I’d never been on a trip with a boyfriend and his family until a few weeks ago when I made my way down to Virginia Beach with Chris’s family. Virginia Beach is a great place. In many ways it reminds me of California. There’s a beach running right up to the boardwalk where people rollerblade and ride bikes. You’ve got lots of volleyball courts. But then there is also a Jersey Shore-esque feel to it because you’ve got plenty of bars and shops selling shirts that say “YOLO” and “Come at me, Bro.” In a way, everyone wins.
As I was packing for my trip (read: throwing my entire closet into a suitcase) I started to get nervous. My first vacation as The Girlfriend. How was I supposed to behave? I’d been to weddings and dinners with Chris’s family before. I’d stayed over at the house before. But a full week of “perfect girlfriend” behavior? I realized a few things during my trip (and the ten hour drive home). The most important thing is that you don’t need to be on perfect girlfriend behavior. Be respectful, polite, and clean, but also be a person. Here are a few other points to keep in mind if you’re hitting the beach or lake (or anywhere) with your guy and his family this summer:
1.) Don’t be afraid to do your own thing for a little bit: It’s important to spend time with his family, participate in activities, and generally be a social person. But that doesn’t mean you have to do every single thing all the time. Think about it: when you go on vacation with your own family, I bet there are times when you do your own thing. The same goes for a vacation with your boyfriend’s family. It’s okay to break off and go read while the guys play cards. You can relax on the beach if he and his sister want to wakeboard. Be friendly and social, but you don’t have to move as a unit for the entire vacation.
2.) Eat normally: At first it feels a little weird just going to the refrigerator and getting a snack when you’re not in your own house. But, again, this is your home for a week. You have to feel comfortable. Don’t eat all the strawberries or leave the milk out so it goes bad. But eat normally like you would at home.
3.) Be neat: I’m hyper-aware of how neat I am when I’m on vacation when my boyfriend’s family. Tables get an extra wipedown. Dishes get thoroughly rinsed. I don’t want anyone thinking, “Ew…this is how they live?” This is great, but you don’t need to go crazy and get up at 5 am to mop.
4.) Don’t hog the bathroom: When you’re sharing a bathroom with other members of your significant other’s family, it’s important not to take a hundred hours when you’re showering. This is especially important if other people also have to shower, get ready for dinner, pee, etc. Be considerate and use your bathroom time carefully. Take your shower, but then get ready in the bedroom. What’s fine at home is different when you’re sharing with people you’re not related to, people you’re not dating, etc.
5.) Be honest: It’s your vacation too, so don’t be afraid to speak up about what you do or don’t want to do. It’s a lot better than getting dragged along to golf or not getting to see that museum you’d been dying to check out. As long as you’re not preventing other people from doing what they want, there’s no shame in being honest. It can feel a little nervewracking to speak up. You feel bossy and you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. But if you’re polite, then it’s completely okay to express what you do/don’t want to do.
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I recently read this terrific article from Your Tango called “3 Things We All Learn About Guys in Our 20s” and I had to share it here. It links to a longer piece which can be found here if you’re interested. Dating can be an obstacle course, and pieces like this one make it easier to navigate through to the other side.
Hopefully by now we all realize that if a guy only texts you after midnight then your relationship probably isn’t headed for holy matrimony. That’s fine, as long as you know what you’re working with. But it’s easy to say that you’re okay with a hookup-only situation and then somehow you end up developing feelings and getting hurt. Be wary and be realistic.
The thing I found interesting about this piece was the parts about guys and work. The article says “Guys disappear at work” and explains that women are better at multitasking. I didn’t realize how true this was until my boyfriend and I both started full-time jobs. I can write an e-mail, make a list of tasks that need to get done, and send him a text all at the same time. If he stops what he’s doing to read that text, he gets thrown off. It’s just a different way of thinking. He likes to move from task to task until he finishes each one, whereas I can bounce around a bit more. This approach to multi-tasking can also apply to guys and class, guys and activities, etc. It’s easier for women to multi-task and split their brain energy. It’s something to consider when you’re looking at your phone wondering why he hasn’t returned your text, and it’s something I wish I’d thought about when I was dating in college. At the same time, there’s no excuse for a one-sided relationship. If you’re always the one initiating conversation and making plans…time to move on.
