DatingArticles

Articles for Dating Couples

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    10 Red Flags in a Dating Relationship

    The person you are dating wants to dominate your time and/or keep you from friends and family.

    He/she asks you to sacrifice your values for the sake of the relationship.

    Your significant other disrespects and discourages you instead of encouraging and honoring you. 

    Your date wants to control you – where you go, who you see, what you wear, etc.

    When talking about past relationships, your date always blames the other party for the problems in their relationship.

    Your dating relationship is in constant turmoil.

    Your date has anger issues.

    Your date is rushing the getting to know you process.

    Your friends don’t like him/her.

    You continually make excuses for their behavior.

    He/she seems to be heading in the opposite direction of where you are headed in life.

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    3 Myths About Waiting to Marry

    Not too long ago people tended to marry in their early 20s, but now the average marrying age is 29 for males and 27 for females. Why are people waiting so long to marry? And is it helping or hurting their chances of success in marriage?

    “It is interesting because today’s young singles (emerging adults) want to have a great marriage yet they keep putting it off,” says Dr. John Van Epp, author of How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk (or Jerkette). “This is occurring across almost all subcultures, races and the socio-economic spectrum in both the U.S. and most European countries.” 

    For instance, researcher Katherine Edin found that marriage was a dream for most people living in poverty, a luxury they hoped to indulge in someday when the time was right, but generally not something they saw happening in the near or even the foreseeable future.

    “To understand what is happening with singles we can’t just look at their behavior—we have to ask what they are thinking,” Van Epp says. “There seem to be three prevalent myths that emerging adults buy into when it comes to marriage. First, marrying later results in marrying better. Second, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And finally, marriage takes more than it gives.” 

    In some ways, it is true that marrying later leads to better marriages. In a 2002 study of 10,000 women, marrying after 21 did contribute to improved marital stability; however, there wasn’t much difference between the ages of 21 and 30. On the other hand, premarital sex, premarital cohabitation and unwed childbearing contributed to marital instability. As a result, researchers suggest that marrying after the early 20s may increase the risks because people become set in their ways and are more likely to engage in these higher risk activities.

    The second myth – what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—is used to compartmentalize risky activities apart from their effects on a future marriage. 

    “Many singles operate under the premise that sowing their wild oats before they get married will not impact their marriage relationship,” Van Epp shares. “However, this is a myth. Research has provided indisputable evidence that the number of sexual partners women had before they married were directly related to their chances of divorce. A 2003 study found that involvement with just one partner outside of marriage raised the risk of divorce three times higher than those who had only had sex with their husband.”

    For emerging adults, there seems to be a marital horizon, the ideal age at which to marry. Those who have a more distant marital horizon are much more likely to participate in the risky premarital activities identified by research to put them at greater risk for divorce. 

    “Clearly we are seeing that it isn’t just the experience of marriage… it is the mindset of marriage,” Van Epp notes. “For instance, my daughter remembers a friend she had in high school who told her that when she dated she always kept in mind her future husband. Do not be fooled, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas.”

    The third myth, according to Van Epp - marriage takes more than it gives - comes from messages that society sends to our young people. Too many well-meaning parents are counseling their kids to slow down, delay settling down, experience and enjoy life, and not to marry until they have to.   

    “The implication for the emerging adult is that when you finally get married it’s as if you stepped into a life sentence of limited options,” Van Epp believes. “The truth is just the opposite: marriage creates a framework that gives you something more than what you can gain and be by yourself.” 

    So how can you keep from falling prey to these three myths?  

    First, educate yourself on these issues so you have accurate information. It’s helpful to know that what you do now programs your future behavior. Keep marriage close on the horizon versus a distant goal. Realize the risks involved with premarital cohabitation and premarital sex. 

    “We have intentionally raised our daughters to think of marriage as a wonderful experience that could be just around the corner after they entered their 20s,” Van Epp says. “Our oldest is getting married soon. Throughout her high school and college years she dated with her future marriage in mind. Many parents are cultivating a narcissistic and compartmentalized view of dating and the 20s. I would encourage an emerging adult to move marriage closer on the horizon, to consciously work at a better attitude toward marriage and to live in a way that would not jeopardize marriage in the future.”  



