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"Where you get past that point where everything happens automatically."In the case of unmarried couples in longterm relationships, therapy serves as it has done traditionally, as the tipping point for bringing ambivalent partners closer together.But increasingly, it also functions as a tool to ease them more comfortably apart."What I have to say is: 'Are we the only two people who know that?

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A 24-year-old in Austin, Texas, changes her Facebook status from "In a relationship" to "It's complicated," then comments that she plans to begin couples therapy.

Message boards abound with questions from those trying to navigate information about couples counseling.

According to a study by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, approximately 8.1 percent of households consist of unmarried heterosexual partners, with census numbers showing that, between 19, the number of unmarried partners increased tenfold.

Generation Y-ers ages 18–29 represent a mere 8.9 percent of the married population of the U. In years past, couples might have been married before quarrels developed, but as an increasingly higher premium is put on one's capacity for personal growth, along with fear that marriage can lead so quickly to divorce, some younger couples try to sort through their issues of compatibility for years before heading to the altar.

But there was one way we were very different: I knew I wanted kids one day, and he knew he didn't.

While neither of us are at points in our lives where procreation is an urgent matter (I'm 24, and he's 28), knowing that this major difference could eventually end our relationship freaked us out.

"Let's say the average marriage is lasting roughly seven and a half years," she says, "and roughly 40 percent of first marriages, and 60 percent of second marriages, end in divorce.

So almost everybody coming out of college or high school knows people whose marriages have failed.

"The problem is, the patterns that you develop ultimately are based on, 'Well, heck, if it doesn't work out, we're not married,' " says Julie Nise, a relationship trainer and therapist based near Houston. Essentially, this is what I tell my dating couples: if he's not good enough to be married to, then you don't need to be living with him.

Because all you're doing is burning daylight."She says she believes that effective therapy is targeted, rather than habitual.

Of course, most young people today consider relationships of more than five years or so almost like a marriage.