The longer version of the piece also emphasizes that men usually don’t change. If he doesn’t want a relationship, you can try all you want but you probably won’t make him commit. This is as true for 18-year-old men as it is for 28-year-old men. It’s also true that just because he’s older, doesn’t necessarily mean that his habits and behavior have changed. If he likes playing mind games and juggling multiple ladies, that habit will probably stick with him for a while. People can change eventually, but old habits die hard.
If you’re looking for a little advice about the opposite gender, I’d definitely suggest reading those two pieces.
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Two and a half years ago, my boyfriend and I made the ever-so-logical decision to start dating just a few weeks before I went to London for a semester. Many people thought we were insane. And I can see why. I was about to go spend four months in a foreign country and I had just decided to jump into a brand-new relationship. What about the strain the long (LONG) distance would put on the new relationship? As it turns out, doing long distance actually made our relationship better. Yeah, it wasn’t all unicorns pooping out rainbows. There were days when I wished we were in the same city/country. But if I had the chance to do it over, I wouldn’t change anything. Which is why I’m telling you: don’t fear the distance. People look at doing long-distance like it’s the kiss of death. It’s not. For newer relationships it might even be like when a singer gets a shot of vitamins in her butt if she’s sick right before a show. Meaning that it immediately boosts health and strength.
1.) A little less action and a little more conversation. When you’re doing distance, you can’t just hook up all the time while you’re caught up in the glow of a new romance. You actually have to talk to this person, and connect with them on a deeper level. Hopefully you already did this before you became official, but this forces you to continue learning about each other. This is extremely important for new relationships, and is still important when it comes to maintaining long-term relationships.
2.) See ya later, trust issues. When you’re in a relationship with someone who lives in the same city, it can be easy to avoid any insecurities for several months (or even years) into the relationship. When you’re doing long-distance, you HAVE to trust the other person. If you spend every night worrying about where he or she is, you will slowly go insane. Because of this, any and all worries must get taken care of right away. Again, hopefully you are the picture of sanity and don’t have any trust issues. But if you do, then this is a great way to face them head-on.
3.) No zombies allowed. Lastly, I’ve seen many normal people become love zombies when they get into a relationship. What I mean is that they start dating someone and forget about their friends, hobbies, family, etc. Even the most seemingly normal women can become love zombies. When you’re in a long-distance relationship it’s a lot harder to let this happen. Your boyfriend isn’t in the same city. You can’t spend every second of every day with him. This means you’re going to have to maintain a life as an independent entity. Also if you’re in a new city and want to explore, you aren’t going to want to sit at home and talk to a computer screen for hours on end. Essentially, you will both continue to do the things that you used to do before you fell in like/love. This is healthy and how it should be. Snaps for you guys.
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Relationships are as much a living thing as they are a concept. And a (sometimes stressful) word. I’m always amazed by how much relationships change, develop, strengthen, fall apart, mature, and all sorts of other things. Another thing that shocks me is how blind we can be in our own relationships. I’m not even talking strictly about romantic relationships. We can be just as blind in relationships with a friend, family member, roommate, co-worker, etc. Because of this potential for blindness, it’s important to take a step back every now and then and assess your relationships. What’s really going on here? Who’s putting in the effort? Who’s benefiting? Is this a healthy relationship? Are you helping each other grow? Why are you even connected in the first place?
I read somewhere that relationships are like bank accounts. The other person can “deposit” into your bank account or “withdraw” from the account. Obviously I’m not talking about money here, I’m thinking more along the lines of depositing moral support, encouragement, phone calls, time, that sort of thing. And by “withdraw” I mean that you can also withdraw those things for your own use. You want a little bit of both actions, because you deserve someone who listens just as much as you should also listen to someone else when he/she needs it. But if a relationship has one person doing too much withdrawing and not enough depositing (and vice versa) then things get tricky.
