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Author Topic: "Going Steady".
-Lauren-
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I was reviewing various topics on the boards, such as the "Why hurry to the altar?" thread, and various others users have posted in which their parents/grandparents discourage exclusive, serious relationships young in life.

I've asked almost all of the older adults in my life, and they agree that things have certainly changed, for the most part. Back when my parents and grandparents were young, they would date several people at a time, for light-hearted fun. The ones who went together exclusively were "going steady".

Certainly, there were some young people who got serious even in those times, but it seems that the number has exponentially increased since then. Rarely do I hear among my peers incidences of open relationships. Anybody who engages in them is quick to be labelled a "player" or "slut".

I guess I'm looking for opinions. Do you think that young people are under more pressure these days to lock down and stay in one monogamous relationship, regardless of the quality? If so, where do you think the pressure is coming from? If not, please give your take.

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mysticpisces
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I, for one, have never dated openly and have only approached people when I had the intentions of having a more long-term relationship. I do think however that this might be a regional thing, like in my school I never heard of people just dating, but some other schools and cities it's probably more common.

I think it's rather ironic that people would be forced into more monogamous relationships, since marriage doesn't seem to be so binding anymore and divorce is very common. You'd think that people would just date around more, but maybe it's because of divorce that people try to be in more long-term relationships. I don't know...

I hope that someday if I get married I will stay married, and by having more long-term and serious relationships I will be able to handle a marriage. But that's just how I am too -- very committed.

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Heather
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Actualy, I wouldn't say "lock down and stay." Serial monogamy seems to be the order of the day, instead, especially given that the lifespan of the average young adult relationship still rarely exceeds six months.

In other words, what you're seeing more of are people basically still dating, but one RIGHT after the other, rather than at the same time, and calling it something else.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Faith54
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Funny you brought this up, because my writing class had a blog this year, and this was brought up in our class discussion. One classmate brought up "open-relationships"- dating several people at a time. Some felt it was a bad idea, some thought it was alright. I don't think there's pressure to "lock down and stay" persay, b/c as Miz Scarlet so perfectly said, monogamous relationships don't really last long. I think monogamous relationships are preferred by both authority and peers b/c it discourages "sleeping around" for lack of a better term (not that all open relationships involve sex, but I think people believe so). However, I don't think open relationships are necessarily looked down upon either, as long as everyone involved knows what they want and what to expect. So, to put simply, I don't believe there is a status quo, atleast not at my school. But it's a very liberal charter school, so maybe my opinion would be totally wrong somewhere else.

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"My grandmother never gave gifts- she was too busy being raped by cossacks." ~ Woody Allen

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Djuna
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This is from the UK rather than the US, but I've been interested by the whole double standard on serial monogamy and the approach to open relationships. Well there's plenty of my friends who are in long-term relationships (the longest coupling has lasted 18 months) and open relationships are seen as pretty weird. Most people who I'm friends with are looking for emotional payoff (for want of a better word) from their relationships.
In addition, guys who 'sleep around' tend to be called 'players' and looked down on. I have never heard a girl called a 'slut' at my school. One of my friends has had plenty of boyfriends, and because they seemed to be all the 'players', we have a sort of ongoing joke that she's the school bike [Wink] . No-one looks down on her at all - people just think of her as a great person. Anyway just thought this might be interesting.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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wobblyheadedjane
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But wouldn't using a term like "the school bike" intrinsically derogatory? There's sort of an automatic connotation with a term like that which implies the person bearing it is loose, easy, slutty or what have you. One would think if everyone thinks so highly of her, the term "school bike" wouldn't be used at all.

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Unlucky at cards; lucky at love.

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Johann7
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As this is my first post, I'd like to take a moment to applaud the existence of this site and others like it which offer frank, socially-open advice and information to teens. Hooray!

Ok, back to dating trends.

