Archive for the ‘dating’ Category

I’m ready, I think…

January 19, 2011

I’m ready, I think…..

During a recent conversation with a gentleman, the topic of marriage came up. I said to him emphatically, that I was ready for marriage and children, right now. He said he was not. I shared this conversation with some of my single and dating girlfriends who all proclaimed to understand where I was coming from because they all too state that they are also ready for marriage. No doubt about it. Some claim that they would quit their job or school tomorrow if a proposal came tonight. One friend used to say that she had turned down marriage proposals in the past, but that she would say “yes” to the next one that came her way. She got engaged earlier this year, and I’d like to think it was for reasons beyond the fact that her now fiancé happened to be the next one who popped the question.

The conversation I had with him, and the one’s I continue to have with my friends really got me to wondering about what being “ready” for marriage really means. When I ask men this question directly, or when it comes up indirectly in conversation, the response from men generally tends to be first about having fulfilled a certain level of professional and/or academic achievement, being in a certain place financially and sometimes, needing to also be a homeowner gets thrown in there. I’ve even heard the idea of being able to “only be with one woman forever” described as a journey that when complete, means you qualify as “ready”.

However, when I ask my female friends, they say being ready for marriage is more about being ready to “settle down”, having commitment, support and stability and often, about being able to start a family. This summary sounds eerily similar to parts of the afore mentioned conversation.

Over the past few months, I have been conducting research aimed at trying to understand the disconnect between what is preventing people who want to get married from actually getting married. I wonder how much this differing idea about marriage readiness contributes. While I do think the differences are interesting to note, I don’t believe that they offer a full explanation. I do, however, believe that these differences create a wonderful opportunity for conversations between men and women. I think men and women are socialized about marriage differently from an early age, so I don’t find it all that surprising that they espouse different ideas about what being ready for marriage means. Further, when taking into consideration the fact that people grow up in and around many different models of marriage, or in some cases, around a lack of models for marriage, the thought that it would be easy to get on the same page around marriage is actually somewhat silly.

I believe that fundamentally, many people like the idea of marriage, and honestly believe that one day, they really want to be married. And, while some of us hope that day comes sooner rather than later, I think that it is important to realize that when you state that you are ready to be married, you are able to articulate that beyond meaning you are ready for a ring and a white dress in the same way I think it’s important to acknowledge that not yet making six figures doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not ready. I think marriage readiness is much more than A conversation, but a series of conversations, interactions, events, feeling and emotions.  I’ve read two really good books that actually address many if not all of these topics and I recommend reading both The Conversation by Hill Harper and Lies at the Alter by Dr. Robin Smith as a self-thought provoking activity and as a shared activity.  Also, the following links offer suggestions for key questions to ask yourself and potential mates when considering marriage: http://www.the-intimate-couple.com/Questions-to-Ask-Before-Marriage.html and http://marriage.about.com/od/engagement/ss/engagedissues.htm

While little girls often hear about “knowing he was the one when I first laid eyes on him”, I, as a grown-up know that marriage, and being ready for it is a much more complex notion than having your socks knocked off by someone who has their nails did, hair did, everything did or who walks is smelling good and with their swagger on 100. I also accept that being ready for marriage is not just about ME being ready, but it needs to be about a WE being ready. So, in efforts to not get ready, let’s talk some more. Who’s with me?

Jacqueline Y. Melton

Dating aint what it used to be

September 14, 2010

Like a lot of people out there, much of my time spent talking with friends includes lots of conversation about current relationships and dating status. What’s up with so and so? Are you still talking to what’s his name? When was the last time you hung out with the girl you met at the gym?

What I find interesting is that many of my friends have personal lives that exist in a large grey area. Whenever I hear my parents, their friends, and older relatives talk about their younger days when they were dating, they make it sound like there was a very logical and clearly defined sequence to things: you met, the he courted the she, he asked her to be his girlfriend and the committed, and then the monogamous relationship was established. A break-up may occur and the cycle would repeat, but between the ages of 18-24 this cycle may have repeated itself two or three times before the end result was a “proper” proposal, marriage, and then and only then was the relationship consummated.

