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New relationship worries
Romantic relationships can generate powerful emotions. They are often filled with passion and intimacy and can bond people forever. But before getting into a relationship, you will probably have to face the dating experience. You might feel confused, anxious, or terrified, with no idea of how to behave. Or you might feel the opposite: confident, steady, and relaxed. When you’re new to dating, you might experience a whole rush of new feelings [1]. Successful dates can create a real bond between the people involved, especially if you go on to form a couple. But you might be wondering when the dating stops, and the relationship begins. Usually, it is a natural transition as you notice that you’re becoming closer to your partner and getting to know them. Often the beginning of a relationship can feel wonderful and perfect, mainly because you’re both feeling enthusiastic and uplifted by the new feelings you’re experiencing. Too good to be true But, while everything can seem amazing at the beginning of a relationship, there might be worries lurking underneath. You might think it’s too good to be true, or that this wonderful new relationship will suddenly end, and that can leave you feeling very insecure. The desire to make a good impression can lead you to change your behaviour around your new partner, or to hide your flaws. In the early stages of a relationship, you can be so consumed by the novelty that you forget about your responsibilities, or the other people in your life. If you’ve noticed yourself getting lost in a new relationship, these tips might help: Be true to yourself. It’s normal for couples to take on some personality traits from each other, but it’s important not to change your behaviour in a way that isn’t true to you. Pretending to be someone else can be exhausting and isn’t fair on your partner either. Talk about your flaws. Remember that everyone has flaws. You might want to work on the ones that can be fixed but try not to get stuck in the ones that can’t. Instead of hiding, share your concerns with your partner. You might be surprised to find that your partner hasn’t noticed them, or even that they appreciate them. Balance your time. Love can be overwhelming but don’t let it take over your whole life. Make time for the other people in your life, and don’t neglect the other things that are important to you. This will help you maintain a sense of self and may even make you feel more secure in your relationship. Don’t overthink it. Take a deep breath, relax, and try to enjoy the moment. Communication One issue in all relationships is communication. Even people with lots of relationship experience face communication issues, which can negatively impact both partners. In a new relationship, when everything is raw, communication problems can lead to harsh arguments or even breakups. If you feel like you and your partner aren’t communicating enough, have an open and honest conversation. Talk about any issues or misunderstandings and try to sort them out, rather than hiding from each other. Honesty There are many reasons people hide the truth in relationships. You might be trying to protect each other, or you might be worried about how each other will react. Whatever the reason, being honest is usually the best way forward. The truth will come out eventually anyway. It can take time, effort, and courage to make the best of a relationship but when you’re willing to put that in, it can be a wonderful experience filled with exciting feelings. By Adrian Minea References [1] Meier, A., & Allen, G. (2009). Romantic Relationships from Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Sociological Quarterly, 50(2), 308–335.
Article | dating, relationships
Avoiding alcohol during pregnancy
You may have heard mixed messages about whether it’s OK to drink some alcohol while pregnant. We know that alcohol can harm an unborn baby, and we know that heavy drinking or binge drinking can be especially risky [1]. But we don’t know a safe level of alcohol consumption [2]. So if you’re pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, the safest approach is to not drink at all.  Whatever stage you’re at, your baby will benefit from you starting to avoid alcohol now.  What’s the harm?  When a pregnant woman drinks, the alcohol ends up in the unborn baby’s blood. The developing liver can’t filter out toxins that can harm brain cells and damage the nervous system [3], and can cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This is true throughout the pregnancy, so there is no safe time to drink alcohol during that nine months. On the other hand, quitting at any point can be helpful.  Some people may need to reduce their alcohol intake gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms. A good first step is to talk to your doctor or midwife who can direct you to further support after learning about your specific needs. You can also search for local services through the NHS. Managing stress without alcohol Having a baby is one of the biggest changes you and your partner can go through, so you might find yourself feeling more stressed and arguing more. Avoiding alcohol can be difficult if you’re used to using it as a way of coping with stress. But the negative effects on your mood and general health, and the worry about how it might affect your baby, could end up causing even more stress.  