The 4 Horsemen to Avoid an Apocalypse…Unshackle the Shack-up!

Add living together to the list of things that seemed right at the time.

Welcome to my 3rd post in this blog series, “The 4 Horsemen to Avoid an Apocalyspe . . . Unshackle the Shack-up!” This post comes with a trigger warning. This post may offend some of you who are or have at one point lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend. In the interest of full-disclosure, I have lived with two boyfriends in the past. One of which I married (and we are divorced), the other I did not (and we aren’t together). In no way, is the purpose of this writing to shame anyone. If a reader feels shamed, I sincerely apologize in advance. However, the data shows that marriages in which the spouses lived together prior to marriage more often end in divorce. Some critics of these studies point out that the longitudinal studies were conducted from 1970 – 2015, which, during a majority of that time period, cohabitation was non-normative behavior. Therefore, these critics argue that the results of these studies are inherently flawed because non-normative behavior may lead to divorce generally. Personally, I tend to trust longitudinal studies because of the repeated observation of variables over time, which to me is a strong indicator of reliability. Assuming, the conclusion that divorce rates are higher for couples who lived together prior to marriage is true, let’s explore why that is.

I have a few sexist theories hence the trigger warning. My top theory is that women view living together as yet another rung on the ladder of life. For these women, they tend to view living together as the next step after serious dating and as a middle-ground of not forcing a marital commitment on the relationship. The relationship has the look and feel of marriage, but without the great cost of marriage. It’s the faux leather of expensive Italian leather. Co-habitation is a great compromise of a monogamous relationship without the constraints of the piece of paper that is a marriage license. 

Then, after a subjective while, women tend to want to upgrade to actual marriage because it just feels like the next step up on the ladder. Women may push marriage after 6 months or 6 years of living together, but the motivation behind the push is typically that marriage is the right step because they’re already living together, so why not? The pressure to wed increases if she has friends or co-workers who are all married or are getting married. So, what can happen, is the reprieve from marriage that living together initially brought, has ended and now the pressure to marry begins. We, women, at our core are heavily influenced by our social surroundings. Ever hear that divorce is contagious? It’s usually said that once a woman’s friend is separated or divorced, the likelihood of that woman’s friends also separating or divorcing is higher. 

The problem for a marriage following a co-habitation with the dynamic described above, is that the emphasis was never on actual marriage. Rather, it’s on the wedding and alleviating a nagging feeling of missing out. Marriage itself is work and is difficult. The focus on building a quality marriage is lacking and because the actual marital foundation was never a true focus, the likelihood of divorce is much higher. 

Let’s look at men now. I share my sexism equally. Men tend to cohabitate for ease of sex and because they may believe that cohabitation is a test drive for marital compatibility. The problem with the latter of the two reasons, is that cohabitation and marriage are completely different for men. With cohabitation, most men expect that their girlfriend will be an equal contributor just like a roommate. Yet, men are men, and still expect their girlfriends to rise to a domestic calling reminiscent of their mothers. When either of the two expectations fail, and the pressure to marry is added, men capitulate because it’s easier to just marry then deal with the pressure to marry. When non cohabitating couples discuss marriage, there’s a negotiation of expectations unfazed by the fear that failure to successfully negotiate means moving out. Take away the fear, and these expectations are negotiated at arm’s length as all good negotiations leading to successful contracts should be. 

To me, the key indicator of a successful marriage is the opportunity for a relationship to mature without the pressures of long-term commitment and the emotional entanglements that occur when couples rush to into things. Also, by not living together, the couple places an actual value on commitment. The motivators of sharing a life are honorable instead of notions of sharing bills, playing marriage, and daily sex. 

Again, I apologize to anyone offended by this post. I remind anyone offended that I’m writing in generalities, not specifics. There are women who approach living together from other perspectives and may never want to marry regardless if all of their friends are. There are men who want to live their girlfriends because they want to primarily share a life apart from sex.  I just probably haven’t met them yet. 

For divorce coaching services, contact me through www.thereslifeafterdivorce.com or at (321) 505-2847. For divorce representation for a Florida divorce, visit www.sharpdyelaw.com or call (321) 951-7600.

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