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    How To Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette

    Jennie met Kevin through a friend at work, and she thought she had met her knight in shining armor. He was such a gentleman. At the time, she had no clue that the relationship was headed for disaster. 

    Have you ever dated "the love of your life" only to discover you were really involved with a jerk or jerkette? Well, you aren’t alone. Thousands of people every year marry “person of their dreams” only to have the relationship turn into a real nightmare in a few short months.

    “I have seen far too many people fall into the trap of marrying a person thinking that they knew them, but in reality they only knew about them,” says Dr. John Van Epp, relationship expert and author of How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk.   

    Van Epp is committed to helping singles and singles-again in their dating and marital preparation. 

    “As I worked with individuals, I found myself talking with people who repeatedly became involved in unhealthy relationships,” Van Epp recalls. “When I asked these individuals if they saw any signs of problem areas at the beginning of their relationship, the answer was always ‘yes.’ The bottom line is, they were suffering from what I call the ‘love is blind’ syndrome. They had become too attached and involved too quickly and overlooked the problem areas. Even when you know what to look for in the dating process, you can still be blindsided when you allow your attachment to become too strong too soon.”

    Jennie admits to being blinded by love. Kevin was quite the gentleman when it came to treating Jennie with respect and spending time with her. So while they were dating she admits that she never noticed any red flags such as his jealousy because she worked in a predominantly male environment and went to lunch occasionally with a group of male co-workers.

    As a result of his experiences, Van Epp developed a program to help people form healthy relationships from the very beginning. Van Epp says there are five areas a person should know about another person before marrying.

    Bonding Dynamics 

    Getting to know people is the first of five bonding dynamics. These forces create the feeling of closeness in every romantic relationship. They are: 

    • getting to know about the person you are dating;

    • family background; 

    • what a person’s conscience is like; 

    • compatibility potential;

    • relationship skills; and 

    • previous relationship patterns. 

    Because Jennie met her boyfriend through a co-worker, she felt like she knew something about him. In hindsight, she realizes that she didn't have the chance to know much about him or his family because his family was not a close-knit one.  

    “I come from a very large extended family,” says Jennie. “We are used to hugging and saying I love you. None of that was present in Kevin’s family. I never really learned much about his family background. I honestly thought that after Kevin met my family he would change and would love the closeness of a tight-knit family.”  

    “Some people have an established friendship before they start dating,” Van Epp says. “Other relationships start out with a bang – you see someone, talk with them, end up going out and hitting it off and you are totally infatuated with them. No matter how you get together, it really does take time to get to know someone.”  

    Dr. Van Epp encourages couples to wait two years before marrying. You may be thinking that sounds like an eternity. Van Epp believes that within three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time. 

    Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. After dating for about a year, you begin to have history with him/her. Many couples get through their first year just fine, but issues often begin to surface in the second year that weren’t there in the past.  

    A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you.  

    There's also the trust dynamic. As you get to know a person based on the areas listed above, you shape a picture in your mind of what this person is like. From that picture comes trust. 

    “Trust is a picture in your mind that tells you what that person will do when you are not around,” Van Epp says. “It is a living and active definition that changes as the relationship evolves. For example, your boyfriend tells you he is going to call at 5 p.m. and he calls at exactly 5 p.m., in your mind you think, ‘He did what he said he was going to do, therefore I can trust him.’ With that you begin to fill in the gaps in the trust equation that the person is trustworthy to do what they said they would do.”  

    After three months of dating, Jennie felt like she could trust Kevin.  

    “He seemed to have respect for me,” Jennie shares. “He didn’t try anything, which really impressed me because most guys try to make a move on you the first time you go out. A few months later, we moved in together. It seemed like the ‘adult’ thing to do if we were considering marriage, which we had talked about several times.”

    Dr. Van Epp cautions that you must be careful not to over-exaggerate what a person has done and draw the conclusion that the person is trustworthy. Generalizations are dangerous. Just because a person has certain characteristics that you like does not mean that they are trustworthy. Knowing their family background and their history helps you to know whether or not you can trust them.  