We can’t make stress go away entirely, but we can learn to cope in healthier ways. You could try: Exercise, like going for a walk, yoga, or another favourite activity. Cooking a nutritious meal. Chatting with a friend or family member. Having a supportive partner can be a big help too. It will likely be easier for you to avoid alcohol if your partner chooses to stop drinking as well [4] [5]. You could share the goal of avoiding alcohol together during your pregnancy, and encourage each other along the way.  Three simple steps  Practicing communication skills can strengthen your relationship and get you through times of stress, from everyday issues to bringing a new baby into the family. There are three simple steps to arguing better: STOP. This means staying calm and listening. You can’t always control the way you feel, especially when an argument starts. But you can have some control over how you respond. When you feel a conversation heating up, you can try some of these tips to help yourself say calm: Take some deep breaths. Relax your shoulders. Count to 10. Go for a walk with your partner. TALK IT OUT. To talk through what’s going on, we can: See it differently. Try to see things from your partner’s point of view. Speak for myself. Use ‘I’ statements to talk about how you are feeling. WORK IT OUT. Once you are able to stay calm and talk about your issues, you will be able to look for solutions you can both agree on. For more information  If you would like support to quit alcohol, your doctor or midwife can help and you can search for local services through the NHS. If you’d like to know more the effects of alcohol on unborn babies, see the National Organisation for FASD.   References [1] Jones, Theodore B.; Bailey, Beth A.; Sokol, Robert J. Alcohol Use in Pregnancy: Insights in Screening and Intervention for the Clinician. Clinical Obstetrics and Gyneconolgy, 2013.  [2] May, Philip A.; Gossage, J. Phillip. Maternal Risk Factors for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders. Alcohol Research and Health, 2011.  [3] National Organisation for FASD. Information for parents, carers and professionals, 2012. [4] Montag, Annika C. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: identifying at-risk mothers.International Journal of Women’s Health, 2016. [5] Chang, Grace; Mcnamara, Tay K.; Orav, E. John; Wilkins-Haug, Louise. Alcohol Use by Pregnant Women: Partners, Knowledge, and Other Predictors. Journal Of Studies On Alcohol, 2006.
Article | pregnancy, alcohol
Lockdown: coping with grief
When someone dies, our usual ways of coping and moving on are built around getting together with loved ones. During social distancing, we may have to adjust to new ways of dealing with grief. Funeral attendance might be limited to small numbers of close family, and distance might make it impossible to travel at all. For many people, this means not getting a chance to say goodbye. For those who can attend, it might be upsetting to see a small turnout, knowing their loved one isn’t getting the send-off they deserved. Grieving from a distance Even when you’re not able to get together physically, you can still mark the loss. If possible, attend a live stream of the funeral. Many funerals are now being filmed and streamed so mourners can watch them safely from home. Plan a memorial service. We don’t know when or how things will change but, at some point, we should be able to meet up again. Planning a service or celebration in the future can help you move forward in the present. Write down some memories of the person who has died. This can help you acknowledge the loss and reflect on what the person meant to you. Pick up the phone or arrange a video chat. You and your loved ones can share memories and offer each other support. Look for the positives. After some time has passed, you may find it easier to step back and see if anything positive has come out of the situation. Perhaps you’re connecting with friends and family in a different way or seeing how people can come together under difficult circumstances [1]. How am I supposed to feel? Right now, it can be hard to know what’s normal. There’s no set path that you’re supposed to follow after a death, but it can be comforting to know the types of things people often go through. Rather than being sad all the time, people often go back and forth between grieving and getting on with things. You might find yourself switching between moments when you feel very sad, and moments when you feel relatively normal [2]. Often, we push away difficult thoughts and feelings. We might try to convince ourselves everything is OK, even when it’s not. Sometimes, we use drugs or alcohol to try and change the way we feel. Whatever we do to push our feelings away, they will always find a way back in. It won’t always be easy, but it’s best just to let your feelings come and go – that’s how you process them and move forward [1]. Supporting each other as a couple If you’re in a relationship, you and your partner can support each other by sharing the grieving process. At the very least, talking to each other about how you’re feeling can make it easier for both of you to cope [3]. Under normal circumstances, this might mean going to the funeral together or visiting a memorial site but, when that's not possible, you can still find rituals to share from home – like lighting a candle or listening to a special piece of music. These shared experiences can help you adjust to the loss [4]. Even if you don’t live together, you could still meet up online and do something together. One thing to bear in mind, if you’re in a mixed sex couple, is that men and women often have different ways of coping. Women tend to want to surround themselves with other people and talk through memories with friends and family. Men tend to find this type of social support less useful, and may prefer to work through things alone, at least at first [4]. Of course, this won’t be true for everyone. However you and your partner deal with loss, try to be patient with each other and understand that we all have our own ways of dealing with things. Supporting someone else through grief If someone you know is dealing with grief, give them a call. You could text them to arrange a convenient time, or you could just pick up the phone and see if they answer. If it’s not a convenient time, they will let you know. If you want to do something practical, you could arrange to have something sent over. Lots of places are now well-versed in delivering food, drink, flowers, books, and other things. Think about what might help cheer the person up and send them a pleasant surprise. This will let them know you are thinking about them. References [1] Mikulincer & Florian, 1996[2] Stroebe & Schut, 1999[3] Albuquerque, Narciso, & Pereira, 2018[4] Bergstraesser, Inglin, Hornung, & Landolt, 2014
Article | lockdown, grief
Parenting in lockdown
As we face the prospect of more time in lockdown, many of us find ourselves making more adjustments and looking for new ways to cope. As a parent, you know that your children are still relying on you for support. You want to give them everything they need, but it isn’t always easy – especially when you’re dealing with your own worries. Coping together as parents Generally speaking, parents who focus on supporting each other as a couple, are more likely to be able to deal with the stresses of parenting [1]. If you can listen to each other, share the burden, and present a united front, you’ll find it gets easier to come to agreements about parenting [2]. Your children will cope better too – they’ll be less likely to feel sad or anxious, or to act out through stress [3]. Talking to children about the situation With guidelines frequently changing and the future still unclear, it can be hard to know what to tell your children about everything that’s going on. After many months of upheaval, they may even have their own ideas. With so much uncertainty and so many new developments, you might want to protect them from knowing too much. It’s natural to want to protect your children but shielding them from difficult news can actually be worse for them than just answering their questions. It’s usually best just to tell the truth. How to answer children’s questions Generally, if your child is ready to ask a question, they are ready to hear the answer. You don’t have to tell them everything – keep their age in mind, and only tell them as much as is necessary to answer their question. They can always ask a follow-up question if they want to know more. If you don’t know something, say so. There’s still a lot we’re not sure about and it’s better to be honest. If there’s something you’re not comfortable answering, you could try asking your child why they’ve asked that particular question. You could also ask them what they already know, as this can help you understand where they’re coming from. Children are reassured by the information they get from their parents, and it’s helpful for them to know they can rely on you [4] [5]. When they feel informed about what’s going on, they can get on with being kids again. Get them drawing Some younger children might find it hard to talk about their worries. Very young children often don’t have the words to describe what they’re feeling. One thing you can do to help them express themselves is to get them drawing. Grab some pens or pencils and invite them to draw something that shows how they’re feeling. Children can often find it easier to express themselves in this way [6]. A bit of fun It can be hard to find time to relax, especially if you’re trying to fit home schooling around working from home. But, if you can, try to build in some time for fun activities with the children – even it’s just playing or reading together. When you look back on all this, you might find that your role has just been to help your children stay calm and healthy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves to do anything more than that. Take it a day at a time and keep looking after each other – that’s all anyone can really ask of you. References [1] Brown, 2012[2] Zemp, Milek, Cummings, & Bodenmann, 2017[3] Zemp, Bodenmann, Backes, Sutter-Stickel, & Revenson, 2016.[4] Kennedy, V. L., & Lloyd‐Williams, M., 2009[5] Osborn, T., 2007[6] Eiser & Twamley, 1999
Article | parenting together, social distancing
Lockdown: how couples can cope together
