I'm a former professional matchmaker who found love while traveling solo — here's why it prepared me for a strong long-term relationship
Olivia Balsinger is a writer, traveler, and former professional matchmaker. She spent years solo traveling around the world, and it taught her a lot about how to be in a relationship. Traveling tested Balsinger's sense of adventure, bravery, self-confidence, and, most significantly, self-love — attributes that are all extremely important to develop before jumping into a relationship. After spending half a decade counseling clients on love, she found her own at an Irish pub in Bangkok. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Almost two years ago, I sat wearing wrinkled elephant pants and sipping Chang beer outside an Irish pub on Khao San Road in Bangkok. I had spontaneously purchased a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia in an "Eat, Pray, Love," moment of inspiration, typical of my chaotic, perpetually nomadic (and perpetually single) lifestyle. I had been strung along, spit out, and washed ashore again in the romance department and swore I was taking a sabbatical from love. My number one rule for the trip was no romance. However, like most rules, this one was subject to change. I motioned to the waitress to ask for the check for my beer. She pointed to a tall, handsome man sitting across the room from me, and said he had already paid for my drink. And that's when the fairy tale began. I was supposed to head to Bali the next night on assignment, and he had only just arrived in Thailand that afternoon on his first solo trip (his name was Jonathan, from Denmark). But from the moment he pulled his chair up to my table, we knew. Fast forward to today: I have since moved to Copenhagen with him, am in the process of acquiring a new citizenship, and we've explored 17 countries together (with dozens more on our radar.) When we met, I was working as a successful matchmaker at Tawkify, one of the most coveted firms in the country. I had spent half a decade emphasizing to clients that there is no such thing as love at first sight and that feelings take time to grow and mature. Yet at that moment in Bangkok, everything I thought I knew was squashed. Here's what solo traveling taught me about finding a soul mate.SEE ALSO: My husband and I left our full-time jobs to travel the world for 6 months — and only spent $288 from our savings. Here's how we found remote work. SEE ALSO: The top 10 reasons couples go to therapy, according to a psychotherapist who counsels them You need to love yourself before searching for love
I remember dreading the holiday season when I first started solo traveling. Inevitably, after the first glass of wine, a distant relative would ask, "Olivia, it's nice that you're exploring and seeing the world, but when are you going to get married?" Although I was only in my early twenties, these questions would sometimes bother me, and often I started trying to pursue relationships for the wrong reasons. I was looking for someone to sweep me off my feet, or to tell me how wonderful I am and assure me that I'm worthy of love. But these relationships never lasted, because they lacked a solid, meaningful foundation. But without realizing it, my explorations had already been teaching me how to build a strong foundation. The bravery it takes to be a solo female traveler helped mold me into the independent woman I am today. When I worked as a professional matchmaker, half of my coaching was explaining to clients that their most important relationship has to be with the person in the mirror. If you are actively searching to be made whole by a partner, you aren't yet whole yourself. Jonathan later told me that I had seemed approachable that night in Bangkok because I looked comfortable being alone. It had taken years of mistakes, failures, and lessons learned while solo traveling to feel confident in my own skin. But once you have it, confidence like that shows. There's nothing wrong with making the first move
