The money factor

2. The gross-out factor no longer exists

When I walked down that aisle on my wedding day, my steps may have been hesitant in my too-high blue suede pumps, but I was absolutely sure that I was headed in the right direction. I even lived with someone. But that relationship, like the others, fizzled. I was happy with my solo life, finally happy with myself, and I vowed that any man I let into my heart had to make my day-to-day better than it already was. My husband did make things better. So what if he played his music too loud or drove his convertible at dangerous speeds on dark roads until I begged him to stop?

Differences are what make couples interesting. One thing we did have in common: We are both accustomed to getting our way. After all, we had chemistry to spare and could talk and laugh for hours. There is so much bureaucracy that goes along with the legal institution of marriage: Maybe the difference is elusive, undefined and hard to put into words, but being married is different than living together.

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Little things annoy you more Four words: Keep Reading Next Article. For many people, an elevated risk of difficulties in marriage was present before they had their first relationship experience. Selection is a big part of how relationships unfold, but is it the whole story? We believe that, in addition to selection, behavior matters and has plausible connections to marital outcomes.

Seasons of a Marriage | First Things First

We are going to explain four reasons why having more relationship experience before tying the knot might make it harder to succeed in marriage. What could be wrong with having a lot of alternative romantic partners and knowing it? That would be too easy. Part of the work of commitment in marriage is letting other options go and investing your energy in the one person you have chosen.

Why marriage is now harder than ever

When a person has had many serious relationships prior to marriage, it may increase awareness of how many alternatives actually exist. Furthermore, in a world where people can conveniently monitor their ex-partners online, it is easy for an old flame to resurface. Sociologists have long noted that there should be some ideal amount of searching that will result in optimal outcomes in marriage. Norval Glenn and his colleagues nicely described this theory in a article:. We are not arguing against an adequate search process.

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We are suggesting that having a lot of partners—and sharing serious relationship experiences with them like sex and cohabiting—can have the downside of raising awareness of alternatives in a way that makes it harder to foreclose them to make a marriage work. Also, realize that you can learn a lot about another person without going so deep that you lose options for your future. Think about two different people: For our thought experiment, imagine that these two people are nearly identical as to all sorts of factors related to success in marriage.

Is marriage really on the decline because of men's cheap access to sex?

That is to say, selection is not involved in what we are describing. But Q and M have one difference. Q and M have been married to their respective mates for five years, now, and life has gotten harder, with children, work, and debt. For both couples, the sexual relationship has lost some edge. But in the midst of this phase of life, Q and M have that one difference that leads to Q being quite a bit less happy than M. Q has vivid memories of 10 sexual partners. Q remembers how great sex was with three of the 10 partners: In fact, Q remembers specific, different, and pleasing memories with each of those three.

In assessing sexual satisfaction five years into marriage, Q merges those three prior partners into one object who is, of course, not a real person. Satisfaction in all areas of life is partly a function of what we get compared to what we expected. Q expects a lot based on all that experience, easily forgetting that none of those three relationships had what it takes to go the distance. Cohabitation has characteristics that seem paradoxical. Living with a partner makes it harder to break up than dating, all other things being equal, and often now comes at a time in relationship development where people have not really chosen each other for the future.

These days, cohabitation has become more a part of the dating scene than a lead-up to marriage. In this context, some people are getting a lot of experience at leaving serious relationships or surviving being left. Just as with our prior point, that does not sound bad in one way—at least insofar as people are breaking off relationships that had no future.

People can get good at moving out and moving on. How does that impact marriage? Some people probably so deeply learn that they can survive leaving a relationship when they are unhappy with it that they leave reasonably good marriages that would have given them and their children the best outcomes in life.