Marriage Is Better Than Living Together – And Your Brain Knows It

By

moving in together
Moving in together? It may not be as good for you as you think.

The other day I came home stressed out and my husband offered to give me a head and shoulder rub. What bliss! Not only did it feel good to my tense muscles, but as he rubbed, I felt my entire system calm down.

I know without having to think about it that my husband loves me and is there for me. So that neck and shoulder rub wasn't just physically therapeutic, it was emotionally therapeutic. And there was an additional bonus: It's a safeguard against the health impacts of stress. The big news: couples who live together cannot gain those same benefits.

The Guide To Dating Smart And Finding The Love Of Your Life

We've known for a long time that a good marriage is better for you than being contentedly single. It is well documented that married couples gain significant health, economic, and quality of life benefits. But we haven't had research that documents the difference between marrying and living together, regarding those same benefits, not until now. Here's what researchers at the University of Virginia found, and what it means for you.

If you're "just living together," your brain knows that it's not the same thing as being married. Using functional MRIs (fMRIs), the researchers found that people have a decreased reaction to stress when holding the hand of a married partner. But when the hand they hold is that of a live-in partner, their reaction to stress is significantly higher. Why? Because the brain can't relax.

Date Like A CEO

One of the most important aspects of a good relationship is that you feel safe with your partner, that you believe your partner has your back and is really there for you. Getting married signifies the highest level of commitment. It conveys to both of you that you are willing to throw all of it in together — your living space, your assets, your emotional vulnerability, your health and overall well-being.

There is no other relationship in which you commit to being together not just for years, but for decades, and in which you commit not to bail even if it is challenging. When you're married, you're in it for the long run.

The research now shows that when you make that level of commitment, your brain gets it and relaxes. You really do emotionally "exhale" in the context of marriage in a way that you cannot in a cohabiting relationship. Your brain knows the difference; it knows that when you are not married, you haven't yet made that level of commitment, so it doesn't entirely relax.

Temptations Of The Single Girl

If you're considering moving in together, here's what you need to know. You won't get the benefits of marriage, so don't expect them. Don't expect your live-in partner to give you the kind of devotion and commitment you would expect from a husband or wife. Don't be surprised if there's an underlying feeling of insecurity that you thought would disappear after the moving truck drove away. It won't. It can't.

Ask yourself: why am I moving in together rather than holding out for marriage? Dig deep, uncover the real reasons. Most couples who live together do so for the wrong reasons: to save money on rent, as a test for marriage (if this goes well, then I'll consider marrying this person), or to avoid making a deeper commitment.

Internet Dating For The Savvy Single

If you're tempted to settle for a live-in arrangement, maybe you should take a step back and aim higher. Aim for someone with whom the idea of sharing the rest of your life is mutually exciting and desirable. Aim for someone whose end goal is also marriage, and neither of you will settle for anything less. Get your own act together so that you can hold out for a relationship that offers the whole package: love, devotion, commitment, and a happy life together — for a lifetime!

Nina Atwood, M.Ed., LPC, is a nationally known psychotherapist, author of five self-help books, and frequent expert media guest. Read Nina;s transformational books; for women: Temptations of the Single Girl: The Ten Dating Traps You Must Avoid, and for men: Date Like a CEO: Leadership in Life and Love for Men. To successfully date online, get Nina's $0.99 cent eBook Internet Dating for the Savvy Single. Get Nina's free eBook as well as loads of free advice and Love Strategies at singlescoach.com.

More marriage stories from YourTango:

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Nina Atwood

Author

Nina Atwood, M.Ed., LPC
The Singlescoach®
Visit my website for FREE resources!
Visit my author page on amazon.com
Love Strategies Internet Radio
 

Location: Dallas, TX
Credentials: LPC
Specialties: Communication Problems, Couples/Marital Issues, Dating/Being Single Support
Other Articles/News by Nina Atwood:

Mixed Signals in Dating: Overanalyzing the Clues

By

Viv’s question in the last post highlights another common dating mistake: overanalyzing others’ behavior to try to figure out what they’re thinking and feeling. Carrie and friends in Sex and the City did this constantly. First, the long descriptors of his every action, word, facial expression, and body language. Then, the dissecting. What does ... Read more

Why You Need To Ask Your Date Awkward Questions

By

A common dating mistake is try to read someone’s behavior with no context. The context I’m talking about is “life context,” meaning the person’s personal relationship history. How do you find out someone’s “life context”? By asking lots of personal, even intrusive, questions. Sometimes people say, “but ... Read more

Mixed Signals in Dating: Drawing Conclusions in a Vacuum

By

Unilateral decision making is a huge mistake in relationships. What does that mean? In dating, it means trying to draw conclusions about someone’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions minus feedback. Carry this habit forward into marriage and one day someone comes home from work to find the furniture moved and a divorce petition in the front ... Read more

See More

GET MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS IN YOUR INBOX!

Sign up for our daily email and get the stories everyone is talking about.

Ask The Experts

Have a dating or relationship question?
Visit Ask YourTango and let our experts and community answer.

FROM AROUND THE WEB