"Stop wearing your wishbone where your backbone ought to be." –Elizabeth Gilbert
Week after week, I see couples who want to get married. They seek guidance so they can build the strongest foundation possible prior to marriage. One of the problems that actually make this guidance more challenging is when one of the partners wanted to get married and the other didn't so they opted to live together instead. The partner that went along with living together but wanted to get married usually has left over resentment, and it becomes evident during premarital counseling.
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Premarital counseling is usually upbeat and fun. It's a joining together, an exciting time for the couple, and we have fun as we learn in the sessions. This changes when the couple has lived together, as there is more hostility when they talk about communication. Many times couples who live together think they know one another very well, and pre-marital counseling challenges their assumptions. The 3 C's Of Long-Lasting Love
The popular view is often not the truth, and cohabitation is one of those times. Living together prior to marriage is still one of the best predictors for divorce and if you have a child in that union prior to marriage you set them up for an unstable life. The latest research has found that for children, going through a divorce is more stable than being raised by a cohabitating couple. Many couples find someone with whom they can relate or have sex, and before you know what is happening they decide they will live together. They tell me or anyone listening that they want to make sure they are compatible.
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Living together won't tell you if you're compatible as a married couple. It will tell you what a person smells like without a shower, who is messy and what kind of TV shows and music each of you like. It won't tell you what sex, money, or communication will be like after marriage because these three things are the first to change after marriage. The biggest problem with living together is that one of those partners usually secretly wants to marry the other. They are trying not to be clingy or pushy so they opt for living together. When you want one type of relationship, but settle for another, it builds resentment and criticism. You may begin to think less of yourself as well as your partner for allowing or forcing you to "settle."
Of course this isn't talked about aloud, but that doesn't make it any less true or potent. What you cannot talk about, you usually act out with cheating, having a baby when the other person didn't want one, or no longer taking care of yourself. Then, your living situation begins to erode a relationship that could have been a good marriage if you had taken your time to get to know one another, built a friendship, and kept your own place until you were ready to marry.