    The third dynamic is reliance. As you really get to know a person, you look to them to meet certain needs that you have. This forms reliance in the relationship. This is when you think that your deep needs in life can be met by this person. If you go too fast and get too close to soon, you won’t have an accurate picture of what it will be like with this person down the road. You should not marry a person and suddenly find out new things about them. 

    According to Dr. Van Epp, reliance can be overcharged by sexual involvement. Couples who are sexually active prior to marriage often say they can depend and rely on each other, but the feeling of closeness is really fed by the sexual chemistry not true knowledge about the person. 

    “In real life, in long-term marriage relationships, sexual chemistry does not dominate the majority of life together,” Van Epp says. “Most of life is talking together, having a personality that blends well with the other person, having a good sense of humor, etc. Sex is part of it, but not a major portion of it.”

    Commitment is the fourth dynamic. As a relationship grows, it has different definitions. Each definition is a level of commitment. Friends have a low level of commitment, whereas best friends have a higher level of commitment to each other and soul mates have the highest level of commitment.  

    Based on their time together, Jennie thought that Kevin was committed to her for life. They enjoyed each other’s company and seemed to have a lot in common. After 13 months of dating, Jennie and Kevin married. As they were leaving the wedding in a limo, Kevin turned to Jennie and said, “Now that we are married, you can have all my money.”  

    “I thought that was the strangest statement to make to me,” Jennie recalls. “It was a warning sign of things to come. I was going to find out very quickly that Kevin was not committed to me. He was committed to money. Our relationship began going downhill very quickly.”

    The fifth dynamic is sexual touch. This includes chemistry as well as any expression of touch from hand-holding to giving a hug to complete openness. Sexual involvement tends to create a feeling of really knowing somebody when in fact you don’t know them at all. Living together and sexual involvement prior to marriage usually create barriers for your understanding of the person.  

    Sexual intimacy is intended to build a feeling of bonding and closeness, but not when you are trying to get to know someone. Becoming sexually intimate outside of marriage can cloud the picture of the person you are dating to a point that you miss very important warning signs.

    “Like Jennie, many people think that living with a person will tell you everything about another person,” Van Epp asserts. “Perhaps you do get to know things about a person that you might not know if you weren’t rooming with them, but there is a cost involved. It breaks down the depth of commitment that is imbedded in the marriage relationship.”  

    Even though Jennie lived with Kevin, she had not dated him long enough to see his abusive tendencies. In spite of hearing him constantly yell at his sister, she attributed it to sibling issues, not a potential threat to their marriage.

    “Think of this like your stereo mixing board where each one of these dynamics is a slider that goes up and down,” Van Epp says. “There is a certain safe zone that will protect you from the ‘love is blind’ syndrome. You should never let one level exceed the previous.  For example, the level of your sexual involvement should never exceed your level of commitment, which should never exceed your level of reliance. Your level of reliance should not exceed the trust picture you develop and that should not go beyond what you know about that person in the key areas.”

    According to Dr. Van Epp, most if not all relationship problems occur when there is an imbalance in these five dynamics. For instance, co-dependency occurs when the reliance dynamic is at the top and what you know about the person and trust about the person is significantly lower. For the person that is sexually active, their sex level is high and their commitment dynamic is low as well as all the others.  The naive person fills in the gap of their trust picture long before they actually know the person they are dating in these five areas. Their trust level is high and their real knowledge of the person is low. Never allow the level or intensity of a bonding force to exceed the level of the previous bonding force.

    “If you really want to make sure you aren’t marrying a jerk or jerkette it takes time,” Van Epp says. “There is no substitute. You need to spend time talking with each other about all kinds of things. You also need to do things together. This is why electronic relationships are dangerous. It is one thing to have someone tell you about their family via the internet. It is totally different to actually spend time with their family and watch how they interact together. 

    "Based on research, there seems to be an embedded amount of time that it takes to know someone that you can’t get around. It is certainly possible to meet someone and have this sense of love at first sight and be married for 50 years, but the risks of marrying someone you don’t know are very high. 

