Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some fun date ideas

Sabah al kheir to all the LOVEanese out there! This one's for all the couples and dating individuals. The first thing I'll say is that just because you're in a relationship, doesn't mean you still can't have fun as someone that's single. In fact, in my opinion, it's a lot better! Think about it, you never have to worry about being dejected after a night out, or rejected by a girl or guy. It's the same more or less, but basically, what you get to do in a relationship is substitute hitting on random girls or guys at bars (and either failing or succeeding), for hitting on ONE girl or guy at a bar, and (guys especially) pretty much 100% guaranteeing that she'll (or he'll) be going home with you that night (unless you do something REALLY stupid).

"Thank God I'm not that poor single guy over there getting turned down"

How many of you couples actually still do that? Go out together, and hit on each other like you don't know one another, like it was when you first started dating? Recreate all those lines or situations in movies that seem so perfect, but never work in real life? Or how many of you get into that mindset that now that you're dating, EVERYTHING has to change or did change? Honestly, I can give you about 1000 reasons why being in a relationships is 1023984039804383948 x 10^12 times better than being single, but that's for another post (like tomorrow?)

Well, like I've mentioned before, relationships take work. You're not necessarily always going to be so excited or head-over-heels all the time, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have fun together! And I would argue that if you're having fun together, making yourself available for each other, listen to and caring for one another, and really making an effort to make them feel loved (see my post on the Love Languages), then things will generally be OK (of course, there's a lot more to relational happiness than that, but you get my point). Next time you and your boy/girl friend aren't having fun, do something together you both like, or recreate the night you met. Or try one of these 25 suggestions (mainly taken from XKCD with some of my own):

1. Pretend you’ve never met, then loudly try out lame pickup lines in a swanky bar. Act like they worked.

2. Go on a walking journey and every fifteen feet draw a chalk arrow in the direction you’re going. At the end of the trip, leave a big pile of chalk.

3. Create photo evidence suggesting that you went on an adventure that didn’t really happen.

4. Go for a drive. You can only make right-hand turns. When you finally get stuck, turn around and then you can only make left-hand turns. Repeat until you find something interesting. Take pictures along the way!

5. Build forts out of furniture and blankets, and wage war with paper airplanes.

6. Go to a major chain bookstore, and leave notes to future readers in copies of your favorite books.

7. Write a piece of fiction together. Outside at a cafe. Ask strangers when you get stuck.

8. Try and visit as many people as you can in one night, and turn as many things inside their apartment upside down as you can, without them noticing.

9. Do the lamest tourist thing in your area that you have both secretly wanted to do forever. Have an unabashed good time, and take photos.

10. Play hide and seek in AUB (or LAU, etc.), then afterwards go to 24/7 in Verdun or Hamra to share your favorite candy.

11. Go around the city with sidewalk chalk and draw hearts with equations inside on random things.

12. Drive somewhere unknown and have dinner in a city you’ve never been to. With fake names.

13. Go for a drive with the passenger blindfolded, choosing directions at random. See where you end up.

14. Dress up as pirates, commandeer shopping carts, and have a war upon the high seas (parking lot).

15. Go on a search for as many good climbing trees as possible, climb as high as you both can in all of them, compile photo evidence.

16. Rent a movie you’ve never seen before. Set on mute and improvise dialogue.

17. Dress up as pirates and go parrot shopping at local pet stores.

18. Spend the day at a free beach like Barbara north of Jbeil. Eat lots of hummus and fruit.

19. Walk around a city and perform short silent plays in front of security cameras.

20. In the middle of the night, drive to the beach, so you arrive just as the sun is rising. Have a breakfast picnic, then fall asleep together. Bring a sun umbrella.

21. Dress up as superheroes and stop at least one petty crime (e.g., jaywalking, littering, etc.).

22. Go to a minor league baseball game under the stars (or in Lebanon’s case, a football match). Tell each other stories about how bad you are at athletics. Randomly cheer for both teams. Eat lots of popcorn, hot dogs, and Cracker Jacks (or mixed nuts from your favorite roastery).

23. With camera and pair of boots, make a photolog of a day in the life of the invisible man.

24. Walk around the city all night and find a place to eat breakfast at dawn.

25. Go to a bookstore and share your favorite books from each section, especially your childhood favorites from the children’s section.

Spread the love,

                                    Sunday, August 28, 2011

                                    The Languages of Love

                                    Now that all the introductions are out of the way, let's get to the juicy stuff of this blog: a bit about love.