I had one of these unbalanced relationships going on and I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago. It was (still is) a great friendship. Absolutely. The person and I always had fun together, but I had a feeling that my bank account was starting to hit the red. I’d had a lot of withdrawals in the form of text messages sent, phone calls made, time spent listening to stories and offering advice, and I was still waiting for a chance to withdraw from my friend’s account. Not that it’s all about what you can gain from a relationship, but it’s emotionally draining when you’re putting in more than you’re taking out all the time without question.
Of course, all relationships ebb and flow. I know this. Sometimes you’re not in a position to give. Maybe my friend was stressed out or tied up at work or emotionally tired for some reason or another. But after I assessed this relationship I realized I need to even out the balance more. It’s not about blaming the other person or thinking he/she sucks. It’s about having an honest conversation and seeing what can be done.
If you think you’ve got an unbalanced relationship going on, it’s okay. Here are a few ways to correct it:
1.) Take stock of the relationship: First of all, is it worth pursuing the relationship further? Maybe the reason the relationship is unbalanced is because you two have simply grown apart. That’s totally normal. But before you invest time and effort, make sure the relationship is worth working on and doesn’t feel forced.
2.) Be honest: If you want things to change, you have to talk to the other person about how you’re feeling. Yeah, it’s going to be a little awkward but you have to be totally open and allow the other person to do the same. Hiding your feelings only allows for resentment to grow and will make the relationship crumble.
3.) Be clear and specific: Don’t just say, “You don’t care about our friendship.” That’s a big statement and doesn’t help bring about change. Offer examples of why you feel this way instead. Like this: “It makes me feel like you don’t care about our friendship when we don’t hang out unless I text or call you first. I’d love it if you’d call me to set something up.” Okay, you don’t need to be that cheesy or formal, but you get the idea.
4.) Recognize the difference between malicious intent and miscommunication: There’s a big difference between a miscommunication and someone intentionally being hurtful. Sending dozens of text messages with no response? Hurtful and pretty rude. Upset because you’re always the one making plans? Maybe the other person doesn’t realize that you’re hurt when he/she doesn’t get in touch with you first because he/she is used to you always making the first move. The intent might be good, but there’s just a miscommunication. Figure that out before you jump to conclusions.
5.) Be willing to move on: Sometimes change isn’t possible. For whatever reason, that person may not be able to make the changes you need him/her to make. If this happens, think about whether the relationship is still worth it to you. If it is, accept it for what it is and don’t dwell on the things you can’t change. If not, move on and feel good about the fact that you expressed yourself (which is always intimidating).
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When you’ve been dating someone for a long time it’s easy to get into a romance rut. Without even realizing it you’re spending more time in sweats watching Breaking Bad than you are creating romantic moments (or so I’m told…not that I know). If you had a trust fund to blow it’d be easy to just jet off to the Caribbean for the weekend or to rent out the Staples Center for a private movie screening a la Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. Bam! Instant romance. But when you’re working with limited time and funds sometimes you have to improvise.
Revisiting the places you used to go when you started dating is a great way to get an extra boost of romance in a steady, long-term relationship. If your first date happened at an Italian restaurant, go back there for a meal and talk about some of your favorite first date memories. Were you nervous? Did someone say something embarrassing? If you started dating when you lived in a dorm, go to the dining hall for a meal. The food may not be great, but it’ll bring back fun memories. Visit that spot on the quad where you had your first kiss, or take a walk over to the building where you first had class together.
My boyfriend and I are now alums (it’s a sad state of affairs) but live in the same city where we went to school, so we recently went back to campus and spent some time visiting the spots we used to frequent when we first started dating. It was really fun to talk about the beginning of our relationship and some of our favorite memories from recent years. I realized that we hadn’t done it in a while and we each remembered funny moments and events that the other didn’t. Nostalgia is a serious bonding experience.
Fancy trips and meals are terrific, but sometimes a good trip down ole memory lane is all you need to mix things up a bit. It’s meaningful to look at where you began and how far you’ve come together. If you’re still in college, look at the changes from each year. If you’re a grad, look at how much has changed since you started dating. It’ll make you appreciate the growth in your relationship and yourself.