    "The divorce rate is twice as high for those who have dated less than two years before getting married. Therefore, time is a strong predictor of a lasting marriage. BUT, time alone doesn’t give you an accurate enough picture. When your brain knows what to look for, and your heart knows how to keep the boundaries and balances in your growing attachment, then you will be in the best position to make a marital choice you will not regret.”

    The veil that had been keeping Jennie from seeing Kevin’s true nature lifted when they married. The respect he had shown her in the beginning went out the window as he became verbally abusive. He would show up at her workplace unexpectedly to check up on her and began monitoring her spending habits. Jennie hung in there for more than two years trying to make their marriage work.

    “I kept thinking that I could make him happy,” she says. “In the end I realized I could not change him.”

    Jennie ended up filing for divorce. Looking back, she wishes she had heeded some of the red flags that she shrugged off as nothing major. From this point forward, she says she will be more cautious in her dating relationships, careful not to repeat the same mistakes.  

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    The Single Journey

    Tabi Upton describes her life as footloose and fancy free when she was in her 20s.

    “I loved not being tied down to anyone or anything,” Upton says. “I lived in California for a while, worked for the Peace Corps in West Africa and went to graduate school in Colorado.”

    Upton had a plan to spend her 20s doing whatever she wanted. Then, she planned to marry in her 30s and settle down to have a family. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

    “I did get engaged in my late 20s," Upton says. “He was a great guy, but the more time we spent together the more I realized I wasn’t in love with him. We ended up breaking the engagement. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it was scary. It made me wonder if I would ever find Mr. Right.”

    When Upton turned 30 as a single, anxiety set in. If she dated she wondered, "What does he want? Is this going to go anywhere?" She struggled with the whole dating thing emotionally and became depressed about being single.

    “I resented people who told me it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it,” Upton shares. “Sometimes I think people don’t allow you to be honest with your feelings because it is uncomfortable for them. Over time I have become much more peaceful about where I am in life. I have wonderful friendships, a supportive family, and some great male friendships that have really enriched my life. Right now I am choosing to focus on pursuing my dreams, work, writing and things I want to do.”

    Despite a growing trend to marry later in life, more than 90 percent of Americans say they plan to marry. So how do you handle the single years while waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right?

    “As a counselor I tell my clients it isn’t about having your life all in order before you marry,” Upton states. “Your education and career are important. So is making sure that you are a healthy person, good marriage material and that you are proactive and intentional about putting yourself in places where you are likely to find a good marriage partner.”

    Believe it or not, the most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through family, friends or acquaintances.

    According to research conducted by The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, social networks are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests and backgrounds. This is especially true when it comes to selecting a marriage partner, despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate. And according to a large-scale national survey, family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances introduced almost 60 percent of married people.

    The study also found that the more similar values, backgrounds and life goals people have, the more likely they are to succeed in marriage. Opposites may attract, but they may not live together harmoniously as married couples. People who share common backgrounds and similar social networks are more suitable marriage partners than people with very different backgrounds and networks.

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    The New Stigma for Adult Children of Divorce

    "When I go out with a woman I can always tell on the first date if she's from a divorced family,” says a young man. “The women from divorced families are over-anxious, eager to please. They're exhausting." (The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce)

    “My parents have been married thirty-five years and I want a long marriage like they've had. I love my boyfriend, but he's from a divorced family and, I don't know, it just seems like he had to be a lot more independent growing up than I ever was. Frankly, it worries me." (Between Two Worlds)

    As a researcher and an adult child of divorce, Elizabeth Marquardt is all too familiar with statements like these.

    “I will never forget a conversation I had with my ex-stepfather about the possibility of marrying the man I was dating at the time,” says Marquardt. “He suggested that because of my parents’ track record on marriage, that I might not make great marriage material. I was devastated, angry and scared.”

    Ask a group of people what their chances are of making it in a lasting marriage. Practically everyone will say they have a 50/50 chance of making it. Additionally, many have heard that coming from a divorced home puts you at an even higher risk for divorce.

    “For a new generation of children of divorce leaving home and looking for love, I know the anxieties are there,” Marquardt says. “It is really hard to do a dance you have never seen before. But I don’t think it is totally fair to look at adult children of divorce as ‘damaged goods.’ I am 14 years into marriage with two happy kids. I have definitely had to learn some things about building a healthy relationship, including the fact that some days the way you make your marriage successful is by putting one foot in front of the other.”

