#relationshipgoals : social media & relationship comparison

I’m going to paint you a little picture here:

Jillian and Bob have been dating for three years. It’s been a busy week for both of them, and they haven’t seen much of each other this week. In fact, they totally forgot about the anniversary of their first date—something they’ve always celebrated in the past.

Now pan to Jillian scrolling Instagram before bedtime when she sees a photo of her friend, Lucy, sitting across the table from her boyfriend Todd at an insanely expensive restaurant. The caption? “When bae takes you out for dinner, just ‘cuz.”

Jillian’s face gets hot. Bob couldn’t even remember the three year anniversary of their first date, and here Todd is taking Lucy out for expensive dinners “just cuz.”

Jillian is lowkey irritated with Lucy for flashing her perfect personal life all over Instagram, but she takes a screenshot and texts it to Bob, saying, “AWWWW how great is Todd?”

She waits, hoping Bob will understand the not-so-subtle hint to do something special for her.

He doesn’t. His response is “LOL.”

Stupid Bob.

img_0481Sound familiar?

Probably (unless you’re just an inherently noble human who doesn’t fall into the same petty trappings as me Jillian).

Over the past few weeks, my friends & I have had enough conversations about this topic for me to deem it worthy of a blog, so I want to pose a couple questions:

  1. What are the motives behind the information we share about our relationships on social media?

I’ll admit that on multiple occasions, I have drafted the perfect post about my relationship with Mark—the two of us sitting on a quilt watching the sun go down in our favorite park—only to delete it before I pressed the “share” button.

Why? Because I realized (in the words of the all-knowing Chris Harrison) I wasn’t doing it “for the right reasons.”

I deleted the aforementioned post because I knew it wasn’t coming from an effort to preserve a special memory on a digital channel—it was coming from a desire to play the PR rep. for my own image—to prove that I was in a fun, cute, romantic relationship.

I deleted it because even though I may have captioned that photo, “sunsets & this guy. conflicted because idk which i love more,” the honest caption would have been somewhere along these lines:

“Dear Instagram followers, I know this is an old picture, but here’s me with my boyfriend being really cute while we admire a beautiful sunset. I swear the only reason why I don’t have any recent posts about my relationship is because Mark and I haven’t even seen each other in over three months, but we are still crushing this long distance thing and still very much in love, so no need to speculate, carry on!”

Cute? Yes. Genuine? Not so much.

2. How does social media impact my satisfaction with my own relationship? 

Think back to the Jillian and Bob story at the start of this blog. Jillian became less satisfied with her relationship with Bob after she saw her friend’s Instagram post about a fancy date.

As a whole, we tend to evaluate the quality of our own relationships in comparison to the other relationships we observe (shout out to Thiabut & Kelley’s Interdependence Theory), so when you’re comparing your entire relationship (the sparkly side & the not-so-sparkly side) to someone else’s highlight reel, it’s not going to do wonders for your relationship satisfaction.

 Our Instagram couple photos^        60% of our real couple photos^

You’d better believe I’m going to Instagram the bouquet of hyacinths Mark gave me, but there’s no way you’ll ever know that we spent that same evening slumped over our computer screens after an unsuccessful search for reasonably priced plane tickets.

You’d better believe I’ll share the cute letters Mark mails me, but you’ll never see my not-so-subtle texts hinting that he should send me more.

See where I’m going with this?

Social media can be great for promoting positive moments and kind gestures, but if left unexamined, our #relationshipgoals will be defined by the couple whose relationship is the most Instagrammable (it’s a word, kay?).

Expectation                                                  Reality

It’s healthy to have expectations in a relationship, but let’s make an effort to center those standards around the depth of your respect for one another, the quality of your conversations, and the kindness that you demonstrate toward each other—not the price tags on your gifts or the photos on your social media feed.


Kelly Doles


5 Tips to Make Long Distance [Almost] Fun

If your immediate response to this blog’s title was,”THERE IS JUST NO WAY LONG DISTANCE IS EVEN REMOTELY FUN,” I don’t blame you.

