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Romantic relationships are full of big decisions. One decision that’s gonna present itself is A) Do we move in together? and/or B) Do we get married? 59% of adults under the age of 45 have decided to move in together at some point. Then there’s the question: What would change if we got married? Is there a difference between living together and marriage?

Yes.

You want to be on one page about what your relationship is and where it’s going, especially when making big decisions. Understanding the differences between living together and marriage can help you decide what best helps you reach the relationship goals you’re hoping for. Ignoring the differences can lead to lifelong, complicated heartbreak. 

What are some differences between living together and marriage? Why do they matter? 

While some states recognize cohabitation agreements, they don’t provide the same protection as marriage. 

Married partners:

  • Can make medical decisions on their spouse’s behalf 
  • Have legal rights to inherit their spouse’s estate
  • Don’t pay taxes on the financial inheritance they receive from their spouse

Unmarried partners:

  • Need a general power of attorney to make medical decisions for their partner. Otherwise, they may have to defer to immediate family members. 
  • Must be a beneficiary in the will to have inheritance rights (income is taxable)

Health and finances affect almost every couple. You definitely want to clarify what you can and can’t do before you face major decisions. Drama, resentment, and pain can add severe stress if you find out you have less power and control than you thought during traumatic situations. This is especially true if the extended family gets involved. 

Clarity on Relationship Status

There’s a greater chance that couples who live together have different relationship goals. 

One may think they’re testing the relationship to see if they want to marry. The other might say, “Why marry? We’ll just live together.” Another might say, “It’s just convenient for us to live together since we spend so much time together.”

Married couples get a license. This is a formal declaration about the status of the relationship. Marriage locks in legal benefits and lessens potential misunderstandings about the relationship’s direction.

70% percent of married couples say making a formal commitment was a major reason they decided to marry. Though some marriages do end, research shows that married couples report greater relationship satisfaction.

Whether you live together or are married, you make tons of decisions: bills, home purchases, insurance, etc. If one of you thinks the relationship is one thing while the other thinks it’s something else, you have a recipe for disaster. Being on the same page about the relationship’s direction can decrease the chances of a painful break-up. 

Effects of A Break-Up

Divorcing and moving out can both be painful. The path out of marriage is quite different, though. It may seem that you can just walk away if you’re living together. But, what if you’re both on the lease, you’re sharing bills, or you’ve jointly bought furniture? When you’ve essentially joined your finances and lives together, separating it all is difficult. Not to mention that couples often don’t end on good terms. Without a formal agreement, one person can easily end up holding an unfair share of the risks. 

Divorces can be complicated, messy, and, unfortunately, nasty. However, the process works toward fairly dividing everything from finances and property to time with kids. And, it can provide closure: the ability to make decisions final.

How Break-ups Affect Children

You can’t tear kids down the middle and divide them in half. Married couples are the presumed parents when there is a divorce. Custody, visitation, and child support are set as part of the divorce. It can get ugly, but in the end, it can be resolved. 

According to Brookings Research, U.S. children of cohabiting parents are twice as likely to see their parents’ relationship end by age 12. If and when that happens, the child is only presumed to be the birth mother’s child. The father must walk through the process of establishing paternity. This can get even messier given the nature in which many couples end their relationships.

Thinking of living together and marriage as the same can lead to disappointment. Reminds me of the time I ate a sweet potato, thinking it was a regular baked potato. Ignoring the differences can increase the likelihood of a future break-up or divorce and complicated messiness related to finances, possessions, and kids. 

Researcher Scott Stanley encourages couples to make clear decisions on their relationship path instead of simply sliding into relationship situations. It’s important to keep your desired goals in mind — then doing the proper research to make the best decision for you.

Other helpful resources:

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together

Preparing for Marriage Online | Everything You Need Before “I Do!”

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

Do your homework on the topic and move forward from there.

You may be trying to decide: Should we move in together? Or perhaps you already live together and have some questions. Is living together bad for your relationship? Is this going to be good or bad for us? 

You’ve probably heard lots of strong opinions. Let me be straight-up with you; there’s no simple answer. 

