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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. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.2009.01142.x
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
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
My husband, his brother and I
(Married to my husband for about 16yrs, I've been with him for 15yrs) I just can't shake that I am in love with his brother and I know he is in love with me too. Let me start by saying. I wrote a post with this title before and since I have been inactive, it seemed to have disappeared. So I will write again with more that has happened over time and with a lot more detail. The only way I believe anyone will understand is if I tell what happened from the beginning to what's going on currently. This is my emotional story.... So before I met my husband and his brother, we both lived in the same neighborhood. Across the street from each other. I lived in the neighborhood longer and they moved into the neighborhood afterwards. They used to play basketball a lot. I used to go to the courts to watch the guys play basketball(that's just the sport I liked to watch), over a course of about a month, I was observing my husband at the time before we officially met. I just kept thinking how cute he was and I was really nervous to talk to him, so I never really made a move(That part comes later). Next my husband's brother walked up to me and he was really showing that he was interested in me(I did not know that they were brothers during this time, but I found out later on). We talked about a lot about different things, like basketball, but mainly about his daughter and the situation he was going through with his daughter's mom. He was really attractive, but he told me his age and showed me a picture of his daughter. I wasn't ready to be part of someone's life that already had a child because I was only 15yrs old at the time, plus he was 20yrs old at the time too and I knew my Mom would have a heart attack. Mind you I was really mature for my age though, so I carried myself like I was grown already. He had asked for my number after our conversation and I just told him, "No, I don't have a phone", (even though I did). I just made up an excuse because I did not want to hurt his feelings(I made my decision knowing the connection we had already). We didn't really talk too much after that, but I always knew he was still interested in me. So now a couple of weeks later I find out that they were both brothers when I met my husband during my 16th birthday. He(my husband) just showed up randomly, uninvited. I just let him join the party anyway. We talked for hours that night after the party and 3 days afterwards we finally decided to start dating. (Both brothers were obviously interested in me at the same time) I really didn't think anything of it, but it felt weird to be with my husband a little because when I would go to his house and during other house parties etc, I would always catch his brother staring at me. We even went out on double dates and his brother has always looked at me with that attraction gaze for the longest no matter who he was with. My husband and I were good at first, until I started to see a side to him that made me wish I never dated him in the first place. He was really mean, controlling and occasionally violent(If it wasn't towards me, it was towards objects). Here is where it all begins between both of them. Every time my husband was violent and mean to me, his brother was always coming to my rescue and stepping in. He defended me and made me feel safe when he was around. He has always been my protector when it comes to his brother. This is not easy for me to admit, but my husband had thrown me, when he was angry, and I hit my head on the ground and I just laid there because my head was really spinning. His brother ran up to me and he moved my hair out of my face and was really worried about me. He comforted me. He asked me multiple times, "Are you okay?" He held me and then got in his brother's face to fight him and then ran back to me to help me. I felt so helpless during this time and I really felt like my husband did not care for me at all and his brother did. There are a few other times that my husband was cruel and his brother has always been there in the middle of it. I don't want to go into all of the painful moments of my history, but mentioning at least one major thing can give a clear picture behind part of why I feel the way I do for my husband's brother. Over time my husband's brother has always randomly checked on me and has always given me the love gaze(you know what I am talking about if you've seen it). It has never changed. If any change has happened, it's the strength of the bond between my husband's brother and I. I feel it and I know he feels it too(It's all in the energy when we get around each other). I've always wanted to tell him how I've felt for him over time, but I was not courageous. I was afraid my husband would be really violent towards me. Plus I asked myself, "How could I feel this way about my husband's brother?". I thought to myself, "Maybe it's a feeling that will go away over time, so I just left what I was feeling inside alone", and I just kept it to myself for a really long time until I finally decided to tell him that "I care" for him. There are sooo many important moments of my life that have to do with my husband's brother, like even things and situations that my husband wouldn't notice, but his brother always did(Example: I was really sick and depressed during a long period of time and his brother would always call to check on me, he was even married during this time and was still showing that he cares for me anyway. My husband didn't even notice that I was sick and depressed.). During a large portion of my life I had no body that actually took the initiative to show that they care for me like my husband's brother. He always told me positive things like, "You deserve better", "You don't deserve to be treated the way my brother treats you. "Why do you stay with him?" Here is the part and the reason I finally decided to tell him(Husband's brother) that "I care". My husband's oldest brother passed away(my husband has 3 brothers total). The brother that I am in love with is the 2nd oldest. After the oldest brother passed away, which was years later. I started to see life in a different way and I didn't want to take my husband's brother for granted because we are not promised tomorrow. I felt like I couldn't live with myself if something happened to him and he didn't know that I cared for him at least, so I texted him saying, "I really need to talk to you about something important." I didn't know he was going to call me, but he did. He wanted to know if everything was okay with me, and asked if his brother was okay. I mentioned to him that everything is fine with his brother, but I