Men And Their Mental Health – To Marry or Co-Habitate: Who’s Doing What & Which is Better?
With a U.S. national divorce rate somewhere between 40 and 50 percent and dropping and a significant reduction in the divorce rate in England and Wales – it may seem that divorces are declining and marriages are on the rebound. Not so say many relationship experts. It seems living together or co-habitating has replaced marriage as the preferred option for many heterosexual and same sex couples.
Living together before marriage continues to be a popular option for couples. Many view it as a step to take before committing to marriage and about two-thirds of couples choose to move in together before leaping into marriage. Many see it as a way to ease into marriage, while others enjoy the companionship and financial benefits without the legal entrenchment that comes with marriage.
But co-habitation without marriage isn’t right for everyone. And the benefits of each also tend to be the drawbacks of the other. For example, co-habitation is less of a commitment than marriage, which can be positive for those who aren’t ready for a full commitment, but is negative if a full commitment is what one or both people are after.
How do you decide whether to marry or co-habitate? Is one better than the other?
Where to Begin
If you’re considering moving in with your significant other or you are trying to decide between marrying or living together, it’s important to examine your fears and your motivation. Is your intention to live together before getting married or instead of getting married? Not only do you need to be clear on your intention, but you also need to make sure you are clear with your partner and that you understand what that person wants for the future, too.
Dr. John Curtis, author of Happily Unmarried, points out how important it is for couples to be on the same page and discuss their expectations before moving in together. According to Curtis, “the fundamental difference between men and women… is that many women view living together as a step towards marriage while many men see it as a test drive.”
Having a candid discussion about your answers to these questions before deciding to live together can help:
What’s my motivation for living together? What’s yours? Do you think living together is a step toward marriage or a test of whether we want to commit long-term?
What are your long term expectations and how do you feel about fidelity, marriage, having children, etc.
What will I do if it doesn’t work out? What will you do?
What are your some of your goals for the next five or ten years regarding our relationship, finances, careers, living arrangement, etc.?
Living together is a commitment, but it can be an open-ended commitment. Nobody marries with the intention to divorce, even though it happens.
And while you might not move in together intending to move out at some point, the door is open wider than it would be with marriage. Logistically, it’s just easier to get out of co-habitation situation than it is to get out of a marriage and co-habitating couples are statistically more likely
to break up than those who are married. Living together puts you in a more convenient position to end the relationship than marriage.
But this might not mean anything for a couple that is fully committed to one another and just chooses not to get married. Many people opt to live together instead of marrying one another because they’ve seen bad marriages fail. Some make their determination to co-habitate in favor of marrying for philosophical reasons.
Others have financial reasons for not marrying. They might be forced to give up a financial benefit if they marry, so they opt to live together instead. The decision has no bearing on their emotional commitment to their partner, it’s simply a practical choice that benefits them financially.
Differences between Marrying and Co-habitation
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind how living co-habitating and marriage differ in terms of practical and legal arrangements. Marriages are legally sanctioned and require a license and other obligations. Living together, on the other hand, requires nothing more than two people occupying the same space. In some states, living together long enough might result in a legal commitment automatically, but initially, especially if you aren’t buying a home together or blending finances, you’re not dealing with a legal commitment.
This is why it’s more convenient to end the arrangement when you aren’t married. Ending a marriage requires time, money, and court approval, which isn’t the case when ending a co-habitation arrangement. It can also result in a continued financial arrangement if one spouse has to pay the other alimony or share assets. Some people see this as a benefit of choosing one or the other, while others view it as a drawback.
Also keep in mind that when you live together, the law doesn’t recognize you as legally bound partners if something happens to one of you. You might view your commitment as strong as a marriage, but legally, you aren’t. For instance, you won’t be entitled to your partner’s estate without a will establishing you as a beneficiary. And you aren’t automatically granted the power to make decisions on your partner’s behalf in medical emergencies.
It’s impossible to say whether marriage or co-habitation is better because every couple is different. The important thing is that you and your partner agree on which is better for you and that you take the steps necessary to solidify whatever degree of commitment you’ve chosen to make to one another.