    Marquardt agrees that divorce on average makes life much harder for kids and for the adults that they become. She cautions people, however, against making the children bear the burdens of their parents' decisions. She contends that:

    • Many adult children of divorce want to work extra hard at making a marriage work. They don’t want to go through what their parents went through.

    • Despite what you may hear in the media, 80-90 percent of Americans say they want to marry at some point.

    • There are approximately 40 percent of adult children of divorce ages 18-40. Research shows they can learn skills to help them be great marriage partners.

    “To those who have married parents, hear this: We children of divorce value marriage because we know what life is like when it's gone,” Marquardt says. “We grew up fast and we know how to take care of ourselves. Many of us are, frankly, quite wonderful. Marry us.”

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

    There has been much conversation lately about the number of people who have experienced sexual assault.

    According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), someone experiences sexual assault in the United States every 98 seconds. Of those victims, 44 percent will be younger than 18, and approximately 80 percent of those same victims will be under 30. Research indicates that a college with a population of 10,000 can have up to 350 sexual assaults annually. And, in 7 out of 10 sexual assaults, the perpetrator knows the victim personally.

    On a positive note, the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 63 percent since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1,000 people in 1993, to 1.6 per 1000 in 2015. However, only 6 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison. 

    Many are asking, how do we teach people to protect themselves from sexual assault? And, how do we teach them what respect looks like? These are important questions for sure, especially in light of recent findings in a study by Harvard’s Making Caring Common project. Based on responses from 3,000 young adults and high school students, the lead researcher found it troubling that at least one-third of respondents said:

    • It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television;
    • Society has reached a point that there is no more double-standard against women; and
    • Too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    What is sexual assault, exactly?

    According to the Department of Justice, sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling and attempted rape all fall under the definition of sexual assault.

    Here’s what consent DOESN'T look like:

    • Refusing to take no for an answer
    • Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting or kissing is an invitation for anything more
    • Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state
    • Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol
    • Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
    • Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past

    According to RAINN, consent is about communication. Giving consent for one activity, one time, does not mean giving consent for increased or recurring sexual contact. For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.

    Although there is no guarantee of personal safety for anyone, each of us has a role to play in preventing sexual assault. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself or someone else from becoming a victim.

    • Don’t trust everyone, but let people earn your trust over time.
    • Be careful about putting yourself in a sticky situation. If you are going out with friends you trust, keeping an eye on each other and planning to leave together can be helpful. 
    • Never leave your drink (alcohol or not) unattended or take a drink from someone else. 
    • Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Ask for an escort to your car if you feel unsafe. Lock your doors and secure the windows when you are asleep or leaving your home.
    • Be wise about posting your location on social media. Consider privately sharing your location with someone you really trust in case something goes awry.
    • Have a backup plan for emergencies, and anticipate how you would react in various scenarios. Memorize important phone numbers, keep some cash on hand and hide an extra set of keys in case yours turn up missing. 
    • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation, leave or get a friend to help you out.
    • If you see a potentially dangerous situation, step in and say something, either by yourself or with backup. 

    Sexual assault is evidence that without respect for one another, people and our society suffer greatly. It is not okay under any circumstance, and silence about it can allow it to happen over and over again. 

    It’s crucial that we promote healthy, respectful relationships in all areas of life if we want to make a difference. Everyone could benefit from recognizing that respect involves valuing the opinions and decisions of others without attempting to control them. A respectful person does not take advantage of another person and honors boundaries that are set. Showing respect also involves concern for others’ well-being and safety. 

    You can play a role in changing the culture when it comes to issues surrounding sexual assault. Educate your children. Model respect in all relationships. Talk about this issue at home, in the workplace, at school, at your place of worship and in the community. If you see something, say something.

    Coming together around this issue can help everyone have healthier relationships, which is a good thing for people and a very good thing for our community and country.

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    10 Safety Tips for Online Dating

    When Kyle and Kate Jackson were on the dating scene, they didn’t want to meet people in bars or by chance. Since both of them were shy, they knew that even if they met someone they wouldn’t have the guts to ask the person out.

