Relationship “Norms” That Would Seem Nuts To Past Generations

September 18, 2018  |  
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modern dating rules

Gettyimages.com/Young couple are having fun in the winter

When my grandmother (rest her soul) was still alive, she witnessed some of my dating years in my early twenties. I remember thinking that some of her questions about my love life were very…direct and…odd. I also remember her thinking that may answers were at best hilarious and at worst offensive. She and my grandpa met in their late twenties, fell instantly in love, never spent a moment apart after that, and were married within 18 months of knowing each other. That was that. They were crazy about each other and the whole world knew it. I feel like nobody starts a relationship like that anymore. And when they do, we see it as a sign that they’re moving too fast. What is considered “fast” today was considered the only way to date in my grandma’s era. That’s just one of the many things that has changed. Here are modern relationship “norms” people of the past would find ridiculous.

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Openly seeing other people

It’s not out of the ordinary for two individuals to spend a lot of time together, have sex together, and meet each other’s friends while openly seeing other people. It’s not quite polyamory because, they haven’t put any sort of label on their own relationship. But it is an acceptance that the person you’re intimate with is intimate with others.

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Long-term sex, with no labels

Speaking of not using labels, boy do we hate those things. Calling someone a “boyfriend” after spending several nights a week together for months can be considered clingy or moving too fast. To my darling grandma, if you spent the night in someone’s bed more than once, that’s your boyfriend. And he asked for that label by sleeping with you more than once.

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Taking a near decade to get married

We’ll date, date, and date, seemingly into eternity. It’s perfectly normal for people to date for eight years before getting married, or to have kids before getting married, or to never get married at all—and still have kids. To generations past, if you were dating, unmarried, for years, that wasn’t a relationship: that was just an affair.

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Marrying older

We aren’t just dating someone longer before marrying, but we are marrying much older. We may not get into our first truly serious relationship until our late twenties, and then after dating for a long time, we may not marry until our late thirties or early forties.

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Living together before being married

Not only is it not taboo to live together before being married—it’s considered very healthy. Some couples live together for a very, very long time unmarried. That could be, perhaps, one of the reasons we postpone weddings—we already feel we are building our lives together.

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No real dates

My grandma would tell you a man doesn’t deserve 20 minutes of your time if he isn’t willing to plan a very nice date. Today, of course, real dates are reserved for five-year anniversaries in serious relationships. They are not for first dates—those get beer at a bar, and a split bill.

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Concealing financial details

It was completely normal in my grandmother’s day for a woman to inquire about the financial status, and future financial plans, of a man. Revealing that was just a part of the deal of courtship. Today, if a woman asked to see a man’s five-year money plan she’d be viewed as a gold digger.

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Social media stalking

Social media was, of course, not even around in my grandmother’s day. But, gathering information about someone, from a distance, in any manner would have been cause to call the police!

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Openness about bathroom matters

Considering that I would get in trouble for making a joke about farts in my grandma’s house, something tells me that couples of yester-year were not nearly as open with each other about what happens in the bathroom as couples of today. Modern couples just aren’t as concerned with illusions in general—women don’t go to bed with their makeup on, in pretty negligees.

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Listing sexual wills, won’ts, and requirements

It’s common to find someone’s sexual wills and won’ts listed on their dating profile. It’s normal to select (or reject) someone based on this list. Fifty years ago, you just had to figure out those lists the natural way—in bed, over years of dating.

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PDA is for serious relationships only

Today, if a man shows you affection in public, that’s a big deal. That’s reserved for serious relationships. In my grandma’s day, it was perfectly normal to hold hands with or put your arm around someone on a first date.

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We’re doing longer distance

Because we have so many ways to communicate, we’re willing to date people we can’t actually see in person as often. The physical distance we’re willing to travel to see someone has increased because, we won’t actually travel it often—we’ll just Facetime and text in the interim.

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We’re meeting total strangers

You wouldn’t meet a complete stranger (as we do today, via online dating) back in the day. You met people in the circle already—friends or family of friends. There was barely two degrees of separation between dates and other people you knew very well. Today, we really do meet total strangers.

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Females bringing home the bacon

I think it’s great that norms have been turned upside down, and I have several female friends who are financially supporting their male partners while they pursue their dreams or look for jobs. That just…didn’t used to happen. However a man had to make it work to not get money from his female companion, he made it work. Having the woman exclusively bring home the bacon was unacceptable.

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Discussions about expectations are taboo

Today, if you ask someone you’ve been dating for six months where they see the relationship going, you’re considered clingy and crazy. In my grandmother’s day, you laid out your expectations regarding marriage and kids on date three.

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