Many people assume that what they do as singles will not affect their future marriage relationship. They see single life as the opportunity to ‘have some fun’ and ‘live it up’ before they ‘settle down’ to marriage.
Interestingly, recent research has given substance to what many commentators have been saying for decades: how one lives before marriage impacts the stability of the relationship after marriage. Premarital sex and cohabitation for example are two significant factors cited as contributing negatively to marital satisfaction and longevity*. It seems that ‘living it up’ before marriage has long lasting consequences well beyond the obvious risks of sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.
Unhelpful habits formed during our single years can not always be so easily discarded once married. These habits can include anything from personal hygiene to sexual standards and relationship patterns. For example, those who make a habit of ending a relationship rather than dealing with a conflict will soon discover that ‘happily ever after’ doesn’t come to those who don’t invest in the relationship. Similarly, expectations of independent lifestyles established during singledom are not generally compatible with the exclusivity of marriage.
Marriage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Marriage is the blend of the two individuals and all the life experience they bring to their relationship. Every significant past relationship influences the formation of each person’s character. We carry the wounds and riches of every relationship into our marriage where they either help or play havoc with our ability to freely give ourselves totally to our spouse. Those singles who protect their heart from unnecessary wounding and develop habits and attitudes that are compatible with marriage will be the ultimate winners.
* Ref: Heaton, Timothy. Factors Contributing to Increasing Marital Stability in the United States. Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 23 No. 3, April 2002 392, 409.