TIME viral

This Video of a Guy Proposing in a Photo Booth Is the Sweetest Thing You’ll See Today

"What do we do for this one? Smile?"

When Kevin Moran decided to propose to his high school sweetheart Tuesday, he didn’t employ a Broadway bound flashmob or get down on a knee in the center of a heart made up of 99 brand new iPhone 6s.

Rather, Moran took his girlfriend Molly to a photo booth to pop the question.

Watch the short, sweet and Internet approved video above.

TIME Parenting

You Really Can Blame Your Parents for Everything

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How your parents treated you as a child has long-lasting effects on what kind of adult you turn into, finds a new study in the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at 243 kids in Minnesota from low-income families and followed them for many years, until they turned 32. Researchers studied how their mothers interacted with the kids during their first three years of life, and as they got older, they asked their teachers about the child’s social skills and academic competence. Once the kids were in their 20s and 30s, researchers asked them about their education and relationships.

Children with mothers who practiced a more sensitive kind of parenting during their first three years of life—those who responded to their child promptly, had positive interactions with their kid and made their child feel secure—went on to have more successful relationships and higher academic achievement compared to those whose mothers didn’t engage with them in this way. The influence on academics appears to be stronger, but the overall effects of parenting could even be seen past age 30.

Prior research has shown that sensitive caregiving can influence social development when a child is young, but the new study shows that even despite economic factors, this type of parenting impacts children well into their adult lives—in a wide range of unexpected ways.

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TIME relationships

5 Ways You Can Knowingly Destroy Your Husband And Kill Your Marriage

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You might be surprised to figure out how easy it is to willfully make yourself unlovable

I just read Katelyn Carmen’s 5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your husband and killing your marriage and I have to say it that while it was super great advice, it just didn’t work for me. (Yup—he’s still here.) Anyway—and to all the wives out there, I hope this is helpful!—here are a couple things I’m trying out to see if we can really get the ball rolling around here, if you know what I mean. (Caveat: Every woman is different. This is just what’s working for me. :) )

Quitting my job

A week ago, I was head of sales and marketing for a small technology company. But I quit so I could watch Law and Order: SVU all day. My husband came home and saw me on the couch and asked me if that was really how I was going to spend all my time. So I showed him a needlepoint I’d just done of Mariska Hargitay interrogating a suspect. “Really? That’s it?” he demanded, and I showed him a totally different one, of Mariska Hargitay getting out of a taxi, and he was not amused.

Talking a lot without thinking about what I’m saying

I used to try to be interesting, funny, and insightful when I talked to my husband. Now I tell really long stories and refer to everyone I mention as “my best friend.” I narrate my dreams, always relying heavily on the phrase: “Umm, and then, there was like, I don’t know, like, this weird thing, I can’t really describe it.” Naturally, I also narrate entire plots of Law and Order: SVU, and I have added Christopher Meloni needlepoints to my repertoire—even though I obviously have no intention of keeping those, or even giving them as gifts—so I can use them to help act stuff out. (Needlepoints make great handpuppets if you’ve got some rubber bands lying around!)

Wearing flannel nightgowns everywhere

When I was a little girl, my mother, who was always full of the wisest, kindest advice, sat me down, took my tiny hands in her big ones and said, “There’s nothing a man hates more than a flannel nightgown.” Then she winked and said, “Seriously, they really hate them.” When I greeted my husband at the door in it, he went ashen. And it was at that moment I realized how much my mom really loved me.

Doing stuff to look older faster

I sunbathe in an aluminum foil lined pen while working myself into states of great stress, consuming foods with a high content of free radicals, and drinking Bacardi 151 mixed with Coke Zero. But like I said, you have to find what works for you.

Just kind of being a big bitch a lot of the time

I do a lot of bitchy stuff but here’s just one example. The other day my husband said “Maybe for the holidays we can have Christmas with your parents and New Years with mine” and I said “Ugh.” Then he said “What’s for dinner, babe?” and I said “Circus peanuts” and he said “Are you serious?” I thought about how Katelyn Carmen said we should always be open with our husbands about how we really feel. So I dumped a bag of circus peanuts in his lap and I said “Do I seem serious?”