                                    I think we can all agree love and relationships take work. They don't just maintain themselves. And in fact, one of the most important parts of a relationship is communication. I minored in communication in my undergrad, which instilled a deep appreciation for communication skills and developing those skills. Thus, I wanted to explore the importance of communication in our interpersonal lives. And if good communication is paramount to a successful relationship, then what happens when two people cannot communicate well (even if they are "in love")?

                                    As my first real post, I want to discuss a book that I absolutely love (no pun intended), and not many people in Lebanon have heard of. All you LOVEanese out there, meet Dr. Gary Chapman's (2004) book, The Five Love Languages.

                                    Pictured above: awesomeness

                                    Surely if any of you have spoken with me long enough about relationships, I've mentioned this book. It's actually quite incredible. Let me give you the abridged version of it since it's not available in Beirut (although I do have a copy with me!)

                                    According to Chapman, the way we communicate and express love and affection can be divided into 5 umbrella categories: Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving/Receiving.

                                    Physical Touch: Includes everything from hugging, kissing, and sexual intercourse, to a light pat on the shoulder or a touch of a hand. Someone that communicates through physical touch will appreciate a lot of physical intimacy, but not just in a sexual way. Kissing, hugging, touching their face, playing with their hair, etc. are all things they like, especially if they are tired or stressed. This is a very tangible language that almost everyone can identify with, either as being very much so or not at all. But if someone is PT, they can get hurt if they feel like they do not get enough physical affection from someone, or if someone withholds physical affection.

                                    Quality Time: Referrers to that complete and undivided, uninterrupted time with someone where two people can talk, relax, eat, spend time together, do shared activities together, etc. Someone that communicates through quality time will greatly appreciate it when you make time for them, keep your scheduled time, and focus on the things that are said and done while you are together. Things that would hurt them include not spending enough time with them, not giving your full attention to them while you are together, or neglecting planned times to spend time together (such as a dinner or a trip).

                                    Words of Affirmation: Include the verbal (and written) expressions of love such as complimenting someone (e.g., “you are so beautiful,” “you have pretty eyes,” “you are really intelligent”) to saying such loving things as “I miss you,” “I am so proud of you,” “I love you,” “you mean the world to me,” “I care about you,” “I appreciate you,” etc. Someone who is a WofA likes to hear your love and admiration, or read it in the form of notes, comments, love letters, etc. And it is not narcissistic either! But these individuals value verbal communication. It would hurt them if you said something mean or hurtful, or if they did not get enough verbal affirmation.

                                    Acts of Service: Include those things we do for someone including something as small and cheering someone up, or making them laugh, to completing tasks for someone to make their life easier, much of which is unsolicited by the other person such as picking up something from the store, cleaning a room in a shared living space, picking up kids, getting up earlier to make coffee for someone, cooking for them, etc. Someone who communicates through AofS appreciate it when they can rely on someone to help them with tasks in their life, and also appreciate it when someone they love does something without them asking. A great example would be getting up 15 minutes before someone to make them coffee when they wake up, or getting them something that you know they need (such as more olive oil). It hurts them when they feel like someone does not help them, or they always have to ask to get someone to do something.

                                    Gift Giving/Receiving: Are the things which one gives to another, but can range from something cliché such as a birthday present or a new car, or could be something small and mundane for no reason, such as picked flower, or a very small item which reminded him or her of someone. Someone that is a Gifter puts a lot of him or herself into the gifts they give, and always loves a surprise. However, it would hurt them very much to never receive gifts, to receive gifts that were not well thought out, or a missed birthday, anniversary, etc. This New York Times article has some great, research-based insights on gift giving that might be helpful as well.

                                    You can find out more about each of the languages here, but let me tell you about the context of the book. First of all, Chapman is a Baptist minister, but throughout his time as a minister, he has spent over 35 years engaging in relationship counseling. Although he wrote the book with some religious undertones, it is still a fairly secular book, and it appeals to a wide audience--religious or not. Secondly, he does write the book with married couples in mind, but it is still very easy to identify with the core of the book regardless of your marital status. Third, he writes the book based on American couples, and he is writing to an American audience. Lastly, while the book has a focus on romantic relationships in general, the primary message of the book can easily be applied to platonic and non-romantic relationships as well, such as those between siblings, children-parents, grandparents-grandchildren, friends, and even colleagues.

