Welcome to another hot, romantic episode of Dates & Mates! Did you know that April is Couple’s Appreciation Month? It’s great timing for this episode because this week is Damona’s 15th wedding anniversary!
Which begs the question: what is the secret to a long lasting relationship?
Damona says that for her and her husband Seth, it’s growth – looking at your partner as a mirror who can illuminate your flaws and celebrate your gifts and using that to grow into the best version of yourself.
Okay, that was sappy. Let’s change gears and get silly with the hosts of The Rom-Com Room Podcast, Kendra Okereke and Mercedes Gonzales-Bazan! They’re here to dissect the rom-com genre, how it affects dating and relationships, and what we can take away from our favorite movies.
DATING DISH (2:30)
(2:30) How to use constructive feedback in your relationship to your advantage:
A recent article from The Conversation has shed some new light on the importance of giving feedback to others. The article centers around a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The study looked at a broad range of scenarios and how willing people were to give feedback within them. In one (very telling) part of the study, less than 3% of people were willing to share with one of the researchers that they had a smudge on their face. The researchers hypothesized from this instance that we are reluctant to give feedback potentially because we don’t realize how valuable the feedback is to the person receiving it.
Researchers looked at another scenario that involved pairs of friends, roommates or romantic partners providing genuine feedback. While less than half of the feedback givers wanted to provide feedback when given a choice, 86% of the participants wanted to receive the feedback.
Damona points out how we can use our relationships, both romantic and otherwise, as learning tools and as safe spaces to practice some of these really important interpersonal communication techniques. And more importantly, she says to take the opportunity to give feedback to your partner in ways in which it will impact your own satisfaction in the relationship.
This complimentary article from The Center for Mental Wellness spills tips on how to give constructive feedback to your partner (criticism got canceled in 2019, so let’s stick with feedback):
- Talk about behavior, not personality.
- Focus on how the behavior affects you – use “I” language.
- Be specific – tell your partner exactly what you’re upset about.
- Stick to the present – don’t bring up the past.
- Consider: “Am I the problem?”
- Pick a neutral place and time – don’t bring something up when you’re angry.
- Make a habit of giving positive feedback – this will make it easier for your partner to listen when you have a complaint.
- Make some ground rules for how to act during conflict – come to the table knowing what to expect from your behavior and the other person’s behavior. Additionally, come to the table with the goal of finding resolution.
THE ROM-COM ROOM FT. MERCEDES AND KENDRA (10:23)
Damona is here with the hosts of The Rom-Com Room Podcast!
Mercedes Gonzales-Bazan is a writer researcher and the co-host of Meet Cute’s The Rom-Com Room. She’s done editorial work for women in Hollywood and the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. Plus, she has a BA in rom-coms and an MA in memes.
Kendra Okereke is a 29 year-old solo traveler from Los Angeles. She is the creator and moderator of the Late Bloomer Support Group, a Facebook group for people who identify as late bloomers in life. And of course, she’s also the co-host of Meet Cute’s The Rom-Com Room.
(11:30) How did this collab come to be?:
Turns out Mercedes and Kendra went through a substantial casting process to end up on The Rom-Com Room together. After several rounds of chemistry reads with other co-host candidates, Mercedes and Kendra were selected. Their chemistry was undeniable! (Funny enough, they’ve actually never met in person.)
Damona asks the co-hosts when their passion for rom-coms started to blossom. Kendra starts, “I am the biggest hopeless romantic. All of those cheesy moments in rom-coms, that’s what I live for… I also identify as a late bloomer, so I’m a person who’s older who just has little to no romantic experiences… I really do believe in true love. I believe in soulmates, I believe that there is one person out there for everyone. And I love that rom coms just kind of let me live that out.”
And the origin of Mercedes’ love for rom-coms? “My love of rom-coms started with my mom, so it has that nostalgia factor. For me, this is what we watched growing up. I also have a background in Media Studies, and specifically pop culture. So I really loved watching rom-coms as kind of a cultural artifact to look at different eras of history, and how there are different expectations set up for couples… I also love just seeing joy at the end of the film. So many dramas have harm-based stories for women, so I like seeing stuff that’s really focused on women and celebrates them.”
(15:48) “Love is not designed for the cynical”:
Damona comments how as a dating coach, she is often asked how romantic comedies affect her business. Although rom-coms do give people hope, Damona ponders how they can simultaneously set up grandiose relationship expectations.
