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Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt - By Chris Gearing

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living Together Before Marriage May Hurt

July 23, 2009

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

Although twelve million Americans live together before marriage, new research now reports that premarital cohabitation can actually increase the chances of divorce.

Let me tell you why you should care about this study:

For years, many people thought it was better to live together before marriage to confirm compatibility. This study now confirms that living together before marriage may introduce significant difficulties.

  • 1.) More Difficult Break Ups: People seem to have more difficulty breaking up when they are cohabitating than when they are dating.
  • 2.) Marriage Not Active Choice: Unfortunately, they transition into marriage more by default than by intention and complacency begins to define the relationship.
  • 3.) Routine and Habit: It is all too easy to drift into a companionable relationship and abandon the romantic aspects of relating.
  • 4.) Marital Neglect: All too often, marital neglect develops as the partners ignore the daily marital habits that are essential in maintaining romance and interest. Living together before marriage often causes partners to step past important rituals of connection.

You may be wondering how prenuptial cohabitation actually hurts a relationship.

Couples who cohabitate often live together for the wrong reasons including convenience, saving money and spending more time together. However, the chief reason most people live together is to test the relationship. However, “testing the relationship” may be based on faulty expectations since living together is fundamentally different from marriage. Knowing that there is a commitment to tomorrow shifts the relationship fundamentally. The partnership that has been formalized with marriage holds both parties accountable.

And what about the kids? Here’s how they affect these marriages.

A new study that followed couples for eight years found that ninety percent of the couples experience a decrease in marital satisfaction after the birth of the first baby. Couples who lived together before marriage seem to experience more problems when the first baby is born than those who postpone cohabitation until marriage. Apparently, they may not have made the best transition from dating to marriage.

Obviously, these kinds of issues come up in my practice all the time. Here’s a quick strategy I give people who want to make a successful transition from dating to marriage.

Expectations shift dramatically from dating to marriage and it is vital to keep two points in mind:

  • Moving Forward: For dating couples, the relationship revolves around whether things are moving forward. Happiness with the relationship depends on the belief that the relationship will develop and that the partner will support our dreams.
  • Fulfilling Obligations: After marriage, satisfaction is based more on the partner actually fulfilling responsibilities and obligations (which can include equality in childcare). Follow through is essential. The interwoven lives of today’s couples are based on “real time” strategies of mutual support rather than the theoretical hopes and dreams that are more typical of dating.

If you are determined to live together before marriage, here is some parting wisdom for you.

  • Reconsider that Decision: Protect the mystery of your relationship. Although it is prudent to be as certain as possible about marriage, there are better ways to assess marital potential. All too often cohabitation creates complacency, boredom and companionable relating too early.
  • Do Not Confuse Passion with Potential: Passion may lead you into decisions that feel good short term but may not be the best relationship sustaining decision.
  • Self Understanding is Key: The more self-understanding you can master, the better your assessment skills of a partner and the potential of the relationship. Give your relationship the time it needs to prove itself.

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