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Published on May 27, 2021

Is Living Together Before Marriage Good or Bad?

Is Living Together Before Marriage Good or Bad?

In the last several decades, many couples have wondered about whether or not living together before marriage is a wise thing to do. This isn’t something that people had to think about generations ago because it was very uncommon. However, today, it is becoming more and more common and accepted. But there are a lot of things to consider before you move in together.

First, you both have to examine your intentions and be on the same page about it. In other words, are you living together to see if you are compatible in the same house? Are you living together because one or both of you are avoiding (or putting off) marriage? If so, why are you doing this?

Ideally, you have to have a long and honest conversation about why one or both of you want to live together without being married. Perhaps, one of you assumes that the other wants to get married, and they don’t. Or one has a certain timeline in order to get married, and the other doesn’t. Or one thinks this is just a serious relationship and hasn’t really thought about marriage.

Having this conversation is crucial because if you are not in sync with your intentions, this will cause problems down the road. However, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that both of you know that the end goal is marriage—not just any kind of marriage but, hopefully, one that is full of love and is happy and healthy.

Is Living Together Before Marriage Good or Bad?

Let’s jump into the pros and cons of living together before marriage.

The Pros

1. Sharing Finances

This could be one of the most popular reasons for living together before marriage. Think about it, most serious couples are practically living together anyway. They keep clothes and other personal items at one person’s residence, and they might be there more than they are at their own home. So, in that case, it would make sense to stop paying two different rents or mortgages, two different utility and cable bills, and so much more.

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While this is definitely a pro of living together, you have to make sure that you are wise with the money. It is very tempting to spend the extra money you save and not even know where you spent it. A better idea would be to save the money from the other household and invest it in your future together.

2. It’s Less Stressful When You Finally Get Married

Living with anyone can be stressful. It doesn’t matter if it’s your own parents, siblings, or children, everyone has the ability to get on your nerves when you live in the same space 24/7. It’s just a fact of life.

But when you are dating or in a serious romantic relationship, you have had a much shorter time to get to know someone’s habits. When you are first dating, you don’t see—or overlook—some of your partner’s annoying habits. You might even think it’s cute. But as time goes on, what you thought was alright just gets on your nerves sometimes.

So, imagine if you had never lived together before you get married, and then when you move in together, you had a crisis going on in your head. You might think, “this person drives me crazy because they never do the dishes!”

If you live together before marriage, you will go into it with your eyes wide open, and there will be a lot fewer surprises.

3. You Become Closer and Build a Stronger Bond

Intimacy is a very important thing in any relationship but more especially in marriages. But when I say “intimacy,” I don’t just mean physical/sexual or emotional intimacy. There are actually other different kinds of intimacy that are just as important, such as intellectual, spiritual, experiential, and volitional.

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Let’s talk about volitional intimacy. This kind is about the commitments that two people make with each other. For example, if you decide to buy a house, a car, or a dog together, that means you are making a commitment to each other (regardless of whether you are married or not). And moving in together represents that kind of intimacy.

When a couple has all of these types of intimacy in sync, that is when the relationship is strong. So, living together will help you “test” and see whether or not you can create and sustain these intimacies before you get married. And if so, it will strengthen your bond and make you more confident in getting married.

The Cons

1. Other People May Not Approve

Everyone has an opinion about everything. And most people love to let you know what it is, whether you ask for it or not. With that said, it can be very difficult to do something without your family or friends’ approval. Many times, religion gets in the way of your loved ones. There are many that look down on people who live together before marriage.

For example, many Catholics don’t approve of it. So, perhaps one or both of you grew up in a family that went to church all the time and followed the teachings of the church very closely. If you decide to stray from the spiritual guidelines, then your family could get very angry.

If both people’s family and friends are against moving in, well, that’s bad. However, even if one of you has a family that is not approving but the other one is, that can still cause a problem. The partner whose family is fine with it may not understand why the other person’s family isn’t.

In extreme circumstances, this can cause people to lose relationships with their family and/or friends. So, it’s something to seriously consider before you decide to move in together.

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2. Lack of Support Could Weaken Your Relationship

Living together with your partner is a big decision, whether you are getting married or not. Heck, living with anyone else other than yourself is not always easy. Sure, having a roommate can make you less lonely, but lots of challenges might come along with it too.

So, if you don’t have the support of your social system, it will probably impact your relationship—and not for the better. There may be stress and resentment that lurks in the air between the two of you. It may be spoken or unspoken, and it might not even have anything to do with the two of you specifically, but the outside forces can cause you to have conflict anyway.

Living with anyone can be a struggle sometimes in and of itself. If you’ve had roommates before, then you know what I’m talking about. So, without a good support system in place, you can put your relationship at risk because it could create new difficulties that you and your partner have not dealt with yet.

3. You Will Save Money, But It Could Weaken Your Bond

When you are single or simply live alone, you are in complete control of your finances. No one can tell you what you can or can’t spend your money on. But when you move in with your significant other, that can change.

Sure, you might still have separate bank accounts, but you will be sharing expenses. Decisions like how will the rent/mortgage be paid or who will pay for the groceries and utilities will need to be dealt with, and you may have very different opinions about how it should be done.

And then there’s the problem of outside and/or individual spending. Maybe one of you is a “spender” and one is a “saver.” The saver is going to be upset when the spender spends their money if they think it is irresponsible.

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For example, maybe one of you thinks buying a $200 outfit for the fun of it is a good idea, and the other thinks it’s a stupid decision. Or maybe one wants to spend $300 to make a gourmet meal, and the other thinks it’s a waste of money. These kinds of differences in how you spend money can cause a lot of problems between couples.

Does Living Together Before Marriage Helps With the Marriage Later On?

While most people want a definitive answer to this question, believe it or not, there is mixed research on the topic. Older studies from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s found that couples who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce.[1] However, living together wasn’t as socially acceptable as it is today. More recent studies don’t show quite the same statistics, although the differences aren’t overly startling.

Other studies suggest that the divorce rate of people who live together is not necessarily linked to the actual “living together” part of the equation. Findings show that there are many other contributing factors to divorce other than cohabitation.[2]

For example, the age of cohabitation matters. In general, the older you are, the more likely it is that your marriage will endure. Other factors include personality characteristics such as the ability to commit. In other words, perhaps the people who live together before marriage either do not value serious, legal, or religious commitment as much as those who don’t live together.

With all of this said, at the end of the day, there really isn’t a glaringly obvious answer to whether or not living together before marriage is beneficial or not. It really depends on the people as individuals and the unique couple as a whole.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the choice of whether to move in together before marriage is ultimately between the two of you. As you can see, there is no clear right or wrong answer—it is just as unique of a decision as the couple itself.

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So, whatever you decide, just make sure that you and your partner have important conversations about it, and you are both are very clear about the pros and the cons. Then, just do your best and trust that everything will work out how it’s supposed to.

More Relationships Tips

Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

Reference

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Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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