I grew up in a liberal metropolitan suburb, and I've noted a number of dating trends. First, my perception is that "open-relationships" are believed to be more pervasive than they actually are. The divide at my school seemed to be about 50/50 between long term (1-2+ years) relationships and the sort of "serial monogamy" described by Miz Scarlet. Of my close personal friends, only one really engages in open dating; her view is that a sexual relationship doesn't have to be emotionally lacking or meaningless simply because it's non-exclusive or short-lived (to be clear, she doesn't engage in high-risk behaviors when dating openly and always practices safe sex), and her open relationships do tend to be short-lived. She did date one guy for almost a year: this started as an open relationship but as it progressed, she and her boyfriend decided they weren't interested in other people, and they entered a de-facto state of exclusive dating.

She's the exception, though. Most of my other friends commit themselves to long-term (years) relationships, while a few tend to have shorter monogamous relationships.

I think the perception of open relationships has more to do with mass-media depictions of casual sex than actual trends (though this could be radically different, depending on the cultural climate of and particular geographic location). I attribute the phenomenon to a cultural backlash against the puritanical standards that were themselves a backlash against the "free-love" ideal of the sixties, when "going steady" was not the norm and therefore required a different term than "dating".

However, this is all really neither here nor there. I would guess that most people (myself included) gravitate towards monogamous relationships because they seek a fairly intense emotional return and it's impractical, both psychologically and in terms of time constraints, to seek relationships which are that emotionally intense with multiple people. Not everyone is looking for the same thing (or feels the same way about romantic/sexual relationships), though, so maybe the growing trend towards open relationships is simply reflective of a culture that is growing in acceptance of practices that deviate from the social norms. I can hope, right?

Whatever the case may be, the best policy for any individual is clearly to identify what he/she personally wants and is comfortable with and to pursue dating practices that are in line with his/her outlook.

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Heather
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An interesting aspect of all of this, that I think might be being missed, is a presumption that dating = open, multiple relationships which are sexual.

When, often enough, historically and practically, dating comes BEFORE a sexual relationship. So, many people who are dating a few people at a time, are doing so to determine who they even want to have a sexual relationship with. Kissing might be involved, or some general making out, but for plenty of folks, that's where it stops until they decide they want to pursue a sexual relationship with ONE of the people they've been dating (at which time, often -- but not always, and THEN is often when one gets to open relationships), at which time people then often stop dating the others.

I think some of this disconnect is arising from the practice of having something be a capital-R relationship from (or even before) the first date onward.

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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Woo, I forgot I even made this thread for awhile there! Thanks to everybody who replied.

I think there is some weight to Johann7's suggestion that the view of casual sex may have some role to play in how people view open relationships. Even though, as Miz Scarlet pointed out, open relationships in the traditional "dating" sense often don't include sexual activity, it may be that people assume that any relationship(s), at all, often do include sex.

I think you were seriously unto something with serial monogomy, Miz S. That does seem to be one of the cases in high school.. and yet, from what I've seen, serial monogomy IS discouraged as well. Somebody who gets in several short-lived monogamous relationships are said to be cruel heartbreakers, or even sluts/players.

A good part of it may be what you said about a good amount of people making relationships official early on, even before the first date.

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Johann7
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Yes, I suppose I didn't even consider that aspect, having not really had any other perspective [Razz] It was certainly the case with most of the people I know that they started 'dating' after talking for a couple hours and then making out at a party (I'm actually the only exception I can think of at the moment - my last girlfriend was, and still is, one of my best friends before we ever hooked up). But the formal courtship ritual of yore seems to have vanished. Even the people that didn't just jump right into physical relationships didn't really go out on "dates" per say, they got to know each other by hanging out in groups of friends but didn't spend a whole lot of time alone together before hooking up.

It's all sex and no substance right off the bat, which could be why relationships tend not to last, or those that do end badly (not to mention the ever-growing divorce rate). -That WAS half joking, I think "no substance" is a bit strong, but people are getting physical sooner now than when my parents were kids, which I do think links back to the cultural perception of casual sex as the thing to do (check out the "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset" episode of South Park for some laughs at the expense of pop-icons like Paris Hilton and, unfortunately, the children who idolize them).

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Heather
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I think you bring up some good points.