I hope to give you information that you may not have known before and let you come to your own conclusions. That’s how we make wise decisions about relationships, right? Find out all you can, weigh the arguments on both sides (even if you lean to one side at first), and go from there. That’s what I hope you’ll do. 

Some of what makes this question not-so-simple is that you’re dealing with likelihoods. What are the odds that living together will be good or bad? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gambler. I don’t like betting against the odds. Life turns out much better when you know what’s most likely to happen. 

Here’s what we can gather about likelihoods: 

  • It seems reasonable (or likely) that living together should improve the odds of doing well later in marriage. Not only is there little research supporting this belief, but the evidence isn’t that strong. 
  • As a matter of fact, living together before marriage has been most strongly associated with poorer marital outcomes. Experts call this the “premarital cohabitation effect.” Those who have lived together before marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage. And these marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
  • As living together before marriage became more accepted in society, people thought the association with divorce would decrease, making it less likely. This also has not been the case. 
  • In fact, couples who lived together tend to report having very little struggle in the first year of their marriage. (It makes sense: They’ve already negotiated the initial shock of all the changes that come with moving in.) But in the years after, the cohabitation effect comes into much greater play, making divorce much more likely after their first year of marriage.
  • If you want to compare living together with what marriage may look like, you could be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. There are fundamental differences in trust levels and relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples. Couples who live together are much less likely to trust in their partner’s faithfulness, truthfulness, and responsibility than married couples. 

I realize this might paint a bleak picture of living together. I don’t mean for it to; this isn’t my opinion nor anyone else’s. It’s simply the likelihood that research shows us. 

Here’s another thought: There’s a theory out there that says moving in together makes it much harder to break up if the relationship goes south. The evidence tends to back this up. When you share bills, furniture, living space, a pet, and a bed, splitting up isn’t so cut-and-dry. (This is ironic because almost a quarter of people living together report they are testing the relationship.) Even if you feel you’re beyond the testing phase of your relationship, research shows the commitment level of couples living together is typically different than married couples. All this needs to be weighed very carefully before making a major decision. 

Some final questions to consider: If you decide not to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter either of you from considering marriage later on? If it would, what does it say about your relationship? 

And if you decide to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter you from breaking up if you needed to? If so, what would that say about your relationship? 

At the end of the day, you have to come to your own conclusions. Again, I encourage you to step back and consider what’s at stake. Do plenty of homework and move forward from there. Be careful to discern between facts and mere opinions or personal perspectives. The health of your relationship and future marriage just may well depend on it. 

You may also like:

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move in Together

5 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together

Find out if living together will help you accomplish what you want.

Living together is pretty common these days. For many, living together is a natural progression in the evolution of their relationship, which may or may not lead to marriage. But it has its own set of complications, and there are things every couple should know before they move in together. I’m not trying to convince or dissuade you. Instead, I want to give you food for thought so you can make healthy decisions for your life. 

This blog is for you if: 

1. You are not seriously dating.

2. You’re seriously dating and thinking about moving in together.

3. You live together but recognize there are more things you need to discuss. 

No matter your relationship status, talking about significant issues can create the healthiest connections. 

Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s my long-term plan? Our long-term plan?
  • What’s my level of commitment? My partner’s commitment level?

Here are FIVE essential topics every couple should know about and consider before they move in together.

1. Your reason: Why should we live together? 

Be honest with yourselves and each other. Is it about:

  • Money? 
  • Moving out of your parents’ house or away from that annoying roommate? 
  • The next step toward marriage? 

Continuing blindly down this path can lead to disappointment. Additionally, you should know your partner’s reason for living together. A Pew Research study offers many couples’ reasons, which include:

  • Love 
  • Companionship
  • Convenience
  • Natural next step 
  • Learn more about each other
  • Want to test the relationship

Share your reasons. It’s natural to be hesitant about having this conversation, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free relationship. Talking about it allows you both to be vulnerable and transparent.   

2. Your expectations: What will you (or won’t you) share? 

Now that you’ve shared your reasons, communicate your expectations with your partner. Assuming things can damage your relationship, especially if you think you agree, but you don’t. Your expectations should be realistic. If you have different expectations, you each may have to compromise. Now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty. 

