First comes love, then comes a decade of being “a little bit married,” then comes marriage.
A Little Bit Married uncovers
and spotlights a major trend in dating today: the long-term unmarried
relationship. Journalist Hannah Seligson sheds light on a phenomenon
that everyone does, knows someone who does, or is related to someone
who does, but no one has named. In this sui generis type of
relationship book, Seligson doesn’t just tell readers how to handle a
guy dawdling to propose – she blends advice with the context of why young people are delaying marriage.
the long-term relationship has become a rite of passage. A quarter of
unmarried Americans (23 millions adults) say they are in committed
romantic relationships. Through interviews with current and former “A
Little Bit Marrieds” and numerous experts – drawing on material that
ranges from Charles Darwin to President Obama – Seligson distills
information and provides advice for a generation of daters struggling
to understand the emotional and practical realities of relationships
that are post-“Let’s Do It!” and the pre-“I Do!”
making marriage-like commitments such as moving in together to handling
the doubts that naturally percolate about tying the knot, A Little Bit Married is a roadmap to successfully navigating the long-term relationship
years for this generation of daters who are wondering, “I do. Or do I?”
A television adaptation of the book was recently picked up by CBS. For more on the deal, click here.
» Buy on Amazon
» Buy on Barnes & Noble
» Read Chapter 1: First Comes Love, then Comes A Little Bit Married (PDF)
» Read Chapter 4: Playing House (PDF)
Read Hannah's reporting on the "A Little Bit Married" trend:
» "Acting Like You're Married When You're Not" SingularCity.com
» "Put a Ring On It" YourTotalHealth.com
» "Why We're Not Getting Married" The Daily Beast
Read and watch press coverage of the book:
» NBC's "The Today Show"
» CBS News "Early Show"
» Huffington Post
» New Hampshire Public Radio
» Psychology Today
» Sundance Channel Blog
» Tucson Citizen
» Madison (pdf)
Q&A with Hannah
What does it mean to be ALBM?
baseline definition is that you’ve been in a monogamous non-matrimonial
relationship for at least twelve months. In practice, however, what
being A Little Bit Married means varies dramatically. Maybe you and
your boyfriend or girlfriend have lived together long enough to reach
what many states would deem a legitimate common law marriage. Or maybe
you’re not living together, but are fielding questions from relatives
about where you two would like to eventually settle down. Perhaps
you’ve talked about honeymoons, or made geographical adjustments to
accommodate the other’s career.
A Little Bit Married had an avatar, it would be Prince William, heir to
the British throne, and his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, who have been
dating for over six years. Although Britain’s betting shops put the
odds on a 2009 marriage at 2:1, there has been no official royal press
release about an upcoming engagement, bucketing them in with the
millions of other couples who are just “A Little Bit Married.”
How is it different for men and women?
most salient difference is that men and women’s lives don’t arc the
same way. Women have an expiration date on fertility, a biological
difference that colors the ALBM years. In short, women have to think
about their time differently than men do. There are also some gender
differences in terms of how men and women view cohabitation. Research
shows that men are more likely to enter a cohabiting arrangement with
“maybe I do,” whereas women often enter with “I do.” The convergence is
that both men and women in this demo want to get married, the rub often
is the timeline.
Why is ALBM the new romantic rite of passage?
is no longer the big bang it was for earlier generations. ALBM has
burst onto the scene at the same time the median age for a first
marriage in the United States has reached its peak— 27.1 for a man and
25.3 for a woman, and it tips even higher in many cities. As people
have postponed walking down the aisle, other new dating
rituals—prolonged courtship and cohabitation—have become socially
acceptable. The number of cohabitating couples has grown more than
tenfold during the last forty years. Forty years ago, in 1970, only
about 500,000 couples lived together in unwedded bliss; now, over five
million opposite-sex couples in the United States live together outside
Do people still want to get married?
Little Bit Married is not going to become Marriage 3.0. Most young
people today do want to get married, whether it’s because they see it
as an ideal ordering of a society, want to express their commitment
with the highest form our culture currently offers, or for the tax
breaks. A Little Bit Married is just a rite of passage, not a stasis,
and it is certainly not poised to become marriage’s surrogate. Most see
it as ersatz to marriage—a less than ideal substitution, like
NutraSweet. Whether it’s at three years or a decade into the
relationship, the vast majority of couples ultimately decide to walk
down the aisle. Studies suggest that, despite the rise in cohabitation,
changing gender roles, and that marriage is no longer the main event of
adult life, the great majority of young adults in the United States not
only have positive views of marriage, but they also wish to marry one
What are some of the staples of being ALBM?
spend holidays together. You live together. You have joint custody of a
pet. You talk on the phone with his/her relatives. You go each other’s
family vacations. You wonder, “Where is this going?” You’ve made
geographic or career adjustments for the other person.
Is living together a good way to test drive a marriage or a bad idea?
shows that if you’ve only lived with one person, you have no greater
chance of getting divorced than someone who hasn’t. However, many
couples who move in together do it haphazardly, without discussing
gender roles, household responsibilities, and other issues that
regulate quality of life. Taking the laissez-faireapproach to
cohabitation is not a recipe for success. But if couples don’t just
tumble into living arrangements, communicate without each other why
they are doing it, and can plot a future together, cohabitation can be
good training wheels for marriage. That said, the only way to test
drive a marriage is a marriage.
What are the cohabitation commandments?
Thou shall be on the same page about why you are moving in.
Thou shall truly like the person with whom you move in.
Thou shall expect the first six months to be rocky.
Thou shall know to whom the couch belongs.
Thou shall not sweep things under the carpet.
Thou shall not just become roommates who have sex occasionally.
Thou shall discuss finances and come up with a budget.
Thou shall not move in together to save money.
Thou shall not merge.
How can you tell if a relationship is headed down the aisle or out the door?
telepathically or by reading signs. The arch nemesis of this
relationship stage is ambiguity. The only way you can tell if your
relationship is headed down the aisle or out the door is by
communicating with your partner.
Why do people stay in long-term relationships if they know there isn’t a future?
pull of inertia is quite powerful. After years of dating (and
particularly if you live together), couples have bonded deeply, often
making it quite difficult to disentangle and divvy up the circle of
friends, belongings, and restaurants you’ve accumulated over the years.
Plus, people often employ the relationship math of three years invested
+ fear of being single = trying to stay together.
Do you have any tips for moving on after a long-term relationship ends?
Start dating again when you feel ready, not when you think you should.
his/her friends and family might have adored you, after a breakup, the
troops realign with their leader. It’s painful to acknowledge that some
of the people you have forged close bonds with over the past few years
are now out of your inner circle, but there is little to be gained by
calling on his/her college roommate or sister-in-law to coach you
through the breakup.
Don’t get caught in the “dating sucks” and “I’ll never meet anyone” mental loop.