Over the course of your lives as a couple, you’ll probably go through lots of stressful situations together. Many of these will be things that only happen to one of you, like getting ill or having a tough time at work. In those times, the other partner might step up and offer support. But, as we all move through the phases of a global event, we have found ourselves facing something that affects everyone – that alone can be a lot to deal with, and it may kick off lots of difficult thoughts and feelings. As a couple, it can be hard to know how to cope. What does this mean to each of you as individuals? How should you support each other? What if you both need support at the same time? We’re all dealing with this in our own ways. You and your partner may have different ways of coping, and you may need different types of support at different times. Coping with stress together Stress happens when we feel unable to cope with the things we need to do. It’s like a balancing act – when you’re feeling strong and energised, you can cope with all that life throws at you. But, if you’re feeling worried and tired, even an average day can be overwhelming [1]. Having a supportive partner can help you feel more in control of things. When you and your partner support each other well, you might find you’re both better at coping with – and moving on from – stressful situations [2] [3]. Many couples and families are finding themselves in lockdown together – some for the second or third time, and others for what feels like a constant state of being. This is still a relatively new and strange situation and is likely to require unique ways of coping together. But here’s something interesting – even in a ‘normal’ situation, with just one of you under stress, we would still recommend finding a way of coping together. So, from that point of view, the way you're getting through this situation shouldn’t be entirely different from the way you’d get through any other. Shared coping is easier when you’ve got shared goals. These might be long term jobs like keeping the house clean or helping the children with their schoolwork, or they could be fun things like working through a box set or doing a jigsaw puzzle together. Think about what you both want to get out of this time. Perhaps you could draw up a list of goals to work on together – even easy ones will help you feel connected. You can use the goal-setting feature on Click. Getting through a crisis can be good for your relationship, as long as you find ways of coping together. Mutual support can reduce stress for both of you – when one of you feels better, the other will too, and this can make you feel more supported as a unit [4]. This is great news because, when we’re happy with our relationships, we tend to feel better in general [5]. How to be supportive for your partner Support can be offered in different ways: Emotional support. This is when you show your partner that you have understood. Practical support. This is when you offer ways of solving a problem. Delegating. This is when you take on tasks to give your partner a break [6]. Emotional support helps your partner feel listened to and shows them that you are making the effort understand what they are going through. It’s usually best to offer emotional support first, rather than jumping in with practical support. This video shows the difference between emotional and practical support. The video was made at a time when going out and doing the shopping was a little easier than it is now, but the ideas are still relevant. Notice Naomi’s reaction to the different types of support from Liam: When you offer support, do it willingly, and take your partner’s concerns seriously. They will be able to tell when you’re being sincere. How to talk to each other about stress When you talk to your partner about a stressful situation, try to describe your feelings as well as the situation. Start sentences with “I feel…” and explain what the situation means to you. Tell your partner why you are upset, and what you hope will change. When your partner tells you about a stressful situation, show your support by listening properly. Put down whatever you are doing and give your full attention. Ask questions to learn more. Try summarising the problem to make sure you’ve properly understood. You could use the following guide to help with talking about problems: Explain what the problem is. Discuss it together and look for solutions. Talk about what you will each do next. Alcohol In stressful situations, we might be tempted to turn to harmful ways of managing things, like drinking too much. While alcohol can feel like an effective way to cope with stress in the moment, it’s usually more harmful in the long run – the negative effects on your mood and general health can end up causing more stress than they solve. Try to stick to other, healthier ways of improving your mood, like exercise or phoning a friend for a chat. If you’re worried that you or your partner might be using alcohol to deal with stress, have a look at our alcohol site, where you can find our free short course, ‘Coping with stress’. References [1] Lazarus & Folkman, 1984[2] Bodenmann, Meuwly, & Kayser, 2011[3] Meuwly, Bodenmann, Germann, Bradbury, Ditzen, & Heinrichs, 2012[4] Regan et al., 2014[5] Traa, De Vries, Bodenmann, & Den Oudsten, 2014[6] Falconier, Jackson, Hilpert, & Bodenmann, 2015
Article | stress, isolation
Loneliness at university