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 psychology

5 Secrets to Clicking With People

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Improving any relationship is as easy as actively showing interest in the other person or sharing with them

How can you make a good first impression?

First impressions matter even more than you think. They’re the most important part of any job interview. And once they’re set, they are very hard to resist.

Most advice on the subject is defensive, just telling you how to not offend. How can you strategically make a good impression?

From the outset, frame the conversation with a few well-rehearsed sentences regarding how you want to be perceived. This will end up being the structure the other person forms their memories around.

Via Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To:

The take-home point is that having the appropriate schema or context for encoding information helps us understand and recall this information, but only if we get the schema at the outset… If you start out with a few well-rehearsed sentences about why you are the right person for the job, this first impression can help set the tone for your interview and for what is taken away from the meeting… Schemas determine how this new information is stored and what is actually remembered.

And keep in mind that whenever you’re speaking emotionally, the words you use almost don’t matter at all. Voice tone and body language are far more important.

Via The Heart of Social Psychology: A Backstage View of a Passionate Science:

One often quoted study (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967) found that of all the information conveyed to another person when we say something that is emotional (not informational), only 7 percent is contained in the actual meaning of the words we use.

What makes us click with other people?

In Click: The Magic of Instant Connections Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman (authors of the interesting book Sway: The Irresistable Pull of Irrational Behavior) explore how people connect and give some solid insights.

They discuss a number of the more obvious causes of connection like proximity and similarity but what struck me most was their emphasis on vulnerability.

Via Click: The Magic of Instant Connections:

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection. When you both make yourselves vulnerable from the outset and are candid in revealing who you are and how you think and feel, you create an environment that fosters the kind of openness that can lead to an instant connection — a click.

How can you improve any relationship?

Just try. Put a small amount of conscious effort into trying to be a better friend, spouse, whatever. That’s it. Sounds ridiculous but:

How do you win over someone who doesn’t like you?

Here’s what Robert Cialdini, author of the must-read book Influence, had to say:

1. Give Honest Compliments. It may not be easy, especially if the person has been distancing themselves from you for a while. But if you’re objective, they probably have some qualities you admire. If you take a positive action and compliment them, it may well break the ice and make them re-evaluate their perceptions of you.

2. Ask for Their Advice. Cialdini notes this strategy – which involves asking for their professional advice, book suggestions, etc. – comes from Founding Father Ben Franklin, a master of politics and relationship building. “Now you’ve engaged the rule of commitment and consistency,” says Cialdini, in which they look at their actions (giving you advice or a book) and draw a conclusion from it (they must actually like you), a surprisingly common phenomenon in psychology. “And suddenly,” says Cialdini, “you have the basis of an interaction, because now when you return it, you can return it with a book you think he or she might like.”

How do you keep relationships strong over time?

Remember 5 to 1.

From Richard Conniff’s interesting book, The Ape in the Corner Office: How to Make Friends, Win Fights and Work Smarter by Understanding Human Nature:

It turned out that the fifteen high-performance teams averaged 5.6 positive interactions for every negative one. The nineteen low-performance teams racked up a positive/negative ratio of just .363. That is, they had about three negative interactions for every positive one…

More on strengthening friendships here.

Other tips to keep in mind:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME relationships

Article on How Wives Can Keep Husbands Happy Is Going Viral

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Marriage is work Manuel Orero Galan—Getty Images/Moment RF

Tips from Familyshare.com on saving your marriage have racked up millions of page views and shares

An article entitled “5 Ways You Are Unknowingly Destroying Your Husband and Killing Your Marriage,” published on FamilyShare.com is going viral, with almost five million views so far.

Here are the five ways women can fail their husbands, according to author Katelyn Carmen:

1) Having expensive taste: Carmen says “Wives, show sincere appreciation and respect to your husband by carefully following a budget and making the most of what you have.”

