When I was a teenager and started hooking up with my first “totally wrong for me” boyfriend, the thing I was most afraid of was getting pregnant. I never messed around without condoms, and even then, I’d make him pull out every time just to be extra careful. It wasn’t due to the fact that my parents said they’d disown me if I got knocked up—I’m pretty sure we only had one awkward conversation about it in the car, and I’ve mostly blocked out the memory due to the sheer humiliation of it all. No, it was the way they talked about relatives who accidentally got pregnant or how my mom looked disappointed yet resigned when I asked to go on birth control at 17.
Even as I got older, went to college, and started getting my sh*t together, the implication was there: don’t get pregnant before you’re married. The reason, of course, was that my life would be over. Destroyed. I’d be a ~ruined woman.~ So, I used condoms, pulled out, and went on birth control that destroyed my libido and made me not want to have sex in the first place, all in an effort to avoid the dreaded pregnancy out of wedlock.
I put a lot of work into not getting pregnant, but now, as a married, professional (lol) woman in my late twenties who spends an ungodly amount of time scrolling through Instagram, I’m starting to wonder if that was the right choice. As my biological clock starts to tick, it makes sense why some women would decide to get pregnant despite not being married. Unless you’ve somehow managed to avoid all media for the past couple of years, there’s a good chance you’ve been privy to celeb pregnancy announcements. Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian, Mindy Kaling, Emma Roberts, and Gigi Hadid are just a handful of the mommas out there who had a baby (or babies, in Mindy’s case) sans spouse. Granted, they are superstars who have money and the ability to hire people to help them. But it’s not just people who can make bank from one #SponCon who are bucking the “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby with the baby carriage” norm. It’s regular people as well.
Despite the outdated taboo, a few friends of mine got pregnant and had babies before getting married, and at first, I didn’t think much of it. But then, I saw more and more women my age posting stunning bump pictures without a partner (or at least, without a ring) and dressing their babies up and casually chatting about shared custody or their happy unmarried family unit. When I saw my 10th announcement within a few months, I pulled a Carrie and couldn’t help but wonder: Is getting pregnant sans marriage… trendy?
As someone who went the “socially accepted/expected” path (college, marriage, house, maybe babies in the future), I can’t speak to the hows and whys of the influx of single moms, but it’s definitely not just an Instagram coincidence. Before the 1960s, premarital pregnancy was pretty f*cking rare, according to 2017 data from the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee. Back then, about 5.3% of births were to single ladies. Since then, however, births to unmarried women started climbing. In 2008, 40% of births were to unwed moms, and today only about 9% of those are followed up with a good old fashion shotgun wedding, as opposed to 43% back in the early ’60s.
So, the big question is: Why are millennials choosing to have children outside of marriage?
Basically? We don’t view marriage the same way our parents and grandparents did. “Previous generations viewed marriage as the first step of adulthood. Many millennials, however, look at marriage as one of the last milestones you get to after you are financially stable,” relationship therapist and coach Jaime Bronstein explains to Betches. “Since many millennials aren’t gaining that financial security at the peak of their child-bearing years, they feel like they should just have a baby regardless of their relationship status while they can.”
Baily, a 27-year-old mom of a 1-year-old, agrees. “In my grandma’s generation, you just did not get divorced. It was against the church. In my mom’s generation, everyone’s divorced,” she explains. “This generation isn’t bothering. I never grew up wanting to get married. I was never that girl. I don’t look at wedding dresses or rings online. I just wanted to be a mom one day.“
Despite not being married (although she is in a serious relationship with her baby’s father), Baily’s decision to get pregnant wasn’t totally accidental. “I’d be lying if I said alcohol wasn’t involved,” she admits, “But I had very knowingly canceled my birth control subscription to eventually try. It just happened a lot faster than I thought.” Since she’s with a man eight years her senior who, she says, “was on an ‘I wanna be a dad kick,'” having a baby just made sense.
Sarah, a 29-year-old regional sales manager, is currently 33 weeks along in her pregnancy and in a serious, committed relationship with her baby’s father. The mom-to-be agrees with Baily, saying, “I think as a society we are becoming less traditional as a whole. Part of the shift from tradition is making the decision to have a baby regardless of marital status.”
When it comes to her relationship, Sarah says, “My pregnancy has only strengthened our relationship. It’s been such a joy to watch him settle into fatherhood.” She adds, “It’s funny how things that once felt so major (like a wedding) seem so insignificant once you’re expecting a child together.”
For Adriane, a flight attendant with a 3-year-old son, it was the legal freedom that came with being unwed—as well as the chance to see how her S.O. handled the changes—that made her feel like it was the right decision. “You get to find out how your partner deals with stress and big life changes. Like a trial period,” she laughs.