As a single, never-married woman in my early thirties, that description of dating sounds foreign to me. The dating lives of my friends consists of “kickin it”, “hanging out”, “Boo’s”, “Side- Boo’s”, “Jumpoff’s”, “Baby mama’s and Baby daddy’s” and “It’s complicated” Facebook status updates. The seeming simplicity of the black and white lines of dating often appear long gone, and have been replaced by this world of vagueness. Are the young and dating these days fearful of commitment? Is this a result of the breakdown of the traditional family where people no longer grow up in nuclear households? Has the media and society made casual relationships socially acceptable? Did having a friend with benefits replace having a steady? One of the other things I have found really interesting is that when my friends actually find themselves with an actual boyfriend or girlfriend, it seems as though it is a result of the person being the only option, or as a result of someone having just been around for a while. The formation of the relationship appears very passive and circumstantial rather than intentional and resulting from a thoughtful and deliberate process.

While I suspect many people will claim to be ok with this level of dating ambiguity, research shows that it is not likely to result in positive outcomes for emotional health or physical health.

So why and where along the way did dating become so difficult and require so much explanation? Is it that one is no longer enough or is it that it’s too hard to find the one? Is it that people simply accept what’s given or that they just don’t know what to ask for?

A lot of my friends seem to be torn between the reality of their dating lives and their real underlying desire to find someone to settle down with. While we have these conversations often, we have not yet crafted a clear solution, but my girlfriends and I have made a commitment to start to change some of our dating practices and we are going to start thinking like highly effective daters by applying the habits of highly effective people to our personal lives. Here is a quick refresher of the habits:  Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

I’ve heard insanity defined as continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome, so before I let dating drive me insane, I hope the change in attitude and approach will get me out of the grey area and moving towards a healthy and effective relationship.

Jacqueline Y. Melton, MSA

Love is a VERB

July 19, 2010

        We often use the phrase “I love you,” to express our feelings for someone we truly care about. Sometimes it is really heart-felt, sometimes it is to get out of trouble, and sometimes it is simply said as a formality. While it is always nice to hear that you are loved, we need to remember that saying “I love you” is not all it takes. Love is a verb, and action is required to fulfill the true meaning of the word.

         I recently attended the 2010: Let’s Get Real: Healthy Teens, Healthy Families and Responsible Fatherhood Regional Summit, where I was reminded of this very thing. In order to maintain a healthy relationship, each partner has to be committed to “actively loving” one another. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of money on fancy gifts or over-the-top vacations. Instead, focus on the little things that make your partner happy and show him/her how much you care.

        The summer is an excellent time to start “actively loving” your partner. Here are a few easy, inexpensive ideas to get you started:

  • PLAN A DATE NIGHT! Whether you  have been together 5 months or 25 years, date night is always a great way to connect with your partner and strengthen your relationship. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.  It can be as simple as spending an hour together on the couch with no kids, work, or interruptions.
  • Randomly send your partner a text or email just to say you are thinking about them
  • Leave little notes on post-its around the house for him/her to find
  • Instead of planning an activity that you will love, plan something you know your partner will love
  • Have a picnic. Take advantage of the summer and enjoy the outdoors.
  • Go camping. If you can’t afford a hotel get away, find a nearby campground and pitch a tent. Not only is it cheaper, but nature will provide an intimate and private setting for you and your partner to really connect.
  • Research your city or town. Google the name of your town and most often there will be a way to see upcoming events in and around the community. Often these activities are free to the public and offer a fun, inexpensive alternative to your daily routine.

        There are a million things you can do to show your partner how you love them. For more examples and tips, check out these websites:

http://www.alabamamarriage.org

www.healthymarriageinfo.org

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/196660/marriage_dating_your_spouse_helps_keep.html

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/romantic-date-ideas-for-married-couples.html

 by Kate Taylor Harcourt

Where Can I Find A Good Man?

March 24, 2010

Have any of your friends asked you this question lately? Or maybe just in passing, you have heard women ask this question or talk about this issue. I know I have! Many of my single ladies have asked repeatedly. Well, I have some ideas. In my opinion, there are three places where men can be found regularly. These three places are also important to me and are places that I frequently attend.

One: The gym. The gym is a wonderful place to meet someone. Not only are you taking care of your health by getting a good work out in, but you know the other person cares for their physical health as well = something in common.

Two: The library. Education is very important to me. So, hopefully, if a man is at the library he is there to study. This would lead me to believe that his education is important to him also.

Three: Church. It doesn’t really matter what denomination you are. If you are attending a church of your choice, the likelihood that the man attending has the same religious affiliation is very high!

Ok, I do realize that my top three choices may not be your top three choices. So, now I challenge you to pick your top three choices of what is important to YOU! Research has shown that individuals actually prefer partners who are similar to themselves in personality and interests. Don’t try to change yourself to ‘fit’ your partner’s needs. Look for someone who has similar ‘top three places’ as you do!