In addition to that, I'd add that a lot of this is influenced by youth. YA relationships DO have a quicker velocity than more mature (as in older, between those with more life experience) relationships: they start more quickly, they esclate more quickly, and they often end more quickly. I've often said over the years in working with this population that you sometimes have to measure YA relationships in a sort of dog years: 6 months in an adult relationship, for instance, is not really a long relationship, but given how few years your average teenager has lived, six months is a much longer relationship, relatively, because it's a greater percentage of their lives than it is for someone 25, 45, 65.

Some of that is alsojust good old live-and-learn stuff. As we get older, we tend to learn to wear our hearts a bit less on our sleeve, because many of us learn from young relationships that trusting entirely right off the bat isn't so smart, and tends to wind up n someone getting hurt a lot more. We learn that "love" is more complex than really being attracted to someone, than someone making us feel good about ourselves, than liking someone a lot.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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Sorry, just to clarify. My friend and I have a JOKE that she's the 'school bike'. It's a big exaggeration of how she really is, she's always monogamous, and very well respected. It's just our little joke really - I was trying to show how serial monogamists (which she is kind of) can be very well-respected people, and how the gender double standard over this is the other way around where I live. No offence intended. Honest. [Wink]

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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nali
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Also, could it be that the U.S. has been influenced recently by the influx of new immigrants from non-Western cultures? Miss Lauren mentioned how people "dated" a lot more when her grandparents/parents were young -- but I suspect that this was a phenomenon more common among white Americans. Eastern cultures with which I am at least somewhat familiar (Bangaldeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Korean, Chinese) tend to place an emphasis on long-term relationships leading to marriage, rather than dating just for fun. My parents hold a disdain for the "American dating scene," and I think that their attitude may have rubbed off a bit on me.

[ 07-11-2006, 10:22 PM: Message edited by: nali ]

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summergoddess
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quote:
Do you think that young people are under more pressure these days to lock down and stay in one monogamous relationship, regardless of the quality? If so, where do you think the pressure is coming from? If not, please give your take.
I believe young people should not have the burden to be locked down in a particular monogamous relationship. Some parents still have the idea of free dating such as from the sixties life. The pressure can come from various sources such as family, friends, society and the mass media.

However, it is up to young people how to go about handling that. You do not have to apply that pressure in your life. Young people need to learn that the life they lead is their own. Life’s a learning journey afterall! They can choose to date several people or choose to be exclusive or not even date at all. Young people have their own priorities. Everybody’s different. Some people may be ready and others may not.

Personally, my parents encouraged me to date when I wanted to. However at 17, I was really ready to be settled down and committed. Even though I had never really had dated “openly” and only had relationships that were intended for more of a long term deal.

I agree with one user who said, “The best policy for any individual is clearly to identify what he/she personally wants and is comfortable with and to pursue dating practices that are in line with his/her outlook” . I totally agree! Once again, every individual is different. My parents had to learn to let me go and live my life—this was one of the many words at their speech at my wedding that happened almost two months ago. My cousin Jill said that from the time I was born, I was set to look for my prince charming and I had found mine at 17 and I held on to him for five years and then we finally tied the knot on May 27th this year. My mom had mentioned to me during my first year of university back in the fall of 2002 that I should keep a look out for other people, but I remember telling her and I was 19 at the time, that I already had found the one and I was not going to burn the relationship down because of what she said. I was going to go with my gut and I did. My parents are so glad that I went with my heart. They love my husband to death for who he is and for loving me for who I am!

I also have the belief that open-relationships do have to with dating several people at a time. Sexual content can be involved, but of course, there are people who choose not to include sexual intercourse at all in that concept. It is up to the couple to set whatever boundaries they want in the relationship of how platonic or how sexual they wish to go be together.

Thus, You cannot tell other people what to do. If I made a decision that wasn’t really for myself but for other people, I am not really being myself or in other words, I am not being true. In any decision that people make in regards to dating, and etc, they should be honest and true about it. I would go crazy and regret later if I made a choice that was not freewill to me. So choosing to have sex at 17 and getting married at 22 were decisions that I chose to make for myself. People know themselves best and that’s all there’s to it.

