In a recent Pew Center research article on marriage and love in America, Geiger and Livingston (2018) combine online survey data from 1990 to 2017 highlighting several multifaceted factors on the way to the altar. Factors such as cohabitation, which is up 29% since 2007, and marriage to someone in a different religious group, which is up 39%, are becoming prevalent. Additionally, now more than ever technology is playing an essential role in the process. Today, the view of online dating per survey participants is far more positive than ever as 59% believe online dating is a more comfortable and more efficient way to meet. As this information highlights some of the dramatic changes in the landscape of our relationships, how can we prepare to navigate this complexity while dating? I have provided some suggestions to tackle these intricacies.
For this blog, we will focus on the online dating milestone of the first face-to-face (FtF) encounter. Usually, the initial FtF is the first significant milestone in any relationship and using online dating has made this step much more meaningful. Along the way, it is paramount for you to be aware of a significant trend. You may have an overly positive perception of a potential partner and find yourself assigning them attributes not warranted by their information. This notion can be problematic. In recent research, Sharabi and Caughlin (2017) note this scenario can hinder not only the first FtF but also the future of the relationship. One suggestion to minimize this risk is using the technology for a predetermined amount of time to avoid dragging out communication too long. In this way, you can provide a guardrail against becoming disillusioned while still getting acquainted with your swipe right before the first FtF.
Cohabitation as a Step to Marriage
You are currently cohabiting as part of your decision to marry and have a felt sense that something is off. However, you are not sure what that may be at this time. What you may be experiencing is what recent research notes as ambivalence about moving to marriage due to personal fear that divorce will happen to you due to its cultural acceptance (Hawkins & Clyde, 2018). Additionally, Hawkins and Clyde (2018) note you may see the commitment to marriage daunting and more so than ever if you are an emerging adult. One reason is the median age at first marriage is at its highest point on record (29.5 for men and 27.4 years for women as of 2017) resulting in extended time on self-focus before marriage (Hawkins & Clyde, 2018). This “gap” is creating a greater challenge orienting couples to the “us” part of the relationship. Thankfully there is assistance. If you have ambivalence or the next step seems daunting, you and your partner can take an inventory assessment of the relationship. Then you can begin a commitment to understanding each other better, learn communication skills, and sync couple aspirations while fostering each other’s individual desires. As you work through this, it is vital to reassess your relationship along the way as you may find that ambivalence or the daunting commitment a “PAUSE” or a “NO-GO.”
Here I will highlight some unique dynamics of an interfaith relationship as well as provide some suggestions to navigate. Research of Hodge (2005) highlights a family’s spiritual beliefs and practices may intersect every aspect of life. These beliefs shape relationship dynamics, family rules, and worldview. They also provide many strengths, beliefs, and values that are important to both partners. Because spiritual beliefs can intersect so many aspects of our lives, it is essential to discuss how we show up in our relationship spiritually and religiously. This discussion is an excellent opportunity to review each partner’s past and present as well as future aspirations related to interfaith marriage. In doing this, we must choose to be curious, respectful and non-judgmental while learning about each other’s journey. Appreciating each other’s differences can also build respect for our extended families as well. Some additional strategies from Prepare-Enrich (2018):
- Focus on what you have in common.
- Have the humility to accept and honor religion or faith differences when there is not partner agreement.
- Put a plan or spiritual life map together to navigate differences. Areas of consideration may include raising children and each person’s involvement in places of worship.
Geiger, A. & Livingston G. (2018). 8 facts about love and marriage in America. Fact time News
in the Tank Pew Research Center. Retrieved from:
Hawkins, A. & Clyde, T. (2018). Reinvigorating and re-envisioning premarital education for the
iGeneration. Retrieved from: http://www.narme.org/conferences/8th-annual-narme
Hodge, D. R. (2005). Spiritual assessment in marital and family therapy: A methodological
framework for selecting from among six qualitative assessment tools. Journal of Marital
and Family Therapy, 31(4), 341-356.
Olson, D. H., Olson, A. K., & Larson, P. J. (2018). Prepare-Enrich Program: Couple’s Manual.
Sharabi, L. L., & Caughlin, J. P. (2017). What predicts first date success? A longitudinal study of
modality switching in online dating. Personal Relationships, 24(2), 370-391.