Rachel Dawkins

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

References:

Botwin, M., Buss, D., & Shackelford, T. (1997). Personality and mate preferences: Five factors in mate selection and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality, 65(1), 107-136. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.ep9709060970.

First Impression is the Best Impression

March 24, 2010

In just seconds humans can form lasting first impressions of others. Do you remember your first impression of a coworker, friend, or significant other? Research suggests these first impressions carry more weight than later information on an overall impression. This is because they help us form mental outlines, which we use to process later information. So, for example, if your first impression of a coworker is that he or she is lazy – you are likely to see his or her later actions as attempts at laziness (He or she stays home sick because she is just lazy, not because she is really all that ill).

Since “first glances” are so important, we need to learn to influence the first impressions of others so they do not come to the wrong conclusion. These days we are commonly coached on how to make a great first impression in a job interview or when trying to sell a home. But the first impressions generated when meeting the parents of a girlfriend or boyfriend can be just as important. These individuals are most likely an important part of your significant other’s life and could become a central part of your life in the future.

Does and Don’ts of Meeting Your Girl/Boyfriend’s Parents

DO relax. Realize they are humans just like you!

DO bring something (small) if you are visiting their home. Perhaps a small batch of cookies or a bottle of wine.

DON’T be late!

DO wear proper attire for the occasion.

DO smile!

DON’T try to tackle the touchy topics on the first visit.

DO offer to help clean up!

DO something fun with your significant other after the visit to help relieve stress.

DON’T be critical of his or her parents. If something did go wrong during the visit, discuss this with your significant other privately afterwards, and focus on your feelings rather than on them

Remember you only have one chance to make a great first impression!

Larissa Ferretti

For further reading on first impressions, pick up Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.”

Do I NEED This???

January 15, 2010

Let’s take it back. Way back…. to about 3 weeks ago. It was the beginning of my Christmas vacation and I could not WAIT to see my family. After my plane landed in Houston (TX), I reveled in the company of my sisters, brothers-in-law, aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, and nephew. I mean, my mother was here and she lives on another continent! What’s not to love?!

Fast forward to two weeks later. To me stalking into my sister’s guest bedroom for some peace and to maintain my precarious grasp on my sanity. As a loner by birth, it doesn’t take much for me to take a break from human contact, but I found myself seriously wondering if I really needed to be here and if I really needed to have a relationship with these people. I was overreacting (I do that), but it got me thinking: How important is it to have relationships?

As you may have guessed from my last post, I like research findings that are useful to Joe/Jane Six-Pack. Turns out that close relationships are vital to our well-being. We can’t help it. It’s in our DNA. As children, we gravitate toward our caregivers (for most, it’s a parent or two). We look to them for love, support, and protection. While growing up, we start to form friendships… we even invent imaginary friends. Then the teen years arrive, our hormones start acting up, and we look to forming intimate relationships. Around this time, it’s basically up to us to seek out healthy, long-lasting relationships. Relationships, according to research, help us realize who we are, how to treat others and how we want to be treated, and lend to our overall happiness. Having healthy relationships can also help manage stress! I’m all about that.

Forming and maintaining healthy relationships has a lot of benefits and that’s one of the many reasons I enjoy being a part of Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative or ACHMI (www.alabamamarriage.org). ACHMI strives to educate youth and adults on the ins and outs of healthy relationships. It’s the best type of education – the one where no cramming is involved, you can learn things, and you can use those things for the rest of your life. It’s great being a part of something that has changed the trajectory of so many people’s lives by teaching the importance of healthy relationships and helping make current relationships even better.

I guess all this means I’m stuck with my crazy, loud, nosy, caring, protective, loving family. Darn. 😉

Happy 2010!

Christiana Datubo-Brown

PS – Are we saying “two thousand ten” or “twenty ten”??

“Is It Really THAT Serious???”

October 20, 2009

I just started graduate school (if 2 months classifies as “just”) and I’m thrilled. I find myself surrounded by intelligent people but when I sit back and look around (like I often do), I get worried. Some of my peers are so stressed out just watching them gets my heart thumping. Then I ask myself, “is it just me or are things just not that serious???”

Don’t get me wrong, I take a lot of things seriously. For examples: my next meal, my future, and my shoes. However, I don’t take some things like school so seriously that when it comes time to worry about life’s necessities, I have no energy left. Listen, I understand that graduate school is really important and can be  REALLY stressful and I know the immense pleasure doing well at work can give a person. Call me crazy but I think having great relationships (family, friends, and “more than friends” included) and being healthy are things that could trump those any day of the week.

