TIME Sex/Relationships

Couples Who Do This Together Are Happier

A study shows that giggling in tandem is a good indicator the relationship's going to last.

Study after study has shown that laughing is good for the soul. But now we know something else: sharing giggles with a romantic partner keeps the lovey-dovey feelings going, according to a study published in the journal Personal Relationships.

Laura Kurtz, a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina, has long been fascinated by the idea of shared laughter in romantic relationships. “We can all think of a time when we were laughing and the person next to us just sat there totally silent,” she says. “All of a sudden that one moment takes a nosedive. We wonder why the other person isn’t laughing, what’s wrong with them, or maybe what’s wrong with us, and what might that mean for our relationship.”

Kurtz set out to figure out the laugh-love connection by collecting 77 heterosexual pairs (154 people total) who had been in a relationship for an average of 4 years. She and her team did video recordings of them recalling how they first met. Meanwhile, her team counted instances of spontaneous laughing, measured when the couple laughed together as well as how long that instant lasted. Each couple also completed a survey about their relational closeness.

“In general, couples who laugh more together tend to have higher-quality relationships,” she says. “We can refer to shared laughter as an indicator of greater relationship quality.”

It seems common sense that people who laugh together are likely happier couples, and that happier couples would have a longer, healthier, more vital relationship—but the role that laughter plays isn’t often center stage. “Despite how intuitive this distinction may seem, there’s very little research out there on laughter’s relational influence within a social context,” Kurtz says. “Most of the existing work documents laughter’s relevance to individual outcomes or neglects to take the surrounding social context into account.”

Kurtz noted that some gender patterns emerged that have been reported by previous studies. “Women laughed more than males,” she notes. “And men’s laughs are more contagious: When men laugh, they are 1.73 times more likely to make their partner laugh.”

There’s also evidence that laughing together is a supportive activity. “Participants who laughed more with their partners during a recorded conversation in the lab tended to also report feeling closer to and more supported by their partners,” she says. On the flip side, awkward chuckles, stunted grins and fake guffaws all are flags that there may be something amiss.

This harkens back to a classic psychological experiment conducted in 1992, where 52 couples were recorded telling their personal, shared histories. The team noted whether the couples were positive and effusive or were more withdrawn and tired in telling these stories, then checked in with the couples three years later. They saw a correlation in how couples told stories about their past and the success of their partnership: the more giddy the couple was about a story, the more likely they remained together; the less enthusiastic the couple was, the more likely the couple’s partnership had crumbled.

While there are cultural differences in laughter display—Kurtz says that Eastern cultures tend to display appreciation with close-mouthed smiles, not the heartier, toothy laughs that are more Western—there’s no question that laughter is important. “Moments of shared laughter are potent for a relationship,” she says. “They bring a couple closer together.”


Gay and Straight Couples Use Justice Kennedy’s Words in Weddings

Blake Keng, Jillian Levine Smith, Emily Smith
Lisa Rigby—AP Blake Keng, right, reading from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s recent opinion on same-sex marriage during the wedding of Jillian Levine Smith, left, and Emily Smith, center, in Provincetown, Mass. on Aug. 22, 2015.

"In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were"

(WASHINGTON) — Emily Smith and Jillian Levine had already chosen a venue, booked a band and written the first draft of the ceremony for their wedding when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that gay couples nationwide have a right to marry. Within minutes of the June 26 ruling, Levine texted her fiancée a rainbow emoji and a question about their ceremony.

“Are there any good quotes from this Supreme Court ruling that we could change the reading to?” wrote Levine, 30.

“Yup, already saved it,” Smith, 29, typed back, sending a screen shot from Facebook with words that had made her cry.

It was the concluding paragraph of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 28-page majority opinion — now making its way into wedding ceremonies for both gay and straight couples.

“No union is more profound than marriage,” Kennedy’s opinion says, “for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It was just so perfect,” Smith said in a telephone interview last month that followed a dress fitting for her now-wife.

Smith, who is studying to be a physician assistant, and Levine, who works in fundraising, married Saturday in Massachusetts. The couple, now known as the Smiths, is not alone when it comes to their affinity for Kennedy’s words.