2) Being grumpy: “As soon as your husband walks through the door, you launch into action and dump every negative and angry thought that’s crossed your mind throughout the day… Negativity is draining. Men like to fix things, and constantly being hounded with complaints makes it difficult for him to help solve your pains.

3) Not putting your husband first: “When your children, mom, best friends, talents, or career in front of your husband, you send a clear message to him that he is unimportant.”

4) Withholding sex: “Sex should not be used as a tool to control your spouse; it should be viewed as a sacred tool to draw you closer to one another and to God…Even though you might not always be in the mood, it’s worth it to give in (when you can) and spend that time bonding.”

5) Being coy: “Don’t waste your time giving subtle hints that he won’t understand: Speak plainly to him. Be honest about your feelings, and don’t bottle things up until you burst. If he asks you what’s wrong, don’t respond with “nothing” and then expect him to read your mind and emotions.”

The article has clearly struck a chord, judging from the millions of page views and shares.

But not everybody is happy with what they’re reading:

Most of the criticism seems to be aimed at the fact that the article is specifically telling women how to please their husbands, and not the other way around, though the author does state at the top of the piece that the same advice could apply to men who want to make their wives happy.

TIME psychology

The 4 Most Common Relationship Problems — and How to Fix Them

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Relationship problems. Everybody has them. And sometimes you have them over and over and over.

Most of the people giving advice don’t know the research. So where are the real answers?

I decided to call an expert: Dr. John Gottman.

You might remember him as the researcher in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink who, after just a few minutes, could predict whether a couple would end up divorced.

John is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Gottman Institute. He’s published over 190 papers and authored more than 40 books, including:

He’s also a really cool guy. John’s gained powerful insights from studying couples that thrive (who he calls “Masters”) and couples that don’t (who he calls “Disasters.”)

So what are you going to learn here?

  1. The four things that doom relationships.
  2. The three things that prevent those four things.
  3. The most important part of any relationship conversation.
  4. The single best predictor of whether a relationship is working. (It’s so easy you can do it yourself in 2 minutes.)

Want to be a Master and not a Disaster? Let’s get to it.

1) The Four Horsemen Of The Relationship Apocalypse

John has studied thousands of couples over his 40-year career. Four things came up again and again that indicated a relationship was headed for trouble. The Disasters did them a lot and the Masters avoided them:

#1: Criticism

This is when someone points to their partner and says their personality or character is the problem. Here’s John:

Criticism is staging the problem in a relationship as a character flaw in a partner. The Masters did the opposite: they point a finger at themselves and they really have a very gentle way of starting up the discussion, minimizing the problem and talking about what they feel and what they need.

Ladies, are you listening? Because criticism is something women do a lot more than men. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to how the guys screw up soon enough.)

#2: Defensiveness

This is responding to relationship issues by counterattacking or whining. Here’s John:

The second horseman was defensiveness which is a natural reaction to being criticized. It takes two forms: counterattacking or acting like an innocent victim and whining. Again, the Masters were very different even when their partner was critical. They accepted the criticism, or even took responsibility for part of the problem. They said, “Talk to me, I want to hear how you feel about this.”

#3: Contempt

It’s the #1 predictor of breakups. Contempt is acting like you’re a better person than they are. Here’s John:

Contempt is talking down to their partner. Being insulting or acting superior. Not only did it predict relationship breakup, but it predicted the number of infectious illnesses that the recipient of contempt would have in the next four years when we measured health.

#4: Stonewalling

It’s shutting down or tuning out. It passively tells your partner, “I don’t care.” And 85% of the time it’s guys who do this.

(Want to know a shortcut to creating a deeper bond with a romantic partner? Click here.)

Okay, that’s what kills a relationship. Naturally, you want to know what stops those things from occurring, right?

3 Things That Make Horsemen Go Bye-Bye

From looking at the Masters, John saw what prevented the downward spiral of the 4 Horsemen:

#1: Know Thy Partner

John calls this building “love maps.” It’s really knowing your partner inside and out. It was one of the Masters’ most powerful secrets. Here’s John:

A love map is like a road map you make of your partner’s internal psychological world. The Masters were always asking questions about their partner and disclosing personal details about themselves.

