In a recent blog, I reviewed how research continues to confirm that emerging adults are positioning marriage later in life while shifting their focus to college, higher education, and their careers (Fincham & Cui (2010). Additionally, there is diminishing support from social institutions and norms to get married. Meanwhile, more recent data from Hawkins and Clyde (2018) also shows that marriage is still viewed as the pinnacle of adulthood. As a result, the number of people getting married is the same; however, the average age for marriage is now 28, creating what is known as the marriage gap (Hymowitz & Carroll et al., 2013).
Fincham & Cui (2010) note that gap is having an impact as lower levels of marital satisfaction early in these marriages have increased the risk of divorce. In part, the more extended period of waiting to get married can seem more daunting and anxiety-provoking. Additionally, access to more dating opportunities through dating apps and other social media during this time can create potential harm to marital relationships (Tong, Hancock, & Slatcher, 2016). Further, mainstream
media can inaccurately portray romance, relational stages, and marriage. As a result, Hawkins and Clyde (2010) note more than ever, getting to the alter of healthy marriages to come requires more than attraction, knowing, commitment, loyalty, relying on, and trust. You also need a developing sense of “we ability” to understand clear decisions and clarity around the meaning of marriage for yourself and your partner (Hawkins & Clyde 2018). This “we ability” also includes the understanding and the expectations we have around areas such as attraction, knowing, commitment, loyalty, relying on, trust and sex.
Developing the “Me TO We” Skills
- Get a Plan: While building a healthy relationship in this stance be intentional about making the transition from “me” to “we” and have a plan and goals. Seemingly unromantic, having this step as a requirement is crucial to building a foundation for a robust relational path to marital commitment.
- Education: Next, educate yourself on dating, commitment, trust, loyalty, and communication. Further, as you embrace the process, take a look at how the effects of media might be impacting your expectations and attitude (Hawkins & Clyde, 2018).
- Be Aware of Stage One: For most, the first stage of dating or love is what is psychologists often call limerence. Gottman et al. (2016) note this phase of attraction and connection can be exciting and also intoxicating due to the experience of chemical confusion in your body. Further, this experience comes with a heavy dose of oxytocin (the love or cuddle drug). While under the influence it is not a good time to make decisions about relationship commitment (p. 173). If you are thinking, “I need to be with this person every second of the day” you may be there. If so, take a pause and ensure you are not skipping your review of commitment and trust. Enjoy the limerence, but do not let the stage own you or you may end up owning a divorce decree.
- Accountability: DO NOT go alone and get accountability along the way from supportive and objective friends. If the relationship feels isolated, there may be a problem. Finally, if you are single and reading this, you can still do the work and have the opportunity to grow into the type of person you are looking to attract.
If not sure what your next step might be, it can be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 or another organization to set up an appointment with someone who can help guide you along the way!
- Fincham, F. D., & Cui, M. (Eds.). (2010). Romantic relationships in emerging adulthood. Cambridge University Press.
- Gottman, J. Gottman, J., Abrams, D and Abrams, R.C. (2016). A men’s guide to women: Scientifically proven secrets from the “love lab” about what women really want. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.
- Hawkins, A. & Clyde, T. (2018). Reinvigorating and re-envisioning premarital education for the iGeneration. Retrieved from: http://www.narme.org/conferences/8th-annual-narmesummit/2018-summit-workshops/
- Hymowitz, K. S., Carroll, J. S., Wilcox, W. B., & Kaye, K. (2013). Knot yet: The benefits and costs of delayed marriage in America. National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.
- Tong, S. T., Hancock, J. T., & Slatcher, R. B. (2016). Online dating system design and relational decision making: Choice, algorithms, and control. Personal Relationships, 23(4), 645-662.