Wedding officiants from as far away as Australia said both gay and straight couples are asking them to incorporate excerpts from the ruling into their ceremonies, usually part or all of the same paragraph that touched Smith and Levine. Couples said they want both to acknowledge the historic decision and to use language they described as “beautiful,” ”eloquent” and “powerful.”

Kennedy’s opinion isn’t the first to make it into a marriage ceremony. After a 2003 Massachusetts court decision made the state the first to legalize gay marriage, many couples used language from that opinion. Less frequently but still regularly, couples chose words from a 2010 ruling invalidating Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that had made same-sex marriages illegal.

But Kennedy’s opinion, quoted in news articles and shared on Facebook, seems to have won an even wider audience, even as legal experts on both the left and right have called it short on legal reasoning and knocked it for sentimentality.

Lindsay Powell, 28, called Kennedy’s prose “poetic without being cliche.” She said it just “felt right” to include his words in her wedding to Robert Banuski, 28, on July 18 in Skaneateles, New York, because she’ll always connect this summer with the ruling.

Jamie Dee Schiffer, a Virginia-based wedding officiant, said about two dozen couples — about half of them gay — have asked her to include the words.

Bernadette Smith, a wedding planner and the founder of the New York-based Gay Wedding Institute, which trains those in the wedding industry on working with gay couples, predicted it would soon become “the most popular same-sex marriage ceremony reading.” And celebrants from places including Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and Pennsylvania acknowledged quickly adding Kennedy’s words to packets of potential readings they give couples.

Couples who have used the words in recent months have found different ways of incorporating them. Michael Templeton, 37, and Greg Costa, 44, printed the words on the front of the program for their July 2 wedding at the Providence Public Library in Rhode Island. Molly and Danny Ramirez-Gaston, both 25, used Kennedy’s words before their vows at their video-game-themed wedding July 5 at a country club in Warrenton, Virginia, though they didn’t advertise where the words came from to avoid potentially offending guests.

Asked to pick a reading for friends’ July 11 wedding at a historic courthouse in Stillwater, Minnesota, Ann Vardeman chose Kennedy’s words, too. Vardeman, 32, had considered reading a Bruce Springsteen song but ditched that idea after reading Kennedy’s concluding paragraph.

Couples planning fall weddings also said they’d be using Kennedy’s words. Lucy Moyer, 65, and Joyce Tipton, 58, are including the words in their Oct. 10 wedding in the backyard of their Fulshear, Texas, home. The couple, who have been together more than a decade, decided on the day of the ruling that it was finally time to marry.

“Even though Justice Kennedy will never know this, it’s a little bit of a way of saying thank you,” Tipton said.

Kennedy declined through a court spokeswoman to comment on his newfound place in couples’ nuptials. Unlike some of his colleagues, he doesn’t officiate at weddings and has not performed weddings for same-sex couples as justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan have.

But if he’s like Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the author of the opinion legalizing same-sex marriages in that state, he’s surprised. Marshall said that while she now routinely hears about weddings where her opinion was cited, she was initially startled.

“When one writes an opinion, any opinion, you don’t anticipate that it will be read at somebody’s wedding or in any other situation,” said Marshall, who retired in 2010.

Emily and Jillian Smith, the couple who were texting each other about Kennedy’s words soon after they were public, said a few people cheered when Kennedy’s words were introduced during the wedding ceremony.

“It made me choke up,” Emily Smith said. “I kind of do every time I hear it.”


Follow Jessica Gresko at https://twitter.com/jessicagresko


TIME Family

Centenarian Couple Celebrates Their 75th Wedding Anniversary

Happily ever after

(CATONSVILLE, Md.) — Two centenarians are celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary at a Maryland retirement community.

Walter and Leslie Kimmel were married on Aug. 18, 1940. They are both 100 years old.

They’ll celebrate their anniversary Tuesday afternoon at Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville, Maryland, where they live. SugarBakers of Catonsville is providing a personalized cake for the couple.

The Kimmels met at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Baltimore when they were 22 years old. Leslie played the organ and Walter sang in the choir.

