Interpersonal relationships are a vital part of everyday life. Human beings need these relationships in order to survive. However, the way Americans classify the different stages of an interpersonal relationship has changed over time. The first dimension of this study will examine how interpersonal researchers define different stages in relationships, how those definitions have changed over a period of three generations, and the role communication plays in that process of change. The second dimension of this study will examine how personal individual accounts of relational development support what the theoretical background suggests.
Romantic relationships are a fascinating display of human interaction, in which communication plays a vital role, thus the reason for the focus of this study on that facet of interpersonal communication. While researching the topic of interpersonal relationships and how they are classified, I was intrigued by the role of communication in the process. In addition, the knowledge I have gained in pursuit of higher education has continually piqued my interest, specifically in the areas of the dating process and the development of romantic relationships. The aforementioned reasons are why I decided to focus my thesis work on the topic of change in interpersonal relationships, and the specific role of communication within that process.
In addition to the substantial amount of research that has been conducted on this topic, I decided to conduct some personal research. The research I conducted consisted of interviewing individuals from three different generations, oftentimes within the same family, and comparing and contrasting the dating patterns and interpersonal relationships of each generation. I was expecting certain patterns of differing relationship definitions to emerge, and they did. However, there were also some interesting trends that I discovered which were less expected. The objective for presenting information related to romantic relationships is to inform readers of the critical role of communication in the relational development process, thus equipping them with the information necessary for improvement in relational communication.
A substantial amount of research has been conducted in the area of relational development. During the evaluation of that research, three basic catalysts for change, in the development process of romantic relationships, were found. The main agents involved in transitioning a romantic relationship from one stage to the next were technology, time and activities, and communication. Theorists contributing to the research on interpersonal relationship development vary on the catalyst they champion, but one thing remains clear, “times certainly have changed” (Clark, 159).
In his article entitled Choosing Mates-The American Way, Martin King Whyte provided a thorough exploration of the evolution of dating within the American culture. He believed that “for most twentieth-century Americans choosing a mate is the culmination of a process of dating” (71). Because of that perception, Whyte focused his study on how the institution of dating had changed over the last century. The custom of dating began in colonial times but by the 1920s the popular practices were referred to as calling and keeping company (Whyte 72). During the calling period of the dating process young people would meet at a variety of venues, and males wishing to romantically pursue eligible females would then, “pay visits to the home of the young woman” (Whyte 72). At that time, one young woman could have several men calling on her at the same time. Once she decided which man she would like a romantic relationship with, the rest of the suitors were dismissed, and the young woman and her chosen suitor began “keeping company”, which Whyte referred to as “a precursor of the twentieth-century custom of ‘going steady’” (72). During the stage of “keeping company” the primary activity consisted of the suitor making visits to the woman’s home and enjoying a small amount of privacy with her, while under the watchful eye of parental supervision.
With the passage of time came an advance in the dating process in America. According to Whyte, “in little more than a generation, dating replaced calling as the dominant custom” (73). Instead of dating involving male suitors and keeping company, “dating involved pairing off of couples in activities not supervised by parents, with pleasure rather than marriage as the primary goal. The rules governing dating were defined by peers rather than by adults” (Whyte 73). The shift of influence and the activities involved in the dating process both contributed to the new way of defining a romantic relationship.
The question remains, what caused the shift from calling to dating in the American culture? Whyte proposed three ideas to explain the shift. First, he believed that prolonged school attendance, including “public, co-educational high schools, and colleges” (74) was one explanation for the change in dating patterns. Men and women were exposed to each other informally over a longer period of time, thus transforming their type of social and interpersonal interaction. The second idea Whyte proposed was what he called “growing affluence in America” (74). In his opinion, “more and more young people were freed from a need to contribute to the family income and had more leisure time in which to date” (74). Technology, specifically the invention of the automobile, was the third catalyst for change presented by Whyte. “Automobiles were not only a means to escape the home and reach a wider range of recreation spots, they also provided a semi-private space with abundant romantic and sexual possibilities” (Whyte 75). While school attendance, growing affluence, and technology helped to transition the dating process from calling to dating, even the process of dating itself has changed between the earlier generations of the 1940s and 1970’s and the current generation of young adults.
Having an arranged marriage with mom and dad in control is certainly not the desirable method of dating for American youth today. At the same time, “turning the matter over to computerized matchmaking also does not seem advisable” (Whyte 76). Finding a balance between those two extremes is where the current generation of daters find themselves. “Many of the rigid rules of dating have broken down. The male no longer always takes the initiative; neither does he always pay” (Whyte 76). What has caused this shift? Whyte and others argue communication; particularly the vocabulary used to define and discuss romantic relationships. As stated in his article, “Certainly the terminology is changing, with ‘seeing’ and ‘being with’ increasingly preferred to ‘dating’ and ‘going steady’” (Whyte 76). For many young people, the expansive relational vocabulary allows them to define stages of a relationship unidentifiable to previous generations. In fact, many young adults argue that the current styles of dating are more natural and healthier than those experienced by the generation of their parents and grandparents (Whyte 76).
There are other opinions as to what causes a relationship to shift from one stage of dating to another. Dan Cere, ethics scholar at McGill University in Montreal, identified three dating patterns emerging among the current generation of young people. The first pattern he identified was what he called the “exchange theory” (Wetztein 27). He believed that theory was a result of the capitalistic society most young people find themselves immersed in. In that approach to dating “men and women see each other as consumers who need things, and marriage as a contract in which commodities [such as standards of living, quantity and quality of children, sexual gratification, and social status] can be exchanged” (Wetztein 27). The second pattern of dating identified by Cere was referred to as the “sociobiological pattern” (27). In that approach mate selection was based primarily on “sex and reproduction” (Wetztein 27). Women seek “dominant males who can give nourishment, protection, security and social status to themselves and their offspring” (Wetztein 27). In exchange, men seek “sexual relations with women who are young, healthy, physically attractive and fertile” (Wetztein 27). The third dating pattern identified by Cere put “close relationships as its goal” (Wetztein 27). In that approach, “adults ‘shop around’ for a suitable partner, make the necessary efforts to secure that partner and then spend time discovering each other” (Wetztein 27). It was that last approach in which communication played a key role, particularly in the discovery of each partner in the “close” relationship.
Among communication scholars, the level of self-disclosure remains one of the most popular methods used in defining the different stages of romantic relationships. Joe Ayres argued that physical appearance, mutual awareness, interaction, and a willingness to be influenced create the necessary environment for self-disclosure in relational development (409). He also stated that “by being aware of self and other, being willing to focus on the present, and by being open one can establish relationships with others that allow you to understand more about yourself as well as them” (409-410). Another theorist, Sidney Jourard argued, “that one had to disclose personal information to develop honest, authentic relationships” (Ayres 413). While Shirley Gilbert and her associates agreed with Jourard’s opinion on the importance of self-disclosure in relational development, they added that “whether self-disclosure facilitates relationship development depends on the valence (positive or negative) and the timing of the disclosure (e.g. revealing negative things about yourself early in a relationship usually inhibits development)” (Ayres 413).
Berger, Gardener, Clatterbuck, and Schulman conducted an experiment to determine the level of self-disclosure present in relational development. They found that biographical information would be discussed in the initial portion of an exchange while more intimate information (like sexual preferences) would be discussed at the latter stages of the relationship (Ayres 412). Research in the fields of sociology and psychology has also contributed to the discussion about self-disclosure. Altman and Taylor believed that if rewards in an encounter exceeded costs, the interactants would gradually exchange more and more intimate information (Ayres 412). They also proposed “relational partners reciprocate self-disclosive behaviors by responding with disclosures of equal intimacy” (Floyd 310). And “this reciprocity has been linked to increased liking, trust, and relational intimacy” (Floyd 310). Steve Duck, a communication scholar, proposed that participants in a romantic relationship use the aforementioned cost-benefit analysis in order to “weed out” or filter through “undesirable interaction partners” (Ayres 412). In addition, Gerald Miller and Mark Steinberg’s view on the role of self-disclosure in relationship development can be summarized by simply stating, “as our relationships develop we shift from exchanging sociological information to exchanging information of a psychological nature” (Ayres 412). While the details of their ideas differ, one element is consistent in all of the aforementioned theories regarding self-disclosure - the communicative act is undeniably present, at least in some degree, in the developmental process of romantic relationships.
Mark Knapp remains one of the most influential researchers in the area of relational development, with a focus on the role of communication within the process. Knapp conducted a study that examined the different terms that were commonly used in identifying relationships at various stages of intimacy. What he found was that “the labels we use to describe our relationships with others (lover, friend, pal, etc.) play a central role in the way these relationships develop” (Knapp, et al 262). All age groups involved in the study “perceived personalized communication to decline as the term used to describe the relationship became less intimate” (Knapp, et al 262). That finding demonstrates the power of communication within the development of interpersonal relationships. Simply the term used to describe a relationship causes the amount of self-disclosure to either increase or decrease. Knapp’s study also found that the synchronization of communication, or the ability to predict responses of the other, increased when a more intimate term was used to define the relationship (277).
Mark Knapp was also instrumental in discovering the catalyst for change in romantic relationships. With his theory of coming together and coming apart, Knapp revolutionized the research on how relationship participants classified the different stages of their relationships. Prior to Knapp’s theory, the majority of developmental research came from the fields of sociology and psychology and included ideas from Altman and Taylor, Miller and Steinberg, and Super and Harkness. Such theorists gave credit to self-disclosure, social interaction, and the pursuit of finding one’s niche in life as the catalysts for relational development. It was not until Knapp entered the discussion, that communication gained recognition as an equally viable method of development. Knapp’s ideas led to a ten-step diagram of definitive stages of relational development. Knapp argued that it was communication that caused a romantic relationship to transition from the initial meeting stage to a more intimate stage of interpersonal interaction. Knapp’s theory of coming together and coming apart also discussed the deterioration of romantic relationships, and the role communication played in those latter phases of a relationship.
A recent psychological study found that adolescents recognize four common patterns of dating “including no dating, casual dating relationships with a single partner, casual dating relationships with multiple partners, and single steady relationships” (Davies and Windle 90). Furthermore, within those four broad classifications of interpersonal relationships, “several different ‘stages’ ranging from simply expressing an interest in dating to involvement in steady, committed relationships, with various patterns of casual dating falling in between those two extremes” (Davies and Windle 90). Once again the underlying question remains, what factor allows for distinguishing between these different stages? Davies and Windle found the means of transition to be an increased amount of “romantic involvement” (93). That increased romanticism included such elements as joint recreation, enhanced social status, increased peer approval, companionship, intimacy, and support (Davies and Windle 92).