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The first fight that ends the honeymoon phase of a new relationship can be very unnerving. Just yesterday you were dressing up to go out to dinner, and sending him a text even though you saw him an hour earlier. Now he is really, truly aggravating you/disagreeing with you/not listening to what you’re saying. And you honestly just want to spit in his eye. Yet the first fight can also be a good thing. It signifies that you’re comfortable enough around each other to disagree and express your truest, most honest opinions. I am here to assure you that you will brave the storm known as the first fight, and you will come out a stronger couple. You just have to know how to fight properly. Yes, there are good and bad ways to fight.
Fighting dirty is (at the time) so much more satisfying than a fair fight, but it’s also damaging to your relationship in the long run. It includes slinging hurtful insults that you don’t mean, and purposely bringing up things that you know aggravate your significant other just to add extra insult to injury. It’s so easy to call him a name in the heat of the moment, but those words stick around even after you’re back to cuddling on the couch watching re-runs of The Office.
I’m a firm believer that the right type of fight can make you a stronger couple. The couples I worry most about are the ones who coo, “We NEVER FIGHT!” as they smile way too big and hold hands and call each other strange pet names. It’s not normal not to fight. Unless you are dating yourself.
As long as you are in a relationship with another person, you’re going to disagree and you are going to do stuff that drives each other bonkers. If you can work through it without insulting each other personally or bringing up old issues, you improve the quality of the communication in your relationship. This is called a fair fight.
A fair fight is when you address the issue at hand, and only that issue. During a fair fight, it’s important to know when it’s time to take a break and walk away even though it would feel so good to just keep arguing in a circle. My boyfriend and I struggled with this for a while. When we fight, he usually needs to take a break and cool down. I, on the other hand, would like nothing more than to keep discussing the same points over and over. I finally learned to let him decompress, despite the fact that I have to practically hold my words in my mouth. Usually by the time he’s done cooling down, we’re both ready to come to an agreement. It’s important to understand the way your partner handles a problem in the relationship. No matter how badly you want to talk, if he isn’t ready, you shouldn’t make him. And vice versa.
A fair fight is also when you actually put your feelings and thoughts into words, even though it would be so much easier to scream, “I DON’T KNOW!” because you’re angry and feeling a lot of different emotions. But the only way to fix the issue is to actually verbalize your thoughts to your partner. A fair fight is when you talk about the current problem, not this issue AND an issue from last week that you never actually brought up.
The last part of a fair fight is avoiding what I call the “loaded gun” element, and that’s when you threaten the other person with a break-up or other things you don’t actually mean. Such as calling your ex for a reconciliation. Seriously, that is not a good idea. I call it a “loaded gun” because empty threats should be treated like a loaded gun. Don’t wave them around unless you’re going to use them. Someone could accidentally get hurt.
Threatening to end the relationship may feel like a good way to show your boyfriend that you are, in fact, serious about what you’re fighting about. It’s not. Threatening to break up with someone when you don’t mean it is a good way to A.) Actually end the relationship, B.) Really hurt someone, or C.) Become the girl who cried “break up.” None of those things are pleasant. Express your anger all you want, but don’t make statements you will regret. In the heat of the moment, you may think you want to end the relationship. But how are you going to feel two days from now once you’ve cooled off?
How do you handle fighting with your significant other? Any other techniques that I haven’t thought of? Tweet me @lifewithlauren1 and find me at Life with Lauren.
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The other day I was browsing Pinterest, as I usually do when I’m bored. Amongst the recipes I won’t try, the interior design schemes I’d like to copy, and the quotes telling me why I should go to the gym, I found a quote I really love. It’s goes like this, “Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.”
It’s a great point. Relationships based purely on physical stuff are pretty easy to maintain…at least for a while. Then there’s the other side of the spectrum when you spend all of your time talking about feelings. That kind of emotional passion is draining, but it’s easy to be in a relationship full of talking and feelings without even realizing it. I’m noticing this as I’m watching the newest season of Bethenny Ever After. Bethenny and her husband are literally talking each other into insanity. They could use a laugh or two. They’re really a great couple, but they’re just taking everything so seriously that they can’t stop to enjoy each other and have fun. It makes me sad. I wish I could jump in during the middle of the scene and advise them to share a giggle or two. Life would be so much better.
