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Well, it’s a new day and a new study about subjective topics like moving in with your partner! The Atlantic reported a very long article called, “In Relationships, Be Deliberate.” The title should be a dead giveaway that statistics aside, this is kind of common sense. Of course you should be deliberate in your relationships. I think most people would agree that it’s pretty important to be deliberate in most aspects of your life. Who wants to deal with a wishy-washy person?
But this isolated article just deals with moving in together. It opens by reiterating that even though traditionalists say moving in together before marriage is a bad idea, progressives are making it the norm. But it’s not actually question of whether or not they should move in.
But before couples sign a lease together, they would do well to ask themselves: Did we slide into the decision to move in together or did we decide to cohabit?
That question matters in terms of the length and quality of subsequent marriage. Traditionalists tend to think cohabiting before marriage is a bad idea, and progressives are more likely to embrace it, but new research says that’s not the best way to approach the question: The important thing is how couples make the leap into a shared life.
Does anyone else find this to be the most nuanced, yet obvious study about relationships?
A report released today from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia looks at the many factors that predict a high quality marriage. More than one thousand Americans, 18 to 35 years old, who were in a relationship were recruited into the study. Within five years, 418 of those individuals got married. Galena Rhoades (a co-author of this article) and Scott Stanley, both at the University of Denver, looked closely at those who married, probing into their relationship history with their spouse, their relationships with others, and the quality of their marriages.
One of the main findings was about how couples handle relationship milestones, like moving in together. Every relationship goes through milestones, or transitions, that mark how serious the relationship is getting. Going on a first date is one; a first kiss is another. Other milestones might include the “define the relationship” talk—the moment a couple says they are actually a couple—sex, engagement, marriage, and children.
In the past, these milestones tended to follow a straightforward order that began with courtship, passed the milestones of marriage, cohabitation, and sex, and ended with children. The structure and rigidity of courtship meant that couples had less freedom, but also that each milestone was ritualized with most couples following the same script.
YES. We get it. Being straight forward and telling people what you want has died a slow little death somewhere between AIM and Instagram DMs. Courtship looks a hell of a lot different, and so do people’s life choices. Some people get married after six months, others wait 10 years, and some never sign on the dotted line. It’s all ok! We have options in our love lives because we have more options in other areas of our lives like reproduction and career – albeit not 100 percent just yet, but much better than generations before.
The freedom to choose any relationship sequence has benefits, but it may also come at a cost long-term.
Oy. Here it comes.
Couples today seem less likely to move through major relationship milestones in a deliberate, thoughtful way. Rather, the new data show that they tend to slide through those milestones. Think of the college couple whose relationship began as a random hookup, the couple who moved in together so that they could pay less rent, or the couple who chose to elope on a whim rather than have a formal wedding. These are couples who, often without realizing it, slid through relationship transitions that could have been planned out, discussed, and debated.
The data show that couples who slid through their relationship transitions ultimately had poorer marital quality than those who made intentional decisions about major milestones. How couples make choices matters.
This is so silly. Of course making smart, informed and deliberate decisions is the best way to go — again, with anything. But, it’s not realistic. Life is messy and complicated; most of the time it just happens and sometimes you have to jump along for the ride to see how it all plays out. Worst case is you have to pack up your emotional and material stuff.
I have lived with two partners and each time the decision was both a victim of circumstance and choice. The line is pretty fuzzy. For both living situations a circumstance forced us into a deliberate decision. So, which was it? It’s hard to say.
The first time I lived with a boyfriend, he was a touring musician, who also happened to live 1,000 miles away. If we didn’t live together, it would be impossible to stay together. So, after six months of long-distance dating, circumstance caused us to make a deliberate decision to move in together. We didn’t HAVE to. We chose to, for the sake of continuing the relationship. That ended two and a half years later. But, that relationship was never going to last whether we lived in the same apartment or not.
The second time I lived with a boyfriend is my current situation. After dating a healthy two years, his roommate decided to move out, and he was sick of his apartment. Again, circumstance presented me with another deliberate choice to make. After a lot of crying, pep talks from friends, and courage, I chose to go with the tide. I had experienced the worst case scenario and lived. You can’t move forward without actually…moving, no matter the outcome.
Of course how couples make decisions matter, both long term, short term, and within the day. A healthy relationship that turns into a healthy marriage will be founded on good communication regardless if they hopped, skipped, slid or stepped into their living situation.
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Heather is a contributing editor at the-dah. She is a Los Angeles based writer, improviser, snacker, social media mistress, and aspiring adult. Read more of her food-stained stories about growing up weird at Terrible-Twenties.com, or follow her digital alter ego @MissHezah on Twitter.
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