Technology still remains an important and common catalyst for change in the development of romantic relationship, especially in the lives of today’s dating generation. With the invention of the cell phone, computer, and other technological gadgets, the dating process has been transformed. Matchmaking websites such as eharmony.com and match.com have opened up a whole new realm of dating possibilities, where participants are no longer limited by geographical location. Cell phones, with their ability to communicate via text messages, have radically changed the role of communication in the development process of romantic relationships. Potential dates no longer have to meet face to face in order to find out important details about the other. They can communicate via email, instant messenger, or social websites such as Facebook and MySpace. According to a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch “current college students and recent graduates prefer using devices such as text messaging, e-mail and, of course, Facebook, rather than face-to-face communication” (Goecker E1).
With the infiltration of technology into the dating process, the current generation of young adults seems to be utilizing those mediums to their highest potential. In her article entitled Dating on the Net: Teens and the Rise of ‘Pure’ Relationships, Lynn Schofield Clark discussed the influence of technology on the dating process for today’s generation. According to Clark, “Internet dating provides an illustration of the ‘pure’ relationship in its contemporary form” (160). In her opinion, the concept of dating “has become much more idiosyncratic, with less reference to the external peer group and more relation to the self-gratifications and pleasures of the individuals involved” (165). Clark seemed to focus her information on the topic of cyberdating as it occurs in chat rooms. One of the appeals to cyberdating is its “potential to limit emotional pain in relationships” (Clark 165). Apparently, “dates with faceless and voiceless boys from faraway places held no such possible consequences” (Clark 169).
In addition, communication via the information superhighway enables girls to “use the verbal skills they might otherwise suppress to parlay themselves into a stronger position in relationship to their male counterparts, thereby assuming more authority in the construction of the relationship” (Clark 165). Clark argued that girls were not the only ones who benefited from online dating. The boys included in her study found online relationships satisfying because “instead of being under pressure by their peers to pair with the ‘right’ girls whose looks approximate the ideal, the Internet allows for more egalitarian exchange freed from most of the restraint of peer approval” (Clark 168). However, Clark determined that the component missing from online dating arenas was an “intimate communication that validates and develops the self [which] seems to be an integral goal of the ‘pure relationship’” (177). Clark’s conclusion on Internet dating was as follows, “despite its possibilities for verbal intimacy and egalitarian relationships, [it] is in actuality more frequently employed for fleeting, ‘fun’ relationships that hold little consequence in the ‘real’ lives of the teens who engage in them beyond self-gratification” (180).
Another perspective on the impact of technology on the dating process comes from a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist and relationship coach stated that with online dating “There isn’t that sense of sacredness about what happens in a relationship. Intimacy is lost. Relationships are almost expendable, throw away and temporary” (Goecker E1). Coleman goes on to say, that online relationships such as those created on social websites like Facebook “can be canceled by the click of a mouse [which is] a far cry from the ‘going steady’ of most Facebook users’ grandparents and a sort of upgrade on their parents’ ‘free love’” (Goecker E1). Coleman also addressed the role of communication in the current development of relationships. She says, “In past generations, when kids were forming relationships, there was more of a sense of structure, more formalized dating…terms like ‘hooking up’ and ‘booty calls’ didn’t exist, even though the behaviors might have been around” (Goecker E1). According to the article, Ms. Coleman was not against online proclamations of love, but she emphasized the risk of such interpersonal endeavors.
With a foundation of related theoretical research on the topic of relational development now laid, we are able to move into the second dimension of this study. You may recall that the second dimension of this study involves the evaluation of how personal individual accounts of relational development support what the theoretical background suggests.
It is clear that a substantial number of ideas on relational development are currently in circulation. I was in no way able to cover all of them, but I selected a sampling from the contributing fields of study. I used a lot of the information included in the research of others to guide my personal research conducted in this study. My main objective with the extensive theoretical background was to have a basis for evaluation of the existence of such dating patterns in actual relationships.
I was especially interested in how the definitions of dating patterns had changed over a period of three generations. In order to evaluate the dating patterns of the decade, I chose to interview individuals of the particular generation. I looked at three different generations. Those individuals who dated during the 1940s and 1950s will be referred to as the grandparent generation. Those individuals who dated during the late 1960s and 1970s will be referred to as the parent generation. And those individuals who dated in the late 1990s or are currently experiencing the dating process will be referred to as the current generation. I hypothesized that the relational development theories applicable to each generation would be represented in the personal experiences of individuals of the said generation. For example, I was looking for Knapp’s theory of coming together and coming apart in the dating experiences of the current generation, or the free love, said to be the norm in the 1960s and 1970s, in the experiences of the parent generation. The complete set of interviewees included three individuals from the grandparent generation, four individuals from the parent generation, and three individuals from the current generation, for a total of ten informants.
In addition to the presence of applicable theories, I was also hoping to obtain some data regarding family influence on dating patterns. I went about accomplishing that goal by interviewing three generations of the same family system. I hypothesized that some of the dating patterns present in the grandparent generation would also be present in the parent generation, and some of the traits of dating during the parent generation would be present in the current generation. I expected the changing social contexts would have an influence on the dating patterns of each generation, but I also expected some elements of each generation would be passed down.
I recorded each interview using a digital voice recorder and then transcribed each interview from the recording. The format of the interviews remained constant with each participant. The interview consisted of a set of fifteen questions (Appendix 1), which each individual was asked, except in the case where they did not apply to the stage of life the participant was in. For example, a single person was not asked questions about his or her experiences in marriage. The first set of questions dealt with basic biographical information. Each interview transcript (Appendixes 2-11) reflected this biographical information in a consistent format and was listed in the upper left corner of each transcript. The five pieces of basic biographical information included the name of interviewee, age, marital status, age he or she became engaged, and age he or she became married. The remaining interview questions focused on the participant’s own viewpoints of and personal experiences with the dating process. When necessary the interviewer gave secondary questions or clarification of the primary question. Italicized statements or questions held within parentheses denote those additions and can be found in the transcripts. The findings of the personal interviews will be discussed in the results section of this study.
The research that I gathered from generational informants provided some interesting insight into the existence of established dating patterns in real relationships. There was some identifiable congruence between the existing theories on relational development and the personal experiences I gathered. However there was also some incongruence between the related literature and real relationships, which led to some interesting trends in the results, that were not expected. The results will be presented by generation.
Within the grandparent generation, one noticeable trend was a lack of communication in the development process of interpersonal relationships. When asked how they would characterize their parents’ communication style, all respondents from the grandparent generation stated they did not recognize any distinguishable pattern of communication. I specified the question to only include the communication style used during conflict, and the responses remained the same, no distinguishable pattern of communication was recalled. A common response to the question of parental communication was “I try not to make the same mistakes my parents made” (Pace 38) or “I never saw that.” (Pace 39).
When the grandparent generation was asked about whether or not they tried to emulate their parent’s style of communication, the responses were divided. Two of the respondents agreed that they definitely tried to communicate in a way that was opposite to the way their parents did, while the other respondent agreed that she did try to communicate in a way similar to that of her parents. It seemed that the relationship between the respondent and his or her parents made the biggest impact on their emulation or avoidance of similar communication styles. The two respondents who admitted to avoiding their parents’ style of communication attributed a negative relationship between themselves and their parents to that avoidance. The respondent who tried to emulate her parents’ style of communication shared a healthy relationship with her mother and father, which may have influenced her desire to emulate certain characteristics of their relationship in her own.
The next few questions of the interview focused on the existence of different stages in a dating relationship. All of the respondents from the grandparent generation acknowledged the presence of different levels of dating, but they had a difficult time defining what the catalyst for change was in those dating relationships. Interviewee Andy Pace stated love and time as being the elements that caused a relationship to transition from one stage to the next. He said, “some dates are sex affairs, others are love affairs, and then the longer you are with somebody the more you learn to like them” (38). During his own experience in dating, Mr. Pace recalled, “It was the first time I had ever fallen in love with somebody. I had dated quite a few people and it was just a spur of the moment thing and didn’t last but one night usually, but [with my wife] it was strictly love” (38).
When asked the same question about the presence of different stages of dating, interviewee Norma Pace replied, “you start out on a low key then things advance to a secondary stage and then by the time you get to the third stage, I think you are just about on the top of the mountain” (39). She believed her temperament was what caused her relationship to transition from one stage to the next. The way her husband treated her during those different temperaments enabled her to identify a shift in the relationship. In her personal experience with the dating process, Mrs. Pace identified the mechanism for change as “hard work” and a process of “trial and error” (39). While discussing the life of a relationship from the beginning, Mrs. Pace described the process like this, “I think dating is a learning period and then engagement is a serious period and then marriage is absolute trial and error” (40).
The third respondent from the grandparent generation was Patricia Flexser. When asked her opinion on what transitioned a relationship from one stage to another, she stated time as being the main contributor (Flexser 32). In her personal experience she remembered that she and her husband spent a lot of time together just getting to know each other. She recalled that they would go to church activities and social events together, and during those experiences she believed their relationship grew.
The classification of a date was another component of the dating process that I wanted to evaluate using the personal interviews. I asked each respondent to describe their idea of a date and also to explain what types of dates they went on during their own dating experience. Andy Pace described a date as “spending all evening with somebody. Going out to eat. Going to a picture show. Going roller-skating, just the two of us” (38). His own dating experience involved going fishing with Norma, roller-skating, and occasionally they went dancing. When asked if the definition of a date involved a group of people, Mr. Pace replied “it wasn’t a date that I wanted if more people came along, it was just an outing then” (38). On the contrary, Mrs. Pace stated that the number of people present did not determine whether it was a date or not. She shared, “we go out with two other couples to eat and that’s a date” (40). Mrs. Pace also identified going skating, going out to eat, or going to the movies as typical dates during her dating experience. One thing Mrs. Pace stressed was that any date of hers had to come and pick her up, “and he did not just honk, he came to the door” (40).