Why is this so rare? It takes time. And the disasters didn’t spend that time. In fact, most couples don’t spend that much time.

John cited a study showing couples with kids talk to each other about 35 minutes per week. Yeah, 35 minutes.

And even most of that was just logistics — “When will you be there?” “Don’t forget to pick up milk.” — not deep personal stuff like the Masters.

#2: Responding positively to “bids”

No, this has nothing to do with eBay. We all frequently make little bids for our partner’s attention.

You say something and you want them to respond. To engage. It can be as simple as saying, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

It’s almost like a video game: when the person responds positively (“turning towards a bid”) your relationship gets a point.

When they don’t respond, or respond negatively, the relationship loses a point… or five. Here’s John:

The couples who divorced six years later had turned toward bids only 33% of the time. The couples stayed married had turned toward bids 86% of the time. Huge difference.

Couples with high scores build relationship equity. They’re able to repair problems. They’re able to laugh and smile even when arguing. And that makes a big difference. Here’s John:

If you turn toward bids at a high rate, you get a sense of humor during conflict. Humor is very powerful because it reduces physiological arousal during arguments and that’s been replicated in several studies.

#3: Show admiration

Ever listen to someone madly in love talk about their partner? They sound downright delusional. They act like the other person is a superhero. A saint.

And research shows that is perfect. Masters see their partner as better than they really are. Disasters see their partners as worse than they really are.

(For more on the science of sexy, click here.)

Admiration is about the story you tell yourself about your partner. And that leads us to how to predict whether your relationship is working…

The Best Predictor Of How Good A Relationship Is

You can do this yourself: have someone ask you about the history of your relationship. What kind of story do you tell?

When your partner describes your relationship to others, what kind of story do they tell?

Does the story minimize the negatives and celebrate the positives? Did it make the other person sound great?

Or did it dwell on what’s wrong? Did it talk about what that idiot did this week that’s utterly wrong?

This simple “story of us” predicts which relationships succeed and which fail. Here’s John:

Our best prediction of the future of a relationship came from a couple’s “story of us.” It’s an ever-changing final appraisal of the relationship and your partner’s character. Some people were really developing a “story of us” that was very negative in which they really described all the problems in the relationship. They really emphasize what was missing. Masters did just the opposite: they minimized the negative qualities that all of us have and they cherish their partner’s positive qualities. They nurture gratitude instead of resentment.

(For more on what research says makes love last, click here.)

Is there a part of a relationship conversation that’s critical? Actually, there is.

The Most Important Part Of A Relationship Conversation

It’s the beginning. 96% of the time John can predict the outcome of a conversation within the first three minutes. Here’s John:

Negativity feeds on itself and makes the conversation stay negative. We also did seven years of research on how Masters repair that negativity. One of the most powerful things is to say “Hey, this isn’t all your fault, I know that part of this is me. Let’s talk about what’s me and what’s you.” Accepting responsibility is huge for repair.

How you start those serious relationship discussions doesn’t just predict how the conversation goes — it also predicts divorce after 6 years of marriage.

Via Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love:

…it went on to predict with high accuracy their fate over a 6-year period of time. The predictions we made about couples’ futures held across seven separate studies, they held for heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, and they held throughout the life course.

So you’re talking and you’re starting off positive and calm. Great. Now you should stop talking. Why?

When I asked John what the best thing to do to improve a relationship he said, “Learn how to be a good listener.”

The Masters know how to listen. When their partners have a problem, they drop everything and listen non-defensively with empathy. Here’s John:

In really bad relationships people are communicating, “Baby when you’re in pain, when you’re unhappy, when you hurt, I’m not going to be there for you. You deal with it on your own, find somebody else to talk to because I don’t like your negativity. I’m busy, I’m really involved with the kids, I’m really involved with my job.” Whereas the Masters have the model of, “When you’re unhappy, even if it’s with me, the world stops and I listen.”

