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One of the biggest benefits to living together before you tie the knot is that "it really helps us learn what we are getting ourselves into, and truly know all sides of our partner," says Alisa Ruby Bash, Malibu-based licensed marriage therapist. And exploring your relationship with these three expert rules in mind will only set you up for a stronger marriage.
1. Establish honest communication.
Having open and transparent talks sets a positive foundation for your future, says Bash. "Couples need to feel safe to express their authentic feelings to their partner, and know that they will be heard and acknowledged," she explains. "No relationship can really last if one person feels uncomfortable, shot down, or invalidated by their partner when they try to discuss their feelings." Check in with one another once a week about how you're each feeling, Bash suggests, and ask one another if you're "experiencing any stress, how satisfied you are with your sex life, and if there are any issues you want to work on. This really helps keep the relationship fresh and healthy."
2. Agree to how you'll share the chores.
You don't have to subscribe to stereotypical roles when it comes to splitting household responsibilities, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Ask, "who is comfortable handling what? Who has more time, or more money, that can be dedicated to these chores?" Greer suggests. "This way, no one will be resentful about who is doing too much or too little."
3. Decide to fight fairly.
Fact: "Fighting is inevitable," says Bash. But by maintaining boundaries and creating a safe space for self-expression, whether you're bickering or not, couples can keep the biggest arguments at bay. "Commit to never hit below the belt," says Bash. "If you are that enraged, go for a walk, call your therapist, or take deep breaths. But don't say things that you can never take back in the heat of an argument. Keep your love sacred."