“You can always cancel if you don’t like it,” Samantha, an unmarried mom of two, agrees. “You see everything about a person before you decide to spend your whole life with someone. I think that cuts down on your chance of divorce. If things don’t work out, it’s a lot easier to break up than to divorce, and that will be easier on your kids.”
And while the moms I talked to (all of whom have some level of post-secondary education) are in agreement that they made the right choice in having their children, being unmarried can add a level of uncertainty.
“It’s easier to leave when you aren’t married, and that has been a worry of mine at times,” says mom of two, Jenn. “A new baby is tough. Especially postpartum when my hormones are crazy, and I’m a mess crying all the time… There is a lot of gross stuff that goes on during pregnancy and after you have the baby which your partner is going to see. It definitely made me nervous that maybe he wouldn’t find me attractive or sexy again after seeing my body change so much and seeing me in such a vulnerable position.”
Luckily for Jenn, her partner is proving to be as doting—if not more so—than the husbands of her friends, which is something Baily noticed as well. “Men can be very irritating, and I’m a big ‘I’ll just do it myself’-er. I luckily still have a lot of support,” she explains. “My boyfriend is great, and he’s such a great dad too. But I see my single friends managing just fine without a man.”
Baily and Samantha both feel the societal shift will continue to grow as women see close single friends and “everyday women” rear children without a spouse. Add in the fact that single influential celebrities are also having babies and the whole trend gains speed.
“Celebrities have a large influence on the minds of impressionable individuals. Naturally, you compare yourself to those in the public eye and wonder if their reality can be your reality,” explains relationship expert Spicy Mari. As the female empowerment movement continues to push forward (about damn time, amiright?), there’s a good chance unwed pregnancy will continue to become more popular.
“As women become more financially stable, they feel as though they don’t need to be married to gain the financial benefits they once needed that came along with marriage,” adds Bronstein.
Ultimately, every relationship is different. For some, a legally binding commitment will make them feel ready to have a child. While 60% of pregnancies still happen post-wedding, a growing amount of people just don’t need that sort of declaration. Whether you’re married or not, things like judgment from older generations and sticky logistics should the relationship not work out are factors to consider, but will probably come either way.
Anne*, a recently divorced mom of a 1-year-old, advises anyone thinking about getting pregnant, “to ask themselves: ‘Can I co-parent with this person if we don’t work out?’ and ‘Am I willing to see less of my child if we do end up co-parenting?'” She adds, “Obviously, that can happen if you get married. But married couples are more likely to work things out than couples who don’t have that commitment.”
Ultimately, deciding you want to get pregnant in 2021 isn’t necessarily contingent upon being married, so you have to decide what’s best for you and your child. “Think about your personal pros and cons. Think about the meaning and purpose behind both,” advises Bronstein. “Everyone needs to do what is best for them.” There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you’re emotionally, physically, and financially ready to care for a child.
“A commitment is a commitment, and a baby is a HUGE commitment. Nothing says ‘you’re mine forever’ like literally creating a life together,” says Baily. “Don’t let government papers, a wedding dress, or bitchy bridesmaids dictate how old your kids will be when you’re 40 on a cruise ship drinking margs, and they’re all off to college already.” We’ll cheers our mocktails to that.
*Name has been changed.
Images: Camylla Battani / Unsplash; Giphy (5)
Now that the world is slowly starting to turn again, it might be safe to resume thinking about the next phases of our lives. Like, if the pandemic put your wedding on pause for a while, you may be starting to look into microweddings or other alternatives. Similarly, if coronavirus f*cked up your plans to move in with your S.O., now that spring has come and gone, it may be time to start thinking about that again (just be warned that working from home with them for months on end might result in a literal crime scene). It’s exciting to be able to take those big steps with your S.O., but before you take the plunge, there are a few things to think about, especially when it comes to cohabitation. We spoke with Leslie Montanile, an N.Y.C-based divorce attorney, to discuss how to successfully move in with your S.O. and the many benefits of living together before saying “I do.”
When you move in with your S.O. before you tie the knot, you get to know all of their daily habits and quirks, which is a huge bonus when preparing for newlywed life, according to Montanile. While you might think that your partner is crushing #adulting prior to moving in together, you may quickly find out that Brad isn’t actually the neat freak you thought he was, but was just shoving his dirty laundry in the closet before you came over. However, says Montanile, “the good news is that you can find a middle ground by blending your differences so that both of you are comfortable in your new arrangement, making adjustments before taking that trip down the aisle.” Just like you learned in kindergarten, sometimes you have to compromise.
