Q. In todayís social climate, is it better to live together (cohabitate) rather than get legally married?
A. It depends on what you want out of your relationship. There are legal, social, emotional, and financial benefits for marrying and for not marrying. If youíre asking which arrangement gives the relationship a better chance of surviving, here are some very general statistics: About 64 percent of first marriages will last ten years and beyond, as of census data collected in 2002. Only about 31 percent of woman will stay in first-time cohabitation relationships longer than three years.
People often focus on the seemingly dismal marriage and divorce rates when in reality, most marriages last longer than most cohabitation relationships. There are stronger reasons to work at a marital relationship than one where the easy solution to conflict is to pack a bag.
Q. Does living together before our wedding lower our chances of staying married?
A. Many religious organizations have been promoting statistics that show couples who live together before getting married tend to divorce at a higher rate than couples who do not cohabitate before the marriage ceremony. But often times, statistics can be misleading because they donít factor in other key influences. For example, many people who do not believe in cohabitating generally hold religious beliefs that also compel them to avoid divorce.
Q. Can separation help save a marriage during difficult periods?
A. Depends on the circumstances. A little distance can allow both parties to cool off and gain some perspective. Just for the record, however, a separated couple is still married. Being separated is not a ďhall passĒ for behaving as though you are single. It is a time to remove yourself from a highly-charged negative environment and reflect on your relationship. Because there are vague and unspoken ďagreementsĒ about the whole separation period, a separation can bring more marital problems. Also, spouses can find that being apart brings peace and that they do not want to return to an un-peaceful situation. A separation can be fruitful when both partners realize that, despite all the conflicts, they still want to be together, they still love each other, and they are happier together than they are when they are apart.
Q. What is the one thing you would tell people who are about to divorce?
A. Itís going to be a lot harder than you realize. Most divorced people Iíve spoken to regret not giving their marriages more effort. They didnít divorce because they stopped loving each other. They got frustrated, angry, hurt, disappointed or resentful and they didnít know how to change that. They confused disenchantment with their spouses for lack of love for them. They find out too late that they still do have love and caring for each other. It was just buried under a lot of negative emotions. How do you know this? Ask a divorced man or woman how they felt when they learned their exes were getting re-married. Love doesnít die as easily as people believe.