Discuss things like: 

  • Who’s cooking and/or cleaning? 
  • Who will shop and/or do the laundry? 
  • Who does the yard? 
  • Are we having meals together every night? 
  • What are your long-term expectations (house, marriage, kids)? 

Talking about this isn’t sexy, but it’ll help your relationship in the long run.

3. Your finances: What’ll it cost you? 

Many couples think living together is cheaper than living apart. This may or may not be true, but they often don’t communicate about finances. 

Talk about: 

  • Who will move in where? 
  • How much will we pay for rent? 
  • Will we get a new place? Will we both be on the lease? 
  • Who pays for what (groceries, car payment, car insurance, rent, cable, electricity, water, internet, phone, etc.)? 
  • What’s our personal debt (credit card, student loan, etc.)? 
  • What will it cost you if you break up? (You may want to talk about a cohabitation agreement. )

(psssst… Want a fun, lighthearted way to start the conversation? Check out this Financial Would You Rather from Annuity.org!)

4. Your habits: How will they impact your relationship? 

When living together, you become well acquainted with the habits and behaviors of your partner in a whole new way. Knowing that they exercise at 4:00 AM is one thing. Experiencing them exercising at 4:00 AM is something totally different. 

Discuss:

  • Are they a night owl or an early bird? Neat or messy? 
  • Are they an exercise, sports, home improvement, or cooking fanatic? 
  • How do they handle stress? Express emotions? 
  • What’s their work life like? Working remotely, hybrid, or in the office? 
  • Do they bring work home every night? 

5. Your other relationships: How will you interact with your village?  

While focusing on each other and excluding friends and family may be tempting, living together won’t mean you’re on an island. You each have friends and family in your lives that matter; they support and challenge you to be better versions of yourselves. Nurturing those relationships can benefit your growth as an individual and as a couple. 

Living together is not something to do without some considerations. 

Remember to think about: 

  • What do I want out of this relationship? 
  • What’s the end goal? 
  • Do I want to get married? 
  • Do I want to have children who are healthy and stable? 

However you answer these questions, you’ll want to find out if living together will help you accomplish what you desire or if it will hinder you. It’s up to you to decide.

You might also like:

Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?

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10 Creative Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Make their heart happy with these out-of-the-box ideas!

Valentine’s Day is a great time to get outside the heart-shaped chocolate box and celebrate love and romance in a BIG way! If you want a hand in making this day unique for your Valentine, you’ve come to the right place.

These 10 creative ideas will help you connect and play as you set this Valentine’s Day apart from any other date night. 

  1. Alternate notes every hour. Be creative. Chat via text, video, over the phone, face to face, on a mirror, with chalk on the driveway. Use different categories for the notes: sexy, flirty, romantic, funny, silly, memorable, thankful, adoring, etc.
  2. Homemade Couple’s Selfie Photo Shoot. Jazz it up with the wardrobe. Have multiple wardrobe changes: nightwear, 70s wear, athletic wear, beachwear, warrior outfits, superheroes, etc.
  3. As a couple, shower someone with love who may not be feelin’ it right now. Write a letter, send flowers, spend time with them, tell stories, and listen to their stories. Your love for each other will grow as you share it with others. 
  4. Re-enact some of your favorite romantic movie scenes. Think Titanic, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing, Jerry Maguire:You complete me!” Check out YouTube’s Top 20 Most Rewatched Scenes in Romance Movies for ideas. You can even find the screenplay for some of your favorite movies. (Pics or it didn’t happen!)
  5. Stick romantic Post-it notes on candy that your special someone likes and hide them all over the place. Put them in drawers, cars, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms—anywhere your Valentine might go. They’ll be finding them for days. (Hershey Nuggets work great for chocolate-lovers.)
  6. Dinner and a Trip Around the World…Virtually. Create a themed meal. Decide “where” you want to go to celebrate, then enjoy the sights and sounds from all over the world without leaving your living room.
  7. Re-create a meaningful meal you’ve had, or create a new experience. For instance, remember what you ate on your first date? What would you want if you were in Italy? With the internet, you can look up any recipe and make it happen. Share the meal by candlelight or lay out a blanket and make it a picnic.
  8. Create anticipation. The day before, choose not to see each other. Use that time to create suspense for the next day. Leave notes in unexpected places. Send cryptic messages or deliver a message through a friend. Put a note on their windshield or surprise them with a video/audio message teaser. See how much excitement you can build for each other.
  9. Write a romantic love story about your relationship (fact or fiction). It may be full of fantasy against the backdrop of common interests like Game of Thrones or Star Wars. Write it, tell it, or record it—but have FUN with it!
  10. Pick from First Things First’s Do It Yourself (DIY) date nights for a fun, unexpected adventure that’s already planned out for you. It’s. So. Easy!