Walter was a longtime employee of Baltimore Gas & Electric. Leslie worked as a secretary. They have two sons, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

TIME technology

I Found My Soulmate on Tinder

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

We got married after knowing each other for six weeks


On Feb. 12, 2015, Elliot and I began chatting on Tinder. Eighteen hours later, we met in real life. Six weeks to the day of our first meeting, we got married at the scale replica of the Greek parthenon here in Nashville, Tenn.

You read this correctly: I got married to a man I met through Tinder after knowing him for six weeks. You might think I’m absolutely insane, but I’m pretty confident I’ve made the right choice. In fact, I think Elliot and I are soulmates, which wasn’t even a concept I believed in seven weeks ago. I’m not foolish enough to think things are always going to be easy for us, but I couldn’t be a bit happier, and neither could our families.

Tinder is Very Effective

Six weeks ago, I was a few months out of a very long term relationship. To be honest, I was feeling more than a little bitter about my prospects of ever dating — let alone getting married — again.

After a positively horrifying 18 hours on OkCupid that culminated in 500 creepy matches and a date with a Vanderbilt medical student who tried to undress me outside a bar, I wasn’t feeling hopeful. One Thursday morning in mid-February, I ran an elimination algorithm on my chances of ever finding a man I’d be willing to sleep with on a recurring basis. Forget marriage; I’d settled for the idea of “tolerable for brief periods on a recurring basis” at that point. The results? There were less than 900 men in the entire world that I’d even be willing to allow in my presence.

I might sound picky or snooty, but I think I’m more realistic than anything else. I’m trained as an engineer, and I appreciate other people with a neurotically structured approach to getting stuff done. I’m a pretty hardcore metal head and I’ve got something of a ridiculous knowledge of obscure thrash bands, especially Russian ones and old ones. Health is massively important to me. Oh, and I’m a practicing witch and also collect some oddities. It’s safe to say that through both choice and experience, I’m a darn weird chick and I wasn’t getting any more normal.

I decided what I needed was best summed up with the Type O Negative’s lyrics “She’s in love with herself.” I vowed to not date anyone seriously, but just find some men I could tolerate on a semi-regular basis, and keep them at a good arm’s length. I downloaded Tinder and wrote a bio that explained I was only looking for someone to “buy me vodka once a week.”

Four hours later, I swiped right and immediately matched with a long-haired blond boy who plays guitar in one of Nashville’s best thrash metal bands. We started talking and stuff became super weird. Weird how? We texted for four hours, and it was clear that we had all sorts of commonalities when it came to music, lifestyle, preferences and more. And oh my goodness, the chemistry that was flowing between us. It was absolutely insane.

Out of my requirements on the bio, he only met 2 of the 5. Elliot isn’t tall (5’ 10’’), I wouldn’t quite describe him as overeducated, and he’s every bit as much of a clumsy, klutzy hot mess as I am. But he’s nerdy, charming, gorgeous, and one heck of a rising metal star. I believe in his talent, and I believe he’s my soulmate, and I don’t believe in much of anything.

Eighteen hours later, I took a long lunch break from work and drove across Nashville. I was less than a mile away from meeting Elliot before I realized how incredibly foolish I was potentially being. I got out of my car, shaking, and fell into the arms of this man who was even prettier than his pretty Tinder pictures. I felt like I’d missed him for years, and maybe even more, like I’d finally come home.

The rest of the story? We both knew immediately that something really weird was up. Lots of people have decent chemistry, but this was something entirely different. We kept talking after that first meeting, and pretty much haven’t stopped since. We’ve spent less than a handful of nights apart since we met on Feb. 13, and have this incredible ability to get completely lost in conversation for hours or even days.

No, Really. Why Did You MARRY Him?

Elliot and I have yet to disagree on anything significant, except for the fact that I think brown rice is really kinda vile (I’m sorry, but I do). Aside from that, we’ve had commonalities and even weirder circles. I quickly uncovered that the lines on our palms matched.

On our third date, I took him to a psychic in hopes she could help him with some ancestor work he was interested in doing. She did help get him pointed in the right direction, but also suggested strongly that he and I were soulmates. At his first show I attended after two weeks of dating, dozens of people commented on how “cute” we were together. Some well-respected musicians who headlined the show thanked me for his ridiculous shredding guitar solos that night.