Although moving in together can bring couples closer, don’t expect it to be all sunshine and rainbows from the moment you move in. Most couples will likely argue during the adjustment phase, especially when it comes to personal space and living habits. Since friction is totally natural when you and your partner have differences about, like, the A.C. temperature, Montanile suggests finding “a solution to your differences that are creating friction in the first place.” This can actually be super healthy for your relationship, Montanile says, since “You can be secure knowing that arguments during the adjustment period do not mean you are not compatible—in fact, it means you care enough about your partner to express your frustration or discontent at the moment and are not afraid to show how you are feeling.” Eventually, your lifestyles will meld together, and you can get back to your mushy couple stuff (gag).
Come As You Are
Initially, giving up your personal space and private time can make you especially pissy towards your partner—being hypercritical, starting fights about what you should order for dinner, sh*t like that—or it can even make you question the entire decision to move in together. Before you commit to living together, Montanile advises sitting down “to discuss what is important to you to keep as part of your new life together. Whether it is a weekly date with your friends, yoga, cooking class, golfing on the weekend, etc., these are the activities that made you and your partner happy before moving in together and should not suddenly cease.” After all, no one wants to be that girl whose only personality trait is being Josh’s girlfriend. Since you fell in love with your partner as a unique individual, “maintaining some of that individuality keeps your romance alive,” Montanile explains.
Making Money Moves
Talking about money can be awkward, but it’s necessary to discuss when moving in with your S.O. When you began dating, you might have followed a set spending pattern, like taking turns paying for dates or having the partner with the higher salary treating the other, but there are even more financial factors to consider when combining households. Montanile advises couples to “discuss their budgets and spending habits before moving in with each other so that there are no surprises.” While it’s not the sexiest conversation, “Deciding how you will handle the newly joint expenses upfront will take the stress off the relationship right from the start to concentrate on the fun new adventure of living with the one you love.” For example, you could both agree on a bill-splitting app to use or create a shared spreadsheet to track expenses, then you can move on to the fun stuff, like attempting to put your IKEA bookshelf together.
Happily Ever After
While you may want to jump straight into wedding planning the minute you’ve posted your “He put a ring on it!” Instagram, there are literally so many perks to living together first. After all, remarks Montanile, “it is a big deal to move in with someone no matter how much you love them and want to be with them.” Basically, it’s like getting to know each other all over again, except in an up-close way and in your shared space, instead of over Tinder. So, it’s not uncommon for your S.O. to act a little differently after move-in day, Montanile says. “Perhaps you find that your partner is quieter than usual—realize that when you are with someone all the time, you will learn that they are not always ‘on’ as if you were dating. Everyone has downtime or up time that you do not see when you are not living together.” You shouldn’t worry too much, though, because your partner is prob just adjusting to not having their own space anymore, which can cause them to behave a little differently until they become comfortable in your new, combined abode. At the end of the day, all of the ~struggles~ of moving in together are so worth it, since they’re all part of creating a grown-up, happy, and lifelong relationship.
For more insight on love and law, visit Leslie Montanile’s website.
Images: Cottonbro / Pexels; Giphy (2)
If you’re a neat and organized female who has ever been invited to a man’s apartment, you already know you’re in for a hot f*cking mess before you even go inside. You know who may feel this even harder than I do? My true Khaleesi, Gwyneth Paltrow, who recently revealed that she and her husband of nine months don’t actually live together. While some are utterly shooketh over their unconventional setup, I am in awe and needed to know more, so I paid five pounds for a The Times subscription to read her full interview on the matter. And about a quarter of the way into the world’s longest article, the British publication reports, “Interestingly, she and don’t live together yet, though he is close by. He sleeps at his own house when his children, Brody and Isabella, stay; on the other four nights he’s chez Paltrow.” So why don’t the lovebirds—she the founder of the lifestyle brand exclusively targeted at the .03% and he the co-creator of TV’s most terrifying shows, American Horror Story and Glee—live together? I imagine it’s because every piece of furniture in her home is white and her OCD starts to act up when too many people breathe on it. But contrary to my theory, Gwyneth has no shame in revealing the real reason and I have to say, I’m about it.