I’m not crazy. Research has shown that increased and sustained levels of stress can deteriorate your health (I don’t know about you but I want to live for a while… like to see my grandchildren). People who experience more stress or anxiety tend to be more susceptible to infections and may have an increased risk of coronary heart disease. For us normies, this means stressing out or getting worked up over too many things could have us getting sick more often and spending more time/money on hospitals and pharmacies. It’s a recession people. This also means that fussing could help our heart go kaput. I’m exaggerating… but I wouldn’t risk it.

Now to the main event: relationships. What does stressing out about school and work have to do with the people at home? Research has been very intuitive about this. I mean, think about it — if you are feeling stressed, overworked, or stretched to your limit, what kind of energy would you be giving off to others? Our poor loved ones get us at the end of our busy days and have to hear us snipe about this and that. What about those days when you displace your emotions? Meaning, you’re angry about all the work your boss gave you to do, then you come home and yell at your partner/children/mom for nothing at all! All this can not be helping your relationships. In fact, you are probably pushing the ones you care about away!

Now, I wouldn’t say all this without giving you a way to get some stress relief. Here are a couple of links to a great site run by my alma mater, UT Austin (Hook ‘Em!): http://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/stressrecess/index.html http://www.cmhc.utexas.edu/mindbodylab.html

The first has great tips on stress management and more resources on this topic. This site is a little specific to the Austin area, so find resources near you! The second allows you to listen to audio relaxation tracks. This way you can relax anywhere then give off positive energy to your oh-so-important relationships!

So, the take-home message: the next time you find your shoulders by your ears and your heart racing or you feel panicky and weighed-down by school or work ask yourself: “is it really that serious???” Chances are it’s not serious enough to risk your health or having healthy relationships.

Christiana Datubo-Brown, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Laughter: The Best Medicine

July 12, 2009

Do you find your serious romantic relationship getting a little too serious? Maybe it’s because you and your significant other are lacking an underrated but key ingredient: humor. Oftentimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we will laugh when the opportunity presents itself, but we fail to actively create opportunities for laughter.

Research has shown that laughter has many health benefits, such as improved heart rate, circulation, and immune system functioning. Because laughing uses multiple muscle groups, it creates the same benefits as aerobic exercise. It also causes the release of endorphins, our natural “feel good” chemical that buffers physical pain and prevents depression. When we feel good physically and mentally, we are better equipped to have healthy and happy relationships.

Humor is beneficial not only in everyday interactions, but can also be a great tool for diffusing tension during a conflict. Humor allows a more positive reframe of the situation that decreases the anxiety associated with conflict. As emotions are running high and the blood pressure is up, laughter is one of the quickest ways to bring the conflict down to a more manageable level. After all, it’s difficult to stay mad at someone when he or she makes you laugh (believe me—I’ve tried!).

You might not be naturally gifted at this strategy (like myself), but speaking from experience, I believe it can be learned. My significant other happens to be great at thwarting my attempts to engage in petty conflicts by using humor. One of his favorite tactics is public embarrassment. For example, during a silly grocery store argument that had turned into stony silence, he purposely bumped into a stack of boxes and theatrically fell to the ground, making a loud commotion. As concerned onlookers checked to make sure he was ok, I had to walk away laughing and red-faced in embarrassment, forgetting all about my frustration.

I’ve tried to learn from his example, and found that while I’m inclined to be more serious during a conflict, if I look for the humor I can find it in most situations. There are certainly times when making a joke during a fight might not be appropriate, and you shouldn’t expect humor to diffuse every conflict. It’s important when utilizing humor that it does not mock the other person or his/her viewpoint, or push buttons. It’s always a safe bet to take the one-down position by poking fun at yourself, which is a great way to disarm the other person and make him or her more open to seeing things from your perspective.

Each couple will develop their own unique sense of humor using their knowledge of each other, inside jokes, and shared experiences. Take the humor challenge today and try bringing a little more laughter into your relationship. There is good reason to think that the couple who laughs together, stays together.

*Below are a few ideas to get you started on things to do with your partner that will get you both laughing:

-Each person rents his/her favorite funny movie and watch together.

-Playing board games such as Guesstures, Imaginiff, Mad Gab, and Outburst.