Our time together has ranged from the totally mundane (going for walks and out to breakfast like normal people) to the absolutely ridiculous. I never thought I’d have the ability to get lost in someone’s bed for 24 hours, but I finally found it. I know that’s the stuff of romance novels, and I’m a girl with a serious need for personal space. And I’m here to tell you that the level of chemistry where you get absolutely lost staring at each other’s faces to the point your phone dies and you’re late for work? So late for work you’re absolutely outside of time and your co-workers file a missing persons report? Um, right. This type of chemistry exists, and it’s real, and I found my very soulmate on Tinder.

After we’d been dating exactly one month, Elliot drove me an hour south to rural Middle Tennessee to meet his family in his small hometown. His mother and I immediately connected on vintage clothes and art, and I felt immensely like I was at home. It didn’t matter that I grew up across the country in rural Northwest Washington where grunge was born, and I was sitting in the very elegant home of a proper Southern lady. I wanted her to be my Mama. During the drive home, Elliot asked me to marry him. I did something really mature like covering my face and shrieking “no” repeatedly.

That night, we went to a metal benefit concert. He asked me again, I accepted. The engagement was announced on stage while the entire venue cheered for these two young lovers. A week later, we decided to get a marriage license and elope, with the intention of keeping the marriage secret for at least several months. We told our families, and our very normal parents weren’t shocked like they should have been. In fact, my Mother asked “What took you so long?”

We married at the Parthenon, with the reasoning that it was the largest pagan temple in the Southeast United States. Our vows referenced our love for graveyard walks and metal shows. Our wedding night included massive amounts of delicious food (our favorite), Cheap Trick covers at a beloved Nashville music venue, and running around Nashville’s downtown party district in our wedding clothes. We ate at Waffle House at 6 a.m. to renew our energy before finally crashing at around 8 or 9 in the morning. Our secret marriage lasted a grand total of 28 hours before we announced it on Facebook.

Honestly? Is That Crazy?

I’m not saying it’s easy to get married to someone six weeks after meeting. It’s hard. We’ve certainly caught our fair share of concern from friends, some of which hasn’t been comfortable or remotely kind.

The logistics of managing adult stuff like moves, leases, and even legal name changes so quickly is downright tough. However, Elliot’s stated that he knew he wanted to spend every minute of the rest of his life with me, and I couldn’t disagree one bit.

I know the statistics on divorce. I’ve been through a failed, long term relationship, and I know that extricating yourself from years of living with someone is expensive, tough, and painful.

While Elliot and I have never fought so far, I understand that there’s a good chance we’ll hit snags. However? I’m hopeful and I don’t think I have any reason not to be. Regardless of what some people think, I believe I was born to love this man and his music, and this control freak is finally, finally learning to go with the flow.

Jasmine Wilkes Gordon wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

To the Husband From the Wife Who Has Depression

Please, if you notice the cloud before I tell you, just hug me tight and tell me we’ll fight it together

Dear Husband,

I love you dearly, more than anything in this whole world. I think you already know this. I know you love me too, I just forget sometimes. Depression clouds my mind and fills me with horrid thoughts about how unlovable and worthless I am. Sometimes I believe you, sometimes I believe depression.

I know you prefer the good days when I’m happy and not anxious or snappy, and I wish I could have these days every day. But I can’t. I feel the cloud approaching and it petrifies me. Sometimes I tell you and sometimes I don’t. Please, if you notice the cloud before I tell you, just hug me tight and tell me we’ll fight it together. Please don’t ask me if I’m OK — my automatic answer will be yes. In reality, it’s a big no. You see, depression can make you feel ashamed.

I know sometimes I overreact about the smallest things and get angry, but please be patient with me. Forgetting the bread will not be the real reason. It’s that I feel like I’m losing control over my mind. Depression is very clever, you see – it builds up a wall of anger piece by piece, and you never notice it until it’s so big it begins to topple over. I’m sorry you get the brunt of my anger on cloudy days. Please forgive me. Please. Just tell me you love me and leave me to calm down.

I know it’s hard to help somebody through depression if you’ve never experienced it yourself. I understand. I totally get it. Just listen to me and ask about the cloudy days. I can’t just bring it up in conversation. Depression clouds your mind. I need you to break the silence.

