Prior to moving in with a lover, you want to get an idea of how they’ll react when the going gets tough. There are some tests that can help determine whether or not things will work out over time, like cooking together and watching Netflix on separate days while ignoring each other’s text messages.
The “how to communicate your feelings in a relationship” is the first step towards testing your relationship without moving in together. This article will help you figure out what to do if you’re not sure where things stand.
Couples moving in together while dating has been more popular over the previous several decades. They often choose this living arrangement because it is more practical for them, as well as because they want to “test” the relationship before choosing whether or not to marry. Couples believe that by experiencing what it’s like to live in close quarters and go about their daily routines together, they will be able to make a better judgment about their compatibility and long-term prospects, avoiding a divorce down the road.
While the concept is appealing in theory, multiple studies have conclusively shown that living together before marriage does not lessen the likelihood of divorce. Not at all. How is it possible?
There are undoubtedly a number of reasons at play, but one of the most important is that cohabitees often find themselves falling further into their relationships rather than opting to make increasingly deeper commitments. They simply sort of drift into living together out of a sense of ease and complacency, then into remaining together out of a sense of comfort and complacency, and then into getting married, reasoning, “Well, we’ve been together this long; I suppose this is the next step to take.” Their lives grow so linked as they live together — dogs, bills, friends, routines — that it becomes simpler to continue with the arrangement — even if the relationship isn’t perfect — than to cut things up. As a result, they may end up marrying someone out of habit rather than genuine love. “Do you consider Sunk Cost Fallacy to be your legally married wife, Rob?”
Whatever benefits there are to getting to know someone by living with them seem to be balanced by the risk of remaining together out of inertia rather than great connection.
Are there any alternative options for “testing” your relationship’s strength without drastically raising the hardship of splitting up? To make a more educated choice about your future with someone while yet retaining part of your independence?
There are, thankfully. Dr. Scott Stanley, a professor of psychology at the University of Denver who established the “sliding vs. choosing” paradigm and has spent his career investigating cohabitation, relationships, and commitment, gave me some advice on this front.
How to Put Your Relationship to the Test Without Getting Married
Really, “testing” isn’t the ideal term here; if you’re in the mentality of putting a relationship to the test, you’re probably already having questions about it, which means it’s already on unstable footing, and deliberately putting it to the test will only make things worse.
We’re using the word “test” here not to urge you to snuff out your relationship’s vitality by pinning it down for examination, but to simply deepen and widen the natural flow of getting to know someone. To expose the connection to additional elements by taking it out of its limited, greenhouse-like environment. It’s not about putting your relationship under a cynical, hypercritical microscope, but rather being more explorative – seeing whether you’re equipped for tackling life’s grand journey as a pair.
To that end, we’ve outlined several strategies for turning over more pebbles in your relationship so you can see what you uncover — whether red flags or appealing features — and obtain a better understanding of who your spouse is.
1. Communicate With Respectful Friends and Family
Stanley observed that when two individuals begin dating, they often separate themselves into a bubble. This is particularly true in the era of dating apps, when a relationship may not emerge from a similar social scene; rather, two separate people, possibly new to a city and without a solid friend or family group, meet via the digital ether. They then spend all of their time communicating with each other one-on-one. However, only a restricted range of actions will be elicited in a dyadic, romantic, chemistry-driven situation, providing each partner a limited picture of the other. As Stanley said it to me,
Let’s imagine two people meet online, communicate, and send a lot of messages. Then they start talking on the phone, and then they start dating and spending every minute together. That’s all fantastic. However, you miss out on a lot of information about a person if you don’t see how they treat others. Yes, they’re enthralled with you. They’re drawn to you sexually. However, they may not always be sexually attracted to you, so how do they approach those who are just essential in their lives? Because you never know how you’ll be handled.
Observing how your girlfriend interacts with her friends and your friends, as well as her family and your family, can reveal a lot more about who she is than just seeing how she interacts with you. So avoid the stereotype of being the couple that is so enamored with one other that they forget about the rest of their life.
It’s crucial to pay attention to how your girlfriend interacts with her own family. Returning to the folks she grew up with can likely reignite tendencies she was previously able to manage with you. Woman Nervous for Boyfriend to Meet the Person She Becomes Around Parents, as parody headline in The Onion put it.
Of course, how someone treats their family may not be indicative of how she will treat you (people have specific issues with family members that are largely context specific), but there will almost certainly be broad, underlying patterns in her behavior toward them that will manifest themselves in your relationship as well.
2. Interact with people in a wide range of situations
Building on the previous point, new(ish) couples often only see each other in a limited number of planned, scripted circumstances — dinner, the movies, watching TV at each other’s residences, and so on. These well-known events induce well-known patterns of behavior.
It’s useful to observe how someone manages the unexpected — how she deals with stress and being beyond her comfort zone — and the degree to which you can work through curveballs together to get to know them better.