Sometimes you need to take a step back and remember to have fun together. You started dating because you enjoy spending time with each other, keep that in mind. Laugh about nothing, laugh about a TV show, laugh about who’s kicking ass in Scramble with Friends, it doesn’t matter. Obviously you don’t want to be in a relationship that’s just one big joke. Serious conversations are important sometimes. You need to be able to express feelings, talk about the future, and deal with tough situations. But not every problem needs to be treated as a huge dilemma. Not every decision you make in the day requires a pow wow between the two of you about “What does this mean for us?” and not every fight warrants a breakdown of all of the many feelings each of you felt. It’s important to remember to let small things go whenever possible. A balance of physical stuff, emotional discussions, and laughter makes for a relationship that can hold up long term.
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Last week I wrote a piece about my embarrassing dating error. I literally cringed as I wrote about how I was casually seeing a guy, hoping that we would become official, only to find out that he had found someone new. It got worse when I wrote him a long, emotional email expressing my sorrow. He never wrote back. Then we spent the rest of college ignoring each other. Yikes.
I was nervous to put the story out there. I hadn’t really talked about it before, and it was not my proudest moment. I was ready for public ridicule. To my surprise, I got tweets and comments about how other girls had been in the same situation and could relate. I also had a reader write in asking for advice on her own “Mark situation.” These comments and questions inspired me to write a piece about when you should contact your personal Mark for closure, and when you should let him disappear. As embarrassing as my Mark situation was, at least I learned something from it. And I want to share what I learned.
To start off, I want to clarify something. I do not regret the ACT of emailing Mark. I regret the content of the email. It was way too sappy given the circumstances of our “relationship”, and it was an overly-emotional message. I’m not surprised I didn’t receive a response from him. He probably read it and said, ” WHOA! PSYCHO! DELETE!”
I was not off-base to write Mark an email. I was blindsided when our “thing” ended. I needed closure. However, pouring my hurt out in that email was not the best move. If I really felt like I had to contact Mark, I should have sent him a short message telling him I was sorry things hadn’t worked out and that I wished him well. No lines about how he hurt me and not pages and pages of text. Just a few sentences. This eliminates the “YIKES” factor.
There’s no gauge as to when you should write to someone for closure and when you should let them go. It’s always a gray area. I know that’s an annoying answer, but it’s true. If you were good friends with the person before you started dating, if you had a real emotional connection, if you spent a lot of time with that person, or if you just really feel like you need some closure for your own sake, then an email (or Facebook message, etc.) is probably appropriate. But learn from my mistake. No novels. No weepy confessions. Keep it short and sweet. Even if you’re feeling emotional, don’t fill the message with your emotions. Wish the person well, tell them no hard feelings (if need be), and move on.
However if the person treated you really badly, if it was just a brief thing that didn’t mean much to you, if the person has asked not to be in touch anymore, or if the person is a negative influence in your life, an email is not worth it. Also, if you don’t think you can write something without getting overly-emotional or wordy…. don’t do it. As much as you may want to.
It can be hard to let someone just disappear from your life completely. Believe me, I understand this. But sometimes it does more damage when you try to force a person to stick around, or if you let a person stick around when he has a negative influence on your life.
You will be better off if you just mentally close that chapter and open yourself up to someone who wants to love you for who you are, and who wants to be included in your life. It may take weeks or months, but you will heal and you will eventually stop thinking about your own Mark. I promise.
How have you dealt with your “Mark situations”? Have you found that a letter helps give you closure, or have you had an unfortunate Lauren-style letter confession? Tweet me @lifewithlauren1 or find me at Life with Lauren.
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So, Crushes, I was just thinking about something and wanted to share. A few weeks ago I met my friend’s new boyfriend. They live in another city, so this was my first time really getting to know him since they became official. I could tell my friend was really, really excited for me to spend some time with her new guy. My boyfriend and I went on a double date with the lovebirds. We then went out to a bar with some friends from college (all of them are guys except for my friend and me). I could see my friend was carefully watching how New Boyfriend and I were interacting. Were we joking around? Did we have things in common?