And sometimes the best thing to do at the beginning of a relationship argument is to end it immediately. Why?

69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. They won’t be resolved.

Beating a dead horse, asking someone to fundamentally change who they are isn’t going to work — but it will make them angry. Here’s John:

In the studies that Bob Levenson and I did, we brought couples back into the lab every couple of years to find out what they are arguing about. And people resolved only about 31% of their disagreements. You can edit these videotapes together and it looked like the same conversation over and over for 22 years. Masters learn to accept what will not change and focus on the positive. They seem to say, “There’s a lot of good stuff here and I can ignore the annoying things.”

(For more on how to listen like an expert, click here.)

Okay, that’s a lot of great stuff. Let’s round it up and finish with the thing John said that impressed me the most.

Sum Up

So here’s what John had to say:

  1. The 4 things that kill relationships: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling.
  2. The 3 things that prevent them: Know your partner, respond positively to “bids”, and admire your partner.
  3. The best predictor of relationship success is how you and your partner tell your “story of us.”
  4. The beginning of the conversation is crucial. Negativity compounds. Keep a cool head and resist emotional inertia.

One last thing that really blew me away: what makes for happy relationships sounds a lot like what makes for happiness in general.

Research shows, happy people seek out the positive and are grateful for it. Unhappy people find the negative in everything.

There’s a very similar dynamic in relationships: Masters scan their relationship for good things, disasters are always noting the bad.

And not only that — the Masters’ way of looking at the world is actually more accurate. Here’s John:

People who have this negative habit of mind miss 50% of the positivity that outside objective observers see. So the positive habit of mind is actually more accurate. If you have a negative habit of mind, you actually distort toward the negative and you don’t see the positive. People with the positive habit of mind, it’s not that they don’t see the negative — they do, they see it — but they really emphasize the positive in terms of the impact on them. That’s the difference.

Choose to see the positive. It can cause a cascade:

  • It’s fuel for your good “story of us.”
  • You’ll probably start relationship conversations on a good note.
  • You’ll admire your partner.
  • And on and on…

Some of the same things that make you happy can improve your relationships — and vice versa. What’s better than that?

John and I talked for over an hour, so there’s a lot more to this.

I’ll be sending out a PDF with more of his relationship tips in my weekly email (including the two words that can help make arguments dissolve.) So to get that, sign up for my weekly email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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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 domestic violence

Why We Should Support Janay and Ray Rice Staying Together

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice speaks alongside his wife Janay during a news conference at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md on May 23, 2014.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice speaks alongside his wife Janay during a news conference at the team's practice facility in Owings Mills, Md on May 23, 2014. Patrick Semansky—AP

Dr. Dean Parker is a clinical psychologist who specializes in relationship counseling, mood and anxiety disorders, addictions, sex therapy, and domestic violence.

Instead of condemning Ray or blaming Janay, we should support the Rices' decision for what it is—optimism, and a chance to change their union for the better

Ray and Janay Rice are like many couples who walk through my door: apparently happy, in love, but in crisis with little knowledge as to why. The terrible image of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée in the face on an elevator is seared into the public consciousness. But where others see Ray Rice, Josh Brolin, and Chris Brown as potentially chronic abusers, psychologists rely on our clinical training and work to suspend judgment in order to help people like the Rices. Based on what I’ve seen in TV interviews and read in the news, I’d be cautiously optimistic about healing the couple.

The Rices claim that the incident on the elevator was isolated, the only incidence of violence in their relationship, which would put them in a category of what psychologist Michael Johnson calls Common Couple Violence—the most infrequently occurring and treatable form of intimate violence, by his scale. And they wouldn’t be very unique in this country, according to Couples Therapy for Domestic Violence (2011), in which Sandra M. Stith, PhD, claims that 65% of couples who seek marriage counseling “have had at least one prior violent episode.” A public health study from 2007 estimates that 24% of relationships experience violence, about half of which is reciprocal (the CDC breaks down domestic violence into reciprocal and non-reciprocal categories, but not by degree or occurrence). If you take into account that half of couples in therapy recover, according to one study—many others see higher success rates—then it’s safe to say many couples are able to overcome violence in their relationships.