There will be lots of times I feel like you’d be better off without me, or that my children deserve a better momma. Sometimes I’ll tell you. Most of the time I won’t. Sometimes I can go for months without those thoughts crossing my mind, and other times I think about them every second of every day for weeks. That’s the scary truth. Depression is vile — a vile, nasty monster. Please always keep an eye on me, but know no matter how many times you tell me I’m worth it I probably won’t believe it on cloudy days – but please never stop telling me. Ever.

I love our children more than anything, but sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel like a rubbish momma. My mind nags me and tells me other mommas do things better and love better than me. I feel like I always fall short. I find it so hard being a momma on cloudy days, but I try so hard to not let them notice the clouds. I hope you know I try.

I haven’t self-harmed since February 2010, but the urge often consumes me. When the black cloud is here it consumes my mind. I fight it so hard for myself, my children and for you. I know it’s hard to understand why I crave it, I can’t explain it myself. It’s like an old addiction that comes to hurt me when it smells the dark cloud. One day I hope it won’t ever cross my mind again.

I know I don’t talk about these black clouds often, but I want to. I hate the silence it forces me to keep. There’s a certain freedom when it comes to talking openly about the monster. Help me find that freedom.

Depression makes me feel tired. Sometimes the fatigue is so bad I just want to cry. Every bone hurts. Sometimes I lay awake at night and worry about things that won’t even happen. Squeeze my hand tight if you’re awake too.

Sometimes it takes every bit of motivation to get up in the morning, but I never let you in on this. A new day often scares me. I wonder, will I cope? Will the sky be blue or black? Is the weather nice? Every single morning is hard, but seeing you makes it easier.

I want to publicly thank you for loving me and supporting me. You are the best.

Yours forever x

This article was edited and published on The Mighty with permission from Swords and Snoodles

More from The Mighty:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

Couple Married for 75 Years Say They’ve Never Had an Argument

It's time to upgrade your life goals

A Wisconsin couple who have been married for 75 years say they’ve never had an argument. Arlene and Richard Baughman were wed in 1940, two years before Richard was drafted to serve in World War II. The couple, who met on a movie date with friends, eventually had six children. Arlene still wears her original wedding ring.

Through it all, the two say they’ve never gotten in a fight. “If we had differences we just talked about it,” Richard told WNYT.

“We always said, we didn’t have dishes to throw or shoes to throw because we couldn’t afford it. So, we had to get along!” Arlene said.




Judge Orders Man to Marry Girlfriend or Face Jail Time

Texas judge offers a highly unusual sentencing

A judge in east Texas ordered a 21-year-old man to marry his girlfriend as part of his probation sentence. Josten Bundy was being sentenced for assault charges stemming from a fight he had with the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes, according to KLTV. Court transcripts show that Smith County judge Randall Rogers told Bundy he could either serve 15 days in jail or marry his girlfriend within 30 days.

Bundy told KLTV that the judge wouldn’t let him call his job to tell them he’d be unavailable for two weeks. Fearing losing the job, he agreed to marry Jaynes and the two tied the knot in a courthouse by the judge’s deadline.

“My father didn’t get to go, and that really bothers me,” Bundy told KLTV. “None of my sisters got to show up, it was such short notice, I couldn’t get it together.”

An attorney specializing in constitutional law said the sentence was not legal and likely would have been struck down during an appeal in a higher court.


TIME psychology

4 Secrets for a Happy Marriage

Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Everything you know about marriage is wrong

Being married in the modern world can be difficult and confusing. What are the rules for a happy marriage? It doesn’t seem like there are any easy answers.

So I called an expert.

Stephanie Coontz serves as Co-Chair and Director of Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families and teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. She’s the author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage and The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap.

We hear a lot from psychologists and therapists on the subject of marriage but what’s fascinating about Stephanie is she studies the history of marriage. She’s looked at what marriage has meant through the ages, what worked and didn’t, and how it’s changed in the modern era.

Here’s a talk she gave at the PopTech Conference:

To put it simply: everything you think you know about marriage is wrong.

We’re gonna learn the truth, find out why modern married life is so confusing, and get a few tips on how you can make your own marriage much, much better.