Your Instagram is likely saturated with photos displaying your bravery and adventurous spirit when traveling. Yet for some reason, when it comes to our emotions, we tend to hide behind a protective shield. Traveling solo is the ultimate opportunity to break out of your romantic comfort zone, as there is less risk involved. If your smile at the cutie across the bar isn't returned, there's no harm done, and you don't have to worry about running into them at your local grocery store next week. Plus, if they are also traveling solo, there is a better chance they are open to new experiences and engaging with fellow wanderlusters. When I worked professionally as a matchmaker, I would remind clients not to be intimidated to ask their love interest out. It's better to find out if there is mutual interest before your brain goes down the thought spiral of "what ifs." To develop connections, you must be open to your surroundings and new opportunities, and also continue to know your worth if the relationship doesn't work out. Travel can make your romance more serious
Frequent globetrotters know that travel isn't always as seamless as social media likes to portray. It can be stressful trying to manage budgets, logistics, and itinerary details for solo traveling, and traveling with a partner can be complicated in different ways. When I met Jonathan and we decided to ditch our plans and travel together, we needed to have logistical discussions that I previously presumed were saved for serious couples, not perfect strangers. Which hotel can we afford together? Should I purchase the plane tickets with my points and you pay me back? And if you think you know your partner, wait until you are traveling with them 24/7 — all of a sudden, both the good and bad are center stage. When I worked as a matchmaker, I would emphasize to clients that their dates aren't necessarily showing their authentic selves during early interactions. We all put our best foot forward in the beginning. Only time, proximity, and the way you and your partner work through issues can test your relationship compatibility. Traveling together is the ultimate test, as it is unpredictable and sometimes anxiety-provoking. Does she stay calm when you miss your red-eye flight due to traffic? Does he stay by your side when you're quarantined with a bug on a cruise? Most importantly, how does your partner treat workers in the service industry? This is an important litmus test. Traveling prepares you for a strong relationship, and creates lifelong memories
As a matchmaker, I would often plan blind dates for my clients that were centered around an activity. My rationale was that you're more inclined to feel comfortable with your date when you are interacting in a playful setting, such as mini golf, instead of sitting stiffly at a five-star restaurant, nervous about spilling a drop of soup. If you can explore the world alongside your partner, it makes those memories that much more precious when you reminisce about them years later, curled up on the sofa. With a partner, the stories you make while traveling together can be valued for years to come. I gained my independence, bravery, and confidence by traveling alone for many years, and I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Those solo experiences allowed me to grow to love and put myself first, and prepared me to be a confident and caring partner. Today I am still that person who aspires to tell stories visiting every country I can, and now I can enjoy traveling in the company of an equally independent partner. Olivia Balsinger is a writer, traveler, PR pro, and former professional matchmaker. Connect with her on Instagram.
More like this (2)
It has been 30 years since a counsellor came up with the idea of five basic...It has been 30 years since a counsellor came up with the idea of five basic love languages, which include compliments and touch. Here’s how they can help you relate to your partnerPerhaps your partner is a gift-giver who often spots things they think you would love, from a funny-shaped leaf to a rare first edition, but is hurt when you don’t seem that grateful. Maybe you painstakingly undertake DIY around the house, but it goes unnoticed. There is a strong possibility that you and your partner see these acts completely differently.“Actually, maybe what [your partner] wants is for you to tell them you love them,” says Kate Moyle, a sex and relationship therapist. For example, she says: “One partner thinks: ‘We’re going to spend the whole weekend together, quality time, I’ve organised something fun to do together’, but there isn’t enough physical touch for the other partner. That might not even occur to the partner for whom that isn’t their primary love language.” Continue reading...
I want to move in with my girlfriend, but she’s a spender and I’m a saver. How can we avoid financial tension when we're sharing a roof?