According to Janay Rice’s own recent account, Ray met Janay Palmer in high school, and the two had a long friendship which developed into an intimate relationship during Ray’s time at Rutgers. Janay moved to Baltimore to be with Ray and to complete her education at Towson University. She lived in a separate apartment as a strong, independent woman, from a loving, intact family. There is a stereotype that women who are abused are weak and dependent, but many are the opposite. These women stand strong in opposition to their partners, who may at times be unreasonable. A husband/boyfriend can be taught that, in fact, this strength is a positive trait and to relish the fact that a strong woman is attracted to him. But often, abuse by a male comes from a feeling of inadequacy about his own masculinity. Having been a clinical psychologist for 30 years, and having seen more than 10,000 patients, it’s easy to see how being a batterer masks some men’s insecurity and sense of victimhood. There is no one personality that fits all batterers, but this element I’ve seen in at least half of my domestic cases over the years. And, in my experience, couples for whom the act of violence is isolated can respond well to counseling, decreasing the likelihood of future violence.

Janay has said that Ray was drawn to her family, particularly his future father-in-law, as his own father was murdered when Ray was only one year old. He had no male role model, no sense of how problems are solved in a long-term relationship, no understanding of what a healthy relationship looked like. Often, men who abuse women come from problematic childhoods. In the context of counseling, a man can come to understand how historical dynamics have affected his current relationship and that feelings can be sorted out rather than acted out.

So what was the cauldron of rage that would set off such a violent attack? The Rices were new parents, struggling with caring for their baby. Ray was not on hand to change diapers; rather he was more inclined to be with his friends, and less so to communicate and support his future wife. He had no preexisting vision of how to be a father, and plenty of rage about his own fatherless childhood. They entered premarital counseling at Janay’s request to address these matters. This set of dynamics is not unusual for young couples. Proper parenting skills as well as techniques for communication can be easily taught and modeled by a professional.

The Atlantic City getaway was a break for both. According to Janay, they had been squabbling a bit over parenting responsibilities and the loss of emotional intimacy. At an Atlantic City hotel, they went out to dinner with friends and drank too much. Janay’s frustrations with the relationship and Ray’s rage came out.

Prior to getting on the elevator that night, Ray was looking at his phone, Janay was annoyed and tried to grab the phone, Ray spit at her, she slapped him, he punched her. Poor communication, objectionable actions, coupled with violent behaviors from both partners magnify conflict.

The Rices have continued counseling at a Christian center and say they no longer drink hard liquor. They also say that Ray still tends to isolate and Janay wants to talk about their issues immediately. Men generally like to problem-solve on their own, while women choose to share their feelings to resolve their disagreements. Couples counseling is the treatment of choice for these kinds of relationships. There are of course many couples for whom domestic violence is a repetitive, vicious cycle. I would not recommend counseling for such couples, nor would it likely be successful.

But people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility that Ray and Janay Rice can fix their marriage. For non-celebrity couples, destroying a man’s career and throwing him in prison rarely result in a positive outcome. Some abusers come out of prison and continue to abuse. Why? Rarely is treatment provided in that setting. The Rices’ efforts in counseling should be seen as optimistic and potentially healing, which is why we should support couples who pursue treatment instead of condemning them as hopeless.

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 relationships

What Every Generation Gets Wrong About Sex

British Mods
Young Mods kissing in the street in London, 1964 John Pratt—Getty Images

Think the past was oppressive and the present is debauched? Think again

It was January 1964, and America was on the brink of cultural upheaval. In less than a month, the Beatles would land at JFK for the first time, providing an outlet for the hormonal enthusiasms of teenage girls everywhere. The previous spring, Betty Friedan had published The Feminine Mystique, giving voice to the languor of middle-class housewives and kick-starting second-wave feminism in the process. In much of the country, the Pill was still only available to married women, but it had nonetheless become a symbol of a new, freewheeling sexuality.

