When it comes to a relationship, the majority of us seem to slide into them. Unfortunately, sliding is not deciding. It is a route to mid-life crises.
For instance, take living together: Researchers at the University of Colorado found that two-thirds of us just sort of slide into that scenario, without much careful consideration. Hey, how ’bout we live together to save on rent? But, then you miss out finding the “right one.”
In other words, only one in three of us actually talk with each other about what’s really at stake. The conversation sounds something like “What do we really know about this choice’s impact on each of us?”
Deep down: “What do I want and fear in life? And, by the way, “What are your unspoken expectations of me?” These are the questions that lead us to really understanding: “What does this decision mean to each of us?”
Typically, we avoid these most serious conversations. Maybe we don’t even know what we want, other than to feel lovable or belong. Maybe we’re just conflict-avoidant.
Most likely, we don’t want to hear what we don’t want to hear. We prefer the fantasy, really. After all, unresolved dynamics of childhood do get played out in our adult intimacy. And, as much as we want to think we are unique, we unconsciously bend to our friends’ and society’s cadence.
Different than sliding into a situation, making a decision means consciously making a choice, weighing pros and cons. You probably know that much.
But, what most of us don’t fully admit is that for every choice we make, we are forfeiting other options. When we stave off recognizing these lost chances and choices, the realities erupt into life crises: You feel trapped, used or just plain unappreciated.
Sliding Into Parenthood
Moving in with someone is one thing. A baby another. The Shere Hite Report On Family, to take one example, grabs people’s attention with taboo statistics: Plainly put, most women have babies because it’s what a woman does when she grows up. Sliding.
As for more empirical data found in The Motherhood Report, it seems that 20% of mothers report not liking motherhood, and another 55% report ambivalence. That math equals 75% of all moms, less than satisfied.
Still, another cliche’ myth is that childlessness is an unhappy lot in life. No, just the opposite. The Childless by Choice Project surveyed women who have not borne children and guess again: Nearly 85% of women report “loving their lives.”
Come to think of it, maybe this helps explain why, over a lifetime, mothers report a lower sense of well-being than so-called childless women do. As international author and journalist Peggy Orenstein wrote in her book Waiting For Daisy:
“How was it that despite my achievement and my education. . .my self-worth had been reduced to whether or not I could produce a child?”
To say this may all sound discomforting to most readers is probably a silly understatement. And, there’s more.
Reality sets in after the baby is born: Ninety percent of parents face distress or even crisis in the marriage. Nothing insurmountable together.
So, with that said, you may prefer to just contemplate a survey conducted seven years ago at the London School of Economics by Dr. Andrew Oswald, a Professor of Behavioral Science. He interviewed 20,000 people, comparing parents to non-parents.
The conclusion is not that children make you less happy; it’s just that children don’t make you more happy.
Whatever the startling effects of these facts, they teach us one thing at least: It’s better to decide choices, with our eyes wide open and ready with knowledge, because unspoken expectations are premeditated disappointments.
Let’s Not Get Neurotic
Fine. But, do we have to talk about everything? Of course not. That’d drive us nutty. Sliding into some things can be just fine, even preferable. The point is, if something is obviously important, make a consciously intentional decision. Have a dialogue. For instance what view of a relationship do you harbor?
If that seems daunting, consider these 36 questions.
One way or another, there’s always the option of sliding into bed with a half-pint of ice cream, to sort out life’s unintended crisis.