Kendra responds with her belief that “love is the one thing in life that you have to be 100% optimistic and hopeful in for it to happen. One of my favorite musical artists is Dermot Kennedy, and he has this line in this song that says ‘love is not designed for the cynical.’ And it’s so true. Like, in order for love to come in, you have to be open to it… I feel like if you are cynical, and you’re always out here thinking of the negative, that’s what you’re going to attract… And so I feel like with rom-coms, for me specifically as a hopeless romantic, they inspire me in a way. They keep that hope alive.”
Damona adds to Kendra’s idea of faith in love, remembering that when she first met her husband, she had no idea that someone like Seth could even be out there.
Mercedes says that a lot of the criticism around rom-coms has to do with their being a specific formula to them, always making them predictable. “But that’s the challenge, right? Like they’re convincing you that this [story is] compelling anyway, and they’re making it interesting despite you knowing what’s going to happen. And that’s also like, the fun of dating, getting to know someone and going through the process. That’s the exciting part, like, okay, what’s gonna be different about this time.”
(18:43) My Best Friend’s Wedding:
I think we’re all wondering… as a self-identified rom-com cynic, what is Damona’s favorite romantic comedy? Damona’s pick is the 1997 film My Best Friend’s Wedding, with rom-com darling Julia Roberts. She notes how it’s kind of an anti rom-com. Spoiler alert: “She doesn’t get the guy, but she’s not supposed to get the guy and I kind of love that. She goes through the experience and then realizes she’s okay even in spite of that outcome, right? It’s like the feminist rom-com.”
Using her BA in pop culture, Mercedes reevaluates the meaning of the film. “It’s so great because it’s this love story of two cowards who won’t admit it to each other. And if they don’t have that communication, of course it’s not gonna work. Neither of them are brave enough to [express their feelings for each other], so obviously he’s going with someone that’s easier in that realm per se.”
(20:44) The elements of a great wedding:
Recounting her own wedding highlights, Damona asks Kendra and Mercedes what they think are the most important elements of a great wedding. Kendra kicks it off – number one, music! Be sure to have a good DJ with a solid playlist, and include a mix of all-around favorites like “Cha Cha Slide,” plus some nice slow-dance jams. Number two, food. There is something about having really good food at your wedding that will make everyone remember the occasion. Mercedes adds that most people only envision elements of their wedding as being for themselves – but a big part of a wedding is creating a good time for all the attendees, as well.
(23:30) Fav wedding rom-coms:
In honor of Damona’s upcoming anniversary, she asks The Rom-Com Room co-hosts about their favorite wedding-themed movies. Being a Justin Long superfan, Kendra gives a shoutout to the 2017 indie rom-com Literally Right Before Aaron. Justin Long’s character attends his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, and spends the entirety of the event trying to convince himself and everyone else that he is truly happy for her.
Mercedes jumps in with a cult classic. “To me, I can’t think about wedding movies without My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I think it goes under the radar a lot. And when it comes to big ethnic families, it’s so relatable… And the fact that he doesn’t shy away from her family either, like it’s not a deterrent. He’s there for the long haul. And that’s so appreciative to me, just because I’m so close to my family.”
Damona ends with a controversial take – “I’m not a rom-com girl. But I will say… I have a really love-hate relationship with 500 Days of Summer. I actually went to school with Zooey Deschanel, but I frickin’ hated her character! Because I thought, she’s the villain.” Kendra strongly agrees, and comes in with receipts. “If you set boundaries, that’s one thing. But you cannot set boundaries, and then keep pushing those boundaries and expect the person to still respect the boundaries that you set. Like, it just doesn’t work like that.”
Look out for The Rom-Com Room on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen.
DEAR DAMONA (28:32)
- IG Message from N – I’m a pretty young 52, very active, typically I have dated 15 years younger but I feel it’s time to move on from there. For activity levels, goals, interests and appearance I’m finding women, give or take 10 years younger, are more fit for a companion, but I am finding a lot are not interested in a 50+ male. I see women’s profiles where they say they are younger to get the ideal matches but in their descriptions they reveal their real ages (targeting younger men). What are your thoughts on changing your age on your general profile to attract what you would feel to be a suitable mate. But revealing your actual age in your self description. Side note, typically I have no need or desire to lie about my age IRL. People are often surprised when I reveal I’m 52, but I’m proud of who I am, my accomplishments and my appearance for my age.