needed to talk with him about something. I asked if we could meet up in person to have a face to face chat(I am not the kind of person that likes to give this kind news over the phone). He just asked me why and I just said that I wanted to talk with him, but what I had to say deserved a face to face instead of over the phone (I really wanted to see his facial expressions after I told him). He asked what it was about and I just said, "feelings"(by this time I was soooo nervous I was about to just hang up). He asked me if I wanted/needed him to leave work and come over. I decided to tell him, "No, there's no need for that" and then I told him, "Nevermind, forget about it." His response was, "No tell me" , "Please tell me", "Come on, please"(In a charming, sweet tone of voice). I gave in and just decided to ask him, "Do you have feelings for me?" He just said, "nooooooo" (With an uncertain tone of voice) and asked me, "Why?". I then told him specific situations and behaviors that indicated that he cared for me. He didn't say anything back after. He seemed more in shock because of what I noticed about his behavior. I then decided to tell him that I care for him. He asked me if it was because of his brother and asked me, "What did my brother do now?" I just told him, "No, I've always cared about you." "Your brother didn't do anything to make me feel the way I do." (Yes, my husband's brother's protective nature got me to start caring, but that's not the only thing I've noticed over time. I fell in love because he is a very compassionate and caring person, and I always felt like we knew each other when we talked. We have that connection. I love him for who he is.) He just asked me after, "Why did you wait until now to tell me this?" He didn't let me answer the question and then he said, "I wish you would have told me this before I met my wife, then things would be different". I asked him, "How would things be different?" He didn't respond to the question(The response would have been obvious anyway though. I didn't really need to ask him that question). He was happy that I told him that I cared for him and he thanked me for my honesty. His tone of voice then changed like he was disappointed that I waited to tell him that I care for him, because then he said, "I really wish you told me this sooner." He then proceeded to tell me that I am very pretty(because he just wanted to let me know he was attracted to me) and then said, "Since we are being honest with each other, I was always jealous of how much you fought for my brother and I never had anyone fight like that for me before and that is what I envied/wanted you for." He also said, "I admire you." I was very surprised at his response, but then it confirmed everything that I thought he was feeling over time even though he did say, "noooo", in the beginning of the phone call. I just thanked him for noticing what I went through with his brother and it made me feel like I was not alone. We both were a little quiet afterwards, but because he was at work, he then told me that it was nice talking with me, but he has to go before his boss was going to "chew his ass"(We talked for almost an hour, which was actually supposed to be his 15min break). I asked him if we can continue talking the next day and he said, "yes." (Note-Our conversation was also about other things like his family etc, but I don't think those details are relevant to mention, but we were opening up to each other. I always felt he understood me. We understand each other well, but the next day is a bit hard for me to put together to understand) **Over time there has been confirmation and I've just been gathering pieces and putting them together like a puzzle. I already figured my husband's brother out. Now for the next day. I texted him, "Good morning"(Just to be nice) and that is when things took the turn for the worst. He decided to tell the family what I said to him, leaving out everything that he said and felt to me. I am not certain why he decided to do that, but my husband seems to think it's because his wife found out and made him tell the family(It's possible, but I'm not certain). Even though he decided to throw me under the bus, he still gives me that love gaze all the time when our eyes meet each other. He gets really mad when I am anywhere near my husband etc. I wanted to just continue working things out with my husband, but over time my husband's brother seems to be getting angry at the fact that my husband and I are together still. It's just getting worse. My husband's brother called my husband and decided to tell him that I have a "crush" on him etc. I have already tried to mend the situation with my husband's brother, but he doesn't want me to message him anymore. He would rather we speak in person, but when he made that decision I was pretty mad at him for what he had done and I didn't want to talk to him for a while afterwards. I just ignored him, but his behavior started to get worse after that. I felt tension building up between like it's going to explode. My husband and I have spoken and he knows the truth of the entire conversation his brother and I had. My husband also knows that I am in love with his brother, but his brother does not know that I am in love with him. I only told my husband's brother that I care for him, nothing more, but to be honest he probably could tell in my eyes how I feel about him without the need for me to tell him. My marriage is pretty much just about done because of my husband's brother and the way that I feel, but I also found out my husband is in love with someone else. This is all just a messed up situation, but without a doubt I know that my husband's brother is in love with me, but he keeps dissimulating because of the obvious judgement that he would get if the truth came out. The energy between my husband's brother and I is getting more intense over time instead of a typical situation where time usually heals. My husband seems to believe that his brother does love me because he knows his brother's behavior when he is in love. My husband also believes that his brother has been trying to break us up for a long time based on situations behind the scenes that he told me about. I'm not sure what to do at this point. My husband is distant and is being indecisive about us(I understand why though), but I feel the same too. We both just drifted apart after everything. It's a painful mess and I feel completely torn. I hated myself for caring about my husband's brother, I hated myself for feeling the way I do and I've tried sooo hard to hate him(my husband's brother), but I can't. My husband's brother knew my worth before I did( I know my worth now of course). I've come to terms over the years that the way I feel will NEVER go away no matter how hard I try. I'm human and I'm not perfect, but this situation really hurts... ...to be continued
User article | emotional affair, emotional abuse