The reason for their living arrangement can be attributed to the concept of polarity, which her intimacy teacher, Michaela Boehm, says keeps the relationship “fresh.” Jesus f*cking Christ, an intimacy teacher? Is this an actual job title? *Checks LinkedIn* So, like, does this make Doreah an intimacy teacher then? I mean, she def taught the Mother of Dragons a thing or two about being ~intimate.~ Anyway, while I literally can’t stop laughing at the fact that there is an actual person out there calling herself Gwyneth Paltrow’s intimacy teacher, I don’t totally disagree with her MO. She’s basically saying that spending just a little time apart keeps the mystery, vibrancy, and passion alive, which is def fair. I think the reason Gwenyth’s admission was, and is, still making headlines is because it’s such an unconventional take on marriage coming from such an absurdly traditional woman. I mean, she’s authored not one, but five cookbooks and looked more traditional than apple f*cking pie on each cover. The thing is, though, Gwyn isn’t really doing anything that crazy, according to Dr. Catherine Aponte, clinical psychologist and author of A Marriage of Equals.
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Maybe she’s onto something and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Maybe every single married person is dying for a night or two off from their relationship to catch up on Planet Earth while deep-throating a burrito in bed, but everyone is too afraid to bring it up to their partners because of all the judgmental, behind-on-the-times Charlotte York Goldenblatt’s out there. Look, not spending every waking second with your spouse is not a domestic crime, okay? Wanting some me time doesn’t make me a terrible partner. On the contrary, it just confirms that I am a sane person for not crawling into a hole and losing my sh*t for missing one second of my lobster’s life if I, like, blink. Dr. Aponte says, “To co-create a marriage that works, a husband and wife must maintain a simultaneous perspective of themselves both as individuals and as a couple. This arrangement is this couples’ way of ‘being in this together’ while also having individual life plans.” This is an instance where I have nothing smarter to add, so I’ll just say “preach” and move on.
Generally, if I’m ever talking about Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s usually to make fun of something stupid she did like promoting the
bullsh*t hormonal benefits of sticking a jade egg up your vagina or naming her children Apple and Moses. However, today I am here to commend the woman who sold me on an $85 silk pillowcase and convinced me that Great Expectations is cool. Look, admitting your life is anything but perfect in the Instagram tornado we call the world isn’t easy, but since we literally all know that it’s all fake, why not just cut the sh*t and be real?! That doesn’t mean you have to start posting pics of you and your S.O. arguing over dinner, but there is absolutely no reason to be out here pretending you live in a perfect relationship because we know it’s all a bunch of crap. I have so much respect for Gwyneth now that she’s trailblazing a realistic way to live out your dreams! In fact, Dr. Aponte says that married people should be spending some time apart if they want to retain at least a shred of their individuality. Put more eloquently, she says, “Having time alone is an affirmation of having status as an individual and having one’s own life plan in the context of being a committed relationship.” And that makes sense because we need to establish some sort of balance between being our own selves and part of a couple.
Yes, I’m fully aware that not everyone can afford to pay two separate rents like the Paltrow-Falchuks do, but there are less expensive/elaborate ways to have slightly separate lives when you want. For instance, go the Carrie Bradshaw route and just kindly let your partner know that you’d like some alone time and then just, like, go in your room and shut the door. Boom. You’re living à la Gwyneth without spending a single dollar. Genius!
At the end of the day, the problem isn’t wanting a day or two to yourself, it’s that shows like This Is Us have trained us to feel guilty for needing a second of alone time. Gwyneth even says, “Oh, all my married friends say that the way we live sounds ideal and we shouldn’t change a thing.” But really, there’s no need to be jealous because having being part of a couple while having slightly separate lives is an option for everyone, not just Pepper Pots. The only issue with this kind of arrangement is that it’s really stigmatized. Dr. Aponte says, “The stigma associated with this arrangement is most likely due to the perceived threat of affirming one’s individuality in the traditionally defined marriage of being individuals. It is a threat to the idea that we are two who become one in marriage.” I mean, yes in every sense of the word. Let’s not forget that we live in the year 2019 and there are a million and a half types of relationships out there to explore and embrace. To finish it on a strong and feminist note, Dr. Aponte adds, “I think this stigma is particularly aimed at women who wish to have careers (not just jobs).” As sad as I am to agree, I completely agree and we need to do something about this.
My best friend from childhood, for instance, is climbing the corporate latter at one of the East Coast’s largest real estate firms, but she literally just quit because she got engaged and “wants to focus on her marriage.” After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I asked her why in hell she can’t make a little space in her enormous Ivy League brain to be an amazing wife and #getdatmoney, and she literally just kind of shrugged and changed the subject. Because I want to preserve our lifelong friendship, I didn’t press too much harder, but I am truly not okay after hearing this.
More women (and men, honestly) need to come forward when it comes to saying how you really feel about your marriage and individuality. Like, if Gwyneth says that embracing your desire for alone time is ok, you better believe it’s legit. So if you feel like you need a minute, take it, people!
Images: Instagram; Giphy (3)