The final section of interview questions dealt with the latter stages of relational development, engagement and marriage. None of the respondents from the grandparent generation could explain an identifiable transition between dating and engagement. They all believed that their engagements were simple an extension of the dating period. The respondents from the grandparent generation did not recall an extravagant proposal of any kind. They just remembered that they got engaged, but could not recall much in terms of details of the occasion. In regard to her proposal Mrs. Pace made the statement, “I guess we just took it for granted” (40). Mrs. Flexser also made reference to the fact that her proposal was nothing special; it was just the natural progression of their relationship (32). Like Mrs. Pace, she remembered getting engaged but not much in terms of details. The ages of the participants when they became engaged ranged from late teens to early twenties.
The transition from engagement to marriage was easier for the respondents to identify. They all agreed that moving out of their parents’ home and starting to cohabitate with another individual was a struggle. They had to come together and figure each other out. The respondents stated that some of the tactics they employed during their dating period were used again in transitioning to marriage. They gave credit to time, patience, sacrifice, love and God for making their relationships prosper. Mr. Pace shared the following story, “she ran me off after a year and a half, I didn’t leave on my own, and I was in love with her enough that I figured right then that I wanted to be with her for the rest of my life and it’s been real congenial since then” (39).
With the rise of a new generation, the parent generation, the role of communication within the developmental process of dating relationships became clearer. When the respondents from the parent generation were asked to describe the way their parent’s communicated, the responses were split. Two of the respondents included good communication in their descriptions, while the other two described a lack of communication in their parents’ relationship. When asked specifically about the communication during conflict between their parents, the respondents were once again divided in their responses. The first two respondents stated that they did not witness their parents’ conflict very often, but when they did, their parents would resolve the conflict by “just [talking] it out” (Newton 37). The second set of respondents, Mr. and Mrs. Sledge, both admitted that they did not witness their parents’ conflict or resolution of it (40, 46).
Due to the differing family situations and utilization of communication, the two couples from the parent generation also differed on the amount of influence from their parents’ relationships they allowed in their own relationships. Mr. and Mrs. Newton both said that they tried to emulate their parents’ communication style in their relationship, including the way they handled conflict. On the other hand, Mr. and Mrs. Sledge both admitted to avoiding communicating in the way they saw their parents do it. Mr. Sledge stated that he tries “to have open communication with [my wife], so I try not to keep things from her” (47). That response displayed the way he believed his father communicated with his mother, in a closed off manner, and how he was trying to avoid that in his own relationship. Mrs. Sledge did not witness her parents’ effective communication either so she believed she and her husband did their own thing because there was nothing to emulate (41).
The next questions presented to the parent generation were those regarding the existence of different stages within the dating process and the transitory method present in dating. Responses from that section of questions varied among the participants. Mrs. Newton recognized different stages of the dating process, but was unable to specify what those were because she believed “it is an individual thing and you kind of go at your own pace” (33). She did state that spending time together and gaining an increased understanding of each other was important in moving from one stage of dating to another. Mr. Newton and Mrs. Sledge stated physical attraction as being the starting point for romantic relationships. Mr. Newton made the following statement in response to the existence of different levels of dating, “There has to be different levels because I have dated several girls where you just date them one time, maybe two you know and then you figure that’s enough. But when you meet someone special and want to be with them over and over, that distinguishes an ordinary date from someone who is special in your life” (37).
Mr. Newton added that trust and a close friendship were also necessary components to a successful relationship (36-37). In terms of a catalyst for change, Mr. Newton believed that a growing trust in each other, the amount of time you spend together, and the communication shared between two people (especially self-disclosure) were vital in moving a dating relationship to the next level. Mrs. Sledge stressed a deepening emotional connection and understanding as important mechanisms for change in a dating relationship. She also mentioned time as a factor, “Obviously it takes time to know someone, and their feelings. It is just a natural evolution of two people spending their lives together” (Sledge 41).
Mr. Sledge gave the most expanded answer to the questions about relational development. He believed the first stage of dating was an “infatuation stage” (47). He described that stage as when “you start dating them and decide that this is who I would really like to go out with” (47). From then on that person “consumes your thoughts, consumes some of your time, and some of the things that you liked to do before you were in a relationship may not be the same things you become interested in after you are in a relationship” (47). After the infatuation stage, you begin dating. Dating involved spending time together and getting to know each other on a deeper level. After the dating stage, you “meet the family” (47). “I think it is pretty important for there to be a blessing, an acceptance from the parents and from the rest of the family” (47). From that point you enter into marriage. Mr. Sledge stated that the relationship changes and evolves with marriage “because now you are with that person. Before you were with that person quite a bit but there were aspects of each other’s lives that maybe you didn’t know about…” (47). The key to a successful relationship, according to Mr. Sledge is to never “lose the willingness to communicate” or “the willingness to spend time with each other” (47-48). He would apply that advice to any stage of a relationship.
Mr. Sledge also identified three levels of dating strictly within the initial period of time of a relationship. “I think there is casual dating which is where it’s usually done in groups because it can be rather awkward” (50). Then he mentioned a period of dating that he referred to as “more serious dating” (50). Serious dating is “where you have reached a point in your casual dating where you realize that this is going to be more than just casual dating and you begin thinking she could be a potential spouse” (50). The third stage of dating is what Mr. Sledge referred to as “deeper dating” (50). The goal of deeper dating becomes one of marriage rather than anything else.
The definition of dates also shifted between the grandparent generation and the parent generation. All respondents from the parent generation shared similar activities that they would consider a date. Going out to dinner, playing miniature golf or bowling, attending church functions, playing in a park, watching TV, and cruising around town were all examples of responses to the questions about their personal dating experiences. The fact that the man was expected to pick the woman up remained an important element of the parent generation’s dating process. Also, the element of one-on-one interaction was necessary in order for the activity to be considered date. Group dates were not desirable among the parent generation respondents I interviewed.
There were some similarities and differences discovered between the latter stages of relational development between the grandparent and parent generations. One similarity was that extravagant proposals were not popular, nor experienced. Mr. and Mrs. Newton recalled, “It wasn’t anything glamorous” (37). Mr. Newton remembered “they day we got married, but I don’t remember the engagement” (37). Mrs. Newton was able to recall more details from the proposal, but agreed that proposals were not as big of deal back then. Mr. and Mrs. Sledge described a similar experience in regard to their engagement. When asked about his proposal Mr. Sledge was sure of one thing, “it was not anything mind-boggling or creative” (50). Mrs. Sledge agreed, “I don’t remember a specific time when he asked me to marry him” (42). Mr. Sledge did explain that during the 1970s the craze was not necessarily a proposal, but a “pre-engagement” (50). Apparently, a pre-engagement was similar to the current practice of giving a promise ring. Mrs. Sledge remembered, “We were pre-engaged where he had to ask my father if he could marry me…” (42). In reaction to the process of pre-engagement, Mr. Sledge remembered it being more “traumatic than the actual engagement” (50).
As their parents did, the respondents of the parent generation agreed that their engagements were more of a continuation of the dating process than a separate phase. The activities between the individuals did not change much once they became engaged. The ages of the participants when they became engaged ranged from late teens to early twenties, much like the ages of their parents. However, the respondents from the parent generation did share that the transition from engagement to marriage was a bit different. Mr. and Mrs. Sledge agreed that the level of physical intimacy was the most substantial difference between their engagement and their marriage. Instead of spending most of your time with the other person, as was the case in engagement, in marriage you begin spending all of your time with that person. That entails what Mr. Sledge called “the maturation process of learning each other’s quirks…” (50). Mr. and Mrs. Newton agreed. Mrs. Newton did emphasize a deeper bond in marriage that resulted from “seeing each other at their worst and best times” (34).
The grandparent and parent generations provided some interesting information for discussion in the next section of the study. The current generation of interviewees made some useful contributions as well. As was the case with the current generation’s parents and grandparents, the current generation of young adults was asked to describe their parents’ style of communication. Two of the respondents reported a fairly open style of communication in their parents’ relationships. Those same two respondents also added that when it came to conflict between their parents, they witnessed a process of talking it out and even apologizing to each other. The other respondent from the current generation agreed that his parents openly dealt with conflict, but that they did not usually disclose everything to the children.
When asked whether they try to emulate or avoid their parents’ style of communication, all of the respondents said that they try to emulate, at least to some degree. For one respondent his reaction was, “I try to emulate to a point, but I try to have more communication with my wife than what my parents had” (Sledge 42). One respondent appreciated the way her parents dealt with conflict and replied that she definitely tried to emulate that because as a child she never witnessed heated fights and believed “it was much easier on me, knowing that my parents didn’t have big fights” (Sledge 45). Rebecca Newton, of the current generation, responded to her parents’ communication in a positive manner, “I guess I just noticed them while growing up and I want that in my life. They seemed to get along and that’s how I want it to work [in my relationships]” (34).
A significant amount of information was gained during the discussion about the existence of different stages of dating from the current generation. Miss Newton summarized the stages of dating like this, “I think you first start out in this talking and getting to know each other stage, where you are just friends. Then as you get to know each other better you begin an actual dating relationship where you call yourself boyfriend and girlfriend. And then I think you get to know each other even more and then you get engaged and then get married” (34). In her opinion, “the more you get to know each other” (34) acted as the changing mechanism in the dating process. Communication was also highly involved in her experience of getting to know the other person. In fact, when asked about her current marital status she replied, “Single, but I am talking to a boy” (34, emphasis added). In my discussion with Miss Newton, it became clear that communication was of extreme importance to her in establishing and defining her romantic relationship.
Another respondent, Mrs. Lisa Sledge, defined the stages of dating in the following way, “you have that first awkward stage where you are just testing it out to see [if you like each other]” (45) and then it just evolves from there into more serious dating, engagement, and ends in marriage. She identified time, a willingness to take the next step, and a deeper level of care for the other as being catalysts for change in the dating process. Her husband, Derek Sledge described the development of a relationship from beginning to end like this, “Dating stage [leads to] a honeymoon stage where everything is new and you are learning new things about each other, moves to a growing stage where you try and strengthen your relationship and the bonds you have with each other, becomes a comfort stage and then I guess you die” (42-43). When asked what caused a relationship to transition between said stages he replied, “Time. Time and communication with each other. Different experiences advance or slow down the process” (Sledge 43).