And in the offices of TIME, at least one writer was none too happy about it. The United States was undergoing an ethical revolution, the magazine argued in an un-bylined 5000-word cover essay, which had left young people morally at sea.

The article depicted a nation awash in sex: in its pop music and on the Broadway stage, in the literature of writers like Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, and in the look-but-don’t-touch boudoir of the Playboy Club, which had opened four years earlier. “Greeks who have grown up with the memory of Aphrodite can only gape at the American goddess, silken and seminude, in a million advertisements,” the magazine declared.

But of greatest concern was the “revolution of [social] mores” the article described, which meant that sexual morality, once fixed and overbearing, was now “private and relative” – a matter of individual interpretation. Sex was no longer a source of consternation but a cause for celebration; its presence not what made a person morally suspect, but rather its absence.

The essay may have been published half a century ago, but the concerns it raises continue to loom large in American culture today. TIME’s 1964 fears about the long-term psychological effects of sex in popular culture (“no one can really calculate the effect this exposure is having on individual lives and minds”) mirror today’s concerns about the impacts of internet pornography and Miley Cyrus videos. Its descriptions of “champagne parties for teenagers” and “padded brassieres for twelve-year-olds” could have been lifted from any number of contemporary articles on the sexualization of children.

We can see the early traces of the late-2000s panic about “hook-up culture” in its observations about the rise of premarital sex on college campuses. Even the legal furors it details feel surprisingly contemporary. The 1964 story references the arrest of a Cleveland mother for giving information about birth control to “her delinquent daughter.” In September 2014, a Pennsylvania mother was sentenced to a minimum of 9 months in prison for illegally purchasing her 16-year-old daughter prescription medication to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

But what feels most modern about the essay is its conviction that while the rebellions of the past were necessary and courageous, today’s social changes have gone a bridge too far. The 1964 editorial was titled “The Second Sexual Revolution” — a nod to the social upheavals that had transpired 40 years previously, in the devastating wake of the First World War, “when flaming youth buried the Victorian era and anointed itself as the Jazz Age.” Back then, TIME argued, young people had something truly oppressive to rise up against. The rebels of the 1960s, on the other hand, had only the “tattered remnants” of a moral code to defy. “In the 1920s, to praise sexual freedom was still outrageous,” the magazine opined, “today sex is simply no longer shocking.”

Today, the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s are typically portrayed as brave and daring, and their predecessors in the 1920s forgotten. But the overarching story of an oppressive past and a debauched, out-of-control present has remained consistent. As Australian newspaper The Age warned in 2009: “[m]any teenagers and young adults have turned the free-sex mantra of the 1970s into a lifestyle, and older generations simply don’t have a clue.”

The truth is that the past is neither as neutered, nor the present as sensationalistic, as the stories we tell ourselves about each of them suggest. Contrary to the famous Philip Larkin poem, premarital sex did not begin in 1963. The “revolution” that we now associate with the late 1960s and early 1970s was more an incremental evolution: set in motion as much by the publication of Marie Stopes’s Married Love in 1918, or the discovery that penicillin could be used to treat syphilis in 1943, as it was by the FDA’s approval of the Pill in 1960. The 1950s weren’t as buttoned up as we like to think, and nor was the decade that followed them a “free love” free-for-all.

Similarly, the sex lives of today’s teenagers and twentysomethings are not all that different from those of their Gen Xer and Boomer parents. A study published in The Journal of Sex Research this year found that although young people today are more likely to have sex with a casual date, stranger or friend than their counterparts 30 years ago were, they do not have any more sexual partners — or for that matter, more sex — than their parents did.