-Taking funny photos together (Try Big Face/Little Face: First make your face as small as you possibly can by scrunching it up, then try making it as big as you can—I guarantee you will be laughing as you review your work!)

-Randomly text or e-mail your partner funny quotes from your favorite movies or t.v. shows.

-Check out the humor section of your favorite bookstore and browse together.

-Karaoke your little hearts out—or just watch others if you aren’t the performing type.

Kristy Malone, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy and Graduate Research Assistant for the Alabama Healthy Marriage Initiative

Harry Potter and the Raging Hormones

July 10, 2009

While perusing film reviews for the highly anticipated movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I discovered two common themes: the film has an strong focus on adolescent romance, and film reviewers were smitten by it. This is especially fascinating when one considers that the same reviewers, as a general rule, tend to eschew films dealing with teen dating as either bubble-gum romances or hormone-driven romps (which, incidentally, seems to be  the standard adult reaction to young love in real life as well).

Why then, do literary and movie critics, along with the general public, praise the Harry Potter series’ portrayal of teen love? Perhaps because, even in its fantasy setting, it approaches the topic with honesty and frank realism:

These kids are deep in puberty, and all they want to do is kiss and touch each other. It’s to the massive credit of [director] Yates and [screenwriter] Kloves that the teen sexuality comes across as neither puritanical or crass. There’s a sweetness here, the sweetness of the first kiss and the inarticulate aching for something more. But Yates and Kloves (and Rowling, of course) don’t see this through the fog of nostalgia. They fully understand the pain that goes along with this exciting and confusing part of life.”- CHUD MAGAZINE

By “sexuality,” the reviewer refers to attraction, not actual sex, which is never introduced into the Potter series. The point is that adolescents have very real hopes, yearnings, joys, and heartaches in their relationships. These emotions, far from being hollow, are experienced all the more acutely because of their newness and because previous experience cannot be called upon to provide insight and help with coping. The highs seem impossibly high, the lows impossibly low, and, as one discovers in the character of Severus Snape, adolescent experiences help mold adult personalities.

In this regard, the magical fantasy of Harry Potter shares a common thread with ACHMI’s teen initiative, Be Real Teens, whose purpose is both to acknowledge the validity and depth of the teenage dating experience and to provide guidance, from their peers, to adolescents navigating these often turbulant waters. This initiative is both a creative and academic enterprise, combining  the most current research with the minds, voices, and experiences of over twenty Alabama teens to promote healthy and happy relationships via our website, videos, a stage play, radio ads, a blog, and more. The website, realteenrelationships.com, is currently being remodeled, but we’ve got big plans for this year, so keep checking back in, and advise any teens you know to do the same!

You Complete… You

May 7, 2009

Who can forget Tom Cruise’s famous line from Jerry Maguire: “You complete me.” It’s the kind of line that undoubtedly stirs many to fantasize about a love so intense and consuming that you can’t imagine how you ever lived without it… That something you’d been missing your entire life suddenly has made you whole…  Ah, love.

Or is it?

Although it sounds romantic and makes for great chick-flick material, the idea that being in a relationship will complete you is not a realistic or healthy way of thinking. It’s more likely to be based on infatuation or loneliness rather than actual love. The best relationships happen between two people who have taken the time to form their own identity, and are happy people already. They aren’t looking for someone else to complete them. These tend to be the people that in real life, others are most attracted to.

If you find yourself single and longing for a relationship, you might examine the reasons why. Is it because you’re lonely, spending night after night at home with microwave dinners and slippers? If so, you might consider simply getting out more— try being the one to organize going out with friends, or take up a hobby or class that will get you out socializing. Is it because nearly everyone else you know has a significant other and you’re constantly in the role of third wheel? Consider the friend date—taking one of your single opposite-gender friends to accompany you the next time your best friend and her boyfriend extend that dinner invitation. You could also push for regularly scheduled girls’ nights/ guys’ nights with your attached friends—they’ll almost certainly appreciate them, but might not be as likely to initiate them.

As you develop your own interests and gain confidence in yourself, you will become a more attractive catch to potential love interests. You invite others to take an interest in you, because well, you’re an interesting person! You’ll also be more likely to experience a healthy and happy relationship when it does happen. It might not be as romantic a thought, but rather than saying, “You complete me”; it’s better to be able to say, “I was complete without you—but I’m really happy you came into my life!”

Recommended reading: “The Missing Piece” and “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O” by Shel Silverstein.

Kristy Malone, Master’s student in Marriage and Family Therapy and Graduate Research Assistant for the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative