of the celebration and does not have to cost a lot of money, require a huge amount of thought, or take up too much of your time.  The FUJIFILM Imagine mobile app is everyone's secret weapon to blitz their Christmas list in record time, but with all of the sentiment and none of the hefty expense! 

The photos locked away on our smartphones hold the secret to some really amazing Christmas gifts. Simply choose photos depicting special moments shared between you and your partner, the kids or even the family pet and use them to create personalised presents they will treasure forever. You can order through the FUJIFILM Imagine mobile app, online, and on touch screen kiosks in store nationwide. Choose from personalised photo books, canvas art, phone or tablet covers and much, much more. Then, wrap it all up with personalised gift-wrapping paper to really bring a smile to their faces this festive season.

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Christmas is an expensive time of year. The list seems never-ending, going on forever. We need to buy a gift for our sister, best friend, work wife, parents and even the dog.

Oh and don’t forget about bae.

Or maybe you could if you plan on being guilty of the cheapest dating trend.

Scrooging is a dating trend that’s growing in popularity and it is not pleasant.

Ever get dumped just before Christmas and wonder what went wrong? Things seemed all fine and dandy and then bam! You’re single again and hoping to God you can get a refund on the surprise weekend away you booked as a gift to beau.

Well, according to Metro, scrooging is essentially dumping your other half so you don’t have to buy them a Christmas present.

Yes, you read that right.

Apparently, one in ten are guilty of this dating trend and men are more likely to do it. Not surprised, to be honest.

Relationship expert for EHarmony, Rachael Lloyd, told Metro, “We know that relationships can often become less of a priority in the run up to Christmas. It’s also a time when dating significantly slows down. 

“However, it seems particularly miserly to end a relationship simply to avoid buying your partner a present and indicates that you weren’t ready for a romantic commitment in the first place.”

Staying single just seems like a much easier option.

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Breaking up is hard to do, and there is no other term for it other than it completely, totally sucks.

Whether you were broken up with or you had to do the breaking up, moving on can be tough no matter how the relationship met its demise.

While we may just want to bury our heads in a bucket of ice cream and vegetate in front on Netflix, there is apparently a new way to speed up the healing process of a broken heart. 

According to science, there is a breakup trick that will help you get over your ex-lover much faster. 

Apparently, just thinking that you are over them makes you over them. Here's how it works:

A research team from the University of Colorado Boulder ran tests on participants who had recently experienced a ‘romantic rejection,’ and half were given a placebo feel good drug to see how they coped with the feelings. 

The participants were studied in a brain imaging lab while recalling details of their breakup while staring at a picture of their ex. Intense.

The half of the group which were given the 'feel good' placebo drug were more over their previous relationship than those who weren't.

So it seems that just telling yourself that you're okay is half the battle. 

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So, if you've ever dabbled in the world of online dating you'll know that height is a big factor when searching for a partner. 

Most daters feel obliged to share their inches with potential matches, and it seems they may have good reason. 

According to a recent study, couples with the biggest height differences, specially shorter gals and taller guys, actually have the happiest relationships. 

Researchers surveyed 8,000 participants and found that both men and women enjoyed greater relationship satisfaction in a tall/short pairing. 

The results also revealed how taller men are assumed to be more trustworthy and capable by employers, making them more likely to earn raises or promotions.

As with most of our romantic instincts, it seems evolution has a big part to play. Going back to prehistoric times, women were more attracted to taller men as they were seen to be better hunter-gathers. 

“Although it has been known that women prefer tall men in mating for evolutionary reasons, no study has investigated whether a taller husband makes his wife happier. A greater height difference in a couple was positively related to the wife's happiness,” explains Dr Sohn in the Journal Of Personality and Individual Differences. 

However, the study found height is only a factor for the first 18 years of marriage. After 18 years, height doesn't matter.

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If you’re sick of seeing loved-up couples this Christmas and think being single at this time of year totally sucks, just remember, the pair that just passed you have probably put that day’s festive-based argument on pause to keep up appearances for the public.

That 'perfect' couple have most likely had more than one argument over whose family they should spend Christmas with, whose group of friends they’ll go out with over New Years and who forgot that Christmas Eve was meant to be Christmas movie night and organised a night on the beer instead.

Here are just five reasons why being single at Christmas is a major win

1. You don’t have to worry about hiding your hungover face in front of the in-laws.

"No, I’m fine. I always look this green and clammy."

2. You don’t have to spend hours traipsing through ‘boy’ shops looking for an Xbox game you’re certain you got him for this birthday.

"What’s Fortnite? Actually, I don't care. Just give it to me."

3. You save a LOT of money not having to shell out for generic gift sets for his side of the family.

"Lavender talc? That’ll do his nana…again."

4. You don’t have to sit through charades with your boyfriend’s uncle who constantly calls you by his ex-girlfriend’s name.

"No, don’t worry! Laura…Áine… sorry, they’re really similar."

5. You don’t have to prime your family on all the ‘Not To Be Discussed’ topics before he calls around.

"No, you can’t laugh at what happened in Ayia Napa. He doesn’t even know you know."

Seriously, is that stress-fest worth it just for a New Year's Eve kiss?

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Fancied yourself as a star-crossed love? Ever wonder if you and your other half were meant to be?

Well we have the answer right here, from your best traits in love to who you're best matched to, we got you covered! 

Aquarius (January 20- February 19)

A fire sign, to attract an Aquarius you need to be up for some deep conversations. Super loyal and committed, they like to view their other halves as equals and give them the space they deserve. Enter a Leo or a Sagittarius- independent yet intellectual! 

Pisces (February 19- March 20)

You're just a big softie aren't you, you Pisces?! Don't look to to a Pisces for a short fling- they're in it for the long-haul. Deep in their hearts, Pisces-born are incorrigible romantics. They need a strong and stable earth sign, like a Virgo or a Taurus to keep up with them. 

Aries (March 20- April 19)

You know that person that blurts out the 'L' word way to early in a relationship? That's an Aries for you! They love the first rush of knew love, but need a stimulating and complex partner to keep them interested in the long term. Best matches are with a balanced and diplomatic Libra or an equally feisty Leo. 

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

The careful and steady bull, a Taurus is slow to open up- but definitely worth it once they do! Stubborn to the point of infuriating, a Taurus won't back down and will cling on to those they love with dear life. Paired with a confident Scorpio or an emotional Cancer will make for the strongest relationships. 

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

A Gemini will be a talker, so unless you're willing to stay up swapping childhood tales until 3 am then move on. Communication and physical contact are key for a Gemini- and they could even come across as a bit of a flirt. Choosing a partner with the same zest for life, like Aquarius or Sagittarius, is super important. 

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Cancer's wear their hearts on their sleeves. Gestures are important to Cancers than superficial chat and they love the romance in the little things. A lover of their own space, in the long term a Cancer would much prefer someone that will chill on the couch with Netflix over a wild adventure. They suit equally homely signs like a patient Taurus or a committed Capricorn. 

Leo (July 23- August 22)

Ah Leo, the king of the jungle and ruler of all. They like to be in control of a relationship, it's their way or they highway. But when in love, they are fun, loyal, respectful and very generous towards their loved one. A partner for a Leo needs to be someone that can handle their own and express themselves- such as a Aquarius and Gemini. 

Virgo (August 23- September 22)

Opposites will always attract a Virgo. Logical and reserved, they require a lot of time and patience to get to know. On the outside they are charismatic but they guard their hearts and true feelings closely. They need an partner that's not afraid to say how they really feel, and show them the way to open themselves up to more communication. The work best emotional signs like Pisces and Cancer. 

Libra (September 23- October 22)

Libra's love the idea of 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, but their status as an air sign means that they're flexible. However, this flexibility might mean they give more to a partner than they really should, for a Libra to thrive they need clear communication and boundaries. Matched best with an Aries or Sagittarius, a Libra will provide the stability for these fire signs. 