Their personal experiences with the dating process reflected much of what the current respondents believed about the stages of relationships. Derek Sledge described he and his wife’s relationship while he was away at college. “When we were dating… I was finishing up school and my girlfriend and I were apart from each other throughout the week, and we only communicated on the phone, which helped us to become closer and develop our communication skills because that was all we had” (43). He believed those challenges “helped advance our relationship further through a shorter amount of time” (43). Lisa Sledge recalled the experience much the same way, “We skipped the whole ‘Does he like me, does she like me?’ type of thing because I think he pretty much made that well known after the first date when he showed up at my house. So, for us I think it went pretty quick. I mean, we dated for a really long time so we were in the same stage for a long time, and then eventually got engaged and married” (45). Lisa also identified a deeper level of care she developed while dating Derek, which she believed transitioned their relationship from one stage to another. “I think we were closer and we cared about each other more…I was always paranoid that he wouldn’t make it home at night, or something like that. I think it was just more caring” (45).
Surprisingly, the definitions of dates did not include much variance between the current generation and the generations of their parents and grandparents. Going out to dinner at a nice restaurant, going to see a movie, going shopping, visiting each others’ houses, and double dates or group dating activities were all included in the responses of the current generation. The preference of one-on-one dates remained with the current generation, but a growing appreciation for group dates was also present. In describing her dating experience, Lisa Sledge recalled, “We did a lot of group dates and stuff like that since we had a lot of mutual friends” (45). Her husband remembered “ a lot of double dating and activities like that” (D. Sledge 43). At the same time, Derek and Lisa now have a two-year old son, so their desire for one-on-one dates has resurfaced.
The transition between the dating stage of a relationship to the engagement stage was distinctly unique with the current generation. Whether it is a matter of time or increased social pressure, one thing is clear, engagements have become much more complex in recent years. The story of Derek and Lisa’s engagement attests to that truth. It must be pointed out that both respondents could easily remember the events of the proposal, especially the details. Derek was able to state the time frame in which he bought the ring and the date on which he proposed. Lisa could also recall the date of Derek’s proposal. When I asked Lisa the details of her proposal she was able to tell me the whole story from beginning to end, including her specific reactions to the experience. Derek was also able to describe his proposal in detail. He even remembered the last line of the poem he had written and used in the proposal.
While the proposal itself may have been unique, both Derek and Lisa said their relationship did not change that much once they became engaged. Lisa described that transitory period like this, “I don’t think it was much different. I mean we talked about our immediate future more, but we had done that even while we were dating, so I think [our engagement] was about the same, we just had more plans” (46). Derek agreed that the topics they discussed changed once he and Lisa got engaged. “It was more of an extension at first, then the focus became more on us together forever, verses us just together for a while maybe. Then plans for a home and where to live became much more in the forefront of the conversation than in the past” (44). The participants were in their early twenties when they became engaged, similar to that of the previous two generations.
The transition from engagement to marriage provided yet additional changes in the relationship between Derek and Lisa. Lisa described the change in the relationship like this, “Well we live together and I think we have more in depth conversations now…there are more issues to deal with in being a homeowner and having to provide for all of your needs and wants. But I think it’s still good. I mean we are more open with each other now than we were then” (46). Derek explicitly stated, “Things change when you get married. Expectations change. Of course, dating and being engaged never prepares you for living with someone and sharing every moment of your life with them. You have always got to learn the little nuances…just learning to live together changes so much [in the relationship]…and learning how to spend almost every minute of every day together” (44).
All of the interview responses revealed something interesting about real romantic relationships. The generational differences among the participants were clearly represented in their responses. It was clear that each generation described their experiences differently, which could have been a result of the changing social contexts they found themselves in. The extent to which the respondents reflected the relational development theories of their generation, and the relational influence of the older generation on the younger generation, will serve as the focus for the discussion section of this paper.
Initially, I hypothesized that the relational development theories applicable to each generation would be represented in the personal experiences of individuals of the said generation. I believe my research both supported and disproved that hypothesis. In a newspaper article from 1952 the New York Times reported that a date was “something prearranged with a specific girl at a definite time and place” (15). I believe the respondents from the grandparent generation proved that to be true. Also, due to the lack of theoretical background for that generation, much of what was experienced as far as dating patterns were simply the result of what was socially acceptable and the societal norm of the time. As Mr. and Mrs. Pace shared, there were different types or styles of dating, but identifying the catalyst for change in those situations was difficult if not impossible. I believe that lack of data to support their claims is a reflection of the limited amount of research and academic literature circulating during that generation.
The respondents from the parent generation did not reflect what research said about that time period. The 1960s and 1970s were infamous for being the era of free love, yet that sort of dating pattern was not reflected in the experiences of the participants in this study. However, theories of relational development as discussed by Altman and Taylor in 1973, Steve Duck in 1977, and Miller and Steinberg in 1975 were all reasonably supported by the experiences of the participants in this study from the parent generation. In particular, the use of self-disclosure and social activities as catalysts for change in dating relationships, as discussed in the personal interviews, shows support for the influence of related theoretical data on real relationships.
The responses from the current generation of young adults and their experiences in the dating process continued to support my initial hypothesis. While they may not have explicitly cited Knapp’s theory of coming together and coming apart, I believe the influence of such theories was clear in the interview responses. For example, each respondent from the current generation cited communication as playing a vital role in the development of his or her relationship. I would argue for the influence of applicable research in the real life experiences of the participants in this study. Due to the increasing amount of attention given to the role of communication in relational development from theorists such as Knapp, Clark, Whyte, and Coleman, I believe the results of my research support my initial hypothesis.
I also hypothesized that some of the dating patterns present in the grandparent generation would be inherited by the parent generation, and some of the traits of dating during the parent generation would be present in the current generation. This hypothesis was also supported and disproved by the results of this study. Elements of the dating process such as expectations, definitions, and identification of different stages were recognizable in each generation of the families interviewed. There were similar patterns of typical dates described by members of all generations, while the classification of the dating process varied between the different generations. The identified catalysts for change in a romantic relationship increased in number and influence as the generational gap decreased. For example, in the grandparent generation different stages of dating were discussed, while identifying the mechanism that caused a transition between those stages proved problematic. In the parent generation a greater variety of stages and mechanisms for change were discovered, yet ambiguity was still present. The responses of the current generation included the greatest amount of definitions and classifications of different stages of a relationship, as well as an easier identification of the methods of change present in relational development. Communication has definitely gained recognition in its ability to transition a relationship from one stage to the next, and the current generation was able to identify its influence the most.
As is the case with any research project, this study contained certain limitations. I would have liked to interview at least a third family system in order to gain a more diverse grouping of responses, but due to the constraints of time and uncontrollable life situations, that was not achievable. I would have also liked to gain four responses from each generation, but due to the ages of the participants and deaths of spouses, I was unable to do so for each family system. In addition, due to technological difficulties I was unable to create a transcript for Patricia Flexser’s interview, but I attempted to summarize the information from that interview as best as I could. And due to constraints of time and space I was unable to re-conduct the interview in a timely manner for this study.
To further this particular study on generational patterns of relational development, additional research would need to include a larger number of interview respondents. One could even expand the current study to include a cross-cultural dimension of relational development among generations. Evaluating different theories on relational development, other than those included in this study, could also be a direction of further exploration.
Aubrey Fisher once said, “The complexity of the puzzle of how humans establish and maintain relationships with one another through the process of interpersonal communication remains extraordinarily complex” (78). So, the information contained in this study has implications beyond measure. Recognizing and understanding the phenomenon of relational development, and the vital role communication plays in the process, will help human beings create and maintain more meaningful interpersonal relationships in their lives. Every individual will have different experiences, and yet the beauty of communication as an ever-changing process, is that it has the ability to impact each relationship in a unique way. In order to enhance romantic relationships, participants must recognize and understand the importance of communication within the relational development process, and apply that knowledge to their own experiences.
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1. How old are you?
2. What is your current relationship status? Single, Committed Dating, Engaged, Married
3. How would you characterize your parents’ communication style?
4. Do you try to emulate or avoid the type of relationship your parent’s have/had? Why?
5. What do you think the different stages in a relationship are?
6. What causes a relationship to transition from one stage to the next?
7. What were the different stages in your relationship? How did you get to where you are now in your relationship?
8. How did you know that the phase of the relationship had changed?
9. How did you meet your significant other?
10. What was involved in the dating/courtship stage of your relationship?
11. What would you consider a date?
12. Do you believe there are different stages specifically within the dating/courtship phase of a relationship? If so, what causes the shift between different stages?
13. Tell me about your engagement.
14. How was your engagement different from your dating? Age at engagement?
15. How was your marriage different from your engagement? Age at marriage?
Interviewee: Patricia Flexser
Marital Status: Widowed
Age engaged: Do not recall
Age married: Do not recall
Disclaimer: The transcript for this interview contains only a summary of the information given because the interview was accidentally deleted from the digital device it was recorded on, before a transcript could be completed. And due to the time constraints of this study the interview was not able to be conducted a second time.
Question 3: She did not know how to describe her parents’ communication style. She recalled rarely seeing them handle conflict, but she did remember them simply talking it through.
Question 4: She tried to emulate what her parents did because it seemed to work for them and she looked to them for guidance in relationships.
Question 5: She was unable to identify any distinct stages of a relationship other than meeting someone, dating them, and getting married.
Question 6: She believed a greater time spent together caused a relationship to transition from one stage to the next.
Question 7: She recalled how she met her husband at church events and that common interest was what initially attracted them to each other and continued to strengthen their relationship as it progressed.
Question 8: Time together was again her answer.
Question 9: At church
Question 10: Basic activities, mainly church oriented or sponsored events.
Question 11: I do not recall her answer.
Question 12: She felt dating was a uniform stage.
Question 13: I do not recall her answer but I remember that she did not have an extravagant engagement story.
Question 14: She did not feel there was much of a difference between the engagement and dating stages of her relationship.
Question 15: She did not feel there was much of a difference between the engagement and marriage stages of her relationship other than the living arrangement.
Interviewee: Diana Newton
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 20
Age married: 20
Question 3: Open with communication, they talked stuff over. (What about the way they handled conflict?) I usually knew there was something going on, whether I knew what it was or not…I don’t know about that.
Question 4: Well, some things you do and don’t even realize it. Yeah there are some things. They always tended to work things out and would read their Bibles and pray and that made a good impression. And eventually if they had a conflict it would be worked out. They would always get back together. (So you try to emulate that?) Yes.
