Did you see the recent NY Times article 13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married? Basically, the gist of the article is that you and your partner should sit down and ask these questions before you say “I do.” The questions are interesting and different from what you might expect. The first question surprised me: Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose? That doesn’t seem like a question I’d think to ask, but I guess it makes sense. Having similar communication styles seem to be one of the most important barometers of if a couple will stand the test of time.
The most interesting question to me was: Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us?
I was a bit confused by this question. Personally, I would assume all relationships with exes would help a couple – because you’d have all that past experience that you’ve hopefully learned and grown from. But, apparently, it’s more complicated than that. Some research points to the idea that if you’ve had more serious relationships before getting married, you have a higher risk for divorce and lower marital quality.
As stated in the article:
Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, pointed to research his organization has sponsored that indicated that having had many serious relationships can pose a risk for divorce and lower marital quality. (This can be because of a person having more experience with serious breakups and potentially comparing a current partner unfavorably with past ones.)
I can kind of understand it though it strikes me as counter-intuitive. I guess the idea of divorce isn’t as scary if you’ve already had a breakup for a relationship that was years long. Last year, I ended a 6+ year relationship and it felt like a divorce, without the added stress of having to have a legal separation. Maybe the logic of the research is that people who’ve survived many breakups of serious relationships understand that we are malleable as people, and can come out the other side, so divorce becomes a less scary option.
How many serious relationships did you have before you married? Since I’m not married myself, I can’t answer this question yet. But if I look at my friends’ marriages, it seems to me they all had about 1-2 serious relationships before they got married. I wondered if that’s considered “many” by the researchers.
I wonder if it’s also that with less experience behind you, you’re also less prone to have relationship baggage that could scar you and affect the way you react to a new partner’s behaviors. Just thinking of friends who’ve had partners who cheated on them, it took a lot of work for them to trust their new partners and for some, they couldn’t unlearn their trigger reaction to certain behaviors and it caused problems in the new relationship.
But, I generally agree that each relationship should teach you things that would make you a better person and also allow you to learn what you want out of a relationship and seek that in the next one if the current one isn’t it.
Great point, Janice. Less baggage from the past definitely helps a new relationship go smoother.