Long distance relationships require a tremendous amount of effort and intentionality while limiting many of the “fun” aspects of the relationship. As someone who is currently in a long distance relationship (let’s call it LD for short), I can attest that one of the hardest parts is discontinuing many of the little things that hold couples together. When my boyfriend Mark has a rough day, I can’t drop by with a bag of sunflower seeds and a 7-11 cherry & Mountain Dew slurpee like I used to. I can’t hold his hand in the car. I can’t steal his french fries during dinner.

Can’t, can’t, can’t. 


But I can have a good attitude. I’m no DJ Khaled, but I can tell you that a major key to success in LD is making a creative effort to adapt the relationship to distance. It’s about finding little ways to keep romance, friendship, and fun present in the relationship, and that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you. So, without further ado, I present to you, 5 tips to make long distance [almost] fun:

1. Snail Mail: Guys, one of the best parts of LD is that the mail person brings you more than just bills. There’s something so personal about seeing your name written in your boyfriend/girlfriend’s handwriting, and knowing that (s)he took the time to write you. I love receiving letters from Mark, because I can hear his voice in my head as I read them, and they mean more to me than the emails and text messages that turn to for the majority of our communication. 14570274_10207228640015927_6049331306920445897_n

Letters are also a great way to reflect on your relationship. Mark has a “letter wall” in his apartment, where he displays every note I’ve ever given him. These letters have preserved special moments in our relationship in ink. The letters are hung in chronological order, so you can see our story unfolding across his walls—letters saying “thank you for being a good friend,” “thank you for a fun first date,” “congratulations on graduating,” “good luck on your first day at your adult job,” etc. These letters allow us to reminisce on the past, and they make us imagine the future letters we’ll get to add to the wall.

2. Netflix ‘n chill Skype: Watching TV shows and movies together is a great way for couples to share something when they can’t share a city. Mark and I like to log onto Skype/FaceTime/Google Hangout, and play Kevin Hart comedy shows on Netflix. We start the shows at the same time and minimize Skype to a small box in the corner of our screen so that we can see each other’s reactions to the show. It’s the closest we can get to a movie date, and it gives us a giant cavalry of lines to quote as inside jokes.


3. “Candlelit” Skype dates: Nothing screams romance like a candlelit date! Mark and I like to set aside time for “dates.” During these “dates,” I set a candle next to my laptop for some contrived romance, and we stay away from conversation topics pertaining to the stresses of work/school and talk about the things we’re grateful for as a couple. We daydream about the things we look forward to, like all the new songs we’ll get to blast in the car together during our next road trip (*cough* *cough* “Closer,” *cough* *cough*).


4. Steal a sweatshirt: I like to kidnap Mark’s sweatshirts and spray them with a little of his cologne before I bring them back to Michigan with me. Slipping into one of his giant hoodies is the closest I can get to one of his hugs, and it’s the best cure to that feeling of homesickness that long-distance tends to induce.

5. Capture the moments you miss most: When Mark and I do see each other, we like to take lots of videos capturing the little moments that we miss most during distance. I have videos reminding me of the way he carries me over the puddles in the parking lot after it rains, the way he fumbles with his tie before work, and the way his face lights up whenever Miguel Cabrera hits a home run. We like to edit these clips into short videos that capture the general personality of our relationship, reminding us why we love being a couple, even when long distance is particularly challenging.

The list could go on, but the message is the same: long distance is challenging, but effort and creativity go a long way. While you may not be able to control the distance between you and your significant other, you can control the way you manage the distance—and while there might be miles between you, they don’t have to keep you apart.



3 Long Distance Lessons

Long distance relationships *cue the violin screech from the shower scene in Psycho*.


At first blush, the idea of distance dating can be daunting. Trust me, I know. Living in a different city/state/country than a significant other is challenging. It requires a lot of extra effort and sacrifices that same-city dating simply does not demand. However, in my experience, I have found that going the distance can teach you a few very powerful lessons that factor into a happier and healthier relationship in the long run. Here are the top 3 lessons I have learned from long distance dating:

1. Long distance dating improves communication:

Here’s the stone cold truth: long distance cannot work without solid communication. I won’t lie to you, communication is more challenging during long distance, and it requires more effort than a same-city relationship, but while this may seem intimidating, it can provide you with many opportunities to improve your communication as a couple.

Communication during long distance is all about going the extra mile (obligatory distance pun, sorry) to keep your significant other in the loop; it requires you to think from your significant other’s perspective. IMG_6758

Example: Mark works as a Sports Anchor for a TV station in North Dakota, which means he spends a lot of time driving to different locations to do interviews and get stories. I am subscribed to his station’s app so that I can watch his broadcasts, but this app also sends text alerts of the city’s breaking news. One day when Mark was driving a few hours, I got a notification that there was a bad car crash in the city he was driving through. This made me a little nervous, so I gave him a call to make sure he was okay.

Now, whenever Mark is driving significant stretches for work, he goes out of his way to text me when he arrives to his destination. This is something I never asked him to do, but he knows that it will give me peace of mind if he lets me know he has safely reached his destination. Mark views this as a kind action he can take to keep me in the loop, rather than seeing it as an unnecessary extra task. Distance dating teaches you to be aware of the other person’s thought process, and it coaches you to be considerate in the way you communicate with each other.

2. Long distance dating takes the focus off of the physical

Don’t sign up for distance if you don’t think you can handle cutting out the majority of the physical side of your relationship. There will be times that you will see a couple walking hand-in-hand as you drive down the street, and in that moment, you wish for nothing more than to have your significant other beside you in the passenger seat, holding your hand. There will be times that you just really want a hug or a kiss from your boyfriend/girlfriend, but you know you won’t be getting one for another month. And it’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat it for you.


But it’s worth it. Long distance gives you a chance to build the emotional side of your relationship without advancing the physical. I believe that this is something that can really protect a relationship. It forces you to slow things down and build the trust, friendship, and emotional connection that a lot of people fast-forward through to get to the physical aspects of a relationship. When you date long distance, you know for a fact that the person cares about being with you for who you are as a person, rather than what you can give to them physically, because any expressions of physical affection are so few and far between. In the words of Chris Harrison, you know that they are in the relationship “For the right reasons.” Bonus: if you’re practicing abstinence, it makes it a lot easier.

3. Long distance tests your commitment to the relationship

In some ways, long distance is a sacrifice—you don’t get to spend a lot of time together in-person, which can be challenging, especially if your top love languages include quality time or physical touch. However, finding someone who is willing to give up some of the perks associated with same-city relationships shows a high level of commitment to making the relationship work. IMG_4163

I know that for me personally, doing long distance has strengthened the confidence I have in my relationship, because I am with a person who wants to date me, even though our circumstances are not ideal or convenient. Long distance is not for everyone, and not everyone will experience long distance, but doing long distance can test a relationship by showing you how committed you (and your significant other) are to the relationship. I believe that it gets a lot easier to tell whether or not you genuinely can see a future with someone if you know you are willing to put in the extra effort that distance demands, and take on the challenges that come along with it…and that is a powerful lesson that worth the extra mile.


Big Things

IMG_12482 years ago, I met Mark at WOOD TV 8. We were both interns, and we became friends at a community event when I saw him struggling to tie balloons [due to a pair of giant thumbs]. As I helped Mark knot his balloons, we chattered about why we had applied to intern for a TV station. It was then that Mark disclosed that he was my dad’s intern and explained that he wanted to be a Sports Anchor.

The first time I heard Mark’s career goals, I smiled and nodded. It wasn’t the first time someone had told me they wanted to become a Sports Broadcaster, and I sort of assumed that (like most), this was a temporary career goal that seemed fun but would take a backseat to more practical or attainable career options.

But that was before I really knew Mark Pearson.

IMG_8245Throughout our internship, I was presently surprised by Mark’s natural gift for his desired career path. One day, a camera came around to interview the interns; while most of us fumbled over some of our words or overused filler phrases (“like,” “um”), he was personable, warm, entertaining, and concise.

By the end of our internship, I knew that he was going to do big things; I knew he would attain the career he had told me he wanted—the kid was built to be a Sports Anchor.

But there’s something different about Mark which renders far more celebration than his natural talent on air or his vast sports knowledge-

when the cameras turn off, he’s just as incredible.

IMG_8247There are a lot of people who can turn on the charm for a camera or raise ratings. There are a lot of people who chase careers in television for the perks of the job. And then there’s Mark.

Mark is the kind of person chose his career path because he cares about people and he loves to learn and tell their stories.  He is someone who asks good questions and genuinely listens to the answers. He is someone who cares more about sharing stories than he cares about being on TV.

He is not chasing fame. He is not seeking the spotlight; he is a person who wants nothing more than to inspire others by sharing the stories of athletes. He sees beyond the helmet, behind the face-mask, beyond the superstardom of the players.

13339620_10205586740302610_3991983545110807796_nHe sees the years of hard work that these athletes invested and the families that back them. He lives for the moments Miggy tosses a pair of batting gloves to a child fan even more than he enjoys celebrating one of his homers.

This is why even it’s so easy to celebrate Mark’s new job, despite the states and miles and hours it temporarily places between us: Mark has combined his gift for connecting with others, his love for the game, and his desire to inspire others by showing the stories of courage and optimism that often take a backseat to our knowledge of an athlete’s payroll.

On the last day of Mark’s internship at WOOD TV, I shook his hand and told him, “You’re going to do big things.” This morning, Mark & I shared a teary hug as he left for the airport, and I recited the same phrase.
“You’re going to do big things.”

IMG_1199These “big things” have nothing to do
with his gradual increase of Twitter followers since the station announced his hire. These “big things” have nothing to do with the status of the athletes he will interview. These Big Things have everything to do with a person who has worked so hard to achieve his dreams, and done so with integrity and optimism. These Big Things have everything to do with a person who is using his gifts & his passions to make the world a better place.

Cheers to Mark. Cheers to his next adventure. Cheers to WDAZ for making the greatest hire possible (though I may be biased). And Cheers to big things.



You’re a Gift, Susan Doles

February 1 should be considered a national holiday.

“Why is this day so special, Kelly Doles?” You might ask…


I love to celebrate birthdays in general, but I especially love celebrating the birthdays of those who I love, so naturally my mom’s birthday is a big deal to me. Now, there is absolutely no way I could ever afford the deluxe tropical island that my mother deserves (we’re counting on Tommy to secure a future presidency and help us make that dream a reality…unfortunately we have to wait until he turns 35 and is legally able to run), so I had to opt for a plan B present: my words.

As a college student who is ballin’ on a budget and possesses a strong love for writing, I often turn to writing as my form of gift-giving. Sometimes I give cards, short stories, poems, or vignettes, but recently I have opted for blog tributes. Why? I have been blessed with an incredible circle of friends and family members, and I think it’s important to publicly highlight the unique qualities that makes these people so special to me, because in the rush of life, I think we sometimes miss out pausing to genuinely notice and appreciate others and the lessons we can learn from them.

So, without further ado, I present to you, the Top Four Reasons Susan Doles=GOALS.

1. Susan Doles has an appreciation for beauty:


My mom has this sixth sense for all that is lovely in the world, and she finds it in the most unlikely places. She’s the kind of person who will be shopping at Meijer and halt her grocery expedition to smell the different shampoos, and call us over to show us our favorite (even though she clearly won’t buy it unless it’s on sale). Susan Doles is a strong advocate for colorful sunsets, fragrant flowers, and sweet desserts; but she doesn’t stop at enjoying these for herself—she is always sure to point out life’s precious details to us.

Some of my first memories with my mom include her pointing out the stars on a clear winter night while in a driveway of a family friend, smelling her the colorful flowers in her garden, and eating handfuls of cookie dough together while making Christmas cookies.

Half of our family’s home videos take brief intermissions where the camera defects from the moment at hand (like Julie learning to walk) to show the pretty sunset or cute squirrel that caught her eye, complete with a narration of just how wonderful small rodents and firey skies truly are.

Even to this day, I can count on a regular stream of SnapChats indicating the sparkly snow she saw on her evening walk. It is my mom’s love for the small details of daily life that has taught me to see each day as a dazzling gift rather than a to-do list.

