I see a lot of single women in my office, women who despite being smart, successful and attractive, complain that the dating world isn't being kind to them.
When I first sit down with a single woman who is looking for dating advice, I ask her a simple question: "What are you looking for?" A no-strings relationship? A cohabiting or common-law arrangement? A husband and legal marriage?
If her answer is the latter, we take a critical look at her dating habits. What is she doing? Are her choices leading her to the life that she wants for herself?
Over the past decade or so, I've found there are a few common pitfalls that women who want to get married inadvertently fall into which decreases their chances of getting married while they're still young enough to walk down the aisle without stopping for breath. One of these pitfalls is living together before marriage.
Below are several reasons I believe living together is a bad choice if a woman wants to marry.
Men and women have very different ideas about what living together means
Women typically see it as an almost inevitable step toward marriage, while men see it as a no-obligation "test drive."
You've heard the old expression, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"
Living together results in regular, no-strings sex for a man, thus removing the sexual motivation that is part of a marriage proposal.
Living together means that a man doesn't have to pursue his girlfriend any longer
And if something is too easily acquired, it just doesn't hold the same value as something that is more challenging to get.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard a man say, "Well, we're not married so it doesn't really matter," or "I just married her because she wouldn't shut up about it," or "I only proposed because everyone expected me to."
There is no interest on taking things to the next level
Because it removes much of a man's motivation to make the formal commitment of marriage within a reasonable time, living together often causes women to feel frustrated and get stuck in a cycle of hope and disappointment.
Christmas comes and she hopes for a ring, only to be disappointed. Her birthday comes and she hopes for a ring, only to be disappointed. Her sister gets married and she hopes for a ring, only to be disappointed. You get the idea.
Even worse, this cycle often leads to ultimatums — Marry me or it's over! which, in turn, can lead to a reluctant and passionless groom.
Couples who live together are less likely to get married
Cohabiting couples also tend to have a more lax attitude toward commitment and don't work as hard to stay together.
When their relationship goes through a rough spot as all relationships do, it is all too easy to just walk away.
The legal and public commitment of marriage motivates couples to work through conflict, strengthen the relationship and stay together.
Living together is not a reliable way to predict long-term compatibility or marital success
In fact, couples who live together before marriage divorce at higher rates. Serious dating allows two people to get to know each other as loving friends and determine whether they have a reasonable chance of being a faithful, respectful and cooperative couple with shared values and vision.
Very few unmarried couples who have children end up staying together
In other words, a child's chances of living in the same home as his or her biological but non-married parents until he or she is a teenager is negligible.
Children who are raised by both biological parents in a low-conflict home are more likely to be emotionally and psychologically healthy than children whose parents are cohabiting or divorced.
They are less likely to experience mental health or behavioural problems, or to live in poverty.
Living together takes the excitement out of being newlyweds
Being a new bride and moving in with your husband to start a life — and perhaps a family — with those shiny new rings on your fingers to show the world your commitment, is a wonderful experience that many women still hope for.
Many, many couples still live "happily ever after" after marriage and you can, too. You just need to know where you want to go in life, and what choices are most likely to get you there.
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