Myths of Marriage

 Posted by on 14 October 2003 at 3:24 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 142003

Paul forwarded me this article debunking ten common myths about marriage a few days ago. Thanks, oh husband of mine, but where is the debunking of the myth about the need to engage in retaliatory wife-tickling?

For me, the most interesting research about marriage concerns the “benefits gap” between cohabitation and marriage. In particular, I suspect that cohabitation makes abandoning a relationship both too easy and too hard.

Cohabitation makes abandonment too easy for couples that probably ought to be married, in that a person can leave without the sense of personal failure that (at least ought to) accompany a divorce and without the push from friends and family to “try to make the marriage work.” Often that internal and external pressure can prevent a couple from giving up on a good relationship too soon.

Cohabitation also makes abandonment too hard for couples that probably ought to only be dating, in that their lives become too deeply intertwined to easily break up if a relationship goes sour. Leaving a bad relationship is often hard to do, but cohabitation makes such a change even more difficult with the need to move, to divide up stuff, and so on. So a cohabitator might thus be more likely to stay with the wrong person than someone merely dating.

Both of these considerations might be reasons why the psychological data overwhelming shows that “those who live together before marriage have less satisfying marriages and a considerably higher chance of eventually breaking up.”

In short, cohabitation attempts to split the difference between marriage and dating; the couple wants to enjoy the benefits of marriage without the burden of commitment or the need to be very selective about one’s partner. But marriage without commitment and selectivity isn’t a recipe for bliss, but for personal turmoil and disaster. Yet some people (including people I know) keep trying — over and over and over again. When will they learn the true nature of the problem?

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