Though you love your significant other every day (DUH!), go the extra mile this Valentine’s Day and show your special someone how much you love, respect, and value them with these creative ways to celebrate. With just a tiny bit of prep, you can take your relationship up a notch and grow the love you feel for each other.

If there is a generational divide today it is definitely digital. It’s not like parents don’t know how to use smartphones and understand how to use social media—they do (mostly). The generational divide is a mentality. Parents send texts and make posts on social, but they fail to realize that online, digital life is the main life that matters to their teens. What’s worse is, parents sometimes seem blissfully unaware of some of the dangers that left unchecked and unsupervised, can get their teen into serious trouble. And if they don’t understand the dangers, they can’t possibly be talking to their teens about them.

Dating Violence in the Digital Age Pop Quiz:

  1. You probably know what “sexting” is, but what is “sextortion?”
  2. How many clicks is PornHub, a porn site filled with often violent porn, from Snapchat?
  3. Define “sexual bullying.”
  4. What percent of teens who experienced digital abuse also experienced physical abuse?
  5. True or False: If you aren’t dating, you are less likely to be abused and harassed.

Answers:

  1. “Sextortion” is using threats or pictures already in your possession to get an individual to send more (often more explicit photos or videos) or sometimes even money to ensure you don’t send out pictures to the school or family members on social media.
  2. 5 clicks from one of the most popular teen apps. And pornography is often teaching boys (and girls) about human sexuality and what is acceptable and normal behavior—even if it is violent.
  3. “Sexual bullying” is the name-calling, psychological, and often physical abuse suffered by someone who has had a compromising photograph shared around the school. It has caused victims to have to switch schools and even commit suicide.
  4. 52% of teens who have experienced digital abuse will also experience physical abuse.
  5. False. Not being in a dating relationship does not spare someone from the potential abuse physically or online.

★ Here is one more sobering statistic—while 25% of teens are harassed or abused digitally, only about 9% seek out help. (And it is rarely from parents or teachers.)

Based on the data, if parents want to help guide and guard against things like this happening to their children, they really need to get educated and be willing to initiate conversations with their children. Otherwise, you’re leaving your teen to navigate a Digital City with creepy people and dangerous back alleys.

A. Be a parent that is approachable, askable, and relatable.

Don’t freak out over what you hear. Steer clear of interrogating your teen with a million questions. If you can’t keep your emotions in check, your teen won’t talk to you about the digital part of their lives for a really long time. (Also, realize your teen could do nothing wrong and something explicit could be sent to their phone.)

Smartphones, the internet, video games, and social media all have their benefits and their dangers. Fortunately, there are tons of resources available on the internet to educate yourself.

B. Be aware of the signs of dating abuse and harassment.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. They have an excellent list on their website of warning signs.

Have you noticed any of these warning signs in your teen?

C. Help your teen be aware of the short-term consequences AND long-term.

Not only could your teen become the victim of mental, psychological, and physical abuse, but a simple nude photo sent to their boyfriend or girlfriend puts their future at significant risk. The internet is forever, no matter how much they may think something is deleted. When a future employer or the school of their choice Googles their name, what’s going to come up?

Use these resources below to help you start the conversation about dating violence in the digital age…

6 Tips for Teaching Your Teen Healthy Dating Habits

8 Warning Signs of Unhealthy Dating Relationships

10 Red Flags in a Dating Relationship

What to Do if Your Teen is Sexting

How to Talk to Your Teen About Sexting

What To Do If Your Teen Is Having Sex

How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?    

