Many different factors go into whether a marriage lasts or not. It's no surprise that the amount of time you date before getting married can affect how long your marriage actually lasts. Trust, intimacy, and a deep connection take time to develop. If you've only been dating someone for a few months, you also can't get a sense of whether they're someone who will stick by you through thick and thin. But does dating for a longer time before getting married guarantee that your marriage will last? According to experts, not necessarily.
A 2015 study published in the journal Economic Inquiry found that couples who dated for one to two years before getting married were less likely to get divorced than those who only dated for one. The odds were even better for those who dated for three or more years. Another study published in the journal Family Relations also found a link between the amount of time a couple dated and their level of satisfaction with their marriage. People who dated longer were more likely to say they had a happy marriage.
If you've been with your partner for years and you're already living together, marriage may seem like the next big step. But being with your partner for three, five, or even 10 years won't guarantee you that your marriage will last. Sometimes long-term couples will find themselves seeking a divorce shortly after getting married.
So where does it all go wrong? According to experts, there is one key reason behind why this happens.
Couples Get Married For All The Wrong Reasons
"People get divorced shortly after marriage when one or both partners believe that simply being married will change an underlying problem," Lara Friedrich, Psy.D., licensed psychologist who specializes in working with engaged couples and newlyweds, tells Bustle. "But marriage won't magically make problems go away."
For instance, if your partner is emotionally immature, getting married won't automatically change that. If they have a history of cheating, being married may not suddenly make them faithful. If your relationship is already struggling, marriage isn't going to make it go away.
"A ceremony, a party, and legal recognition aren't enough to shift a problematic long-term dynamic," Friedrich says. "When someone holds out hope that being married will change their partner in some way and that change doesn't happen, it can lead to the realization that the relationship is no longer viable."
You should also take more time to think about whether marriage is right for your relationship if you're only doing it because you're feeling outside pressure or for financial or practical reasons. Marriage isn't for every couple and divorce is not easy.
The Best Way To Avoid A Divorce
Before you decide to take that next big step, it's important to communicate. According to Friedrich, you can talk about your expectations for what you want the marriage to look like. It can also be helpful to talk through your experiences growing up, and what you may have witnessed in your parent's relationship.
"You may be surprised to learn that you hold very different views about what it means to be married," Friedrich says. "This could relate to gender roles, finances, religion, and parenting, to name a few. Getting clear on these values first is a great way to set up your marriage for success, no matter how long you've been together."
If you do want to get married but there are lingering issues in the relationship, you may even want to consider premarital counseling.
As Raymond Hekmat, divorce consultant and attorney, tells Bustle, couples who go to counseling typically have a stronger foundation in their marriage. They're forced to have the important and uncomfortable conversations about finances and their expectations from each other in the the marriage.
"From there, partners end up talking more about the practicality of their marriage because they're more open and honest with one another," Hekmat says. "This creates a beautiful intimacy between couples prior to getting married."
Unfortunately, being in a long-term relationship doesn't make you immune to divorce. Some couples will be together for years and then realize after months that marriage really isn't for them. Before you get married, it's important to have an honest conversation with your partner about why you want it and what you expect out of it. If you're both on the same page and it feels like the right time, you'll be off to a good start.