Here’s what she had to say…

1) Everything You Know About Marriage Is Wrong

Everybody thinks marriage used to be better “back then.” Nope.

Marriages in the past weren’t better. In fact, they weren’t even about love.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Certainly, people fell in love during those thousands of years, sometimes even with their own spouses. But marriage was not fundamentally about love. It was too vital an economic and political institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love. For thousands of years the theme song for most weddings could have been “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”

Not only were marriages not based on love, the idea that they might be was terrifying.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

In ancient India, falling in love before marriage was seen as a disruptive, almost antisocial act… In China, excessive love between husband and wife was seen as a threat to the solidarity of the extended family.

So what was marriage about in the so-called “good old days”?

Getting in-laws. Seriously. Here’s Stephanie:

Marriage was not about the individual relationship between the two people involved, or more than two people involved, but it was a way of getting in-laws.

Think “Game of Thrones” here, folks. Marriage was about getting in-laws for purposes of politics, consolidating resources, or increasing your family’s labor force.

Why do you think for the longest time a kid born out of wedlock was called a “love child”?

Of course, people did fall in love back then. And they would have liked to marry the person they were in love with but, at the time, it just wasn’t practical. Here’s Stephanie:

People correctly recognized that marriages based on love were potentially very destabilizing. It was going to lead people to demand divorce if the love died. It was going to lead to people refusing to get married. They were very frightened by this and they thought, “How can we get people to get married and stay married?”

But the world changed. We no longer need to rely on in-laws for protection from barbarian hordes or producing good heirs to the throne.

So love hijacked marriage. And today’s marital equality has resulted in higher marital satisfaction.

And beyond satisfaction it’s led to other really nice things like fewer suicides among women. And guys get a great benefit too: your wife is far less likely to murder you.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that in states that adopted unilateral divorce, this was followed, on average, by a 20 percent reduction in the number of married women committing suicide, as well as a significant drop in domestic violence for both men and women. Criminologists William Bailey and Ruth Peterson report that higher rates of marital separation lead to lower homicide rates against women. But a woman’s right to leave a marriage can also be a lifesaver for men. The Centers on Disease Control reports that the rate at which husbands were killed by their wives fell by approximately two-thirds between 1981 and 1998, in part because women could more easily leave their partners.

So what do we really need to to know from the history of marriage? It’s quite ironic, really…

The big lesson from history is: stop looking at history. Don’t compare your marriage to the 1950’s or any other era. It’s a brave new world. Marriages are based on love and equality now, so the old models don’t hold. Here’s Stephanie:

The most important lesson in history, I think, is to understand that there is no perfect marriage form of the past, even if it has one or two attractive features. Those attractive features are almost invariably connected to some really unattractive ones, to some injustices and some inequities that would be totally unacceptable to us. We need to dispense of the notion that there are models for what we’re doing in history.

(To learn the shortcut to bonding with a relationship partner on a deeper level, click here.)

So marriage based on love and equality is very new. And comparing wedlock today to some “perfect” era in the past doesn’t make sense. So what should we be doing to make marriages work in the modern world?

2) Define What Marriage Means For You And Your Partner

Stephanie says that relations between partners have changed more in the past 30 years than they did in the previous 3,000. So it’s okay to be confused. We’re changing the rules. Here’s Stephanie:

People are always coming up to me and saying, “Oh my gosh, people don’t commit to their marriages. They don’t work at their marriages the way they used to.” But they didn’t used to have to because marriage was so cut and dry. Now we’re trying to build marriages on the basis of absolute freedom. Really, in the last 40 years, we have started to develop, for the first time, a marriage where people come to it with equal legal rights and increasingly with the social expectation that they will negotiate their marriage in ways that fit their individuality, not their assigned gender roles.

So we have more freedom. But more freedom always means more choices we need to make. Marriage used to be an institution with hard rules. Now it’s a more flexible relationship — but that means you and your partner need to do more thinking about what marriage means to you rather than relying on how things used to be.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

The fact that individuals can now lead productive lives outside marriage means that partners need to be more “intentional” than in the past about finding reasons and rituals to help them stay together. A marriage that survives and thrives in today’s climate of choice is likely to be far more satisfying, fair, and effective for the partners and their children than in the past. However, couples have to think carefully about what it takes to build, deepen, and sustain commitments that are now almost completely voluntary.

