Q. I disagree with your statement that “living together is not a trial marriage.” What is your reason for saying this?

A. Living together is always just “living together.” It is not trial marriage—you can only “try marriage” if you’re married. After all, “trial studying” or “trial swimming” means you are actually involved in the process.

Marriage involves much more than simply living together. Some couples mistakenly hope that living together will serve as a trial marriage. In actual fact, partners who live together prior to marriage may be in for a surprise. Only after couples sign on the dotted line do they really begin acting out their subconsciously absorbed beliefs, attitudes, and expectations related to roles in marriage. It is only then that they often begin to act just like Mom or Dad acted, regardless of whether or not they liked or admired those behaviors. Human beings tend to do as they’ve been done to unless they consciously learn new strategies and choose to exhibit more functional behaviors (if those are needed).

In addition, once the courtship routine is over and the goal (marriage, legal union) has been reached, most people gradually tend to revert to their own sensory preference. In other words, most people tend to express themselves and relate to others in a manner that matches their sensory preference, unless they make a conscious choice to do differently. When two individuals have the same primary sensory preference, there isn’t as great a disparity between the before and after marriage/legal union validation.

These two factors increase the risk for becoming involved in the “my partner changed after we got married” phenomenon, or the lament that “he/she doesn’t love me any more.” This can help to explain instances where two people lived together quite successfully (sometimes for years), married, and then were at each other’s throats, if not separated, within months. Each partner may vehemently claim that the other changed after the ceremony. Well-meaning listeners often reply that no one changes after marriage. The truth is they probably did!

If couples have lived together prior to establishing a legal relationship, each needs to be aware of these two factors and take definite steps to avoid confusion and discomfort related to differences in “role perception” and “sensory preference.”

 

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