    “I used to make fun of people who went online to find a date,” says Kate. “Once I got to the point that regular dating wasn’t successful, I decided to give it a try. For me, it made the whole process so much easier.”

    A study published in 2013 by the University of Chicago indicated that 33 percent of couples who married met online. And, a Pew Research study in 2013 revealed that 59 percent of Americans believe that online dating is a good way to meet people.

    When Kate and Kyle met online, they initially communicated by email. After sending emails back and forth, Kyle asked for permission to call Kate. They talked by phone for several weeks and when both felt comfortable, they decided to meet in person.

    “I went to her house where her roommates were present and then we went out on our date,” says Kyle. “We made sure everyone knew where we were.”

    Kate and Kyle met on Valentine’s Day 2008 and dated for a year before getting engaged on Valentine’s Day 2009. They wonder if their paths would have ever crossed without the online dating site.

    If you are considering dating online, keeping yourself safe is a concern. These tips from Online Dating Magazine can help you safely navigate the world of online dating:

    • Arrange to meet in a public place - Never allow your date to pick you up from your home, and do not give out your home address. Consider going out with a group or on a double date when you first meet.

    • Go Dutch – This way you won't feel any obligation to "return" the favor.

    • Realize that alcohol affects your judgment - Not only does it affect your judgment, but alcohol also lessens your inhibitions. Try to avoid alcohol on your first date.

    • Use your own mode of transportation – If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, you won’t have to rely on your date to get you home.

    • Don't assume that your date is safe - Never let your guard down on a first date.

    • Avoid secluded areas - Stay in a public place for your first date and avoid secluded areas such as parks.

    • Listen to your gut - If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't, so leave immediately.

    • Always let someone know where you're going - You might even consider arranging a time to call and check in.

    • Give your cell phone number - It's safer to give out a cell phone number instead of your landline (if you still have one).

    • Always remain alert - Even if you’re having a blast and the chemistry is great, it’s a good idea to remain alert the whole evening. Make sure you have a cell phone on you.

    No matter how you meet, taking your time can help you make wiser choices when it comes to choosing a mate.

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    What Happens in Vegas Stays With You

    What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. That's especially true when it comes to premarital experiences and future marital quality among young adults.

    The relationship sequence these days goes something like – sex, cohabitation and sometimes children before marriage. With 80 percent of young adults reporting that marriage is an important part of their plans, Drs. Galena Rhoades and Scott Stanley wanted to examine whether premarital experiences, both with others and a future spouse, affect marital happiness and stability down the line. (Before “I Do”: What Do Premarital Experiences Have to Do with Marital Quality Among Today’s Young Adults?)

    For five years, Rhoades and Stanley examined this issue. They looked at 418 married individuals, the history of their spouses’ relationships, their prior romantic experience and the quality of their marriages. Their data revealed three significant findings.

    What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. Past experiences, especially when it comes to love, sex and children, are linked to future marital quality. 

    Sex with many different partners may be risky for those who hope for a high-quality future marriage. Research conducted by Finer in 2007 indicates about 90 percent of Americans have sex before marriage. Rhoades and Stanley found that the number of sexual partners one has prior to marriage directly impacts future marital quality. Those with 10 or more partners experienced the lowest marital quality.

    “Starting the relationship by having sex may make a person feel constrained to the relationship sooner because the emphasis is on the physical relationship, which trumps getting to know each other,” says Dr. Rhoades. “I often refer to this as DUI: dating under the influence.”

    Some couples slide through major relationship transitions while others make intentional decisions about moving through them. 

    Decisions matter. 

    For example, many couples believe they should confirm they are right for each other by living together first. However, research shows that living together before committing to marriage can negatively affect marital quality because cohabitation may make it harder for a couple to break up. 

    Cohabiting couples buy furniture, adopt pets and sign leases together. These are all constraints that may keep people in a relationship even when they're not sure they want to stay. Rhoades and Stanley found that couples who slide through relationship transitions have poorer marital quality than those who make intentional decisions about major milestones. Making time to talk clearly about potential transitions may contribute to better marriages.

