Will living together before the marriage actually help your relationship? It's a frequently asked question and also a common misconception.
That's what we talk about on today's episode of Relationship Radio, hosted by CEO of Marriage Helper, Kimberly Beam Holmes, and founder of Marriage Helper, Dr. Joe Beam.
Regardless of your situation, what we teach will not only make your relationships better, but will also help you to become the best version of yourself along the way.
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Will living together before marriage increase a couple's likelihood of divorce. This is going to be a controversial topic. But I'm excited to dive into it because we have research as well as experience that we have seen to help people navigate how to make the best decision in their relationship in order to have the strongest marriage, because that's what we care about. That's what we care about. Today. I'm joined with Dr. Joe beam. I am Kimberly Holmes, and we're both with marriage helper. Exactly. And because of the fact that we weren't with marriages, maybe we should start with this. Why would being married be better than cohabitating? In the sense of what it does for society? And for people? Yeah. Well, first of all, let's talk about what marriage is. Okay. So marriage is a committed covenant relationship between two people. That's my definition. I don't know if that's a word for that. Yeah, we can work with that. And so when we look about how it's a committed covenant relationship, then in the marriage relationship, you already have a preset kind of boundary of trust, I trust this person, because they've said yes, to me, and no to everyone else, right. And we know things come along, we're not going to talk about that. Going into marriage. That's what's happened. But the other thing that happens is, it actually protects you. In society, there's, because you have that covenant with each other, you now are able to actually, when we look at the research, people are more likely to take more risks in life when they're in a committed marriage relationship. So they're more likely to maybe go for a better job or ask for more money or go travel on a vacation, they never have before invest their money in something they haven't before. Because Because this this relationship is providing them for their needs that they have. Yeah, and not just for the two people who are married to each other. But any children that come out. We know, for example, we study things like attachment theory. And when you're looking at attachment, basically that studies how secure do I feel, when I am in emotional need? Will you be there for me? Or will you not be there. And if a person is married, they've gone a step further, saying, Yes, I intend to be here for you. And for the children, if the parents are married to each other, the children have less fear that one of them's going to be leaving and going someplace else. And so that commitment that comes with marriage is not just good for the couple, and again, giving them more freedom to actually live life, as you just said, but also very powerful in the lives of the children. Because when people feel insecure, this person who's significant to me, may or may not be there for me, then it actually starts affecting everything else they do in life, which means they typically are not as successful and other relationships, like friendships, and not as successful in accomplishing their career goals and things like that. Because fear becomes a factor of their lives. And, you know, I've heard a lot of people debate too in the past, well, why do you need the certificate? Why do you need to actually go through with a legal ceremony if it's just for the government, right? And I would argue that if there's if, if there's a couple that's unwilling to go through the actual process of making it public and doing all of the things to actually intertwine their finances, their lives, all of those things, then they're not actually as committed as they may say they are. There's something holding them back. I would agree. That's exactly right. And if you're married, any couple, I don't care who they are on Sundays is not going to go well. And if I'm committed, like through marriage, and I think I might want to leave well, there's a lot I've got to think about here. Because of all the all the intertwining that comes from marriage, legalities, finances, etc. Whereas if we're just living together, I can get a walk out the door, you always have an easy out. Easier out. That's right. So let's look at this then and say, Well, what does the research say then? About people who cohabitate before they marry? Yeah, I read six studies a couple of months ago that all focused on, specifically the commitment levels and divorce rates among cohabitating couples, some of them as compared to married couples. And the Meta Analysis Summary of these six would be that the research in the last decade has indicated less relationship dedication in cohabitating couples versus married and an increase in likelihood that couples will marry instead of breaking up because they intertwined their lives together too early. However, they are more likely to do vorse later. So there's kind of a glimpse of hope, a little in that research if someone just listened to it before ending, oh cohabitating actually could lead to more couples ending up getting married? can't that be a good thing? Isn't that a great thing? Well, no. Because those couples because they moved in together and started living like they were married prematurely, they end up committing and then divorcing at higher rates later, which is actually leading to way more hurt and destruction, absolute relationships. And that's not new research. I mean, for decades, there been studies after studies that indicate that if you live together before you get married, the likelihood of your divorcing increases. And why do you think that is, they're making big boy and big girl decisions without making big boy and big girl commitments. You're having sex together, you're probably already buying things together, but maybe not have joined your finances. So you've been able to have your cake and eat it too. And then you get married, and all of the sudden, it can feel like there's shackles on me, I don't have the same out that I had before. And it can feel this is my my estimation, suffocating, like, I kind of liked how it was before I liked having being able to have more freedom, being able to do things I didn't have to do before we were married. I don't want to do this anymore, right. And they probably made a lot of those decisions to move in together to start being sexual. When they were in the throes of limerence, when they were in the throes of having a fresh relationship, fresh relationship, their dopamine response was really high, they weren't thinking about consequences. And now maybe some of those things have faded away, because guess what, married or cohabitating, you're gonna get to a point in your relationship where you wake up, and you're like, This isn't how I felt a year ago, 10 years ago, it's harder now we have more work that we have to do into it. But when you're married, guess what? You're committed to making it work. Even when you go through your highs and your lows, when you're just cohabitating it's easy to make the decision in that moment of, well, maybe we're just not right for each other anymore, or it's time to move on to something new. Yeah, I want to feel the way that I used to feel so I'm just going to leave this relationship and pursue a new one. But it's never going to feel with one person, the way it feels at the beginning of most of the time, that the beginning of a relationship for your whole life with someone and it's not supposed to. You've done way more research on that. But see, somebody's gonna throw up a couple like they'll go the Hon. And what's that guy's hurt lives hurt Russell, yeah. And you know, they've been together for 152 years, and they never married