(To learn how to get people to like you — from an FBI behavior expert, click here.)

So the old rules don’t constrain you. Cool. But there’s not much to guide you either. Ouch. You need to tailor and customize. How the heck do you do that?

3) You Need To Communicate And Negotiate

You’re going to need to talk more. And tell your partner what you want instead of expecting them to know the answers.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

You can no longer force your partner to conform to a predetermined social role or gender stereotype or browbeat someone into staying in an unsatisfying relationship. “Love, honor, and negotiate” have to replace the older rigid rules, say psychologists Betty Carter and Joan Peters.

Can that lead to more arguing? Oh, you bet it can. But in the modern world, that’s a good thing. Really. Here’s Stephanie:

Bickering back in the ’50s and ’60s was a bad sign. If a woman was talking back instead of deferring to her husband, there was going to be trouble. But today, bickering is a good thing. Bickering is absolutely vital to a modern couple coming to marriage with their own habits and expectations and histories. It turns out that 10 years down the line, the couples that didn’t bicker are either divorced or less satisfied with their marriage than the ones who do bicker.

Your marriage will develop, evolve and change. And you’ll need to manage that process to keep it healthy. Here’s Stephanie:

Today marriage is, above all, a relationship. What makes it a good relationship is that you can enter it or not; you get to choose. You get to change your mind. You get to renegotiate the rules over time. You can leave it if it ceases to be good, and that means that you have more negotiating power within it. But it also means that if you can’t negotiate it to mutual satisfaction, it can break up. The same things that have improved marriage as a relationship have made it less stable as an institution and have required us to do more continuous work and change in our marriages than people used to have to.

(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them, click here.)

Okay, so you’re figuring out what marriage means to you and your partner and you’re communicating. Great. But what’s the big goal here? What should the center of a good marriage be these days?

4) Marriage Has To Be Based On Friendship And Mutual Respect

Fiery, passionate love is great — but ancient societies had a point: basing a lifelong commitment on those emotions can be unstable. What happens when that burning love fades?

So while passion is great, there needs to be friendship and mutual respect to make sure your relationship can stand the test of time.

Via Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage:

Because men and women no longer face the same economic and social compulsions to get or stay married as in the past, it is especially important that men and women now begin their relationship as friends and build it on the basis of mutual respect.

What gets in the way of that? We’re often focused on the qualities in a partner that are mysterious and different. That can be good for passionate affairs but what works for marriage is more often similarity. Here’s Stephanie:

My current theory is that one of the major obstacles to good heterosexual relations right now is that we have inherited this eroticized idea of opposites and difference so that we fall in love with the things that are mysterious and different about the other person. But that’s not a great basis for what we really want in a marriage, which is friendship and similarities of interests.

(To learn the science behind being a great parent, click here.)

We’ve learned a lot from Stephanie. Let’s pull it together and find out one last piece of really good news about marriage.

Sum Up

Here’s what Stephanie had to say about the new rules for a happy marriage:

  • The main thing to learn from history is to stop looking at history. Love-based marriage is still pretty new. Stop comparing yourself to the “perfect” marriages from the past. They were totally different. And they weren’t perfect.
  • Define what marriage means for you and your partner. You have freedom. And that means choices. You don’t get to assume your partner will behave this way or that way.
  • Communicate and negotiate. You won’t get the rules for your marriage perfect the first time you discuss them. Things change and people change, but that’s okay if you keep talking.
  • Base your marriage on friendship and mutual respect. Crazy love rarely lasts. Friendship does.

Marriage isn’t worse than it used to be, but it’s certainly different. Love-based marriage has the potential to be far, far more fulfilling that unions of the past. Here’s Stephanie:

We’re not doing things worse than people of the past used to do. We are trying to do something really much better, but we don’t have roadmaps for it. We’re all struggling to figure out how to get to these new places. Looking backwards will just cause us to trip over things in our way.

Being married today does take a lot more work than it used to. But with a little effort, your marriage can be better than any marriage in history. And that’s pretty awesome.

