Don’t Ask a 20-something these

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Don’t Ask a 20-something these

Relationships have changed radically from the traditional course of courtship. This is especially true of 20-somethings. Due to the fact that more education is needed to be viable in today’s workforce, while people were once getting married and having children in their 20’s, just a couple of generations ago, people are now waiting until their late twenties, early thirties to get married,  and until their early thirties to have children. Many people aren’t getting married at all. 40% of American households are single family households. Lots of folks are cohabitating, settling into long term committed relationships, or simply dating to learn more about themselves and others. Still, older generations often don’t know or can’t recognize the shift in dating and relationship trends. They think it’s wrong. Or they just don’t recognize or understand them. In case you are in contact with a 20-something and don’t want to make them feel awkward when talking about their love life, or you are a 20-something and want to shut down awkward questions, this post if for you. Don’t ask 20-somethings these uncomfortable questions.

Don’t ask if you think the couple will get married. What is the point of asking that? Is it to apply pressure? Certainly the younger generation doesn’t feel the need. And in fact if they get married too early, it will probably lead to divorce as this generation sees tons of options to them. Why should they settle? And if they did plan on settling down how would they know at such a stage in their life? Most are still in college and figuring out what they want to do for a job or career. You’ll just be throwing another uncertainty at them. And they will see you as out of touch and antique. The same goes for asking if this person is the one. 20-somethings are starting to make the first adult decisions of their lives. But their love lives generally aren’t one category. And they’ll have no good way to answer either. Perhaps wait and see instead of interjecting more anxiety into someone who already has so much on their plate. Some folks feel the need to ask 20-somethings when they are moving in together. This is especially awkward because the typical modern 20-something lives at home with their parents. Most can’t afford to live on their own. And if they do, why would you assume that? Lastly, don’t ask if they use protection. This is an especially awkward conversation. Besides that, you are butting in to whether the couple is physically intimate. Unless you are prepared to answer questions about your own sexual status, remember a 20-something is an adult, even if they don’t always seem to act that way. Make sure you don’t overstep boundaries. For more on modern relationships, read Marriages, Families, & Relationships: Making Choices in a Diverse Society by Mary Ann Lamanna and Agnes Riedmann.

The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

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The new Meaning of “Husband” and “Wife”

More and more people are cohabitating rather than getting married. In the U.S. traditional marriage is at an all-time low. Yet these cohabitating couples use traditional marriage terms. There is a new meaning for the words “husband” and “wife,” meaning the couple is committed and monogamous but they aren’t married on paper. 46% of U.S. households in 2012 were unmarried, about 56 million households. That’s quite a shocking number. Well educated, well-to-do Caucasians are still marrying. But it seems most of the folks in the other categories are hobbling out a relationship or a family sans marriage. In 2012 households of single individuals living with at least one child was 40%. USA Today called this the new normal. And due to the Great Recession, many Americans couldn’t afford a wedding even if they wanted one. Weddings in some parts of the country are so expensive they get into the tens of thousands of dollars. When people are unemployed or underemployed, even if they wanted to get married, they have to put the big to-do wedding on the back burner to pay for the essentials like food, rent, gas and utilities.

So this elicits the question, does marriage truly validate a couple, or does the couple validate themselves for the faith and commitment they bestow on one another? Many younger couples would certainly say that their personal commitment to each other is what really counts. A piece of paper or a big party doesn’t very well mean that a couple has lasting power. That’s up to them. But due to the traditions and expectations of the older generation, younger couples are calling each other “husband” and “wife” not just to be funny or display how they feel about one another, but to put older relatives at ease. People start asking questions and feeling awkward at family parties when they don’t know the couple’s exact situation, particularly if children are involved. Those whose families are from certain religious backgrounds can find cohabitation, especially with children involved, particularly disillusioning and disappointing. So to calm expectations and keep up appearances couples are using these titles. Some couples too find boyfriend and girlfriend doesn’t convey how they actually feel about one another. But husband and wife does. Marriage and family planning has changed significantly due to social, economic and political forces with no abatement. This new generation will redefine these for themselves and future generations to come. For advice on this topic, read Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller.

Is Marriage Really Necessary in the Modern World?

Marriage

Is Marriage Really Necessary in the Modern World?

In the U.S. marriage is at its lowest point in a hundred years. More people are becoming single parents by choice, and lots are cohabitating fearing the elevated divorce rate will make a victim of their relationship too. After spending so much money on a wedding, the ring, honeymoon to see it all wasted by ending in divorce is a financial travesty too and one many people cannot afford to make in the aftermath of the Great Recession. It begs the question, is marriage really necessary in the modern world? Traditionally, marriage was a religious affair. But people in post-industrial societies in addition to rebuking marriage are also more and more abandoning religion. Non-affiliation is the biggest growing religious group in the U.S. and other Western countries. Is there a connection? Whatever the situation, the decrease in religious belief does make the case for marriage less impactful.