[ 07-23-2006, 03:45 PM: Message edited by: summergoddess ]

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floridian2x
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quote:
I've asked almost all of the older adults in my life, and they agree that things have certainly changed, for the most part. Back when my parents and grandparents were young, they would date several people at a time, for light-hearted fun. The ones who went together exclusively were "going steady".

Certainly, there were some young people who got serious even in those times, but it seems that the number has exponentially increased since then. Rarely do I hear among my peers incidences of open relationships. Anybody who engages in them is quick to be labelled a "player" or "slut".

I guess I'm looking for opinions. Do you think that young people are under more pressure these days to lock down and stay in one monogamous relationship, regardless of the quality? If so, where do you think the pressure is coming from? If not, please give your take.

Hey all!

I have something to say to this quote...

My boyfriend and I are in a steady relationship, and we really couldn't be happier. We've been together for about 1 year and 7 months. We always talk about the future together, and we enjoy that. It makes us both happy. His parents know that we've talked about this, but mine do not. -And once my mom said that I shouldn't be so serious with him, that I should date more people... that "You will have plenty more boyfriends." She doesn't understand that I don't want to take a break from my boyfriend now, just to date other guys and see how they are. Nor do I want to have like 3 boyfriends at the same time. (Which I kind of got that vibe from her)

It makes me mad that my mom wants that. (or seems to be hinting it... maybe I'm getting the wrong vibe...but either way..) I don't know why she can't just let me live my own life... Yes, I'm young.. almost 17, but still! Its my relationship with my boyfriend, we couldn't be happier, and its not me to have a bunch of boyfriends at the same time, or to dump the man who I'm happiest with, just to see how some other guy is!

Please someone tell me your opinion on this.. it would be greatly appreciated... if you want to know anything else, feel free to ask.

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kitka
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My mom pulled the same thing on me today. I thought I might be falling in love, just a bit, with my bf of several months. Quel impossible, she said.

Why is that mothers do that?

She recognizes that you're young, comparatively speaking, and wants you to realize that it just- might-not-last.

You're still in high school, right?
There's still the college hump to surmount. A lot of young relationships don't survive that. Some do (my older brother's, for example). Others do not.

Sometimes people can be self-deceptive in relationships. Things are going great, and it doesn't feel like it's going to end. When it does, you take the punch extra hard.

It sounds like your mom is doing to you what my mom does to me (and I'm almost 25). She's being a den mom, maybe on the overprotective side.
It doesn't sound like she wants you to break up with him. She might envision you guys having a casual dating relationship where you're free to see other people if you want. (If your mom grew up in the 70s, she probably did that!)

Do you have to see how some other guy is?
No, of course not. Just let yourself be open to the fact that relationships can have lots of trajectories, some bad, some awesome, and go with the flow.

[ 08-10-2006, 08:06 PM: Message edited by: kitka ]

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kitka
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Lauren, in answer to this (an excellent observation!):

there were some young people who got serious even in those times, but it seems that the number has exponentially increased since then.

In the 1920s and early 30's, the modern dating culture began to evolve. (See Beth Bailey's "From Porch to Back Seat," on 20th century American courtship).

Prior to that era, exclusivity was for people who had made semi-public declarations of marriage. If you were exclusive and not getting married, people often assumed that you were monogamous for the (illicit! premarital! scandalous!) sex.

Fast forward to the mid-20th century (1930s and onwards), where you could find open discussions of attraction, dating, and suggestions of sexual activity on college campuses. As people accepted the fact that premarital sexual activity was often a component of dating relationships, exclusivity gained more acceptance.

That might be why we see more of it today.

At the same time, I don't think that exclusivity rules the college campus, as a few new studies have suggested. "Hooking up" really is more of a norm, quantitatively speaking. Most of the guys in my bf's fraternity house do not have steady girlfriends... we're pretty unique in that sense. I think that kind of development goes hand in hand with the increasing acceptance of sexual permisiveness and the illusion that things like STD and unwanted pregnancy rates are under control.

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