2. Susan Doles is imaginative:


One of my favorite things about my mom is just how she seamlessly infuses creativity into everything. When we were kids, she would find ways to turn everything into a game. As a kid, during the summer, a typical Monday lunch would turn into a game of restaurant, where my mom would take the “orders” of my siblings and my friends, wrapping juicy burgers in tinfoil and placing them in paper bags with french fries, and delivering them to our Little Tykes table on the deck.

A snow day would transform into an arctic adventure of climbing Mount Everest and sledding with snow dogs (AKA our puppy), ending the adventure with a cup of hot chocolate at the “lodge.”

My mom was never sitting on the edge of the pool worrying about her hair, but diving into the chlorinated blue waters with my siblings and me, playing the role of our pet dolphin in a game of mermaids. Tooth fairy visits were marked by trails of glitter sprinkled across our pillows, through the hallways, down the stairs, and to our garden, joined by tiny notes left in delicate cursive writing, signed by, “Trixie Greenleaf.”

My mom’s talent for making each day explode with magic has left me with a deep sense of wonder, joy, and memories when I reflect on my childhood, and it is my greatest hope that I can give my kids the same experience one day.

3. Susan Doles is tough:


Fiercely independent, incredibly confident, and way too smart for her own good, my mom is no pushover. The older I get, the more I appreciate this. My mom never tried to be the “cool mom.”

There were times when we butted heads over my curfew, argued about sleepovers I wasn’t allowed to attend, or complained about the “No TV until you’ve either read or exercised for half an hour rule,” but now I am so thankful for a mom who loved me enough to prioritize her role as my parent over her role as my friend. My mom cares about me more than she cares about me liking her, and I am just now realizing how much this has shaped my siblings and me.

4. Susan Doles is actually the best mom ever:


Yeah, yeah, it may be biased, but I’m pretty convinced that it’s true (I wouldn’t recommend that you try and argue with me on this one though)! In retrospect, there are so many valuable lessons my mom passed down to my siblings and me.

As a kid, whenever I fell (which is a lot, if you are familiar with my lifelong struggle as a clumsy human), my mom didn’t rushed to coddle me and make a big deal out of a scraped knee; she would calmly say, “You’re tough, Kelly, hop back up!” My mom taught me to be tough; she showed me how to handle pain and disappointments with poise instead of letting them keep me down or make me bitter.IMG_5802

IMG_8204My mom also taught her children that boys are allowed to be softhearted and creative, and girls are allowed to be self-sufficient; whenever a leaky sink popped up in the house, it was my mom who would reach for the tool box and do the repairs, and she was never bothered when my brothers tried on my dress-up clothes or wanted to have tea parties with stuffed animals.

My mom lived out all of the lessons she wanted to teach us; instead of telling my sister and me to date someone who will treat us right, my mom chose to marry someone who embodies the qualities we look for.IMG_8212

My mom never told my siblings and me not to drink; she just chose to never drink in front of us. My mom never told me not to wear makeup, but she just chooses not to wear it on a regular basis.

So cheers to Susan Doles, a woman worth celebrating—and while this post isn’t the tropical island she deserves, it it gives a little glimpse of the degree to which she deserves that island. Happy Birthday, Susan Doles! The world wouldn’t be the same without the sweet, sassy, sparkly footprints you leave each and every day.

You’re a Gift, Tommy

My parents really outdid themselves during the Christmas of ’95, because they gave me the greatest gift you could possibly imagine: my first sibling, and my first friend. 

Today my favorite present turned 2o years old. Now, declaring a favorite present is a bold statement, especially coming from someone who considers gifts to be her love language. 

So, what makes this present so great?

Because this present has been my lifelong friend.

We used to play cops and robbers, making loud, whooping siren sounds as we raced across the backyard, hot on the tails of the “bad guys,”  chasing them down and throwing them in jail.


To this day, he still helps me spot the bad guys. 

We used to play fire fighters, clutching the fat, green garden hose between our chubby pink fingers as we extinguished the flames engulfing “jungle gym city.”


To this day, he still has my back when everything goes up in smoke. 