                                    The most important part of the book is not merely outlining each of the languages, but he explains how problems in communication are often a problem of speaking different languages. And the way that one expresses love is often the way they want to receive it. Basically what happens is that if you are speaking Physical Touch, and I am speaking Words of Affirmation, we are on two different wavelengths. Just like if I were speaking to you in Japanese and you were speaking Spanish we would have a very hard time at understanding each other. The same occurs with communicating love, but understanding each other's love language can help to make the other feel more love. So if you are an Acts of Service individual and I am a Quality Time individual, then I need to make sure I'm doing things without you asking me, and you should make time for us to spend time together. Analogously, this is clearer if you think of it in this way: if I ask a question in English, I (understandably) expect an answer in English. The same goes for love!

                                    This is the part that takes time. If you're dating someone that is "touchy-feely," that probably means they are a physical touch person. But if you're not, it's important to still show them love physically. But also, they need to be more aware of what makes you feel loved. Regardless of your love language (henceforth, L.L.), however, unless you both share the same one, it is something that you have to work at to show the other person. How often do you communicate with someone in the way that is really meaningful to them?

                                    According to Chapman, in general, everyone has a dominate L.L. and a secondary L.L. (try and guess what mine are!). Two things, however: First, of course everyone exhibits a mixture of the them depending on the situation, but generally, everyone has a dominate one (or two). Second, it is actually something that is very rewarding for both when they make an effort to speak each other's languages because it leads to more happiness for both, and better reception of their actions. And the best part is this is regarding communication, not compatibility. So, even if you don't share the same L.L., you can learn to communicate love in the way that others like and vice-versa. And it can even be fun and fulfilling!

                                    And as I said, the five Love Languages are not limited to a romantic relationship. The same can apply to friends, family, co-workers, colleagues, etc.

                                    That is not the end of it either! A study found that, although he was not writing academically, his L.L. actually are consistent with established research! Egbert and Polk (2006: 19) indicated that "significant relationships between the love language factors and Stafford, Dainton, and Haas’ (2000) relational maintenance typology [exist], suggesting that Chapman’s Love Languages may reflect behaviors performed to enact intended relational maintenance."

                                    Also, Chapman's book indicated that American women tend to be more Acts of Service oriented whereas American men tend to be more Physical Touch oriented (according to the individuals he has counseled). When I did a project for one of my graduate courses in the fall of 2009, I found that out of the 16 individuals I interviewed, the majority of the male interviewees indicated that Acts of Service were their primary Love Language, while the female interviewees indicated that Words of Affirmation (closely followed by Physical Touch) was their primary L.L. (Oghia, 2010, unpublished manuscript).

                                    Food for Thought:
                                    1. Why do YOU think this is? 
                                    2. What role does culture play in the development of these? 
                                    3. Do you think his categories are applicable to those outside of the US?
                                    4. What do you think your Love Languages are? 
                                    5. Do you think this is something relevant to your life? Let me know!

                                    More information can be found on the website as well as an assessment of your L.L. Also, let me know if you need clarification, or want more information. But just remember: the next time you're fighting, disagreeing, arguing, or just having a miscommunication, think about how you are (or not) speaking to their L.L. Because a lot of times, these arguments are not really about what's at face-value, they are often about more meaningful things that are not discussed in the process of fighting out the issues. Speaking a L.L. to someone else can impart trust, appreciation, admiration, fulfillment, and of course, love, while also helping to fix problems in general with communication. SO, try it; you definitely have nothing to lose!

                                    Spread the love,

                                    P.S. Check out the LOVEanon Facebook Page for updates, cool links, and new blog posts!


                                    Chapman, Gary D. 2004. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (New Edition). Northfield Press.

                                    Egbert, Nichole, and Denise Polk. 2006. "Speaking the Language of Relational Maintenance: A Validity Test of Chapman’s (1992) Five Love Languages." Communication Research Reports, 23(1): 19-26.

                                    Oghia, Michael J. 2010. "Lebanese Youth Perceptions of Love and Marriage: An Exploratory Study." American University of Beirut: Beirut, Lebanon. Unpublished manuscript.

                                    Stafford, Laura, Marianne Dainton, and Stephen Haas. 2000. "Measuring Routine and Strategic Relational Maintenance: Scale Revision, Sex Versus Gender Roles, and the Prediction of Relational Characteristics." Communication Monographs, 3: 306-323.

                                    Saturday, August 27, 2011

                                    Welcome to LOVEanon!

