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Blog: Respect Your Marriage Vows by Not Shacking Up First

By Dr. Laura on February 17, 2022
Blog: Respect Your Marriage Vows by Not Shacking Up First

If you call anything a ‘piece of artwork’ or if you call something sacred, don't you immediately look at it differently from everyday objects or experiences? It doesn't matter if you're religious or not, I think when we say something is sacred, everybody lowers their voice and shows more respect. It's not accidental.    


We've been trained, more or less, in families and society and culture to realize there is sacred in the mundane. And the mundane is your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Something sacred to many people would be their bible. The phone book is mundane. The bible is considered sacred. Whether or not you take it as the absolute word of God or metaphorical or however you want to look at the Bible, it's still a sacred item and the whole concept is treated with a little more reverence than your phone book.  


When we see somebody trying to show off their strength in movies, they tear a phone book in half.  I never really understood why, but they don't tear Bibles in half to show their strength because it's sacred. And as I said, even if it's not your religion, you would feel just weird and uncomfortable about treating it with a tremendous amount of disrespect.  


Shacking up is mundane. Making vows is sacred. And there are a zillion pieces of interesting research about all of this, and it's timely because the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, just about 40 percent of couples get engaged. Holidays tend to put people in the mind of marriage.  


A lot of young people have been brought up in broken families and that automatically puts them in a mindset that marriage is not permanent– it's not even special. That's a shame. I think divorce is a mistake. We shouldn't be that flippant that somebody can just say, “You know what? I'm out of here.” It diminishes the notion that marriage is sacred and marriage vows are sacred. Shacking up actions are mundane. They hold less value.  


For the average young adult, there is merit to waiting to 30 years-old or so for the maturity factor to set in. But these days, waiting too long also has its downsides. People in their twenties with no shack-up history have a better chance at a successful marriage, even with the reasonable lack of maturity.  


Why is that? Well, when you wait longer and longer, you've probably accumulated what they call ‘baggage.’ You've heard the psychobabble, ‘It's baggage. A lot of excess.’ A lot of sex with different people. A lot of cohabitation and unions. It weighs on marriage. That's a lot of negativity because obviously, it's negativity. It all failed. Those people didn’t stay together and flourish and be happy.  


That’s common sense. It's the opposite of what a lot of you think, that you're experimenting and test- driving each other's genitals and just seeing if it works out. But a commitment means there are going to be ruffles and we have to iron them out together. Not ‘there are ruffles, I'm out of here.’ It's a whole different notion.  


Stanford University published a study that indicated risk is especially high for women who cohabitated, who shacked up with somebody besides their future husband. They were more than twice as likely to end up in divorce court. 


When you have previous shack ups, it gives men and women the notion that they can head to the exit when the going gets tough. They also indicated that spouses tend to get very critical by comparing their current spouse to all the previous shack-ups. Your husband may be responsible and reliable, but not as sexy and tall and humorous as the two other guys you shacked up with. Keeping comparisons in your mind is generally corrosive. 


If you are a woman thinking about getting married but worried about divorce, in general, the research suggests don't move till your wedding day and don't marry someone who's been through co-habitations and has divorces in their family. Second marriages have a higher divorce rate than the first, and third marriages have a higher divorce rate than the second ones. If you really want to make sure you stay married, don't shack up. Don't marry somebody who has shacked up. Be concerned about your potential partner’s mom and dad and divorces. It's not just about finding someone cute and nice who makes your heart flutter. You want to have more security, but we can't guarantee 100 percent of anything ever. 


There are always exceptions– always, but not a lot. And don't count on being one of the exceptions. 


Of course, you know better and you'll be the exception, right?  





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