Going to university can be the start of a whole new social life, but it can also be a lonely time. Loneliness comes from the gap between the social life you want and the social life you have. Any unplanned or unwanted alone time can leave you feeling lonely [1], particularly when you’re in a new place, away from all your familiar people. When you’re young and already going through a lot of upheaval, loneliness can be a powerful sensation. You’re trying to map out your future and your social world is rapidly changing. Your friends – even if they’re not be the same ones you had a few years ago – are becoming more important than ever before [1]. How does loneliness happen? The changes you are going through are often linked to some of the significant factors that can cause loneliness in young people: Changes in your social network. Becoming more independent from your parents and family. Exploring your identity [1]. As we grow up and start to figure out who we are, our social circles tend to shift from away from family, towards friends, perhaps because it’s easier to discuss the big issues with people in similar situations. When you leave home and go to university, you’ll be figuring out more about who you want to be. You may make new friends and start to let go of old ones, choosing to spend time with people who reflect your new interests and ambitions, people who can help you feel like you’re working towards the future you’ve just had your first glimpse of. This doesn’t mean that your family stops being important or that they leave your social circle entirely, but you might notice that the centre of your circle drifts closer to your friends. Transitional periods Feelings of loneliness can be exacerbated by any big life transition, including moving out of your family home and going away to study. A strong support network of close friends and family can help ease this pressure [2] but you may not always have access to this. If you’re going to university and you don’t know anyone, take advantage of the social activities on offer. Make plans to spend more time with the people you meet and seek out others who share your interests. And don’t go thinking you’ve got to rush to find a romantic partner to stop you from feeling lonely! Friendships can be just as good for you, boosting your self-esteem and mental wellbeing, and giving you all the benefits of intimacy and companionship that you’d get from a romantic partner [2]. The power of sharing One interesting way that you can deepen your sense of feeling socially connected is to share your possessions [3], which can be easily done in shared accommodation. As well as simple loans of things like books and clothes (if that’s your thing), there are a few other ways to think about sharing possessions. Setting up a TV or games console in a shared area means you and your housemates can enjoy it together. If one of you has a car, giving lifts is a good way to be helpful (in exchange for a contribution towards fuel, of course). Laptops and printers can be a handy loan for last-minute assignments. You can all save money by clubbing together for kitchen staples like salt, oil, teabags and washing up liquid. You can also save space by sharing kitchen equipment. If, say, one of you has a big frying pan and one of you has a colander, sharing these items can help you feel more connected – but do make sure you wash up afterwards! If you do lend and borrow possessions, be clear about what the boundaries are around when things are expected to be returned and in what condition. If you’re worried, a good rule is to avoid lending or borrowing anything that you can’t afford to replace.   References [1] Laursen, & Hartl. (2013). Understanding loneliness during adolescence: Developmental changes that increase the risk of perceived social isolation. Journal of Adolescence, 36(6), 1261-1268. [2] Lee, C., & Goldstein, S. (2016). Loneliness, Stress, and Social Support in Young Adulthood: Does the Source of Support Matter? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(3), 568-580. [3] Gentina, E., Shrum, L., & Lowrey, J. (2018). Coping with Loneliness Through Materialism: Strategies Matter for Adolescent Development of Unethical Behaviors. Journal of Business Ethics, 152(1), 103-122.
Article | university, loneliness
Letting go of sibling rivalry
As children, some of our biggest arguments are with our brothers and sisters. But, when you grow up and leave home, the old wounds of sibling rivalry have a chance to heal as the relationship develops into something new and supportive. Growing up with brothers or sisters can be a mixed bag. On one hand, you’ve got someone alongside you who understands your background and situation. On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into competition and rivalry, challenging for your parents’ attention and trying to prove yourselves worthy in the big wide world.  The good news is that things often improve when you become adults and start spending less time under the same roof. As you get older, the competitiveness can ease off and you may find you become more of a support to each other. Moving apart can improve your relationship, and the distance may help you to see each other in a more positive light [1].  Go your own way  Given how much we have in common with our siblings, it’s hard not to compete with them. They have grown up in the same place as us with the same advantages – if we don’t live up to their successes, it’s easy to feel like we’re failing. But, while it might be tempting to keep your eyes on the path your sibling is treading, it’s much healthier just to do your own thing [1].  