                                    Marhaba LOVEanese! So, this is it, the first post. I feel like there's a lot of pressure on me to say something profound or something! Well, alas, I just want to give you an introduction into this project, this blog, and my vision.

                                    It all started when I moved in Lebanon two years ago. After a while, I realized that love, romance, and relationships seemed to be everywhere. It often was the topic of conversation, but I didn't really understand why it was seemingly so important now if later in life it's not. Well, I'm not going to make that claim or generalize, but I will say that it was a partial inspiration to start work on my thesis. I'll get to that in a second, but I do have to give a quick shout-out to the real people that inspired me to do all of this: My mom. You'll understand as soon as I finish my thesis :) (which I now have! Read more here).

                                    Now, just a bit about me quickly. I'm a 20-Something, hopeful romantic, Arab-American, recovering sociologist and former graduate student/research assistant at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. I was pursuing a Master's of Arts in sociology, which, as of June 2012, I received. I was born and raised in Kentucky in the U.S. I moved to Lebanon in 2009 to pursue my MA, and also to discover a bit more about my Arab and Armenian heritage. My thesis was about perceptions of romantic love and relationship formation among AUB students (a sample of mainly unmarried, Arab youth) (more about it here). Now, just because I've read (what seems to be) almost every piece of research about love and relationship formation that's been published in the sociological, anthropological, communication, psychological, and social psychological disciplines in the past 30+ years, and even though this is something I am incredibly invested in, and even though I'm studying it, I am not an expert! I am not a trained counselor, or professional. SO, I can't just dish out advice to people, especially if it puts their relationships in harm's way.
                                    This leads me to my next point: the objective and purpose of this blog. As I mentioned, I'm not "Dear Abby," (nor is this blog), so I don't want to give relationship advice. But what I do want to do is offer individuals that are not necessarily aware of the academic research available out there about romance, love, and relationships to be able to connect with this knowledge. Also, through sharing anecdotes, experiences, and of course, resources that can better help people to understand who we love, why we love them, what we look for in a partner, and how we can create better, stronger, and more meaningful relationships. The information is there, we just don't always know it! Lastly, although the posts are often addressed to individuals in the Arab world, it is generalizable enough to almost anyone regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, religion, background, and geographic location.

                                    Moreover, I'm not here to teach. I'm here to share, and to learn. From all of you, and all of your experiences. Often these experiences can be explained through research that is already there! So let's use this as a chance to create an online community to share in our experiences and learn from each other.

                                    Finally, my vision, and what is this blog doing to help me achieve that? Well, simply put, I want people to be able to make better, well-informed decisions about who they enter into a relationship with, help them understand why they are entering into a relationship with that person, be able to access the resources that can help them to maintain that relationship (including answers and insights into who they are personally to better understand their self), and help people create better, more loving, and longer-lasting relationships. I want people to love! And I want them to know why they are doing it, and how they can do it better. I'm not saying I'm perfect or I know how better than anyone else, but we can all learn from each other.

                                    This is not a dating site. This is not a chance to rant about the person breaking your heart (although those stories in context are definitely welcomed). It's professional, and it's a chance to actually share information that you may not have been exposed too in the past.

                                    Another important detail of this blog is that it's geared towards a general audience, but it will have a Lebanese twist to it. That is, I want to discuss aspects of Lebanese society that directly affect love and relationships (such as politics, sectarianism, etc.), but not in the sense of a debate. Instead, merely allow those reading it to identify, connect, and empathize with the topics at hand, and think, "He get's it; he understands."

                                    Overall, I think it'll be as fun and entertaining as it will be educational. So let's see where the next few weeks takes us, and I welcome your comments, suggestions for content, and feedback!

                                    Follow the LOVEanon Facebook Page for links, articles, pictures, videos, and cool resources, and feel free to follow me on Twitter (@MikeOghia) as well using the hashtag #LOVEanon. You can also e-mail me at:

                                    Note: LOVEanon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, so share away!

                                    I'm looking forward to the future, and please share this with your friends and networks! Let's spread the word about love. Or otherwise, just spread the love.

                                    Much love,

                                    P.S. Just a word about the name, major props to my friend Oliver Noteware for the suggestion a very long time ago. I always just thought it was a good title, and let it be known LOVEanon stands for "Love in Lebanon," or "Love and Lebanon," not Love Anonymous. More blog posts to come starting tomorrow (Amchit today!).

                                    The official logo. You can also access it from the official URL:

                                    And do this ^