Some argue that marriage makes for a more stable home life for the raising of children. Studies generally support this view when the couple gets along. However, in a high conflict household where the parents are either shouting or fighting physically, the children best experience a separate, low conflict arrangement. And not so much research has been put into alternative households. But truly it’s household stability which leads to healthy children, regardless of the marital status of their parents. There are of course lots of legal and financial benefits to getting married. But would you get married for these? Surely, a marriage based solely on financial and legal gain will end in divorce, and those gains will be blotted out. In fact, divorce would reverse all the financial benefits entirely if there is any disagreement in the divvying up of assets. Surely, we aren’t advocating for an end of marriage in total. Instead, we’re merely reassessing its importance in society. And as traditional marriage fades society will have to change with it, validate other types of relationships, allow for the exploration of different kinds of marriage. In ancient Celtic society, there were different types of marriages, some lasting a year, a few years, and a lifetime. Flexibility, tolerance, open-mindedness and innovation will be needed to help shape our changing approach to love, marriage, relationships and family rearing in a way that’s beneficial both to couples and to society as well. For more insight on how marriage has changed over time, read Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz.

Habits that are Signs of a Healthy Relationship

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Habits that are Signs of a Healthy Relationship

Relationships are hard. It’s easy to become too comfortable and begin taking each other for granted. Of course, a little forethought and some good routines and practices can help keep the magic alive. Here are some habits that are signs of a healthy relationship. If you aren’t doing these already, perhaps start including them in your relationship. Though you may keep different schedules do to work or school, if you are cohabitating or married, those couples who try and go to bed at the same time often have stronger bonds. This practice can elicit more physical and emotional intimacy. It can also give you a chance to chat in bed, cuddle or catch up with one another. So if you aren’t doing this, instead of falling asleep in front of the TV and dragging yourselves into bed, set a bed time and climb into bed together. Discuss your day, what’s been on your mind, or just spend a little quality time together. And who doesn’t like to cuddle and chitchat before falling asleep? The next thing is common interests. Do you set aside time to spend together each week? If so, you are doing things right. Every relationship needs some time and care. The best way to do this is to pursue common interests together. Make sure you take some time for your own interests as well. It’s important to preserve your independence, makes each partner well-rounded and less needy, and provides stimulating conversation.

When strolling along, do you two walk side by side, holding hands? This shows the strength of your bond, the love and care you have for one another, and it displays to your partner how important they are to you. This is a great habit to practice. And if you find that you’ve been trekking single file lately, get into the habit. It will bring you two a little closer. What is your fighting situation like? If you two normally hold grudges or harbor distrust this habit will break you up. But if you normally give your partner the benefit of the doubt and practice forgiveness and trust than you will have a strong relationship about to withstand the stormy seas of life and couplehood. Where is the focus of your mind the majority of the time? Is it on what your partner does right or what they do wrong? Happy couple’s focus on the positive qualities of their partner and come to terms with or accept their negative qualities. If you are in the habit of accentuating the positive you are strengthening your relationship. But if you are in the habit of pointing out the negative you are weakening it. Do you give a hug or kiss when you come home or leaving for the day? This shows that you show your affection, love and deference to your partner. If not, make this part of your daily routine. Same when you come home. Do you do a check-in call or text over the course of the day, just to see how they are doing? This is a great habit to remind them that you are thinking about them and that you care. For more advice, read The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things that Make a Big Difference by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Do you two have Possibilities?

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Do you two have Possibilities?

Small talk is fun on a date. But if you have an agenda and you really want to know if you two have chemistry and staying power, than small talk isn’t enough. You want to know if this has got some real possibilities. So how do you find out? That’s simple; by asking the right questions. Gauge their answers carefully. You don’t want your exact twin, as nice as that sounds. It’ll be so dull. And you don’t want someone your polar opposite, as exciting as that is. It will wear on you. The first one is, “If you could take a year off and do anything you wanted, what would you do?” The purpose of this question is to show what your date is really passionate about and where their priorities are. Will they be designing the next app? Staring a restaurant? Climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro? Trekking across Asia or helping to build latrines for orphans in Haiti? Whatever their answer, it will be revealing and add spice to the conversation. Ask away even on the first date.

Keep this one ready in your arsenal. Ask your date to share an embarrassing moment. This is a really great and interesting question and a sure conversation starter. But not only does it make great fun it will let you know right away how forthcoming your date is in being vulnerable. And that can help you gauge whether they are ready for commitment or not. The fact is you can’t ask this question without it being turned back on you. So be prepared to give a funny or insightful anecdote to follow up whatever your date has said. “If you were the victim of a house fire, what would you save?” This will help you see how sentimental or practical your date is. Another great one is asking what is the biggest misconception people have about your date. This one lets you know how they think about themselves. Of course don’t hit them with all of these questions at once. Stagger them and hit them with one or two per date to allow yourself to cast that spell and see if this is someone you might want to spend a little more time with. For more advice, read Falling in Love for all the Right Reasons: How to Find Your Soul Mate by Dr. Neil Clark Warren.