    Choices about weddings also seem to say something important about the quality of marriages. 

    Most of the individuals who married over the course of the study (89 percent) had a formal wedding. Those couples reported higher marital quality than those who did not have a formal wedding. It could be that making a clear, deliberate commitment to one option strengthens a person’s tendency to follow through on it.

    Clearly the relationship sequencing of the past no longer guides most young adults today. To help ensure high marital quality in the future, it is crucial that young adults recognize a few things. They need to understand the importance of their past, avoid sliding through major relationship milestones and maintain important friendships and family connections. These can all enhance a couple’s relationship, and lead to a more fulfilling marriage.

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    50 Shades of What?

    Women are more than just sexual objects. Even after the height of the women's movement, they fight to seen as bright, capable of great accomplishments and worthy of respect. For years, women have taught other females about the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

    Now, there's Fifty Shades of Grey. Married women, college women and even young teen girls are so infatuated with it that they have actually bought more than 30 million copies.

    It is the story of Ana, a college student who is pursued by an older guy, Christian Grey. Ana is attracted to Grey when they meet, but she believes the attraction is not mutual. Through a series of events, Grey reveals that he wants to have sex with Ana. However, he requires her to complete paperwork beforehand: a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her to discuss anything they do together. There is also a second contract: one of dominance and submission, with the understanding that there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. Grey is into bondage, discipline and sadomasochism (BDSM).

    While Ana finds Grey intriguing, he confuses her. He showers her with gifts and takes her to meet his family. Yet he wants to control what she eats, tell her what to wear and require her to obey him. And, he does not allow her to touch him or look him in the eyes. Grey beats her with a belt when Ana asks him to show her how extreme the BDSM could get.

    Why does this novel draw so many women in? Doesn't it promote women as sexual objects? What is the book's message about love? Would you want your daughter to date or marry Christian Grey?

    “I think women who are intrigued by this book must ask themselves, ‘Why does this guy appeal to me?’” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker. “Being willing to turn over the keys to your life to someone who wants to dominate and control you has a very high price tag.”

    Trust and support, mutual respect, non-threatening behavior, negotiation, healthy boundaries and fairness are the hallmarks of healthy relationships. Contracts forbidding conversation about the relationship or treating one of the people in the relationship as less than the other are not healthy or loving behaviors.

    Why would a woman offer herself to a man who makes it perfectly clear he only wants to dominate her and have sex with her?

    “In many instances, this 'Christian Grey' kind of person attracts women who are looking for safety and security,” Johnson says. “At first it may be very appealing to have someone who will take all the hard decisions away when things feel scary and out of control. However, you cannot mistake control over your life for a real love that is safe and secure.”

    Any relationship that dominates, degrades, and fails to nourish and cherish is nothing more than a work of fiction. When a woman learns to first love herself for who she is, there is no room for shades of gray.

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    What You Should Know About Fishing for Relationships

    Relationships are complicated, but "catfishing" takes things to a whole new level. A "catfish" uses Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

    Have you heard about the media firestorm concerning Manti Te’o and his serious "girlfriend's" tragic death? The entire country felt sorry for Te'o. The problem: The girlfriend never even existed.

    Here's another example: Four attractive young women tearfully told Dr. Phil of being duped online and believing they were talking to a guy…the same guy. One woman talked with him on the phone every day for three years; they exchanged photographs, texts and were planning their future together. None of these women ever personally met their love interest. They were shocked to discover that "David" was actually a woman. And, they had never spoken with the guy in their photos.

    How can people be so naïve to fall victim to this kind of scam, and why would someone do this? Who knows how or why a person deceives and leads people on. Perhaps it's a need for power and control, a desire for attention or to hurt people. But, the bigger question is – why do people ever fall prey to this? The women pushed red flags aside in the name of love. Maybe people are so desperate for love that they are willing to deceive themselves about what real relationships look like.

    Real Relationships

    Spend time together, talk and get to know each other face to face. Talking on the phone and messaging back and forth only provides a one-dimensional perspective of your relationship. It is impossible to be in love with someone without seeing how they interact with others, how they handle anger and conflict, or how they treat you. You may be in love with who you think they are, but you have no proof that what you have heard or seen is real.