Scorpio (October 23- November 21)

Oh, hello Scorpio! The most sensual (cough, cough) of all the signs, are passionate about their partners. However quick they adapt to physical relationships, it takes them a bit longer to enter relationships and build trust and respect for their other halves. But once you have it, it's yours for life. They work best with signs like Taurus and Cancer, signs of multiple layers a Scorpio can keep peeling. 

Sagittarius (November 22- December 21)

If you're looking for a merry-go-round of fun than look no further than a Sagittarius! Playful and humorous, to keep a Sagittarius interested you need to keep presenting them with exciting adventures. They love to mix things up so they need a partner, like a Gemini or an Aries, that will hold the map on their spontaneous road trips. 

Capricorn (December 22-January 19)

Capricorns are a tough nut to crack, it can often be years once their walls fully come down. But once you manage to worm your way into a Capricorns heart you're there forever. Not big talkers, they will show how much they care in gestures over words. Romance for a Capricorn looks more like a cleaned house than a bundle of flowers. Their hidden sensitvity matches them best with a steady Taurus or a home-bird like Cancer. 

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So, love it or hate it, there's no denying that The Notebook has earned its reputation as one of the most romantic movies of all time.

And even though it has become one of the ultimate Valentine's Day clichés, we're not sure we'll ever get bored of the young couple's rollercoaster romance.

But, while Noah and Allie might seem like the ultimate couple goals, relationship experts aren't buying it.

According to Stylist, a group of romantic experts recently sat down with Time Out to discuss some of the best and worst romantic films of all time.

The list was surprising to say the least, but perhaps The Notebook was the most puzzling choice of all.

We know what you're thinking. How could a romantic expert of all people decide that this was a bad film?

Well, according to psychotherapist, Gupreet Singh, Nicolas Sparks' story is actually too perfect.

He explained: “Noah restores a house for Allie. He writes letter after letter waiting for her. They die holding hands. Talk about idealised love! If you believe in it you start to think: I shouldn’t settle for less.”

“But most average couples are nothing like that. We are humans, we are fallible. Love is imperfect because we are.”

Now, we're not saying he hasn't got a point, but isn't it nice to fantasise every once in a while?

The Notebook was never meant to be a factual retelling of true events, but instead a fictional account of love at its best and at its worst – and in that sense, we think it did a pretty good job.

Sure, most of us probably won't find anyone willing to send us handwritten letters every day for a year, but it's nice to see that this kind of true love really does exist – even if it is just up on the big screen.

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We've all been there.

As a young, free singleton you promised yourself you'd never use pet names for your future partner – after all, no one wants to be that couple.  

Just hearing your friends refer to their other halves as "babe", "sweetheart" or "honey" was cringey enough to make you swear off romance for the rest of your life, but then all of a sudden, life throws you a curveball and you end up with a "babe" all of your own. 

Slowly but surely the inside jokes and doting nicknames will creep their way into the relationship, and bam – you're just like every loved-up couple you've ever rolled your eyes at. 

So, why does romance turn us all into mushy, baby-talking, doe-eyed softies? 

Well, according to science, it likely stems from our parents.  

“Baby talk is used really extensively, including cross-culturally, by mothers around the world,” Florida State University neuroanthropologist Professor Dean Falk told Broadly.

“It exists for language acquisition in infants, and it also expresses love and facilitates bonding between the mother and the infant."

She believes that couples use pet names for each other because it brings them back to their childhood memories and first love – their mum. 

And while this all might sound a bit Freudian, it's actually one of the most natural ways to bond with a partner. 

So, if you've got a "baby", "chicken" or even a "darling" in your life, chances are you're onto a winner. 

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Look, it's not a pleasant situation for anyone.

You're single for like a million years, then you happened to magically stumble upon someone who –  at first – seems to tick every box.

Plus he's so pleasant to look at that it hurts and basically you can't believe your luck.

