Brangelina are married at last. Their kids insisted, finally bugging them about it so persistently that they finally gave in. It was by all accounts a lovely ceremony. No one seemed overly put out by the fact that they tied the knot after having six children together, some adopted and some by natural means. A large, happy family just got happier.
However, sometimes it seems like the rules for celebrities don't also apply to those of us who don't boast such a high profile. Couples who choose to have children and then get married may be told that they did it backwards or that they did their children a disservice. Whether those are valid points or not is up to couples to decide.
However, the wedding of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie raises an interesting question for those singles going on a first date. Marriage and children are subjects often touched upon during a get-to-know-you date. This means it might be wise to reflect on these before your date asks for your thoughts on "big" topics. Then you won't have to improvise and possibly stumble.
The Conservative View
Maybe you're generally in favor of marriage before children, but you've never really thought about why. If you're the detail-oriented type, it might be interesting to make a list of reasons why you feel the way you do. You might end up feeling that your favoring this domestic situation is more about tradition and social norms and less about the way you really personally feel. Maybe your family wants the lockstep march of dating-engagement-wedding-kids, but is that what you want? Making a list of your real motivations and feelings about the subject may help you see what truly desire.
It's the same situation if you're on the other side of the fence and think kids before (or even instead of) marriage makes more sense. What reasons do you have for holding this opinion? Again, you may surprise yourself when you try to write down why you feel the way you do. Seeing your justifications in black and white may even make you change your mind.
The Pending View
Those in the middle say it doesn't matter what order things happen in, since lovers can have children without getting married at all, and couples can get married without any intention to ever have children. In this case, perhaps you could draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and write in one column the "pros" for getting married after having children, and then in the other the "cons" of doing so. (This would work no matter which side you choose to analyze.) Once again, you may learn that you're not as "on the fence" as you thought you were.
The point of these exercises is to allow you to talk honestly and compellingly about the subject during your first date. If your date says that he or she definitely wants a gaggle of children before any wedding takes place, you can discuss the pros of that side of the argument and, to be agreeable, perhaps leave out the cons. Then you could say that of course there is the other side and talk about the pros of that stance. It can make for stimulating dinner conversation that may help you avoid awkward moments down the road if the two of you continue beyond a first date.
It's a good idea for any possibly contentious subject that could some up as you and your date get to know each other over dinner and drinks. Politics and religion are usually taboo at the table, but both parties are trying to find if their opposite number is right for them beyond physical attraction or laughing at each other's jokes. Honesty and keeping things light -- and, of course, doing your homework and finding out what your own true feelings are -- will help get daters on a solid footing at the start as well as prevent other, less-promising dates not to turn into second dates or a relationship.
The Ageless View
We shouldn't forget that society now isn't what it was even 50 years ago. Men and women don't "have to get married" or "have to produce children" by a certain age anymore. Most of us are not living on farms and need all the free labor we can get, as was the case in the past. (In fact, even those who do farm for a living use machinery to do what they previously would have needed 11 children to get done.)
It's true that women have the proverbial "biological clock" ticking their fertile time away. But thanks to modern nutrition and health care, that alarm won't go off now until a woman is 40 or even 50. Women can choose to have children -- if they choose to at all -- far later in life than ever before. There is no rush.
Similarly, the societal pressure to marry at a young age -- as soon as one's education is finished, say, whether that's high school or grad school -- has vanished. (Parents or other relatives may pressure you like there's literally no tomorrow, but I'm talking about the disapproval at the social level. That is gone.) Part of that may be traced back to celebrities making the choice to put off marriage and/or children until they are established, or not get married or have children at all. We are an aspirational society, and we do as we see our most emblematic citizens -- celebrities of every stripe -- do in their own lives.
Age has become immaterial. Brad (50) and Angelina (almost 40) getting married when they wanted (mostly, anyway -- see below) and having and adopting children according to their own schedule and priorities has set a new standard of freedom for the rest of us. Get married and have kids at 18 if you want, they seem to say, but only if that's what you want.
The Aniston Factor
It may seem like 20 years ago, but Brad Pitt was previously married to Friends star Jennifer Aniston. They seemed like the perfect couple, but apparently their differences over when -- if ever -- they would be having children.
Sources reported that Brad was ready to bounce some babies on his knee, but that Jennifer didn't want children. It is a situation that many couples face, something that can cause a lingering resentment that eventually ruins the marriage. Once Brad found Angelina, who was enthusiastic about having a family with him, that was the death knell for his marriage to Jennifer.
Is this something that might have been discussed during a first date, avoiding heartache for both parties years down the road? Perhaps--but it is a common occurrence that one party or the other may mentally smooth out any differences about future plans, figuring their partner will eventually come around to their point of view.
It's a bad bet, as Jennifer Aniston learned to her dismay.
Brangelina may not have jumped -- they might have been pushed a little
Finally, Brad and Angelina changed their minds about getting married after Maddox, Zahara, Pax, and Shiloh (and on behalf of new twins Knox and Vivienne) asked them to get married to make all the kids happy. You -- and your date -- may always change your minds on these subjects as well, so don't give up too soon.
Remember: It's a date, not an interrogation. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn as much as you like while dining, dancing, or chatting over coffee.