This is not to say that the world is still exactly as it was in 1964. If moralists then were troubled by the emergence of what they called “permissiveness with affection” — that is, the belief that love excused premarital sex – such concerns now seem amusingly old-fashioned. Love is no longer a prerequisite for sexual intimacy; and nor, for that matter, is intimacy a prerequisite for sex. For people born after 1980, the most important sexual ethic is not about how or with whom you have sex, but open-mindedness. As one young man amongst the hundreds I interviewed for my forthcoming book on contemporary sexual politics, a 32-year-old call-center worker from London, put it, “Nothing should be seen as alien, or looked down upon as wrong.”

But America hasn’t transformed into the “sex-affirming culture” TIME predicted it would half a century ago, either. Today, just as in 1964, sex is all over our TV screens, in our literature and infused in the rhythms of popular music. A rich sex life is both a necessity and a fashion accessory, promoted as the key to good health, psychological vitality and robust intimate relationships. But sex also continues to be seen as a sinful and corrupting force: a view that is visible in the ongoing ideological battles over abortion and birth control, the discourses of abstinence education, and the treatment of survivors of rape and sexual assault.

If the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s made a mistake, it was in assuming that these two ideas – that sex is the origin of all sin, and that it is the source of human transcendence – were inherently opposed, and that one could be overcome by pursuing the other. The “second sexual revolution” was more than just a change in sexual behavior. It was a shift in ideology: a rejection of a cultural order in which all kinds of sex were had (un-wed pregnancies were on the rise decades before the advent of the Pill), but the only type of sex it was acceptable to have was married, missionary and between a man and a woman. If this was oppression, it followed that doing the reverse — that is to say, having lots of sex, in lots of different ways, with whomever you liked — would be freedom.

But today’s twentysomethings aren’t just distinguished by their ethic of openmindedness. They also have a different take on what constitutes sexual freedom; one that reflects the new social rules and regulations that their parents and grandparents unintentionally helped to shape.

Millennials are mad about slut-shaming, homophobia and rape culture, yes. But they are also critical of the notion that being sexually liberated means having a certain type — and amount — of sex. “There is still this view that having sex is an achievement in some way,” observes Courtney, a 22-year-old digital media strategist living in Washington DC. “But I don’t want to just be sex-positive. I want to be ‘good sex’-positive.” And for Courtney, that means resisting the temptation to have sex she doesn’t want, even it having it would make her seem (and feel) more progressive.

Back in 1964, TIME observed a similar contradiction in the battle for sexual freedom, noting that although the new ethic had alleviated some of pressure to abstain from sex, the “competitive compulsion to prove oneself an acceptable sexual machine” had created a new kind of sexual guilt: the guilt of not being sexual enough.

For all our claims of openmindedness, both forms of anxiety are still alive and well today – and that’s not just a function of either excess or repression. It’s a consequence of a contradiction we are yet to find a way to resolve, and which lies at the heart of sexual regulation in our culture: the sense that sex can be the best thing or the worst thing, but it is always important, always significant, and always central to who we are.

It’s a contradiction we could still stand to challenge today, and doing so might just be key to our ultimate liberation.

Rachel Hills is a New York-based journalist who writes on gender, culture, and the politics of everyday life. Her first book, The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2015.

Read next: How I Learned About Sex

TIME psychology

The #1 Way to Easily Improve All Your Relationships

Paper dolls
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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Just try.

Put a small amount of conscious effort into trying to be a better friend, spouse, whatever.

That’s it.

Sounds ridiculous but research shows:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME relationships

Environmentalist Hugs a Tree by Marrying It

... symbolically

A Peruvian man known for his environmentalism redefined the term “tree hugger” when he married a tree at a national park in Bogotá, Columbia on Sunday.

Richard Torres symbolically married the tree as a way to promote caring for trees in Columbia, and in an effort to encourage the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to plant trees instead of inciting war, according to the Associated Press.

While Torres’ nuptials seem to have been intended more as an awareness-raising campaign, it is not unheard of for people to commit to spending the rest of their lives with a non-human or object. The 2008 documentary Married to the Eiffel Tower follow a number of people, mostly women, who claim to have long-term relationships with large objects.

This is reportedly Torres’ second time symbolically marrying a tree.

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