Since you were small you were told to keep trying, that experience leads to perfection, and the more you experience, the better job you’ll do. That may be true in most things, but when it comes to your marriage the more experience you have with dating, the less content you are with your spouse. When you first begin dating you may compare a past love with who you’re currently with, but when you find that special someone they stand out as different, leading you to feel a deeper love and sense of commitment.
Marriage experts looked at longitudinal studies and found that having more sexual and cohabitating partners before marriage is correlated with lower relationship quality once married. These findings were consistent with well-established marital studies showing that cohabitating with more partners prior to marriage is strongly correlated with divorce.
Couples that cohabitate are living together for lots of reasons, such as financial, to get to know each other more, and the fear of living alone. The more partners you’ve had, the more you begin looking at intimacy, sex and commitment as casual or recreational, and marriage isn’t any of those. The other reasons your experience may affect your marital happiness are:
- You compare your partner with others when you aren’t in a committed relationship. If they seem less interested or you aren’t getting enough attention, you break up. After marriage you can’t trade your spouse in when you don’t get along or you aren’t getting the attention you want.
- You don’t have to work on resolving issues if you aren’t really committed in a relationship. When things aren’t going well you just pack up and leave.
- More experienced daters are quicker to end it. They’ve ended relationships before and replaced them with new ones. If you carry this attitude into your marriage, both you and your spouse will be miserable.
- Family matters. When dating it doesn’t matter as much if your parents don’t always get along with your partner. You aren’t committed as a partnership, so you don’t learn to take turns where you go or whom you hang out with. When you’re married, this is a big issue and can cause marital distress. Small unresolved problems become huge in a committed relationship, and the in-laws have an impact on marital quality.
Marital experts recommend you not cohabitate in an effort to try them out, or see if you get along, thinking you may get married. If you move in together and you think it’s someone you’re going to marry, it’s wise to have that intention from the beginning. Having less partners you’ve lived with gives you the greatest chances for marital contentment.