Millennials: What Do ‘Grown-Up Relationships’ Look Like?

Have you seen these headlines?

‘Millennial Commitment-Phobia Threatens the Future of Love.’

‘Are Dating Apps the End of Romance?’ 

‘Love is Dead, and Millennials Killed It.’

Thanks for the laughs, Google. I wholeheartedly disagree.

While everyone is different, I believe that most Millennials do believe in love and commitment in some form or another. The fact that we’re free to feel otherwise and/or change our minds can actually strengthen our ultimate resolve to have these needs met. Millennials want joy and fulfillment in our relationships, in whatever way we feel is best for us.

Maybe that’s the key difference that’s scaring everyone. We don’t choose partners based on “whatever society says is best,” or even “what our parents think we should do.” We love in whatever way we feel is best for us.

The ways in which today’s singles ‘hunt and gather’ in relationships looks drastically different than previous generations, but that’s not necessarily new. Our parents’ love lives were different from their parents, just as their parents’ were different from their grandparents. As technology and culture jump forward, so do the ways in which we live our lives. Call it evolution, development, advancement, whatever – change can be uncomfortable for some, but it’s important.

In the 60s, ‘free love’ was said to be the end of relationships. Was it?

When women began prioritizing their education and careers, they were said to be ‘destroying traditional family values.’ Did they?

When divorce was legalized, it was an outrage. “Commitment is dead!” they said.

Fast forward to 2017: same kids, new toys. Millennials are not the first generation to shake things up, and it’s okay. Commitment phobia, ‘ghosting’ and one-night stands are not new concepts. We just have flashy new apps, websites and catchphrases for them now.

Instead of going out for milk and never coming home (as great-grandpa did back in the day), we can just press ‘block,’ ‘delete’ and then go on with our lives. It’s cheaper and safer than the old-fashioned alternatives, especially if marriage hasn’t entered the picture. Millennials aren’t forced to enter legal contracts before they’re ready (risking long-term unhappiness, family dysfunction, infidelity and more). We are free to pick and choose the kinds of relationships we actually want.

So why isn’t everyone celebrating?

As great as evolution is, these advances do make things a little more complicated.

In Scientific American, Helen Fisher (a relationship expert at Rutgers University and chief scientific advisor at has said that she does not subscribe to the idea of a ‘relationship apocalypse.’ Instead, she describes modern dating trends as “slow love,” meaning that Millennials are taking more time to experiment and find out what they don’t want before they settle down with what they do want. 

Thanks to dating apps, we have infinitely more choices when it comes to selecting a partner. This makes love more complicated than it was for our grandparents, dating only within their own towns and cities.

If I’m offered three types of breakfast cereal to choose from, it might take five minutes to pick. But what about three hundred choices? I might be in the breakfast aisle forever.

I’m not fickle or indecisive for using multiple dating apps. Like any sensible human, I want to consider all the options before making a decision. It isn’t impulsiveness or fear that leads Millennials to jump around; it’s actually a sense of responsibility.

The behaviors we engage in are not new; our openness about them is. LGBTQ+ Americans have always been around, whether we were socially accepted or not. The gender spectrum hasn’t changed, our language for it has. Single parenthood, premarital sex, polyamory, fetishes, and infidelity are not new ideas. Neither is blaming ‘those damn kids’ for things that make us uncomfortable.

Being open about our needs has a number of positive benefits: safer sex, improved psychological health, better relationships, increased acceptance of ourselves and others, and fewer wasted years trying to hide and fit into lives that aren’t genuine. With that said…I get it. Dating is fine and dandy, but what about commitment?

In a generation that notoriously struggles to ‘adult,’ what do Grown-Up Relationships look like?

I remember sitting in the schoolyard at five years old, trying to picture myself at twenty. I imagined I’d be married, have a house, two kids and a dog. Now that twenty has come and gone, I can’t help but giggle at this outlandish fantasy. The vast majority of today’s twenty year-olds can’t afford their own rent, let alone support a family.

To understand why we most likely aren’t married (yet or ever), let’s consider some of the factors surrounding our life decisions. According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are more educated but significantly less affluent than previous generations. Adults in their 20s and early 30s are more likely to still live with their parents; this comes not out of desire or laziness, but of need. Most of us can’t afford to throw a wedding in our twenties, let alone buy a house and start a family. While the bar for success has risen with our education, the odds for a stable career are lower than ever. Is it any wonder then, that most of us won’t marry young?

If by ‘grown up’ you mean financially stable, most of us aren’t there yet. But if maturity is a measure of emotional independence, personal commitment to improvement and working hard to attain stability – then yes, we’re all adults, here.

Millennial relationships are Grown-Up Relationships. And modern grown-ups don’t need to get married. We need love and support – and that doesn’t necessarily mean following blueprints set by our parents. Most of my Millennials friends don’t consider marriage a bad thing, but they also aren’t ready (or willing) any time soon.

I married my partner, but I am definitely not a “grown-up” with a house and two kids the way my five-year-old self had anticipated. Our world is not that of our grandparents, so today’s typical marriage looks a little different. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to make the same choices as me, or vice versa. My grown-up relationship is not your grown-up relationship, just as my  day-job is not your day-job. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t let outdated standards determine your modern needs.