In my next weekly email I’ll have more from Stephanie, including the two things couples should do to maintain a strong bond over time. To make sure you don’t miss it, join here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 200,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

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TIME Research

Millennials Now Have Jobs But Still Live With Their Parents

Young woman working with laptop at home
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A Pew study finds the perplexing pattern has affected the housing industry

Halfway through this decade and nearly seven years after the Great Recession, Millennials are bouncing back—sort of.

In a new study released by Pew, researchers find that while Millennials—people who were born after 1981—are back to the pre-recession era unemployment levels of 7.7%, they haven’t been able to establish themselves as adults in other ways, like owning a home or getting married.

Richard Fry, an economist and lead author of the study, describes the situation as Millennials’ “failure to launch.” “I think the core is a bit of a puzzle with one clear consequence,” Fry told TIME. “There’s good news: the group that was hit the hardest—young adults—are now getting full-time jobs and earnings are tracking upwards. But the surprise is that with the recovery in the labor market, there are fewer young adults living independently.” (Living independently here is defined as heading a household; in other words, owning a home.)

When the recession hit, young people moved back into their parents’ house in droves, unemployed and without much hope for any future work. The thought process was that once the economy improved and Millennials returned to work, they’d scoot out of their parents lair.

But that hasn’t been the case, and economists aren’t sure why.

“Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know,” Fry said. He was also the author of a study three years ago that explored Millennials living and work situations using 2012 data, and he thought then that the explanation was clear. “My thought was, ‘Yeah, that’s true, the job market is crummy,'” he said. “My expectation was that as the labor market improves, more young people will strike out on their own, but that’s not the case.”

About 42.2 million 18-to-34 year olds are living away from home this year; 2007 numbers were just above 2015’s independent young adult population at 42.7 million. There are a few common characteristics of these Millennial householders; they are more likely to be women (72% compared to their male counterparts) and college-educated (86% of those with bachelors degrees were living independently compared to 75% of the same peer group holding only a high school education). Fry points to women getting in permanent romantic relationships earlier that either lead to marriage or cohabitation as the cause of this gender difference.

The consequences of Millennials still living at home go far beyond the household dynamics of adult children being at home with parents. Consider the housing sector, which has not recovered from the 2008 economic tumble. If more young adults had decided to take on home ownership, the economy may have improved more.

So how are Millennials most likely living if they’re not living at home? Probably with a roommate, or doubled up with a fellow adult who is not their spouse or partner, data suggests.

But having a roommate or living at home have real demographic effects for the future, Fry says. He goes back to two key facts: that people living independently tend to be better educated and that college educated people tend to delay marriage or not marry at all (though even Millennials with a high school education are not getting married as much as they used to.) That means that less educated Millennials are facing consequences in not just the job market, but beyond.

“There’s less sorting—that when the less educated do marry, they marry others who are also less educated,” he said. “That’s going to impact household income and economic wellbeing. That’s going to affect economic outcomes.”

TIME Spain

Spain Has Finally Made It Illegal for 14-Year-Olds to Get Married

The move is largely symbolic, as few Spaniards have wed younger than 16 in recent years

Spain’s legal marriage age increased from 14 to 16 on Thursday, bringing the country’s policies in line with the majority of Europe. The law also raises the legal age of sexual consent to 14 years old from 13.

The previous policy allowed some of the earliest marriages on the continent. Now, the only exceptions are Andorra and the Ukraine (age 14) and Estonia (age 15), El País reports.

Marriage at such early ages has declined significantly in recent years. Of the more than 28,000 people under 16 to get married in the country since 1975, only 365 of those did so after 2000 and less than ten in the last year, according to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics. With these trends in mind, politicians and activists alike say the new law is a mostly symbolic move against pedophilia and forced marriage. Even so, unions at 16 will require special permission from a judge; otherwise, the minimum will be 18.

The country’s sizable Gypsy population, known for its tradition of early marriage, has expressed support for the new measure. “It’s the 21st century and it’s normal for young people to take longer to get married,” Mariano González, manager of the Roma Union of Madrid, told El País. “In past decades, it was normal for any couple, Gypsy or not [to get married early]. Although our tradition is what it is, now we get married later. This law is a step forward.”

[El País]

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