We used to climb Everest, braving the snowy playground sledding hills with chattering teeth, catching each other with mitten-clad hands every time one of us started to backslide.


To this day, he still reaches out whenever I start going down hill. 

We used play princes and princesses, twirling in the living room, and doing our best not to step on each other’s toes during the less-than-graceful moments of our dance routines.


To this day, he reminds me to be gracious to others when they make mistakes. 

We used to play Olympic ice-dancers, strapping paper plates  our feet and skating across the cool, hard tile floors of the kitchen, bouncing back to our feet whenever we collided.


To this day, he reminds me to pick myself back up when I fall. 

I used to sit in my cherry-printed lawn chair at his elementary football games, cheering wildly into the autumn air as he tackled his opponents into the field’s dark green grass.

To this day, he teaches me to appreciate the gifts of others.

Over the past twenty years,  Tommy has been teaching me valuable lifelong lessons, like patience (when he clutched clumps of blonde hair in his tiny toddler fists),IMG_8127

inhibition (when he walked to school in shorts throughout the entire month of January, facing the critical commentary provided by the neighborhood crossing guard), and joy (collapsing into a pile of giggles at the circus upon seeing one of the monkeys dressed in a shimmery green tuxedo).

So here’s to wishing the merriest and brightest of birthdays to a boy who has been a gift not only to me, but to many others.

Happy Birthday, Tommy Doles!



The Catch of a Lifetime

I stopped looking for “The One.”

Some of you may be thinking, “WHAT?! A Calvin College student has given up her search for marriage?”

Over the past year, I realized something: a huge portion of my conversations with God revolved around boys.

I approached a lot of those conversations with a strong sense of entitlement; “God, I’m working really hard to follow your will for my life, and I am doing all that I can to become a better person. I think I’m doing pretty well, so if you wouldn’t mind, can you give me a spoiler alert about the guy you have in mind for me? That would be fantastic.”

It’s almost like we believe that having a relationship with Christ guarantees us a relationship with one of His followers. We use the term, “Future husband/wife,” assuming that there will be a future husband/wife.

We tell our single friends, “Just be patient, God will bring you someone special when you’re both ready!”

While there is no fine print stating that a relationship with Jesus includes a free soulmate, we usually assume that He will bring us one.

But what if He doesn’t?

I mean, Paul was an incredibly prominent figure in the Bible, and he was #SingleForLife!

So, what if God’s plan doesn’t include a marriage partner?

If you were to ask me this question a year ago, my heart would have dropped into my stomach. But this year, things are different. I have realized that I have to be okay with a life of singleness, even if that is not the life God has for me. I strongly believe that we have to be content and satisfied in Christ before we are ready to entertain the idea of a relationship. When we find peace in Christ, peace floods all aspects of our lives.

It is for this reason that I have stopped looking for “the one”:

The best relationships do not take place when we pursue/wait to be pursued by “the one,” they happen when two individuals pursue Christ and collide in the process.

This summer, two outfields for the Tampa Bay Rays illustrated this idea perfectly.

As a fly ball soared above the outfield, teammates Daniel Nava and Kevin Kiermaier, sprinted across the grass with one goal: catch the ball—the result? The catch of a lifetime.

Both players were so focused on the ball that they collided in the outfield, caught the baseball, and completed synchronized backward somersaults (points for creativity), all within a matter of seconds. The men jumped to their feet, punctuating their incredible play with a fit of giggles and a high-five as they jogged back to the dugout.

The outfielders collided because each kept his eye on the ball. If one or both of the players had been distracted by the actions of their other teammates or the noise coming from their fans, neither would have caught the ball. Nava and Kiermaier focused and followed the ball, and as a result, they were a part of an incredible play.

These players didn’t plan on doing somersaults through the outfield, or sharing a high-five and some laughs, but because they both did their best to make the play, every other experience was an added bonus, not an expectation.

So let’s stop pursuing people, and start pursuing Christ.

Let’s not get so focused on finding “the one” that we ignore the One who Loved us first.



Let’s keep our eyes facing upward, and we’ll end up wherever we are supposed to be, along with anyone else who was meant to be there with us.

Now that’s the catch of a lifetime.