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How Do I Talk to My Teen About Their Romantic Relationships?

Here's one key to guiding your teen through romance.

I was sitting at my middle school son’s football game. Some parents around me were discussing who was dating who in the school. I kept quiet during the conversation, but was anxiously waiting for them to mention my son. They did. I was astonished and a little embarrassed because I was totally unaware my son was “dating.” I knew for a fact he didn’t go anywhere with anyone. That’s what I consider “dating.” All he did was talk on his phone. 

How does that constitute dating? 

As soon as we left the game, I must confess I blindsided him with the question, “How is your girlfriend?” [Mom Smirk.] He gave me one of those looks only a teenager could give. “Mom, I don’t have a girlfriend.” [Teen Eye Roll.] “That’s not what I heard.” The more we went back and forth, the more frustrated he became, and the angrier I became. He was ADAMANT  he didn’t have a girlfriend. Truth be told, I was confused. I soon recognized that not believing him was damaging our relationship

How could I have prevented this from happening? 

Could I have better engaged my son in a conversation about his “romantic relationship?”

How can my misstep help you?

⇨ Related: 6 Tips for Teaching Your Teen Healthy Dating Habits

Learn The Language

This is a time when the teacher becomes the student. Be humble and allow your teen to teach you the new relationship lingo. Your willingness to learn and listen shows you respect your teen’s perspective and you care about what’s going on in their world. 

Recognize and Accept Things Have Changed

When your teen says things have changed, believe them. The words and labels they use—DIFFERENT. The modes of communication they use—DIFFERENT. The definition of relationships—DIFFERENT. Trying to impose the “old way” on them will be met with rolled eyes, resistance, or worse. 

Be An Askable Parent When You Talk to Your Teen About Romantic Relationships

Take time to listen. Be open and genuine. You might hear some “stuff” that shocks or surprises you. You have to use your poker face. You’ll be tempted to turn a conversation into an interrogation. If your teen perceives a negative reaction from you or gets bombarded with a billion questions or a long lecture, it can cause them to stop talking and create distance.

⇨ Related: How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?

Build Up Your Relationship

Cultivating and maintaining your relationship with your teen provides space for this conversation. As your teen grows, your relationship with them should grow from more directive to coaching them through life and relationships. The more you try to control or force a relationship with your teen, the more they can pull away from you. 

If your teen says they are in a romantic relationship, here are some conversation starters to ask your teen:

  1. Are you able to be yourself in the relationship?
  2. Do you show respect and feel respected in your relationship?
  3. Do you have realistic expectations about the relationship?
  4. Are you feeling pressured in your relationship?
  5. Do you feel you have the time to devote to the relationship?

The key to guiding your teen through romantic relationships is to stop being a talkative parent and become a parent your teen wants to talk to. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen builds and supports the relationship

Sure, “dating” might look different now, but there is still no substitute for a close, healthy relationship with your teen.

Check out some other blogs on healthy dating habits here:

Is marriage on your mind for your future? If it is, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a single searching for that special someone, in an “endgame” relationship, or perhaps already engaged when it comes to preparing yourself for marriage. If you know in your heart of hearts that you want marriage to be a part of your future, you don’t have to wait to prepare yourself for it. In fact, taking the time to prepare yourself for marriage now will save you from yourself later. (Take it from someone who’s married now and was grateful for getting this advice sooner than later.)

How to Prepare Yourself for Marriage

Make sure you’re meeting the expectations you desire for your future spouse.

If you want your spouse to have a stable job, work on getting one for yourself. If you want them to be good at listening and to understand when conflict arises, be that also. People can’t meet expectations they don’t know are there and in that vein, you shouldn’t expect something from someone else that you don’t expect from yourself. If you can decide what your standards are and choose to meet them first, you won’t have any reservations for wanting those in someone else.

Love yourself and improve yourself.