This mind sound overly simplistic, but it’s an important lesson to keep in mind – aside from the obvious benefits of looking after yourself, focusing on your own interests and ambitions has been shown to minimise conflict with your siblings [1]. Let go of the temptation to follow in the footsteps of a brother or sister, and carve out your own path instead. Of course, this is easier when you’re no longer living under the same roof! How siblings can support you One of the best advantages of having siblings is that they can offer a safe place to open up about issues that you might not be able to discuss with anyone else. As you strike out on your own, issues like dating, sex, and friendships become more important and it can be hard to know where to turn when you have questions or when things get tough.  Here’s where you may seek the wisdom of those who have walked these paths before you. It can be uncomfortable talking to parents about personal stuff like this, and siblings can represent the perfect sounding board. Older siblings in particular have made similar journeys into adulthood and may have advice or emotional tips to offer on these tricky topics [2].  Opening up and having these close chats can help you find solutions to the issue at hand, but it can also have the added benefits of improving your relationship with your sibling, developing your emotional maturity [2], and helping you feel better about your life in general [3]. Even if you don’t get to meet up face to face as often as you used to, these kinds of conversations can have the same benefits through text or social media [4]. So, if you have siblings and you’ve left home, drop them a line to check in – they might just be able to give you the emotional boost you need.   References [1] Lindell, A., Campione-Barr, N., & Greer, K. (2014). Associations Between Adolescent Sibling Conflict and Relationship Quality During the Transition to College. Emerging Adulthood, 2(2), 79-91.  [2] Campione-Barr, Nicole, Lindell, Anna K., Giron, Sonia E., Killoren, Sarah E., & Greer, Kelly Bassett. (2015). Domain Differentiated Disclosure to Mothers and Siblings and Associations with Sibling Relationship Quality and Youth Emotional Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 51(9), 1278-1291. [3] Hollifield, C., & Conger, K. (2015). The Role of Siblings and Psychological Needs in Predicting Life Satisfaction During Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 3(3), 143-15.  [4] Killoren, S. E., Campione-Barr, N. C., Giron, S. M., Kline, G., Streit, C., & Youngblade, L. (2018). Content and correlates of sisters’ messages about dating and sexuality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-22.
Article | siblings, leaving home
Helping your partner find their dream job
Being in an unsatisfying job can have a negative effect on your overall happiness, and your personal relationships. Your feelings about your working life are closely linked to your relationship quality. If your partner is in a job they don’t enjoy, you will probably hear about it a lot. Your partner may find that your partner is more irritable, and complains a lot about their job and their colleagues. Your partner may also be too tired from long, stressful shifts to spend quality time with you. So how can you support them and help them get the job they’ve always dreamed of? Set aside time to help your partner apply for jobs. If your partner is still working, it might be tricky to find time for jobhunting. Set aside some time in the evenings or at weekends where you can help your partner apply for jobs. Plan in some time to search for jobs online, through newspapers, or at your local Jobcentre Plus. Encourage networking. If your partner doesn’t know anyone in the industry they want to get in, encourage them to join sites like LinkedIn where they can join groups for industry professionals and meet people in the field. If there are relevant events happening nearby, you could offer to go along with them for moral support. Make financial compromises. To get their dream job, your partner may have to take time out to study or go on a training course, which can affect your household income. Sit down together and work out where you might be able to afford to cut down on spending. You might find it helpful to read our article on talking to your partner about money. Be supportive. One of the worst parts of applying for jobs is the rejections. When you’ve spent ages preparing your CV and writing a killer cover letter, it can feel pretty disheartening to receive an impersonal email from the recruiter saying that your application was unsuccessful. If this happens to your partner, you’ll need to be there for them. What if the dream job is in another city or country? Some jobs may require your partner to relocate. If this is the case with your partner’s dream job, you will both need to discuss how this will affect your relationship and if you both want to move. If you have children together, you will need to discuss how it will affect them too. Think about whether you would both move, or just one of you, and have this discussion as a couple. These questions might help you get the conversation started: Where would you live? What is the cost of living? What opportunities are there for you in the new location? What are the pros and cons of relocating? What else is in the new location? If you have children where will they go to school? What is your shared vision for the future?