Money has a way of inciting fear and anxiety in pretty much everyone. Approach the discussion...Money has a way of inciting fear and anxiety in pretty much everyone. Approach the discussion as a chance to learn more about each other and how your upbringings shaped your views about money. Instead of assuming your partner won't be able to contribute to your shared finances, explain to her why you have anxiety about paying rent on time. Make this one of many conversations about money and other uncomfortable topics that will only get easier to discuss with practice. Read more Doing It Right here. Visit Insider's homepage for more. My partner and I have been dating for about five years and we're considering moving in together when we both move to the city within the next year or so. I think it makes sense financially, plus I genuinely believe we would work well together living together because we are great at giving each other space and spending a lot of time together in a healthy, happy way. But: We have different financial styles. I'm a saver who is strict with money and who already has retirement accounts set up, while she is prone to splurging and not saving because it's important to "live in the moment." She shops online often and loves to dine out, but I'm not always the same way. I know money can cause a lot of conflict, especially when rent is involved. I'm also worried I might get angry or annoyed if she's making purchases that I don't necessarily agree with. How do I approach this without making it seem like I'm right and she's wrong? And how do we meet in the middle going forward? - New Jersey Dear New Jersey, Money has a way of inciting fear and anxiety in pretty much everyone. I'd be lying if I said I've never been in an argument with someone about the green stuff, so I understand your trepidation. There are, however, ways to quell that anxiety and prevent money-related fights if you and your girlfriend are interested in taking the next step in your relationship. (Which, by the way, I support, if financial worries are the only thing stopping you.) But first, let's get one thing straight: You and your girlfriend will never see everything eye-to-eye, including money matters, and that's okay. Relationships aren't about harping on your significant other until they break down and agree to do what you want. (But if my boyfriend is reading this: Do what I want!) Relationships are, however, about growing from difficult conversations, so you might as well start with this necessary one. It's important you both acknowledge your divergent financial strategies if you want to avoid future pent-up feelings that could end your relationship. Approach the discussion as a chance to get know each other better Before you even start the conversation, shift how you're thinking about it. Rather than a battle, view it as a way to learn more about each other and what makes you tick, Tribeca Therapy founder Matt Lundquist, told me. "Think of it as building infrastructure for talking about hard things," Lundquist said. "People who can talk about money in uncomfortable ways can also do the same about sex or other [touchy] topics." Read more: I went on 8 therapist-designed dates with my boyfriend and we had the best conversations of our relationship He added that often, couples who discuss these awkward topics come away learning more about their partners than they assumed they would. Maybe you'll learn your girlfriend is always online shopping because she almost never shops at brick-and-mortars, or that she goes out to eat a lot because no one taught her how to cook. "Be more curious versus having a mindset of 'I can't live the way you do,'" Lundquist said. Begin with a talk about your upbringing Your initial money chat should focus on getting to know more about your individual backgrounds as they pertain to money. See, it's impossible to separate how you were raised and how you saw your parents treat money from your own financial hangups. Taking a deep dive into that subject can help you understand your girlfriend's live-in-the-moment attitude toward spending and she can understand your more frugal approach. Read more: Your mom's dating history can impact your own love life, for better or worse When you're having this chat, make sure you let each other speak without interrupting the other, since this conversation isn't about proving your money moves are the right ones. In fact, before you even approach your girlfriend, I suggest you think about why it bothers you that she spends money on clothes and dining out. Question your own assumptions You said you fear her habits could result in her falling short on rent, but how do you know that will happen? From what you've told me, it seems you're ascribing a bit of moral high ground to your own spending habits compared to hers, and that won't get you anywhere productive relationship-wise. Instead of assuming your partner won't be able to contribute to your shared finances, explain to her why you have anxiety about paying rent on time. Maybe you have a family member who was evicted for falling short on rent and you fear that could become you, or your parents harped on you for your entire life about making rent on time and it's now ingrained in your mind. Read more: My roommate obsessively tracks her calories and I think she has an eating disorder. How can I confront her without sabotaging our friendship? "Don't pass your fear to the other person," Lundquist said. "Recognize it comes from within you; otherwise it can destroy your relationship because it makes you mad at the other person." Make this the first of many chats about money Lastly, create a mutual understanding that this is an open conversation and each of your views on money may change over time. When that happens, you both have to be open to reevaluating the terms of your unofficial contract and re-learning what money means to each of you. If you love and trust your girlfriend enough to move in with her, you have to trust she'll understand the types of financial situations that make you uncomfortable and will do what she can to prevent them because she loves you too. And at the same time, you could let her online shop in peace and indulge in meals out together here and there. As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist. Have a question? Fill out this anonymous form. All questions will be published anonymously. Related coverage from Doing It Right: My lack of body confidence is ruining my sex life, making me upset whenever my partner tries to ignite romance. Is there anything we can do? I've used dating apps for years and still can't find the long-term relationship I want. Is it possible to find love offline? My fiancé said he has no interest in wedding planning, but he's obsessed with the budget. How can I get him more interested since money influences every decision I'll have to make? Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Violent video games are played all over the world, but mass shootings are a uniquely American problem