You cannot give what you don’t have. If you don’t love yourself, loving someone else wholeheartedly will be a challenge. If you second guess how much they love you because of an insecurity you’re facing, you risk projecting a problem onto your significant other that isn’t really there. Those feelings can hurt both people. Of course, someone can help you feel more loved, but ultimately, your expectation for a relationship shouldn’t be to solve your struggles. Having someone join the journey you’ve already started means you’re at a place to explain what you’ve been working through and giving them an opportunity to understand. 

When you love yourself, you’ll find productive ways to challenge yourself and promote growth and healing. You want the best version of someone else to partner up with so offer up the same! Now listen closely to this part: It doesn’t mean being the best; it means giving your best effort. That looks like choosing to put time, energy and effort into what’s important to you in your life and learning to be happy on your own so you can share that happiness with someone else. You and your partner will fall short and are incapable of being each other’s only source of happiness. Imagine the pressure you’d feel from that! You two will undoubtedly make each other happy if you’re in a healthy relationship, but you will rest easy in the fact you don’t have to be the only source.

Work through your past and move toward healing.

This one is an ongoing process. There’s a multitude of emotions and circumstances that come with healing. If you’ve been through something traumatic, it could affect your day-to-day experiences and interpretations of what other people do and their motivations, including a significant other. 

Starting the process now rather than when you have another person to consider can be so liberating. As you work through your challenges or baggage, you can discover tendencies you have that may be a side effect of what you’ve been through. Naming your hurt reclaims power over it. I’m not saying you have to have it all figured out and all of the mess you may bring to a relationship perfectly tidied. However, acknowledging the hurt you may have been through now and doing something about it is great for your mental health and in turn, your well-being. A counselor or therapist is most qualified and depending on your experiences, maybe your best option. But, if you know there is just some baggage you need to talk about to process it, call up a trusted friend and let them know what you need.

Be adaptable.

Marriage is a beautiful gift, but sometimes the price is compromise or sacrifice. When you’re committed to loving someone and doing life with them for the rest of both of your lives, your dreams, goals and future plans have to go through a WE instead of ME filter. You two will be a team—win together and lose together. Find a communication style that works best for you both and go out of your way to make them feel loved. (You may have different love languages, so sometimes it doesn’t feel as natural to do what your future partner needs.) 

The compromises and sacrifices can be as small as sacrificing plans with an old friend when it’s the only night available for date night, waking up early to help each other in the mornings, sharing the spotlight at family gatherings, and the list could go on. Or as big as moving for their job, paying off debt before a down payment on a house, waiting to have kids, etc. In circumstances big and small, being married dictates being flexible or at least being willing to try.

Preparing yourself for marriage is really a journey of self-awareness—understanding the motivations behind your actions, the words you say, how you carry yourself, and how you treat others. It is monumental and can make the world of difference in a relationship and ultimately one day, your marriage.

Image from Unsplash.com

Discover the 8 Essential Lessons to Build an Unbreakable Marriage Right from the Start! 

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✅ Each lesson is divided into 3 parts, “Past You,” “Present You,” and “Future You.” Each part has a brief video led by marriage experts, Reggie & Lauren. You’ll have questions to talk through together and a handout to dive deeper. 

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When my wife and I thought our daughter was ready to date, our daughter was in panic mode before the first boy came to pick her up. She wasn’t worried about the boy; she was worried about me

Dad, are you going to grill him and ask him a million questions?

No Sweetie. I’m just going to ask him one question.

Really Dad? Just one question? Wow!

Yup. “Where are WE going?”

Not funny, Dad.

The reality is that WE aren’t going anywhere. THEY are. How do you know if your teen has a healthy understanding of dating, how to get to know someone, and will exercise healthy dating habits? Here’s a little quiz for your teen to pass before they start dating that will also provide you as a parent with some great talking points.

ARE YOU READY TO START DATING?

1. What is the purpose of dating?

  1. To have fun.
  2. To find someone to marry.
  3. There is no purpose. It’s just what teens do.
  4. To learn how to get to know someone.

Answer Key: Although you want your teen to have fun while dating (a lot of fun), the best answer here is, “To learn how to get to know someone.” Make sure your teen knows that there is a level of “fakeness” built into dating, especially at the beginning. This doesn’t mean people are being deceptive or dishonest, BUT both parties are trying to put the best version of themselves forward while possibly (probably) hiding parts of their real self and any of their flaws. Everyone is trying to sell an image of themselves. Getting to know someone takes time. It means seeing them in a variety of situations and paying attention to how they treat a variety of people—besides you. Oh, and marriage is like 15 years away.