Article | work, finance
Choosing to be childfree
Many couples are choosing not to have children, opting to focus on the couple relationship instead. But, according to a new study, it’s not a decision they’re making lightly. The study [1] looked at how couples arrive at the decision not to become parents. The term ‘childfree’, as opposed to ‘childless’, refers to people who have chosen not to have children. The study showed that the decision not to have children is usually a conscious one, rather than something that ‘just happens’. It’s usually something that’s arrived at over a length of time and it’s an ongoing choice. This is particularly true for heterosexual couples, who often have to choose to continue using contraception, and avoid unplanned pregnancy. How is the decision made? By the time couples are having their first conversations about children, they have often already given years of thought to the matter. If both know that they don’t want children, it may only take a single conversation to form an agreement. Reasons for opting out of parenthood could include wider factors such as: Increased reproductive choices. Since the feminist movement of the 1970s, more of us are free to make this choice in the first place [2]. More career options for women. Childfree women are more likely to be employed in professional and managerial positions [3]. Worry about jobs. In one study conducted during the recession of the ‘90s [4], many men said they had opted out of parenthood due to uncertainty in the labour market. Wider society. Women in particular referred to concerns about overpopulation when discussing their decisions [5]. But many also cite more individual reasons such as: Personal freedom. More opportunity for self-fulfilment. Keeping spontaneity, such as the opportunity to travel. Making the most of adult relationships. Experiences of other people’s parenting [6]. Focusing on the couple relationship. Many couples cited their own relationship quality as a major factor in choosing to remain childfree [7]. We know from other studies that the transition to parenthood is one of the biggest hurdles for couples. If you’re still undecided about whether you’re ready for children, or just want to know more, you might find it useful to read our article on managing this transition. Whatever your choice, take the time to discuss it with your partner, so you both know what each other wants and why. Talking about big decisions like this allows you, as a couple, to work together and pursue a life path that suits both of you. One of the childfree people in the study said: ‘‘I wish it were normal to decide whether or not you were going to have children’’.
Article | children, childfree
Community posts
Do I leave him or make it work?
This is a hard post to write, I’m 23, I’ve been with my partner 4 years, we have a 1 year old together our relationship went down hill since i was pregnant. Since having my daughter I seemed to have grown up and my life has changed (in a good way — exactly like it should when you have children) but his is still 90% the same, he still goes out with his friend spends most of his money etc. We’ve not had a great year a lot has happened where he’s let me down with his promises and i feel like it’s become too much. I do love him but I have a lot of anger and hurt toward him. I’ve ended it with him a few times but I always give in before he actually moves out. I don’t want to have sex or anything with him anymore, but I’m also struggling to leave him. I have a lot on my mind such as being a single parent, lonely (even though I'm not happy when he’s here) the list goes on… Last week my childhood lover (I still see him/hear of him as he’s a family friend/live in the same area) he randomly messaged me the other day as he was with one of my cousin's daughters. It’s got me thinking of him as last time I saw him he was speaking to me about him wanting to settle down and he heard that I was having a hard time and that I wasn’t happy with my partner and said when you do leave him I’ll be here if you need me. I changed the conversation as I feel like didn’t want to discuss my relationship with him . My mind is everywhere. Do I leave the father of my daughter that doesn’t make me happy at all? Will it get better ? do i stay and try to make it work? What about my childhood lover?? What if it’s too late when I leave my partner and he’s found his soulmate? I hope this makes sense as I wrote it half asleep while my thoughts was going 100 mph….
User article | relationships, partner, father, children, separation
Loving someone you can’t have
Hello, I’m new here and just want to share my experience if anyone out there can relate as well. When I was 17, I met this guy who was two years older than me, he was 19. He was really cute, very outgoing and light of the life. I didn’t think too much of him as I was so naive and scared to get hurt by a guy so I was so quiet and reserved. Myself, my friends, him and his friends would always hangout together as a big group. We started chatting and got to know each other. I began falling for him and liking him so much. Whenever he texts me and I see his name pop up my heart would jump so fast and I would get crazy butterflies. We never really hung out alone we were always around our friends. We were both so young at the time but we both developed feelings for each other but just never confessed within each other. He was the kind of person where if I never saw him for a long time, we always pick up where we left off and it was never awkward. It always felt right but my vulnerable over thinking ass is too afraid to get hurt by him because I knew I was falling deep for him and I denied how I truly felt. I knew he had feelings for me too and he was also shy towards me. As time gone by, we would see each other once in a while. It became like when we’re both single it seems like something is always pulling us apart, when he’s single I was dating someone, and then when I’m single he was seeing someone. We were never really on the same page but our feelings were always there and the way he looks at me and how he talks to me or asks my friends about me I would get butterflies. He was a love that I never felt with anyone. I was just too young to truly understand what I truly felt. Fast forward to several years later, I was 24 at the time and he was 26 years old. And at that time I was already in a 3 year relationship with a different guy. And I haven’t seen the guy I always had love for in 2 years. I randomly saw him at a party and I was in complete shocked. We both reunited and talked about the good old days. I had so many mix emotions and I thought that I got over him when I met my boyfriend but for some reason I felt like all of my feelings for him came back and I felt so horrible like I was cheating on my boyfriend but I wasn’t. It felt so beautiful to catch up and see how he was doing as we both aren’t kids anymore and we both grown up. The whole night I was so happy and also so scared because I was scared that my boyfriend would find out some how even though he wasn’t even there. Again, I held myself back on the guy I always had love for. That night he asked me if I ever liked him. Never in years he has never asked me that. And all I said was “yea.. I did” when really I just wanted to explode all of my true feelings but I felt horrible because I was already in a relationship. That night when I went home I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I felt like I missed him so much. I just wanted to call him and see him and meet up and go for a walk or something but I didn’t want to be unfaithful to my boyfriend so I never said a word. Ever since that day I never stopped thinking of him. 10 months later, my best friend calls me and tells me that he had died. My heart dropped, sank and felt like it got ripped right open. I didn’t even know what to feel. I cried all night, for days and months to years and years. I regretted so much the last time I saw him, I wish I would have just open up and tell him how I truly felt. I never realized that I actually really did love him until he died. And I really wish he knew. But I know that he knows even though not in my world but on the other side of the world. I feel him and he sends me signs that he’s here with me. It’s been 7 years since he’s gone and finally it has taken me 7 years to accept that he’s no longer here and I’ve learned to forgive myself and not regret anything in life. So my advice to you if you are reading this, please express your heart and your soul. Don’t hide it. Do what you love and chase it. Tell that person you love them. Don’t hold back anymore life is too short to save it for another day or “when the time is right”. There is no right time do it now and better to feel like a fool than to ever wonder what it would feel like if you did got the chance to pour your heart out.
User article | grief, love
An affair and a boyfriend
I have been having an emotional and sexual affair for almost 4 years with a now ex colleague. When we first met I was engaged. He is married with two kids and we became best friends and lovers. We always spoke about our future, getting married and starting a family together he is 13 years my senior. I broke off my engagement in August 2019 and the affair became problematic during the pandemic/social distancing/self-isolating (his son has a life changing illness). He was then made redundant from our place of work, yet I’ve kept my job. The distance between became more and more due to not being able to see each other – I backed off whilst he continued to contact me. I started seeing someone new as a distraction and as I thought it was fate bringing us together and ultimately saving me from this previous situation. This person I’m seeing started off great – was open and honest and we could talk for hours (he lives 5.5 hours away from me). We started seeing each other more regularly and our time together was always fun however I’ve found myself projecting onto him. Mistrusting him and not being able to be 100% present with him because of my affair. I picked up on him smiling at his phone a lot and taking it to the bathroom with him. I do believe I am to blame for all of this – I was very guarded and he was very into me at first. I recently told the man I was having an affair with that I’ve been seeing someone else and he’s told me how much of a fool he has been potentially losing me, how I am his best friend, soul mate and he wants us to have a future together. He has begged to come and see me so we can talk about either saying our goodbyes once or for all or discussing if we do have a future. He has told me he is prepared to leave his wife, how she knows he doesn’t love her anymore and how she isn’t prepared to be with someone anymore who doesn’t love her. They have had problems before their kids were born and I know they do not have a happy marriage (this is external to the affair) however the kids have kept them together and his son’s illness. I’m so confused whether I need to break away from this all or if it’s really meant to be. The married man said he would leave his wife this time last year but I told him not too, as I was seeing someone new but I was too cowardly to end it. I’m worried I’ve self-sabotaged something that was meant to be, I’m worried that I’m making the wrong decision to not take a risk with him or that I’m taking a risk by not taking this opportunity with someone new. Needless to say I’m completely lost and it a horrible state of mind.
User article | affair