So, instead of sticking to a “climate controlled” dating routine, go camping, volunteer, attend a religious session, and so forth with your date. Navigate new sorts of situations and engage with a variety of individuals.
Part of the reason Stanley advises avoiding rushing into things while dating someone is the fact that the longer you’re in a relationship, the more and more different scenarios you’ll wind yourself in as a pair.
3. Make a list of your priorities and expectations.
To establish a healthy marriage, two individuals don’t have to be clones of each other, but matching key beliefs boosts a couple’s chances of long-term satisfaction, but disputes in these areas become very destructive over time.
Conversations about your values, beliefs, and aspirations for your future life together should start early in a relationship, clearly increasing deeper and more extensive as it becomes evident that you have a future together.
Do you consider religion to be essential to you? What city would you want to reside in? Do you want to be able to live close to your parents? Would you relocate in order to keep your job? Do you wish to start a family? How committed are you to your profession? Would you mind if I worked long hours or spent a lot of time on the road? Do you think budgeting is a good idea? What is your approach to money?
“You can’t believe the amount of marital counselors” who’ve dealt with couples who “are suffering with this particular problem and they’ve been married for a few years and they knew it beforehand or they didn’t know it,” Stanley added. In any case, it’s as if you two could’ve spoken about it.”
Recognize, however, that these value-discovering interactions have certain limits.
First, even while discussing your ideas and expectations, love’s high-inducing, mind-altering chemistry may cause couples to gloss over disagreements that surface. They’re so excited that the possible cause of conflict doesn’t seem so significant; “love conquers all,” they reason, or they assume their spouse will alter their viewpoint once they’re married. People, on the other hand, seldom modify their underlying principles and views.
Because love is such a heady mix, it’s crucial to know — and be brutally clear about — what your non-negotiables are before you enter a relationship; then, after you’ve fallen head over heels, your old self can perhaps reason with your punch-drunk self.
The second caution is that, although talking about hypotheticals might be useful, it’s difficult to predict with certainty what judgments you’ll make in the future while you’re in the present.
As a result, it’s critical to pay attention not just to what your significant other says, but also to what she does. Of course, she won’t act out every scenario you’ll face in the future in the present, but her behavior in various situations will reveal her true values — the underlying beliefs that won’t be able to predict exactly what decisions she’ll make down the road, but will give you an idea of where she, and your shared lives, will go.
4. Go on a trip together
Traveling may be placed under “Interact in a Wide Variety of Situations,” since it can frequently allow you to see how your significant other interacts with different people and locations, as well as how he or she manages unexpected curveballs. Travel, on the other hand, requires its own section since it involves a distinct relationship-testing element: planning. Planning a major vacation takes time and effort, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to assess how well you work together as a group – whether you can sacrifice, compromise, and communicate. As Stanley pointed out, it’s an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise as you prepare to walk down the aisle:
Traveling with the individual would most likely teach you some things, but preparing to travel with the person may teach you a lot. Because life is all about planning. And a lot of couples don’t start serious about planning their wedding until they’re already married. And that’s a strange, intense thing to do some type of exercise on.
5. Get Premarital Counseling/Training
Premarital preparation/counseling isn’t something you should check off on a checklist to satisfy a minister’s need for officiating your wedding or earn a discount on a marriage license. Participating in such a program with sincere intent may assist in facilitating the important value-disclosure dialogues outlined above, identifying possible challenges and arguments, and teaching relationship-strengthening techniques. Here’s what Stanley has to say:
While marital experts disagree on everything, there is strong evidence that completing premarital training (education, therapy, whatever you want to call it) jointly improves your chances of getting married. While this does not ensure marital pleasure, there are many more benefits than drawbacks. The one disadvantage I sometimes consider is really an advantage: you can find something concerning about your companion or relationship that you didn’t completely realize previously, leading you to seek more assistance or take things more slowly. As a result, I urge that you attend premarital counseling as soon as feasible before your wedding day. Why? Because the farther ahead you finish it, the more likely you are to learn anything that may cause you to reconsider marrying each other.
Church-sponsored programs and neighborhood seminars are also good options for premarital preparation. If you don’t know of one, seek advice from a marital counselor or therapist. While attending an in-person session can help you stay responsible, you may also try reading a marriage prep book or participating in an online program together; Stanley suggests this one, this one, and this one (he’s affiliated with the latter).
Listen to my podcast with Dr. Stanley for additional information on the dangers of “sliding vs. choosing” and the significance of seeking clarity over ambiguity in relationships:
Watch This Video-
The “parents disapprove of living together before marriage” is a phrase that is used to describe the disapproval that parents have when their children live with someone without being married. This can be a problem in relationships because it can lead to arguments and fights.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the average couple date before moving in together?
A: The average couple date lasts between one to two weeks before moving in together.
Can you have a relationship without living together?
How do you know if you and your partner are ready to move in together?
A: I cannot answer this question.
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