Question 5: Oh yeah, when you first meet them you are really anxious and nervous and eventually you learn more about them and realize oh they are crazy like I am. Then you kind of advance from there. You start out very hesitant I think, while you are learning more about them. Then you see them in good days and bad days and gauge how they react to things. (Do you think there are labels for different stages of a relationship?) I think it is an individual thing and you kind of go at your own pace.
Question 6: Time and spending time with each other and you just keep learning more and more about them I guess. And you go from there.
Question 7: We were 200 miles away when we met and so he used call, well actually he came initially to see his brother and his brother set us up on a blind date. After that he would come to see his brother and end up seeing me. Then we started doing phone calls. He would call on the same time on Saturday and Sunday. I was a letter writer, so I would always write letters. I think I got maybe a dozen back from him, but I had written several. Then it just went from there, he would keep visiting and mom and dad would say ‘why don’t you just stay at our house’.
Question 8: I guess when the time came for him to go back home, it was harder to see him go. And that was all I ever thought about. My mind was always on him. I would really miss him when he wasn’t around.
Question 9: His brother introduced us. His brother and his wife went to the same church I did and we sang in a gospel choir together. So, they set us up on a blind date. They wouldn’t tell me anything about him and they wouldn’t tell him anything about me. So we went out on a double date with them (his brother and wife) over 4th of July weekend. So then the next night we went out together by ourselves. He lived in Mt. Vernon and I lived in Bismarck, which is north of Danville.
Question 10: (What was involved in the dating stage of your relationship?) Whenever he would come down we would go someplace with mom and dad or we would go somewhere out to eat in town, play miniature golf something like that.
Questions 11: Just the two of us. For it to be a real date, I would want it to just be him and me. (Did he have to come and pick you up?) I would prefer that he picked me up. (Did he have to talk to your parents beforehand and ask permission to take you out?) No, I would usually tell them because I was already 20 when we met, so I would just tell them what was happening.
Question 12: (Do you thing there are different stages during dating specifically or is it all uniform?) No I still think you continue to learn more about them and them about you and you continue getting closer as you learn things. We were married for I don’t know how long, and we were still finding things out about each other. So, I think it still continues to progress even though you are committed to each other. You know before you get married, you are still learning stuff about the other person.
Question 13: He came to mom and dad’s that night and he was going to spend the weekend and they would always go to bed early so we would have the living room to ourselves. And he was kissing me and he laid the jewelry box on my chest with the ring in it. It was neat.
Question 14: I don’t know just more excitement I guess because of the fact that we had actually found our mates and it was coming down to the wire. (Did you do more of anything during that time?) No. Because we were still so far apart and he came about ever 4-6 weeks to see me, but then again he still called twice a week. He just told me to do the wedding however I wanted to. He didn’t want anything to do with it so he let me plan it.
Question 15: Just grown closer I guess. We just have that bond because we have gone through good times and bad times and seen each other at their worst and best both and you just really get closer. Some people pull apart during the bad times and we just kept plugging away.
Interviewee: Rebecca Newton
Marital Status: Single, but I am talking to a boy
Age engaged: N/A
Age married: N/A
Question 3: They get together and they sit down and talk about things and try to give me the best information that they know of. (How about when it comes to dealing with conflict?) They will just sit me down and tell me what’s what and they tell me what they think and then I make the decision from there. (What about conflict between the two of them?) They will usually work it out and later on you’ll hear them apologizing and you know they are not mad at each other anymore.
Question 4: I want the same thing my parents have and that is what I look for in a relationship. The qualities that my dad has, that is what I look for in the guy I’m talking to right now. (Why?) I guess I just noticed them while growing up and I want that in my life. They seemed to get along and that’s how I want it to work with my guy friend.
Question 5: I think you first start out in this talking and getting to know each other, being friends. Then as you get to know each other better you begin an actual dating relationship where you call yourself boyfriend and girlfriend. And then I think you get to know each other even more and then you get together and get married, or get engaged and then get married.
Question 6: Ummm. I guess when you get to know each other more and I guess since I’ve never really been in a relationship, I won’t really know until I get to that part, like right now we are just friends. But I think later on it will develop into something more once we get to know each other. So, I guess just the more you get to know each other.
Question 7: We talk on the phone during the week and then he comes down and visits me and we talk then. And mess around with each other. We’re pretty much just talking right now.
Question 8: N/A
Question 9: (And your parents hooked you up?) Well they said it would be okay for Art and Lorna to hook us up. (So they sort of arranged it?) Yes.
Question 10: N/A
Question 11: Probably going out for dinner and then going to a movie. A nice place to eat, no like McDonald’s or anything, some place where we can sit down. And then out to a movie, probably a funny movie. (Does the amount of people matter? Is it only a date if it’s the two of you, and if you go out with a group is it still considered a date?) No, I think it’s more of a date when it’s just the two of us. I guess being in a group is okay, but I would consider it a date more if it was just the two of us. (What about staying in vs. going out? Does that change the classification of a date?) No. I’m cool with us just hanging out here. Just being together is fine with me. It doesn’t matter if we go out or just stick around home and play games, both would be fine with me. (And both would be considered a date?) Yes.
Question 12: (Uniform dating or different stages of dating?) I think it’s pretty much all dating until they pop the questions or something. For me, when I am actually put in an actual dating relationship that may change. But right now the way I see it is when you are dating you are just getting to know each other and going out and doing stuff together.
Questions 13-15: N/A
Interviewee: Tom Newton
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 25
Age married: 25
Question 3: They talked alone most of the time. They didn’t talk a lot when us kids were awake. That was there private time. (What about handling conflict?) They didn’t handle conflict jointly. Mother handled the stuff, disciplinary things; he was just the witness of it. (What about conflict between each other?) How did they handle that you mean? They just talked it out, fussed at each other a little bit.
Question 4: I think I am kind of like my dad, I really do. Because he didn’t, I don’t try to involve myself in everything. I just stay back and let things develop. I think I kind of follow some of the things he does and some of his characteristics.
Question 5: From the beginning to the end...repeat the question. I never thought about that. (What starts a relationship?) Well, I think being attracted to someone, not necessarily physically, but it can be. Maybe in her case, I think it was her laugh that was a kind of attraction. That was kind of distinctive. So you’re attracted to someone and then you grow closer to someone you know as you learn more about each other and then as far as ending a relationship, you know from past relationships, where you actually grow apart. Your ideas and the things you feel are important differ from the other individual and therefore you kind of drift apart I guess. (So what is the climax or the epitome of a relationship? If there is one?) I think, well I guess. Where you grow to the point where you really enjoy being with each other, friendship and trust go hand in hand. They’re your friend, but you have to trust them whether they are right there with you or not.
Question 6: What do you mean, better or worse, or both? (Well, what causes a relationship to move from initially meeting to being an official couple? That is what I mean by a transition? Do you need some examples?) Yes. (Would it be the amount of time you spend together, would it be the amount of information you disclose to each other, would it be the types of things you talk about, would it be…) Well, it would be all three that you mentioned there. The amount of time you spend with each other of course contributes to the others because what are you going to do, hold hands and stare at each other? No, so you talk and learn more about each other.
Questions 7-9: Well we were introduced of course and then we just, from that point on, corresponded, phone mainly, some letters, and just developed from there. But that was, it was just learning more about each other. We couldn’t be, you know if you have a friend that is right here in town then you can go and do whatever, but we didn’t have that we were 200 miles away, so we had a regular routine where she knew when I was going to call and that we just continued to develop and know each other better, but it was mainly over the phone and the letters we wrote, a lot of letters. (So you met your significant other just by a mutual friend?) My brother and his wife, yes. (So they hooked you guys up?) Yes.
Question 10: You mean as far as activities? (Yes, activities and the things you talked about and the degree to which you shared information.) Humm..I am trying to think of some of the activities. I mean, church was always part of it, going to church together. We went to, several times we went to a park or Turkey Run specifically was one we used to go to, and we would just enjoy the time outdoors, a picnic atmosphere you know. And that helped me to know her family better too. Not just knowing her, but the rest of them too. Because usually they were all involved when we had something like that. And that is one thing that is different with her family from mine, they liked to group up like cubby quail, where we [my family] are just kind of scattered you know. But what else did we need? (I think that sounds good.)
Question 11: What would I consider a date? Used to, well the standard when I was growing up was like you said, either go to a movie first, or got get a pizza first and then go to a movie. It could be the opposite. Or concerts, that was always good too, a live concert. We went to several like that when I was running around. (Did you have to go pick her up?) Yes, yes. Always. (So it wasn’t a date unless you picked her up?) No. (What about the amount of people that went along? If it was just you two would it be a date? And if a group of people went out together would it still be considered a date?) No, a date to me was just one on one. I mean you could go out with a group but you still, you took your date to be with the rest of the group.
Question 12: There has to be different levels because I have dated several girls where you just date them one time, maybe two you know and then you figure well that’s enough. But when you meet someone where you know it’s special, then you want to be with them over and over again. So that is kind of what distinguishes just an ordinary date from someone who really is special in your life.
Question 13: Oh, I think we was watching TV. and something just, I just, I bought the ring and just kind of said, she was laying there on the floor, and I just kind of laid it there on her tummy, didn’t I? Said, “Here you go, you want this?” It wasn’t anything glamorous. You know, the down on the one knee kind of stuff, that wasn’t my style. I remember the day we got married, but I don’t remember the engagement.
Question 14: You mean after we were engaged? I don’t see that there was anything any different. Not really. I mean after we had already dated for a while. I mean you get to that point where you know the person fairly well, so the engagement time was not really much different. Now when you get married, now that is a different story then you learn a lot of different things at that point. But the time between when you get engaged until you become married really wasn’t that different for me.
Question 15: Well, you know one thing I’ve told people is that I always, I use numbers. Numbers are my life. And I always thought I could figure out how much it would cost me to be married. And I learned real quick that you can’t do that because the things that she wanted, you know I was satisfied with a little less glamorous surroundings, I guess you could say. And she wanted to spend some extra money to decorate and doll things up a bit. You know you can’t plan on things like before you are married. Of course, being around the same person day after day, you know that’s different too. And you try to make sure you please them, at least for a year or so. The first year or so, you kind of bend over backwards to accommodate the other person to show you love them.
Interviewee: Andy Pace
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 20
Age married: 21
Question 3: Uhh, I have to think a minute. Let’s skip that one.
Question 4: I tried to avoid, they made a mistake or two. And I have already made mine, so I have to be real careful now. I try not to make the same mistakes my parents made, I try to learn from those mistakes.