2.  How long does it take to really get to know someone?

  1. First impressions are everything. 
  2. Their social media accounts show who they really are.
  3. Five or so dates.
  4. It really depends.

Answer Key: First impressions are important but can be totally misleading. So can social media. Some people post about their friends, family, hobbies, and little snapshots of their life. Some people create and curate a digital self-image that is far from reality. The bottom line is that it really depends. Assuming they treat your teen great because they are interested in them, your teen wants to watch for the following in who they date.

Watch for how they…

  • Treat their parents.
  • Act when they’re told, “No.”
  • Treat their siblings.
  • Treat their friends.
  • Respond to criticism.
  • Treat authority figures.
  • Treat people who wrong them.
  • Handle when things go wrong.
  • Treat people in need.
  • Respond to disagreements.

3. Your main goal in a dating relationship should be:

  1. Developing social skills
  2. Taking your time
  3. Growing emotionally
  4. Staying true to yourself

Answer Key: Trick question! Your teen’s goal in a dating relationship should be all of the above! If any of those things are NOT happening, it’s a bad sign. They should be growing into their best self. They shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured into anything, and their social skills should be developing as they learn how to interact with people. 

4. If there isn’t anybody in your life you’re truly interested in dating…

  1. Settle for the best you can get
  2. Explore online dating sites
  3. Lower your standards
  4. Hang out with your friends and pursue other interests

Answer Key: Your teen never wants to settle or lower their standards just so they can be dating someone. And they have no business being on some online dating site.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not dating. Lots of people aren’t doing it. Your teen is probably avoiding a ton of drama while they have more time to hang out with their friends and pursue their interests, hobbies, and passions. And let’s not forget school. And more family time. It’s better to not be dating at all than to be dating the wrong person. Don’t settle!

5.  The best qualities or traits that you bring into dating are your…

  1. Hotness and popularity
  2. Personality and sense of humor
  3. Character and values
  4. Maturity and intelligence

Answer Key: Anything except (A.) is a great answer! Any fisherman will tell you that the bait you use will determine what you catch. Before your teen is ready to get to know someone else, they need to know who they are. They need to value and respect themselves, understand their strengths and growth areas, and have a strong sense of identity. Ask them follow-up questions about their personality, character, values, and maturity. Make them be as specific as possible and cultivate their self-awareness.

6.  “Red Flags” in a dating relationship would include…

The person…

  1. Constantly wants to know where you are and who you’re with.
  2. Tries to keep you away from your family and friends.
  3. Pressures you to go beyond your personal boundaries.
  4. Tells you how to dress.
  5. Tells you who you can be friends with or talk to.
  6. Puts you down a lot, even in a “joking” way.
  7. Blames you for every relationship problem or issue.
  8. Is not dependable, trustworthy, or honest.
  9. Makes you feel like you can’t be yourself with them.
  10. Makes you nervous that you’re going to do something to upset them or make them mad all the time.
  11. Wants to check your phone to see who you are talking to.

Answer Key: There are more “red flags” but those are all some important ones. What you want is for your teen to have healthy dating habits and be able to recognize a healthy relationship, an unhealthy relationship, and an abusive relationship. You want to know that your teen has a strong sense of their boundaries—both emotionally and physically—and can stick to them. The two of you might want to agree on a code word or phrase that if they say it in a call or text while on a date, you know they need to get out of a situation immediately.

You can’t get your teen ready for dating with a quiz. What you want is an ongoing conversation that continues throughout their dating life and sets them up for healthy dating habits. You know your teen better than anybody. You can help them get the fundamentals of dating so that dating is a healthy part of their teenage years that helps prepare them for adulthood. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Check out some other blogs on healthy dating habits here:

When Should I Let My Child Date?

What to Do When You Don’t Like Who Your Teen is Dating

10 Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Tips for Setting Dating Standards With Your Teens

10 Steps for a Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy