The old school romantic notion of marrying before sex is almost an antique relic. Fully 95% of Americans have had premarital sex. Most men will have had at least 6 relationships, and women 5 before tying the knot. What does all of this experience mean for marriage quality?
At the very least, divorces have been going down since the 1980’s. Even though people continue to use the false “50% of marriages end in divorce” statistic, marriages have been improving for decades.
Whenever the subject of marriage gets brought up, you can be sure that someone will argue against the institution by trotting out the most famous of famous statistics: half of marriages end in divorce. This seems like a slam dunk factoid as to why folks should avoid the altar. There’s just one problem: it isn’t true and hasn’t been for awhile now. – Bret & Kate, The art of Manliness
This may not correlate to people getting more relationship experience, but it doesn’t seem to be a negative. Let’s jump into how a lasting relationship works, and whether or not more more experiences can mean healthier marriages.
They Key to a Lasting Relationship Is Personal Growth
Healthy relationships are not complicated, but people are. A lot of the mystique about healthy relationships has to do with focusing on the wrong things. Many people blame external sources for their failures and successes.
The first place to start a healthy relationship is by taking a good look at ourselves. When things are going wrong it’s too easy to blame others. In relationships, two halves don’t make a whole. Instead, two whole people compliment each other.
Whatever baggage we bring into our relationships is going to affect their longevity and quality. This is why a commitment to personal growth is so important. The better we are, the better the people we’ll attract, and the better our romances will be.
This will affect how our relationship experiences play into a marriage. Better quality experiences will teach an observant person better lessons. For a better experience, work on yourself first.
A couple personal skills which can play into a relationship include:
- Confidence: The way you feel about yourself is going to have a direct effect on the people in your life. Overcoming shyness, building self esteem, and and having a healthy self image are crucial. You’re less likely to stay in a bad relationship if you feel good about yourself.
- Social skills: Being able to read people and understanding the best way to get a message across are big. Without good people skills, it’s hard to let others know how we feel and to understand how they feel. Learning how to positively influence others can help a long term relationship.
It’s Not About Having More, It’s About Learning Wisely
Does the number of relationships we have contribute to a better marriage? Yes and no.
Experience is how we learn. We can get good at almost anything by dedicating time and effort. We can also spend a lot of time doing something and still be horrible. Think bad drivers; many have been on the road for decades and still resemble go cart racers.
For relationship experience to count, we have to be active learners. It’s not enough to simply have relationships. We have to be conscious observers and turn off the autopilot.
Some people learn from experiences and get better. Others learn bad behaviors and repeat them in every relationship. One disaster after another; dating narcissists, manipulators, and psychopaths doesn’t help us.
To learn from a healthy relationship, stay away from toxic people. Chances are that if you keep ending up with toxic personalities, there’s a lesson about your own personality that you’re missing.
“It’s about the individual. Some people are ready to meet ‘the one’ right away; others need more relationships under their belt to learn what works and what doesn’t.” – Charlee Brotherton
More relationship experiences can be great if we learn lessons from those relationships. Often times those lessons are about ourselves. The way to make it count is to act on your new knowledge. Fill in the gaps to make yourself better for your current or next relationship.
Getting some sexual experience, learning to communicate, set boundaries, and gaining clarity on who and what you want in a relationship can all contribute to a better marriage.
The key here isn’t necessarily having more relationships, it’s learning from the ones you do have. Some people may go through more experiences to absorb the same lessons.
Prepare Yourself for a Loving Relationship
People make plans for all sorts of things but often neglect their personal lives. If you go to a personal trainer, he’s going to set a diet plan, workout schedule, and rest intervals. If building a better body is worth making a plan, why don’t we have action plans for our love lives?
Knowing a few stats can help make a better plan. So can experiencing multiple relationships or focusing on a few, high quality romances. Either way, learning from our experiences while growing into a better person is going to have the biggest effect.
Understand the Reality of Relationships
A lot of people run on autopilot and make no effort to learn what it takes to have a successful marriage. Recognize the differences between men and women to better understand sexual polarity, attraction, and our different needs.
Pay attention to your relationships and build the skills you need for the long run. Be a student of life for the best results.
Be Patient for the Right Partner
Don’t settle for second best. This is one area where dating multiple partners can pay off. It’s often necessary to play the field to find the right partner. What a lot of people do is settle for whomever gives them some attention. This is needy behavior and won’t help to make a strong marriage.
It’s perfectly possible to marry the first person you date and do well, but more often than not it’s pure luck. Expand your options so you can pick the right person for you.
Don’t Rush to the Altar
Rushing into a marriage can have numerous consequences. For one, it takes years to really get to know someone. All sorts of things will boil to the surface after spending years with an individual. Second, waiting a few years can teach you how to navigate a relationship.
“Dating 3 or more years before getting engaged leads to a much more stable marriage. This finding probably comes as no surprise, but it should stand as a warning to those who are eager to get married right away. Don’t jump into marriage before you really get to know someone.” – Randal Olsen
Here’s one factor where multiple relationships aren’t an advantage. We can learn important lessons by sticking with the same person.
Commit to Personal Growth
Probably the most important factor of all. No relationship is going to survive a bad character. It’s important to look to yourself for the causes of any problems.
Not taking full responsibility for our outcomes means bouncing from one relationship to another, never getting what we want. After all, wherever you go, there you are, and your problems too. Carrying our baggage from one relationship to another is a sure way to poison the well.
By committing to personal growth you’ll learn about yourself, other people, and important life skills. Being our best selves means we’ll have more to offer our ideal partner.
Featured photo credit: Carly Rae Hobbins, Unsplash via unsplash.com
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