Question 5: Well, we first met at a restaurant and she was working and I was hungry. And she took care of me real well and a couple of year after that we got married. And that first year was tough. And then from then on, she says we’ve been married what..55 Years, I think, and the last 50 she says have been real enjoyable. (Did you guys really date at all.) We dated hot and heavy for 2 or 3 years, maybe longer, and then we got engaged and then we got married.
Question 6: Well, it’s love is the main thing. And sex is about third on the list. And the problems start from then on.
Question 7: Answered previously in the interview.
Question 8: Well, it was the first time I had ever fallen in love with somebody. I had dated quite a few people and it was just a spur of the moment thing and didn’t last but one night usually, but it was strictly love [with she and I].
Question 9: (So, you met your wife at a restaurant?) I was home on leave from the Navy and there was a telephone crew in there, and this was 50 some odd years ago, I don’t remember exactly all that happened. Well, they were giving her a hard time and she was cute and feisty and she caught my attention real quick. And I had a lot of competition, but I won out. That’s where your hardheaded streak comes in handy.
Question 10: (What did you guys do while you were dating?) We went fishing a lot. All I would let her do was feed me and bait the hook sometimes. And she didn’t like that too well, so then we roller-skated a lot and I was a bad dancer, and I didn’t want to dance, and that got us in trouble. So I never got my dancing down perfect. That is my one regret in life, that I never learned how to dance.
Question 11: Well, spending all evening with somebody. Going out to eat. Going to a picture show. Going roller-skating., just the two of us. (If more people came along was it still considered a date or was it more of a group thing?) It wasn’t a date that I wanted if more people came along, it was just an outing then. (So the element of one-on-one with the individual was what made it a date?) Yes.
Question 12: There is strictly a difference in dating. Some dates are sex affairs, others are love affairs, and then the longer you are with somebody the more you learn to like them. And so that all goes together to make up the dating procedure.
Question 13: When my wife and I get together, we’ll have to go over that. I know I got down on one knee and I went to her father and asked for her hand in marriage and her dad was real happy to get rid of her, she was the last of nine, so they thought they had children long enough. I really cannot remember where I asked her at, I guess it was at her house. Her mother was a real good cook and I got to eat Sunday dinner with them a lot of times. And I will have to talk to her about that.
Question 14: Well, that has been too long ago, I can’t remember that.
Question 15: The first year and a half was a real different transition period. She was the baby of nine and I was the only one [child] and I wanted everything my way, and she wanted everything her way. So it was a struggle. And she ran me off after a year and a half, I didn’t leave on my own, and I was in love with her enough that I figured right then that I wanted to be with her the rest of my life and it’s been real congenial since then.
Interviewee: Norma Pace
Marital status: Married
Age engaged: 18 or 19
Age married: 19
Question 3: Basically very good, mama talked and daddy listened. (What about when solving conflict?) I never saw that.
Question 4: No. (Do you try and avoid it?) No. I had a bad relationship with my parents. (So, you maybe try to emulate parts of it and avoid others?) Yes. (How do you choose what to avoid and what to do the same?) Just what suits my circumstance at the time.
Questions 5: Humm….I am not sure how to answer that because you start out on a low key then things advance to a secondary stage and then by the time you get to the third stage, I think you are just about at the top of the mountain.
Question 6: Temperament, my temperament. (Can you explain that a little more because I am confused?) Well, sometimes I am in a jolly mood, other times I am in a sulky mood and temperament has lot to do with both of those. It depends on the way I feel that day usually. (When going from the low-key level you talked about to the next level, is there anything that signifies that you have changed stages?) Sure, the way my husband treats me.
Questions 7-9: Hard work. Trial and error, that’s the biggest step, trial and error. (How did you meet?) I was a waitress and he was waiting for his parents in the restaurant and that’s where we met. Over a cup of coffee. (And then how did it go from there?) Well it was a hard struggle because my parents didn’t think that his parents had a son. So it was a hard struggle for me because my parents were still picking and choosing who I dated, at the time I was only 15 or 16 years old. I wasn’t supposed to date. So I would let him take my out and then I would get out [of the car] before I got home. But then it finally came around that his grandfather was working for my dad doing carpenter work. And he made the statement, Mr. Sursa please keep that youngest daughter for my grandson who is in the Navy. So then it was alright. I could date him from then on. So, that is the way it evolved. When he came home from the Navy I had a hard time finding him, but I finally did.
Question 10: The biggest thing there was to do in this area was to roller skate and go to the movie. That was our entertainment.
Question 11: At that time or this time? (Either one or both.) At that time a date was go to the drive in hotdog stand and go to the roller rink. And now, I want to go to a fancy hotdog stand…laughing…inside with white tablecloths and maitradee’s and then go to the movie or something like that. (When you guys were dating did he have to come and pick you up?) Absolutely. And he didn’t just honk, he came to the door. (Does the amount of people present determine whether it’s a date or not?) No. (So if you went out with a group of people, but you were both there, would that still be considered a date?) Sure, we go out with 2 other couples to eat, and that’s a date for us.
Question 12: I think dating is a learning period and then engagement is a serious period and then marriage is absolute trial and error.
Question 13: I don’t remember the proposal. I remember knowing the engagement was in the glove compartment of the car all night on Christmas Eve. We went skating, gone out to eat, and been 2 or 3 places and I knew it was in the glove compartment, but I didn’t know when I was ever going to get it. But I don’t remember Andy proposing, I guess we just took it for granted.
Question 14: Just an extension of the dating period.
Question 15: Well there has been….I don’t know that it’s been a lot different. I have always been treated like a lady and never been asked to do anything that wasn’t ladies work. So, I really don’t know that there was much difference in leaving home and becoming a married lady, other than being my own boss.
Interviewee: Carol Sledge
Marital Status: Married…happily married
Age Engaged: 18
Age Married: 19
Question 3: My parents never communicated a whole lot in front of us. Mom always did stuff with us and dad was always at work. I didn’t really see them together all that much. (Did you ever see them handle conflict? And how they communicated with each other in dealing with conflict?) No. The death of a parent is the ever thing I ever saw them deal with.
Question 4: I think we basically do our own thing because I don’t know how they communicated. (So there really wasn’t anything there for you to emulate?) No. (But in a sense you are avoiding their lack of communication because you are not doing that.) That’s true.
Question 5: At the beginning you are more than likely physically attracted to someone. You begin dating, you get to know the person their emotions, personality, their feelings, you develop a deeper relationship, it is not just physical. And as you continue in a relationship that probably grows more and the physical becomes somewhat less important, but is still in the background. I think it goes from more physical [attraction] to my emotional, but the physical is still there, but you learn that the physical is not the most important part of a relationship. Your feelings for each other grow and you want to ideally, you become more unself-centered and you become more centered on the other person, trying to make them important and make them feel special, and in turn when both parties do that it is a win-win situation. (So what is the pinnacle point that a relationship strives for? Or is there one?) I just think the ultimate is having a very strong emotional relationship putting the other person first, their feelings, what makes them happy, compromise. (Does this take place within a marriage? Or are you just talking about a general growing close between two people?) Oh I think the longer you are married, the deeper all of those go. (So you eventually reach the stage of marriage? I don’t know that you ever stated that?) You start dating, your physically attracted to each other and you start dating. Your love grows for each other and you know that you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. After you get married, you truly understand their feelings, their personalities; you learn things about their personalities that you might not have known. Like, throwing dirty socks on the floor, is that a big deal or does it just drive you nuts? You get past that because that is just a little piece of the big picture. There is more than meets the eye.
Question 6: I think it is a time issue. Obviously it takes time to know someone, and their feelings. It is just a natural evolution of two people spending their lives together.
Question 7: I picked him out from physical appearance. His curly hair, his broad shoulders, his physical attraction, he was good looking. After dating a while I fell in love with him and have grown to be very good friends. Well it went from dating to marriage to best friends.
Question 8: Well their comes a point when you are waiting for that phone call and you won’t leave the house because you think he is going to call. You want to be with him all the time. You get a flutter when you see him walk down the hall, you get emotional. (So your emotional connection deepens as a relationship evolves?) Yes.
Question 9: I had seen him at school and we were both in our best friends’ wedding.
Question 10: We drove around. We listened to 8-tack tapes in the car. Basically Bread and Jim Croche. We might grab a hamburger. Went to a lot of softball games and spent a lot of time on the couch watching TV. We didn’t go to fancy restaurants, we didn’t go to the movies a whole lot. Just driving around and watching TV mostly.
Question 11: I would consider a couple different kinds of dates. A date would mean getting cleaned up and getting dressed up, going to dinner and movie maybe. Or we have a Friday night dates which is just going out to Bob Evans, a nice relaxed atmosphere you don’t have to cook, just spending time together just the two of us. It doesn’t have to be fancy just date night. It might even involve going to Wal-Mart. It doesn’t even have to be anything structured, just spending time together. (Does the amount of people present constitute whether it is a date or not? What if you went with a group of people?) A date to me would either be just the two of us or possible a double date, but like going to a wedding or wedding reception that wouldn’t be a date, I wouldn’t count that a date where there were a lot of people around.
Question 12: In our personal experience, we didn’t do things with a group. There just wasn’t a group that hung out together. So for me, dating is just the two of you. That is a date. I think I would just label the whole process dating because it didn’t switch to going and getting a hamburger to later on in the relationship getting dressed up and going to a $100 a plate restaurant.
Question 13: I don’t remember a specific time when he actually asked me to marry him. We were pre-engaged where he had to ask my father if he could marry me and it was just general conversation about what we would do when we got married and where we would live and things. But I don’t remember a specific time when he asked me to marry him.
Question 14: It wasn’t really. It was just more of a continuation.
Question 15: Mainly physically. The marriage was just a continuation of the dating.
Interviewee: Derek Sledge
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 20
Age married: 21
Question 3: Such as, can I have an example. (Are they open, or are they avoidant, or) With each other or with me? (With each other. Did they pick and choose depending on the situation?) They are somewhat open, umm…but they don’t disclose everything. (What about when dealing with conflict?) They say it to each other’s face. (Have you ever seen them fight?) I have seen them argue. (How do they deal with that?) They normally express their viewpoints and either give it time to set in or work it out.
Question 4: I try to emulate to a point, but I try to have more communication with my wife than what my parents had.
