Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Inertia Created by Your Past Self Can Impact Options for Your Future Self

One of the ways in which our present self makes poor decisions that our future self has to live with is in the area of cohabitation.  And it’s often not really even “decisions” that we’re talking about. Our present self often slides into things that our future self will have to make hard, careful decisions about in order to make life work.

So, cohabitation is one of those areas where people sometimes get themselves stuck in a place that is not so great and that their future self will have to cope with; by that I mean either to work hard to unravel things or to make a difficult situation work out.  Does it turn out this way, difficult, all the time? Surely not. But some of the time, the nature and timing and “who” of cohabitation is one of the big ways that one’s current self does things that the future self may not be so happy about. Read on a bit more for a great link based on a key idea coming from our work on this subject.

Starting in the late 1990s, I started speaking in various public talks about a potential, large downside to cohabiting prior to marriage for at least some significant number of folks.  The key idea was that cohabitation has more inertia than dating without cohabiting and cohabitation essentially—maybe for way too many couples—makes it harder to break up before you’ve really decided you are sure of a future together. 

Galena Rhoades and I have been published a stream of studies on inertia and other aspects of the ways that commitment develops (or fails to) in relationships that can last a long time, regardless.  
There is a great column today capturing this idea of inertia, and since I’ve been too busy recently to write another entry here, I thought I’d direct your attention to it.  It’s very smart and well stated stuff. (Thanks for the heads up, Bill C.!)

Washington Post Column by Carolyn Hax

If you want to recap my favorite blog entry ever on the subject of inertia, it’s this one about the inertia of tech platforms and how similar that is to relationships.  I enjoyed this one a lot.

My blog on inertia and technology--applied to romantic relationships

And lastly, for those of you who want to read a summary of our studies in this area and on the general theme of commitment dynamics in developing romantic relationships short of marriage, see the paper at this link if you like.

Be kind to your future self, now!