each other, and etc, we can always find the examples, if you just want to find one out there and one out there and one out there. But those examples don't represent the majority of the people. They're extremely rare, very, very unique, actually. And so what's going to happen is this, if you really want to commit your life to another person, are you going to make that decision or not, not just the decision, whether you're going to live in the same building or same apartment or same house, but a decision that wait a minute, we're actually going to commit ourselves to this, which means that we're going to figure out how to stay together, and the good times, and the mediocre times, and the bad times, because as long as either one of you is not ready to make that decision right now. Then there's some hesitancy in you, and the person is not ready to make that decision. And that hesitancy may at some point, cause them to leave, or eventually get married. But when the tough times come, and they always do you start thinking, Well, we went a long time without being married, we can be not married again. And you've actually set a precedent in your lifestyle that would lead you to more quickly make a decision to leave the relationship. Right. So what would you recommend to? I'm going to ask you several of these questions. Okay, let's start with what would you recommend to a couple who is considering moving in together? My suggestion would be this. There are ways to decide whether or not you want to be with this person for the rest of your life without first trying it out through a trial living together thing. Because if you have this trial living together thing, we've talked about all that it starts changing your mindset. I was once on a radio program with Dave Ramsey, the finance guy, who's a good guy, by the way. And he was asking me, why do some people want to cohabitate and others marry? And I explained it to him in financial terms, because he's a financial guy. There's a different mindset, and renters and buyers. And if you just want to rent, you're going to be looking at it differently. And that's what we're calling cohabitation. And so you say, well, we just want to try it out to see if it's going to work. You haven't really committed to it. Therefore, you can never walk away from it saying I gave it my absolute best shot. Because if you say that, I'll say really, if you think If you were gonna give it your best shot, why didn't you fully commit to the thing? Why don't you give yourself to it altogether? So my recommendation would be for your own benefit in the future. Don't do that. There's another thing about that, Kimberly, about half of the population, adult population, I should say, about half of the adult population of America is single. Okay? And you'll look at that and go, what's your point? Most of those people, not all, but most of those people want to be married? Well, why aren't they? Now this is not putting anybody down. If you want to be single, great. If you are single, I'm not trying to say anything negative about you at all. But if you are single, you probably have already experienced this. There are all kinds of people who are willing to use you. But there's only a handful of people from which you have to choose to find somebody who will love you. Now, if I love you, one of the characteristics of love is commitment. And therefore don't be used. What would you say to a couple who is engaged? And so they're saying, Well, we do want to be committed, but why not just go ahead, because we're gonna get married, why don't we just start living together now. Because if you jumped the gun, you still have a period of time, where that at least somewhere in your mind, you think I can walk away from this, I can leave this, there is the difference between waiting around in the shallow end of the pool and diving into the deep end? While I'm in the pool, we're together. But you can step right out? Where as? Are you going to totally commit yourself to it or not? And what about a couple who's listening and they are currently living together? So they've already been cohabitating. And there may be some thought in it, which is, well, we've already done it, why stop now we can't undo the damage? Should we just keep living together? Obviously, if that's your situation is your choice as to what you do, we cannot tell you what to do. But I think if I were in that situation, I'd have to be thinking, What? What commitment is this other person have to me? What commitment? Do I really have them? And do I want to live in a situation where I hope he'll be here tomorrow? Where I hope he'll be here next month? Or do I really need to find a situation where I can count on them being here tomorrow, and next month? So my recommendation would be this, I'm gonna do some analysis, is this the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? then figure out how to commit to that get married? If this is not the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? Why you're wasting all your time with that person now? And then for people who are saying, I want to do it, right, maybe I haven't in the past. But now I want to be able to have a great marriage, what are the things you would recommend they do to not have to bring the baggage of having lived together in the past into possibly higher divorce rate in their marriage? Well, basically, I think is when you have to change your mindset. Like, I'm not going to think in any more in terms of renting, I'm only going to think in terms of buying. Don't beat yourself up for the past, learn from the past, but don't beat yourself up for it. And so if you've been through that experience, and you're saying, okay, is that going to affect me the rest of my life, it won't, if you change the way you think, which then should change the way you act, which is like that's what I was, but it's not who I am anymore. And that sense. It's kind of like a religious conversion. I'm not going to be the person I was before. This is the person I'm going to be now. And in my estimation, which you may reject. Living with somebody is not honoring yourself. Because you deserve to have a person who will be with you to commit to be there. And if you have children will commit to be there for them. You deserve that. But it's your decision. So is there hope for a great marriage, even after someone has lived together? We know it's not the best way to start it. But can there still be a great marriage? In our experience, and we have worked with 1000s and 1000s of people over the years, decades, actually, we've been doing this, no matter what the situation, when you get your mind, right. When you start doing the things you need to do. You can make a great marriage no matter what has happened before. And we've seen that with everything you can possibly imagine. Absolutely. So the key takeaways are at marriage helper. We are pro marriage. We love marriage, we believe that it is the most important earthly relationship that we can have. And because of that, and because of the research because we base what we do on social sciences, we see that cohabitation before marriage is not what is best for your marriage. It's not there's no way around it. That doesn't mean there's not hope, if that's been where you are. But just like Dr. Joe said, it takes a change of mindset which has to lead to a change in actions that you go with forward and that as well. So we believe there is always hope. But we also believe you need to do the right thing. And doing the right thing in this situation is being married. That's my opinion. Mine too. All right. Well, thank you so much for this great conversation, Dr. Joe. And we will have way more conversations like this coming up. So be sure that you are following us on the podcast platform you listen to share this with a friend. If you're watching the video on YouTube, be sure you like and subscribe to our marriage helper channel so that you will be notified when all the new content comes out. We'll see you next week.