Psychological Self-Help

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permanently entrap us in bad relationships? The limited research we
have now provides only tentative suggestions and answers, as follows. 
First of all, "living together" increased by 45% between 1970 and
1990. In recent years, approximately 70% of people getting married
have lived together. But only about 20%-35% of the people living
together end up getting married. Remember, many weren't seeking
marriage, but it seems likely that many who "split" would say, "Thank
God, we didn't get married." Therefore, at least some people learn
things about the relationship that helps them avoid a bad relationship.
Ideally, avoiding a disastrous marriage is an advantage of living
together, but there are many reasons why we can't avoid all future
unhappy relationships by living together. For example, many observers
agree with Joyce Brothers (1984, pp. 123-128) that people living
together are on their best behavior, "walk on eggs," and avoid
confrontation because they are eager to have someone love them and
insecure in the temporary relationship. So, living together isn't a good,
honest "trial" (and Brothers recommends against it). Moreover, this
super nice premarital behavior may partly account for the radical
changes in behavior, personality, and attitudes (almost always for the
worse) that sometimes occur shortly after marriage. Many married
couples testify that living together didn't really prepare them for
marriage; they still didn't know each other and had many adjustments
to make, similar to couples who haven't lived together. Besides, the
intense romance subsides in 2 or 3 years. So, 5 years and 2 children
later, it is a different relationship. Living together is no sure cure for
marital problems, but it may be your best bet when you want make as
good a choice as possible. 
Living together and getting pregnant as ploys for getting someone
to marry you are usually ineffective and unwise. This kind of pressure,
added to the other adjustment problems at this time, strains the
relationship to the breaking point. The pursued partner starts to feel
trapped and to find others very attractive; if they don't make the effort
to work out their major problems, the relationship probably ends. In
other cases, where one partner assumes more of the responsibilities
(income, cleaning, cooking, etc.), that partner often starts to feel
used. If the partner feeling used is a pregnant woman, she has two
serious problems: what to do with the guy and with the baby. Finally,
because a trial marriage is a test, the couple often postpones working
on adjustment problems. The attitude is: "We'll just stay together as
long as things work out." Few loves could survive without more
commitment and work than that. 
My conclusions on this very murky issue are: if you have strong
moral-religious beliefs against living together, then don't. If you both
are not ready for marriage but want a steady partner, living together
offers obvious advantages and some risks. It can be a fantastic, real
life learning experience of loving and adjusting on equal terms with
another person. But, the "break up" can still be messy and painful,
almost like a divorce. If you are considering marriage, have the time,
and are psychologically aware of the pitfalls, living together may be a
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