In the next chapter of our new book, Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls, Dr. Pepper and I discuss all the new, non-traditional ways people can form relationships and how one should figure out which one is best for long-term happiness. Enjoy another free sample!
A traditional nuclear family comprises one man and one woman who are married, with one child or more, living in one home together until the kids leave. This vision, storied in movies and books, is simply not the norm anymore. There’s now a 50 percent divorce rate for the general population, a delayed age at first marriage, a large number of people in society staying single at any one time (including one-third of all baby boomers), and new forms of relationships popping up in significant numbers, including gay marriage, long-term dating, and cohabitation that does not end in marriage.
We believe that there are many choices you can make other than getting married and staying married for your entire life. Couples who were once headed to the attorney’s office can now head for the counseling or coaching couch to design a lifestyle that works for them. Many couples choose not to live together full time. They are becoming so well known that they have a name (LATs, for “living apart together”) in the research literature and, soon, in the census. But even if people look conventional from the outside, there are other subtle but important choices they can make. For example, they don’t have to have only mutual friends. They can share some friends, and not others. We know some couples who have released each other from kin duties; they do not attend each other’s formal family holidays. They are part of a new breed of couples who are trying to minimize family hassles by not fulfilling unwelcome traditional expectations.
Couples who choose these types of independent lives need to be clear about the new rules and boundaries. You may want to insulate your relationship from many of the influences that create difficulties in traditional marriages, which often contribute to their demise. Many second or third marriages or cohabitations have stumbled when they had to include stepchildren or in-laws; pool money; share housekeeping; or compromise on lifestyle differences friends, or dogs versus cats. However, we do not know of many long-term, loving relationships that allow partners to have sex outside their relationship. Some couples do negotiate a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that seems to work for them.
Others, particularly people who believe in polyamory (having committed relationships with more than one person) openly negotiate non-monogamy guidelines. The vast majority of couples practice monogamy because it is a sacred part of the marital commitment to them and/or because they could not emotionally handle the idea, much less the reality, of the person they love making love with someone else. But even monogamy isn’t a given anymore. People make their own marriage contracts.
We are not advocating throwing everything sacred about marriage up in the air. But we do believe we are in an era of new freedoms and innovations that may make relationships more satisfying to partners. Although your parent’s marriage might be what you want, it isn’t necessary to pick it as the model. Open your mind to new ideas of what brings out the best in you and your partner and use that as the foundation for building a customized relationship for the two of you.
Again, for the other pages of the chapter and the rest of the book, order here!