Perhaps instead of worrying that our love lives aren’t ‘mature’ by ancient standards, we can look at the big picture and accept that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be for this time in history. If you’re one of 1.8 billion Millennials navigating love in an unprecedented world, I applaud you. You’re not alone, you’re not the first, and you’re certainly not the last.

Welcome to Millennial Love. What does it mean to you?

5 Essential Rules to Make Polyamory and Open Relationships Work

Some rules were made to be broken. Others weren’t.

There is no one right way to practice polyamory (poly) or open relationships. Part of the charm of this relationship style is that when the rules don’t work for you, you create your own or in some case throw them out altogether.

But there are a few underlying principles and best practices to increase your chances of success with an open relationship of any kind.

Also, check out LOVE TV’s A Beginner’s Guide To Ethical Non Monogamous Relationships. 

1. Everyone must be comfortable with what you are doing

I dated a guy who was poly for 2 years. He never stopped referring to what we were doing as cheating. Despite the fact that his wife was happy with the situation and was one of my closest friends, he was in some ways still uncomfortable with the situation. And that put a strain on our relationship.

Just like in regular dating, you’ll meet people who challenge your assumptions about yourself and help you grow.

I met a guy who was into sensual Japanese rope tying and surprised myself (but only little) by being into it. I had to work through some awkward feelings about what I wanted to do with certain people. There were things I wanted from the guy I was dating that I didn’t want from my husband.

Feeling guilty and confused, I talked to my husband. I had never stopped to consider that he had felt the same things and that the bedroom activities with his other partner were different from what he and I did. Feeling less guilty, I dived into the other relationship. And had a blast.

Sometimes you may be unsure about something or someone new. The key is to get to the root of why you’re uncomfortable and get past it.

2. Never, ever lie

never lie in poly relationships

This is the one universal rule of poly. Every couple (or thruple, etc) makes their own rules according to what works for them. But this is the one constant.

It’s been interesting to step back and examine the occasions when I have been tempted to lie. In my case, it usually revolves around fear of being judged. On one occasion, I was on a second date with a guy and stayed out longer than I intended.

Not wanting my husband to think I was some sort of hussy, I was tempted to tell him I was already home rather than just then leaving my date (he was away from home but I always text to let him know I’m safe).

To be clear, my husband would have been fine with a long date or even if I had gone home with the other guy. The judgement was all mine. The temptation I felt was a sign that I had some work to do with being comfortable with myself and my decisions.

3. Planning is your friend (and your partner’s)

Many of us are operating at about 110% capacity most days. Knowing when your partner is going to be home for cooking duties or snuggles (or both) helps everyone’s keep life balanced. Dating can complicate things.

One of the most complex things about dating someone who is married or in another relationship is that if the date goes well you can’t necessarily go back to their place without some planning ahead.

It’s not uncommon to see those in the poly community praise the usefulness of Google Calendar. Shared calendars let everyone know that responsibilities are taken care of while giving each other some space to spend time with whoever they are seeing on that particular evening.

Make plans and communicate them clearly.

4. Find out what your partner (all of them) is comfortable with

poly couple talking

One important rule in Poly is that the group moves at the pace of the least comfortable person. If you or someone in your dating circle is new to poly, recovering from a bad relationship, or just plain unsure about the situation, everyone needs to work within that person’s comfort zone.

When we first opened our marriage I was scared. So we took baby steps. As I saw that our marriage wouldn’t crumble, I relaxed many of the rules I had initially needed.

One example was letting them go on a long weekend trip. That was a big step. Big enough that we went back to our marriage counselor, something we hadn’t done in a couple of months.

When she asked us the reason for the visit I told her “He might go on a short trip with his girlfriend and I think I’m OK with it. But this is a big deal and I want to be sure we don’t f*ck this up.”

We spent the hour talking through fears, expectations, and exploring questions. I made fun plans for myself to ward off jealousy or resentment, they went on the trip, and everyone was fine. That was the first of several trips with Other Significant Others over the last few years.

5. Set specific expectations

plural relationship open relationship poly

One of the best ways to avoid disagreements and misunderstandings is to communicate expectations. Especially for those starting out with poly, specifics are really important.

When my husband first started dating, we would agree that he would be home around 10. I meant be home by 10, he heard that he should head home close to 10. So when he came home at 10:10 or 10:15 I had had 10 or 15 minutes to overthink everything.

I did not want to be that rigid and I tried to be OK with the differences in understanding. But by the third date I had to accept my own limitation and communicate that to my husband. Once I did so, he understood the importance of being home by 10.

These days things are much more loosy-goosy. But the importance of specific expectations and mutual understanding of those expectations can not be overstated.

Successful relationships in every style

All of these rules exist in healthy monogamous relationships too. Being poly simply means you need to apply the rules a little differently and consider more people’s needs when doing so. And if you make a mistake, fess up, have a productive conversation about why the mistake was made, and determine ways to prevent a recurrence.

If you’re thinking about opening up your marriage or exploring new adventures in your marriage, become a full member of LOVE TV and talk with love gurus and relationship experts about your love and your life.