    Look for trust, honesty and openness. If a person can’t meet you, your friends or family in person, stop wasting your time in a fantasy world. Don't settle for anything less than a relationship that is healthy, nurturing and most importantly, REAL.

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    Creative Date Ideas

    Going on a date doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful. Here are a few of our ideas:

    • Go for a hike in the mountains.
    • Watch a funny movie together.
    • Help out in a service organization together.
    • Grab something to eat and take it to the park for a picnic.
    • Go for a walk or jog.
    • Cook a meal together.
    • Go to a park, swing and play.
    • People watch in the mall.
    • Go for a drive and explore new places.
    • Work out together.
    • Learn something new together.
    • Get dressed up and have a candlelight dinner at home.
    • Go to a historic site.
    • Philosophize under the stars. Share your hopes and dreams.
    • Play board games or cards.
    • Learn to play a sport together.
    • Read a book together.
    • Bury a treasure (like a big Hershey’s kiss) and take the other person on treasure hunt to find it.
    • Throw the other person a surprise party for a special occasion.
    • Set up a mystery date.
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    The Millennial Success Sequence

    In 2009, Brookings Institute scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill proposed a successful path into adulthood. Called the “success sequence,” this path is most likely to lead toward economic success and away from poverty. It includes finishing at minimum a high school education, getting a job, followed by marriage and then having children. Since proposing this path, no real test has been done to see if that approach applies to today’s young adults.

    Researchers Brad Wilcox and Wendy Wang decided to measure the impact of the success sequence messaging on millennials. Wilcox is a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies. Wang is the director of research at the Institute for Family Studies and former senior researcher at Pew Research Center. Their findings reveal some interesting data about millennial behavior regarding education, employment, marriage and family.

    According to the study, a record 55 percent of millennial parents (ages 28-34) have put childbearing before marriage. This indicates that today’s young adults take increasingly divergent paths toward adulthood when it comes to family formation. These divergent pathways are associated with markedly different economic fortunes among millennials.

    “We found that 97 percent of millennials who followed the success sequence are not poor and are in the middle income track by age 30,” says Wilcox. “Based on every indicator, from our perspective, the success sequence is still quite relevant and compelling.”

    Fully 86 percent of young adults who married first have family incomes in the middle or top third. Compare that to only 53 percent of millennials who put childbearing before marriage. For young, single and childless adults, 73 percent have family incomes in the middle or upper third income distributions.

    The pattern holds true for racial and ethnic minorities, as well as young adults in lower income families.

    • 76 percent of African American and 81 percent of Hispanic young adults who married first are in the middle or upper third of the income distribution. With them are 87 percent of whites.
    • 71 percent of millennials who grew up in the bottom third of the income distribution, but married and then had a baby, moved up to the middle or upper third of the distribution as young adults.

    “Some have questioned if the success sequence is all about education and work, with marriage being an afterthought,” Wilcox says. “Are education and work the only pieces really driving the story?

    “Based on our findings, the link between marriage and economic success among millennials is robust. Compared with the path of having a baby first, marrying before children more than doubles young adults’ odds of being in the middle or top income tiers. This holds true, even after adjusting for education, childhood family income, employment status, race/ethnicity, sex and respondents’ scores on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) which measures intelligence and knowledge of a range of subjects.”

    Findings from the study also show:

    • A stunning 97 percent of millennials who follow the success sequence are NOT poor when they reach their prime young adult years (ages 28-34).
    • 31 percent of millennial high school graduates (who didn’t follow the work and marriage steps by their mid-20s) are in poverty during their prime adult years.

    According to Wilcox, data that tracks adults across the transition to adulthood indicates good news for following the success sequence. That path is the most likely one to guide people to realize the American Dream. Education, work and marriage are important - even for a generation that has taken increasingly varied routes into adulthood. Considering this, business and civic leaders should promote public policies and cultural changes that esteem this sequence and make it more attainable.

    Based on this report, it appears that millennials are beginning to see the value in marriage. They're also finding out how the timing of their decisions impacts their ability to achieve their long-term goals.

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