Question 5: Umm…dating stage, honeymoon stage where everything is new and you are learning new things about each other, moves to a growing stage where you try and strengthen your relationship with each other and the bonds that you have, becomes a comfort stage and then I guess you die. Laughing…..I am still in the growing stage, so I don’t know. (Is that the way you see the overall transition of a relationship?) Yes.
Question 6: Time. Time and communication with each other. Different experiences advance or slow down the process.
Question 7: Time and different experiences in life. And through the relationship. When we were dating it was spending time with other and a lot of talking on the phone. There was a time when I was finishing up school and my girlfriend and I were apart from each other throughout the week, and we only communicated on the phone, which helped us to become closer and develop our communication skills because that was all we had. And we cherished the time we had together. I was home every weekend and we cherished that time together more because it the very little that we had. So I think that helped advance our relationship further through a shorter amount of time because of the strain we went through and the challenges we approached.
Question 8: Well, it reaches a point….a big monumental thing is when you can burp and fart in front of your significant other and they accept it and don’t think anything of it. When the little things that they do, you either look forward to or expect and whenever those don’t happened and you’re surprised…the comfort level grow between each other. I don’t know of any defining moments…(So it’s just the comfort with each other?) Yes…the comfort with each other and the expectation to see each other and the loneliness when you are apart, the longing to spend time with each other.
Question 9: We were set up on a semi-blind date. I say semi-blind because we each knew who the other was, but we had never actually conversed, so we were set up by some friends and went out on a group date…bowling actually the first night. That was our first date when we were introduced.
Question 10: (You have kind of touched on this already, but what kinds of things did you guys do together when you were dating?) We went to the movies, and out to dinner, and shopping. Sometimes we just stayed at home and watched TV. We were both pretty much homebodies, and still are, so spending time at each other’s houses it what is mostly consisted of. A lot of double dating and activities like that.
Question 11: um…. It can consist of many different things. Just dedicated time to each other to where you go…you give the other person your undivided attention. Whether you go to dinner or a movie…you commit to spending time with a person. (Do you have to go out or can staying in be a date?) Oh yeah, staying in can completely be a date. (Does the amount of people matter? If you went out with a group of people, would it still be considered a date?) Sure.
Question 12: Such as going steady, or going out, or just seeing each other type thing…(Yeah). Yeah there are all of these different titles, whether or not…each person is going to see them individually. Do I see anything…I don’t know. Once it’s kind of an exclusive thing, I would call it going out probably. If you have gone on one or two dates, you are probably still dating. Is there a magic number? No, I think it all depends on the individuals and the situation. (Ok, considering the levels that you have eluded to, what causes the relationship to shift from one level or classification to the next? Or is there anything?) It’s time and interest with each other. You can tell on one date whether or not you are going to desire to have another date or not. If you have absolutely nothing in common, there is really no sense in pursing it any further. If you have a few things in common, sure you’ll want to pursue it with more dating to find out if there are more things you have in common or not, if there is chemistry or not. But each one will progress differently. Each relationship will.
Question 13: How did I propose? (Yes). I bought a ring just before Thanksgiving and I held onto it until February, I think. I came home one weekend while I was at school, I came home and I had wrapped it in a box, which was wrapped inside of a bigger box, which was wrapped inside of a bigger box, the whole china doll thing. In the smallest box…I didn’t wrap the ring, I wrapped a poem. Oh, I am sorry. In each box there was a section of the poem. So she opened the biggest box and there is an envelope with part of the poem in it, she opens the next box and there’s another section, and so on. She gets to the very end and the last part said, “It’s come to the part where I am dying to ask…” and I had the ring in my hand, and asked her “Will you marry me?” At which point she almost threw up because she was so surprised and excited and she said yes. And she literally got sick to her stomach because she was so nervous and it just caught her by surprise that she had to take a few minutes to gather herself.
Question 14: It was an extension of our dating because we had dated for 4 years before we got engaged and it progressed to that point, but we would have been married earlier, well I would have proposed earlier anyway, but due to the circumstances of me being at school, I wanted to finish first. It was more of an extension at first, then it became, the focus become more on us together forever, verses us just together for a while maybe. Then plans for a home and where to live became much more in the forefront of the conversation than in the past.
Question 15: Things change when you get married. Expectations change. Of course, dating and being engaged never prepares you for living with someone and sharing every moment of your life with someone. You have always got to learn the little nuances of they squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle verses starting at the bottom and working it to the end. How long it takes to get read in the bathroom in the morning. And what your schedule is and who takes a shower when to get ready. It’s just learning to live together chances so much. Learning each other’s schedules and how things work, is what changes more than anything, and how to spend almost every minute of every day together.
Interviewee: Lisa Sledge
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 20
Age married: 21
Question 3: They communicate very well. They’re both um…they both express their feelings openly. (How do they deal with conflict? Same kind of way?) Yeah, the same kind of way. They pretty much discuss it and that’s about it.
Question 4: Definitely emulate. (Why?) Because I think that I, as a child, never really saw them fight, I saw them argue, but it was never heated and so it was much easier on me, you know, knowing that my parents didn’t have big fights.
Question 5: Well….just like the dating stages? (No, the whole life of a relationship from beginning to end.) Oh. In my case or in general? (In general, what is your perception?) Oh this is a tough one. I don’t know. Ummm…(Well, one standard could be you meet and go through this initializing stage and then you start dating where you are a couple, and then it goes to engagement and it ends in marriage. Is there anything you would add to that skeleton?) No, I think that is still pretty much the way it is, you have that first awkward stage where you are just testing it out to see “Does he really like me?” or “Does he just want to be friends?” And then it’s pretty much the same as it always is.
Question 6: Well I think time, because you know as time goes by and you get closer to that person and I think one of the people in the relationship has to step out and make it go that step farther, they have to let the other person know they want it to get farther.
Question 7: (Laughs) Well, we didn’t really know each other because it was a blind date type of thing. SO, we skipped the whole “Does he like me, Does she like me” type of thing. I think, because he pretty much made that well known after the first date when he showed up at my house. So, for us I think it went pretty quick. I mean, we dated for a really long time so we were in the same stage for a long time, and then eventually got engaged and married.
Question 8: Well we grew closer together and we were more, I think we were closer and we cared about each other more, and I think that’s the main way that I could tell it had shifted. You know, I was always paranoid that he wouldn’t make it home at night, or something like that. I think it was just caring.
Question 9: Blind date totally. We went bowling.
Question 10: We…um… we went to A LOT of movies. We went shopping a lot and we would go over to each other’s houses and that’s pretty much it. We did a lot of group dates and stuff like that since we had a lot of mutual friends. And that’s pretty much it.
Question 11: Ummm…well, now it would be alone time. Now with Alec [our son]. Then, it was umm… I would consider a date going somewhere with just him. And it didn’t matter what just going somewhere together. (So, the amount of people would matter whether it was a date or not?) Well, yeah I would say it would matter. I mean not that it wasn’t fun going out with other people, but to me, I had more fun with just me and him. (Did you have to go out someplace for it to be a date? Would staying in and being alone still be considered a date?) Yeah, because if I left [my house] and went to his house to watch a movie, then I would still consider that a date. And if he left and came to my house then it would be considered a date too.
Question 12: (Are there different levels of dating or is it all uniform? And if there are levels how would you classify them?) I think it’s all dating.
Question 13: Well, it was a shocker to me! I knew eventually someday we would get married, but I didn’t know it was going to be right then. He wrote me a poem and he divided it up and put it on different pieces of paper, then he put those different pieces of paper in different envelopes, and then he put those in different boxes. And the boxes were bigger, and I would open it and there would be a smaller one inside. And I just kept opening each one. And then the last one was all mushy and it all tied together and in the last one it said “Would you marry me?” And then he got down on one knee. And you know, I got sick to my stomach because I didn’t expect that. And of course I said yes and it was at my house and it was of a night, I don’t remember what day of the week, well it was definitely on a weekend because he was in school. So, that was about. Then we told my parents and they were shocked but happy and then we went and told [his] mom and dad and then [the grandparents]. I am not for sure.
Question 14: I don’t think it was much different. I mean we talked about umm…our immediate future more obviously because we had to find a place to live and all that kind of stuff. But we had always talked about our distant future, I mean even when we were dating. So, I think it was about the same, we just had more plans.
Question 15: Umm…well obviously we live together and umm…I think we have more in depth conversations now definitely, because obviously there are more issues to deal with being a homeowner and having to provide for all of your needs and wants. But I think it’s still good. I mean we are more open with each other than we were then.
Interviewee: Roland Sledge
Marital Status: Married
Age engaged: 18
Age Married: 19
Question 3: Not very well. My dad always, when I was a kid, my dad always said what mom doesn’t know, she doesn’t have to worry about. So, I just took it from that that he didn’t tell her a lot of things. (What about when it came down to handling conflict? Did you ever see them handle conflict?) I don’t recall much conflict or how they handled it. I mean it wasn’t like in some of the families today where one parent is the disciplinarian and the other one is not, um in our family you know, it was if you stepped out of line you got disciplined. It didn’t matter, it wasn’t wait until your dad gets home, mom took care of that. So on and so forth.
Question 4: I try to…there are parts of it that I try to emulate, maybe as far as the morals, my standards that I live by. I try to emulate the teachings I live by. I like to think that I have also learned from past relationships and observing parents, grandparents, things like that that I have learned the dos and the don’ts. (What types of things do you try to avoid that your parents did?) Um.. I try to have open communication with mom [my wife], so I try not to keep things from her. I try to let her know what is going on in my life and that type of thing. I don’t try to purposely keep information from her.