''It's finally happened,'' you proudly tell the gals over G&T's. ''He seems to good to be true, tbh.''

And bam! there's your first clue – if it seems to good to be true, it usually is. 

I've had three relationships in my 24 years, plus a few shorter dalliances and I genuinely never bought the whole excusing-someone's-trash-behaviour-because-you-fancy-the-arse-off-them thing. 

Or maybe I've been lucky to have never gotten tangled up with a narcissist before…whatever. 

But, oh boy, it happens. 

Doesn't the quote go like- "people tell you who they are in the beginning, you just choose not to listen.''

But if you want to avoid heartbreak a few weeks/months down the line, then listen up: if you see more than one of these red flags listed below – run. 

They're non-negotiable, just like your self-respect.

1.  He shows signs of controlling behaviour.

You'll probably read that and say ''omg, obvs! I wouldn't put up with that, no way'', but it can be extremely subtle.

And if they're seasoned at it, it can happen almost without you noticing the first few times – or worse, noticing it and letting it slide.

Warning phrases can be anything to telling you he doesn't like you wearing your hair a certain way/a lot of make-up to ordering for you in restaurants and putting you down in the the pub in front of your mates. 

Don't fall into questioning your self-worth. 

2. He's mean with money 

If he's tight with money, he will be mean in other ways – with his time, his affection, his words.

It just shows bad character and you don't need to voluntarily associate yourself with someone like that. 

3. His actions don't match his words 

Who doesn't love to be told they look fab?

The problem here is when the person you're dating is saying all the right things but in the next breath he's giving you unprompted stories about his ex/past sex life or ogling another person in the bar.

The word for this is: fake. 

 

4. He passes comments on other women/people in general 

I mean, I'm laughing as I type this, this should be a shut-and-close-case of ''he's a sh*thead, what are you doing with him?'' BUT, here me out.

It's early, early days with someone and he says something rude and you're shocked and you pull them up on it, fine, ok. It's when the actions become repeated and they become the norm.

My advice then? He's not a good person, and not worth your precious time. 

5. Something just feels ''off''

This is the worst one. Because it's not tangible.

If you're battling paranoia in the beginning, it won't probably won't get better.

Your gut can tell when something's not right. We might ignore the uneasy feeling in our stomachs, but it's there for a reason. 

Basically, if you're holding back a bit, it's more than likely because you've picked up on energy that he's giving out  – that's what you ''can't put your finger on.''  

Look, you know if someone is genuinely good for you or not. 

I read this the other day and it struck a chord with me; ''No amount of physical attraction or good sex is worth clinging to someone who does not make you feel at peace with yourself.'' 

And to that we say hear, f*cking hear. 

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While we love our romantic partners dearly, there are few things in life we cherish as much as spending time with our best friend.

From those times we laugh so much it hurts to those difficult moments when they're a shoulder to cry on, our BFFs are absolute gems.

There's nothing like just hanging out with our bestie for the evening, listening to music or drinking wine or talking about literally anything under the sun.

It's no wonder, then, that a recent survey shows that just over 50 percent of UK women said they feel closer to their best friend than their husband.

The 1,517 survey respondents gave a number of reasons for why they prefer their BFF to their significant other, with communication playing an especially big role.

57 percent of women who prefer their best friend to their husband said that it was because they can talk to their favourite gal pal about everything, Metro reports.

The research by Champneys also showed that 45 percent of women prefer their bestie because she listens to them more.

As well, 44 percent said that they could tell their best friend things that they didn't feel they could tell their partner.

When it comes to enjoying indulgent pleasures, 30 percent of the 1,517 women polled said they'd rather spend a boozy brunch with their mates than their partner.

Men are also apparently missing out on the spa days, with 54 percent of the respondents said they'd prefer to spend a pampering session with their pals than with their husband.

With those results in mind, we weren't surprised to hear that 60 percent of women reported that their all-female social gatherings would be better if men didn't intrude at all.

So here's to our BFFs – they've seen us through the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly.

 

How do you feel about the survey's results?

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