While my friend was concerned about the best friend/boyfriend dynamic, I found the boyfriend/guy friends dynamic more interesting. It was funny to watch them meet, get a feel for each other, try out some jokes, and try to make small talk. Once the guys found out that New Boyfriend was a huge sports fan, life was instantly good. No more awkward chatter. They were talking like they had known each other their whole lives. Stereotypical? Yes, but it’s true.
I liked New Boyfriend a lot, but I also really liked the fact that he got along well with our friends. It made the night easier knowing that everyone was comfortable and having fun. This brings me to the topic of ”plays well with others,” also known as how he gets along with your friends. If a guy you’re seeing doesn’t mesh well with your friends, would that stop you from taking it to the next level? I know for me it would be a deal breaker. My guy’s ability/desire to mix and mingle with my friends is huge. In fact, my boyfriend’s outgoing nature is something that originally attracted me to him.
There is something very nice about knowing that you can go into any social situation with your guy. It’s like being a part of a team. You should be able to go to a family wedding and not worry about what your guy and your cousin Tommy are going to talk about. You want to be able to go to a business function and network your face off without worrying about your guy clinging to you the whole night. But here’s where it gets tricky. Despite all of this, your relationship is between you two. Friends and family are important, but at the end of the day you have to be able to go home with this guy and spend time alone and be satisfied. You have to live your life with this person and feel like he’s treating you the way you deserve to be treated. If he’s great to you in every other area of life, but he’s not so great when he meets people for the first time, maybe you can overcome that together.
So basically what I’m weighing is this: How important are a guy’s social skills? If he gets a less-than-stellar first review from your friends, is that a deal breaker? Is his “plays well with others” factor a part of what attracts you to him, or is it just an added bonus? I think, for me, the way he socializes makes him more (or less attractive), but I’d be interested to hear some other thoughts. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!
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One of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs, has a new book out. It’s called This is How and it’s amazing. It’s sort of a self-help book with a healthy dose of real-life stories and humor mixed in. I’d highly recommend it. This book does not disappoint. Also, if you haven’t read any of Augusten’s other stuff you should definitely do so.
In this book, Augusten offers a piece of advice that ladies (and gentlemen) of all ages could probably afford to hear. He talks about finding soulmates, and how many people act as if a soulmate is something we’re guaranteed at birth. He explains that many people get indignant when they haven’t found that person by a certain age. In fact, you’ve probably had at least one conversation where you dramatically exclaim that you’re giving up on dating/love/relationships/the idea of getting married. But, as Augusten, explains how can you expect to meet The One if you’re in your comfort zone all the time? He talks about how a science magazine conducted a study and found that you can track nearly anybody, because most people move within the same small radius every single day. It’s not hard to pick up on people’s patterns. I hadn’t thought about this before, but it’s absolutely true. There are probably fifteen other hair salons I could go to, but I love mine. I’m comfortable there. No need to mix it up. The same goes for my grocery store, my gym, etc. I’ve heard about restaurants on the other side of my city, but haven’t ventured there. There’s nothing stopping me from going, I’m just used to the same handful of places I normally go to eat. While these daily patterns are good for adding structure to your life, they’re not conducive to meeting new people. If you see the same people every day, how are you supposed to make your social circle wide enough to meet someone who’s a good match for you?
The other thing is this: you actually have to get out. If you think about it, how did most of the couples you know meet? Maybe in class, maybe at a bar, maybe during a chance interaction at the college bookstore. However they did it, it definitely didn’t happen when they were sitting on their couch watching reruns all night. They interacted with people. Many of the couples I know met through friends of friends. Again, expanding your social circle and meeting as many people as possible increases your odds that eventually you’ll run into someone who’s a great match for you.
If your love life is making you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, think about your daily patterns. Are you seeing the same faces and destinations every day? Are you doing the same activities without taking time to try something new? Try adding some variation into your routine. This doesn’t instantly guarantee you’ll meet Mr. Right but, as The Hunger Games might say, it will help put the odds ever in your favor.
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