Family studies researchers who study the science behind maintaining romantic relationships focus their work on the central organizing unit — the relationship — rather than on the individual. In a recent study, they discuss romantic relationship maintenance and the two primary motives behind a couple’s attempts at staying together: threat mitigation and relationship enhancement.
Dear E. Jean: I’m engaged. He comes from old money—and all the dust that comes with it. We are planning on having a child, but first we must marry or the child won’t be eligible to receive the family inheritance governed by a trust drawn up more than a century ago.
My boyfriend does not like weddings. (He called off a previous engagement because he was traumatized by the over-the-top nuptial arrangements.) He’s the sweetest man in the world, but when I bring up the subject, he will not cooperate, and asks, “Can’t we please just go to the courthouse?”
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We both love big parties, balls, traveling to beautiful places, and dressing in fine clothes, so I don’t see why I can’t change his mind about a wedding. Should I just give in and go to the courthouse? —There Goes the Bride
Bride, You Attractive Young Fathead: Auntie Eeee is clutching her brow.
Here we have a chap—”the sweetest man in the world,” who has inherited sacks of old money and wishes to get hitched—and you want to “change his mind”? A big wedding, forsooth!
Hell, Reader, I will marry him, if you don’t.
Stop jabbering about bells and churches. Pay attention to what this excellent man is saying. Remember that this is his wedding too, and get thee to the courthouse. I believe that the two of you—although you will be absolutely stinking rich—have as great a chance at happiness and all the domestic blessings as anyone.
P.S. You may start planning your three-year-anniversary party with your 467- person guest list, Jamie Oliver catering, vow-renewal officiated by Rihanna, etc. when you return from your honeymoon.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being. Now a new study offers insights into what people are deliberating about and what makes the decision so difficult, which could help therapists working with couples and stimulate further research into the decision-making process.
Imagining an action between two objects (the umbrella being lodged in the door lock) and a potential consequence (not being able to lock the door) may help people improve their memory for relationships with other objects, according to a recent story.
Positive parental teamwork is key to promoting healthy child development, but when mothers have stronger opinions than fathers about how to tend to their infants in the middle of the night, the coparenting relationship can suffer, says a group of researchers.
Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. For July, Samantha Irby, author of We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. This week, Irby’s top three reasons a long-distance relationship is a million times better than having your partner, like, live in your goddamned house.
I’ve been living with my partner for approximately 10 months now after having begun our relationship with two states separating my towering piles of laundry from her alphabetized medicine cabinet, and pretty please can I get my old life back?! Well maybe not my whole life, because it’s nice to have someone nearby to grab the recycling bin from the curb after I’ve already taken my shoes off and decided my day is over, but can I at the very least get the parts that included:
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When you put something down it’s in the exact same place when you go to look for it three days later. I didn’t even know this was a thing I hated until it started happening to me. And now I’m some sort of housebound nomad, grunting unintelligibly while sullenly dragging everything I anticipate needing from room to room so it doesn’t disappear the minute I set it on the table. On the one hand, WHAT AN ASSHOLE. Who gets mad that someone is thoughtful enough to put your purse by the door so it’s there the next time you leave? Assholes! But on the other, shittier hand that “ohmygod what did I do with my debit card and keys” feeling is what I imagine the tenth circle of hell must feel like, and I am besieged by that particular terror at least three times a goddamned week. It’s like living with a very particular ghost who has a penchant for half-full water glasses and iPhone chargers and has a very different idea of what the words “put away” mean than I do. I’m willing to concede that I might be an immature slob but at least I knew that if I couldn’t find the Advil there was a good chance I’d taken them all. I have forgotten about three different jackets, all because they’ve disappeared from where I casually flung them, and replaced them only to be told to “look in the coat closet.” We have a coat closet!?!!?!
Not having to hide your good groceries. When I was single and recklessly banging dudes my problem was not wanting to sit in abject horror, mouth frozen in a silent scream, as a person who’d fallen asleep on top of me mid-thrust came sauntering back into my bedroom an hour later pouring a $27 bottle of wine down his gullet while audibly digesting an entire brick of overpriced Whole Foods cheese. But living with someone whose opinions I care about poses a different type of threat: where can I stash this expensive and/or so-delicious-I-don’t-want-to-share-it food item so the other person on my mortgage won’t eat any of it? I’m 37 and I am not supposed to care about finishing the last of the _______ and maybe this is something I should address in therapy but yo: I CARE. That 3 oz pouch of pistachios cost approximately $93 (who’s counting) and I love you but if you eat them I will murder you. I should have worked a “this chocolate Snack Pack is mine” clause into our marriage vows but now it’s too late and I have to eat everything that isn’t kale from the co-op two blocks from the house in the car.
No one knows that you didn’t really read that new book everyone is buzzing about. Okay sure, you bought it. I bought it, too! And I Instagrammed it in the most perfect sunlit corner of the coffee shop, posed artfully next to a complicated latte I mispronounced while ordering, laid a beautiful filter over it after adjusting the brightness, then stowed it in my bag until the end of time while reading a bunch of emails on my phone that I’m never going to respond to. When you’re dating you can just rotate the order of the books stacked on your bedside table and as long as you skim the jacket no one will be the wiser and you can appear smart and hip to the cultural zeitgeist at parties, thrilling potential suitors with the idea that they might fall in love with someone who loves books. But when they move in they know. They know that you used your phone to lie to the internet about the books you read then immediately watched four hours of The Great British Baking Show on it. It’s easy to look smart and cool when there isn’t someone sitting next to you in bed saying “I’ve never seen you even open that book” as you proclaim your love for it on Twitter. Listen, I liked this a whole lot better when she thought I liked poetry and had no idea how many Real Housewives franchises I am deeply invested in.
Think long and hard (about how much you hate jogging and documentaries or whatever other ruses you’re trying to uphold) before you go handing out spare keys. While you can still find them.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life is available to order here.
Watching television sometimes gets a bad rap — especially where children and screen time are concerned — but not all of it’s deserved.
A recent University of Michigan study of low-income mothers found that when they watch parent-approved, educational programming with their child, television is viewed as a positive tool. Moms also report largely positive experiences when managing their child’s media use, which challenges negative assumptions about low-income mothers and screen time management.
In the study, 296 low-income moms were asked about beliefs and rules regarding their 4-to-8-year-old child’s television watching behavior, how they manage screen time and if they allow television during meals.
The amount of screen time children should be allowed, in particular TV — which is still the most popular electronic medium — is a huge issue in all demographics, but perhaps even more so for low-income children, said first author Sarah Domoff, a researcher at the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development and assistant professor at Central Michigan University.
That’s because television watching is a risk factor for obesity, and low-income children watch more TV and have higher obesity rates than higher-income peers.
Understanding how mothers manage television for kids can foster positive, nonshaming conversations between clinicians and low-income parents about TV, which could ultimately help reduce screen time, Domoff said.
Five themes emerged during questioning. Mothers said that what their children watch on television is more important than how much. To that end, they focus on restricting programming and set time limits only in extreme cases.
The mothers in the study were confident in the programming choices they make for their children and put much thought into appropriate television. This challenges the assumption that low-income mothers experience problems managing their child’s media use, Domoff said.
Positive experiences outweigh negative ones and challenges seem to reflect specific child factors or situational stressors, such as meal or bedtime. Moms also expressed concern about the effect of violent programming, but don’t worry as much about commercials.
“That’s important because we know that exposure to advertisements for fast food or sugar-sweetened beverages has been implicated as a risk factor for child obesity,” Domoff said.
Mothers said their children vary in how much television they want to watch, with some demanding more than others — say, to fall asleep or eat. In cases where mothers worry about a child watching too much, they limit viewing time as well as restricted programming.
Researchers also found that moms enjoy the time they spend sharing quality programming with their children — especially watching their children learn.
“That’s important because for families with fewer resources, watching television was something they valued, and it appeared to be an important activity that they enjoyed,” Domoff said.
Finally, whether a mother allows television during meals depends on her goals. If she views meals as time for talking and family bonding, she doesn’t allow television. However, if meals are viewed strictly as time for children to eat, mothers are more likely to allow television if it helps achieve that goal.
“Meals can be a very stressful time in some households,” Domoff said. “The mother might need to get to a second job on time and need the child to eat quickly. Allowing television during the meal might encourage certain children to eat and help the mother accomplish her goals.”
However, Domoff said that TV use during meals is also a risk factor for obesity, and other strategies to help children eat should be encouraged.
Dear E. Jean: My boyfriend asks why I don’t dress up like I once did. He says he longs for “the good old days” when I showed I cared about him. But the truth is, I’m just so comfortable with him that I feel I can be myself. E. Jean, must I put on a dress and mascara?
E. Jean: Yes, you must. You’ll look great in the dress. He’ll feel great that you dressed up, and nothing will be as great as you both coming home together and putting on your old pajamas.
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