Question 5: Are you talking about a married relationship? Or just from beginning when you first meet to the dating process to marriage and so on and so forth? (The latter.) Let’s see. You go through the infatuation stage. That’s whenever you know, you start dating them and decide that this is who I would really like to go out with. And you are infatuated from that because there is someone else in your life now that consumes your thoughts, consumes some of your time, and some of the things that you like to do before you in a relationship, may not be the same things you become interested in after you are in a relationship. You may not have a mutual interest in things with the person you are in a relationship with. That is the dating part of it. After the dating process, you are always infatuated with that person beyond the dating process. In my situation with your mom [my wife] it just evolved from man I like being with her, I like going out with her, I like spending time with her to take that to the next level…I definitely want to take her home to meet the parents, so to speak. Then you meet the family, you know, to make sure that there is not going to be a conflict with that. I think it is important for there to be a blessing, an acceptance from the parents and from the rest of the family. Not that that is one hundred percent necessary, because it’s not always the case, but I think it is pretty important that the person that you are looking at marrying would be a person that would be accepted into the family. Because I have seen obviously in other relationships, that my brothers had, where that has been a point of conflict and I have seen that in other people’s lives as well. So then you go from that point into marriage, once you’ve made that commitment to each other that you are going to be husband and wife. And then it changes and it evolves because now you are with that person, where before you were with that person quite a bit but there were aspects of each other’s lives that maybe you didn’t know about, they didn’t know things about you, you didn’t know things about them, prior to getting married. As an example, farting. (You know you are not the only person that has said that.) I mean mom [my wife] swears she never did that until she joined our family, and I know that is a lie because otherwise you would blow up. I mean there are other things, sharing bathrooms, when we were first married we had to share a bathroom, and those things. A person’s sleeping habits. You know, I did not really ask, I didn’t really know that mom [my wife] is a kind of quite time morning person, she gets up early. I don’t know if she was like that when we dated, but I know after we were married she went to work at regular time, and she would always get up in plenty of time. She would give herself a couple of hours to get together. Where I was just the opposite. I would stay in bed as long as I could and roll out and hit the floor running. Those are the sorts of things, you just learn as you go. You learn their likes and dislikes as far as food and movies, you know different things like that. You kind of know things like that during the dating process, but yet it’s totally different. In the dating process you are going out to eat, going to the movies, whatever. But after you are married, you are having meals at home so what does she like to cook? What do I like that she fixes? That type of thing. It’s a work on progress. You just go in different stages in your life. You know when you are freshly married, you are in the honeymoon stage. So then you move from the honeymoon phase of your life, and it varies, I have heard other people talk about their relationships and that honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever. But I think the key to a healthy relationship, married relationship, is being able to keep an element of that alive and not allow the fire go out. But then, as you’ve been in the marriage relationship for a while, and friends of yours, people you socialize with, people you go to church with, and things of that nature. I know in our case, we really hadn’t planned for children, or planned for children early on, or the desire to have children. But then our friends were beginning to have families, and children. And all of a sudden you’re the odd man out because you don’t have children and so you don’t, the functions change. The things they attend, you don’t because you are not really a part of because you don’t have kids. And you don’t have an appreciation for the hardships that go along with having children and raising children. So then we [my wife and I] began to feel like outsiders and we began to talk about children and those types of things. And that is when we decided that it was time for us to get into that phase of our lives. And here again, that changes, the whole thing changes once you have children. Because children cannot be programmed. They can get sick, they can get into the raisin box and have issues with diarrhea, they get sick, they got colicky, they get ear infections, and now you have to find a babysitter. And it can get pretty stressful. And your life can become consumed with your children and the communication barrier can broaden between the husband and wife because you are so consumed with the raising of the children that you really don’t have time to spend with each other. So, and then once children get into school, that becomes a totally different issue now because you have to make sure that their homework gets done, and that they can make the honor roll and that kind of stuff. And go to all of their functions; good, bad, or ugly. But those are memories, I remember there were things that we would just cringe because we had to go to them, but you know we made it through and that’s part of the process. But then once you get your kids raised, and get them through grade school, then they go to high school. Then there is a whole new set of issues because there are things at the high school level that they are exposed to. And the stress level increases because you know that you want them to not get mixed up with the wrong type of activities and the wrong type of people and you want them to have a positive experience there. And then there is the traumatic experience of when they get their driver’s license and you have to turn loose and let them drive on their own. Then you get them through high school and you have the pressure of getting them through college. The financial side of it especially. It’s a lot harder financially to put them through college than it was to put them through elementary school and high school. But then when they are gone, it’s almost like you are back to where you started. With no children in the home. It’s almost like you are starting over. It’s another phase in your life. Because of our life experiences, we still have common things that we like to do together. But there are still those issues that have always been there as far as our personal preferences as far as what we like and what we don’t care for. And I try to understand and be sensitive to know that she is a crafty gal and she like to do that stuff. But I don’t care anything about it, so obviously we don’t work together in the craft room. I didn’t realize when I was younger that she really enjoyed helping me put things together so that is a newfound commonality that we have. She likes to read instructions while I put things together. And the older I get, that is probably a good thing. Physical changes go on in your body. It’s not as easy to lose weight now as it was when I was younger and the stress level is not any higher, but it’s just different. So, we have reached a new phase in our life now and the challenge is, again just like it was then, not lose the willingness to communicate, not lose the willingness to spend time with each other.
Question 6: Well, a lot of the factors I spoke about. A lot of it is, once you’re married, it’s the reality that you are no longer living with your parents, and no longer have the safety net from a financial standpoint that your parents are going to be there to bail you our. Your parents are there to help you out, but the responsibility is now on you. That is an added pressure that maybe in the past you didn’t have. You know, you worked just to get spending money. Now you are working to pay the bills and to try to have spending money. Then it changes when you have children because, now it’s not just a financial factor, but now it’s a time issue. The time commitment that it takes to have children, to raise children, to nurture them as that type of thing. Well before you had lots and lots of time with each other to do a lot of recreational activities, that time is sometimes not there [with kids] so you have to make sacrifices on things you maybe would like to do recreationally that you no longer can do as much. But, economics has something to do with it. Your financial needs. You know if the baby gets sick, you have to take them to the doctor, you hadn’t planned on that. And therefore you have to make that commitment to pay the bill off, so you have to sacrifice in another area. That changes. Just as you evolve in your job, climb the corporate ladder so to speak, your job is an added responsibility with higher stress levels. You know, those type of things.
**Questions 7 & 8 were covered in the answer to Question 5
Question 9: Clyde and Theresa Scott. I was instrumental in getting Clyde a date with Theresa and in turn they fell in love and decided to get married. Theresa was one of Carol’s good friends and Clyde was one of my good friends, and we were both in the wedding together. And they [Clyde and Theresa] decided to play matchmaker. Anyway, I was the target and I was easy prey. So, anyway, she conveniently needed a ride home from the rehearsal so I conveniently was available to give her that ride. One thing led to another and we were dating, so on and so forth, the rest is history.
Question 10: Well, on the first date we went bowling and I was very competitive and I still am, and bowling was not my strong suit and I didn’t really get to spend a lot of time bowling, and she beat me. We did not go bowling much anymore. I don’t know if she was fine with that or not, but it was just one of those things. (What kinds of things did you talk about?) Oh boy, just general things. We talked a lot about our friends and a lot about our families and things like that. There was the getting to know you type things. I don’t think she knew that I was the one she was going to marry when we first met. I don’t know how quickly into our relationship she knew that. I think that I had an inkling early on that she might be the one, but then as we got into it we talked a lot about our friends and our families and I began to get a little scared about her meeting some of my family because I had a much larger family that she did, and we had some characters on the Sledge side of the house. So I was little hesitant for her to meet them. We did some outdoor things. One of her favorite things we did, and I don’t know if we were married yet or not, but we went four-wheeling riding and we really enjoyed that. I guess it was because financially I couldn’t afford one or whatever. But as much fun as that was, I’m surprised that we didn’t buy one and do more of that. But we really had a good time doing that. We would go horseback riding. (So as your dating evolved, did the types of things you talk about or do together change or did they remain same?) I think it pretty much remained the same. I mean I don’t remember it taking a lot of different phases. I knew relatively early one that the relationship was going to go to that stage of being married. So, I think very quickly it went that direction in the things that we did. We just spent time together. She would go and watch me play softball. She wasn’t necessarily athletic, so she would support me in that.
Question 11: What would I consider a date? (Yes. What would constitute a date in your mind?) Well, an activity of some sort. Something where you actually went out, like going to the movies or out to dinner, going to a function of some sort like a ball game. Um…you know to an Operetta. (Does the amount of people involved matter?) I think just going out in general is considered a date. But I think there are different types of dates. Like I said, there is dating with a group which is fine but I think that is more prevalent early on in your dating process that you have a tendency to be in groups so that you are not put in an awkward situation. If one person is a talkative sort and one person is not then it can be rather awkward if it’s just the two of you out on date because one person has to dominate the conversation and that gets kind of sticky. So it’s convenient to have another couple with you so that there are more people involved in the conversation. (What if you decided to stay in? Would that still be considered a date? Or do you have to go out?) Well, you can make a stay-in a date if you are doing more than just the normal routine. If you are going to stay in and have popcorn and a movie and have friends over, then that could be a date. But really, I think it’s mostly going out.
Question 12: There are different stages within the larger context of the dating process. (How would you classify those stages?) Well, I think there is casual dating which is where it’s usually done in groups because it’s rather awkward. Although not necessarily when I was dating your mother, but when I dated another girl, it started as a group dating thing and then it got to where she and I would go out on a date. I didn’t go out with her very often but obviously she saw the relationship going farther than I ever saw it going. For me it was just casual dating, more than friends, but there is a difference between dating and being friends. I was probably more friends with her sister than I was with her, but I dated her a few times. It was uncomfortable for me because of the fact that she saw the relationship being more serious than I saw it. So, I think there is casual dating and more serious dating where you have reached a point in your casual dating where you realize that this is going to be more than just casual dating and I think this may be a potential spouse. Then you get into what I would call deeper dating.
Question 13: I’m not sure I remember. I can tell you this, it was not anything mind-boggling or creative. I think we just kind of, in our dating process, we just kind of grew closer and I think we just talked about getting married and I think we got to the point where we were just like let’s do this. I don’t remember putting the ring inside a cookie or anything. I just don’t remember those things. I think I remember us going and picking our rings out, so from that standpoint I think we had already discussed it. Normally, when someone proposes they already have the ring in hand. We weren’t like that. Of course you have to realize back in the 70’s, the craze then was not necessarily a proposal, but a pre-engagement. And I remember that was more traumatic than the actual engagement. And that’s where I got her a ring for that. It was kind of like what some people call a promise ring now. Basically an agreement that you were going to be committed to each other and at some point your plan is to get engaged to each other and get married.
Question 14: It was basically an extension to dating.
Question 15: Well, I think obviously the intimacy evolved. But I think just the maturation process of learning each other’s quirks and obviously when you are married you spend a lot more time with them. When you are engaged, you’re not living together, or we weren’t, and so she didn’t know that I snored and I didn’t know she farted. She knew that about me early on. Just the natural course of things is just different.