Things You Need to Know Before Deciding to Live Together
Before couples decide that they want to live together, they should take the time to think about the benefits and caveats of doing so.
According to the US census, 12 million couples are living together outside of marriage. This attests to the fact that cohabitation has become a popular lifestyle for many couples.
However, this does not mean that cohabiting outside of marriage is the best choice for everybody who does it.
If you interview couples who have decided to live together, many will tell you that they do so because they don’t want to become entangled in the responsibilities, costs and potential legal liabilities of doing so, especially the issues that are involved in getting a divorce.
They point to the facts that more than half of the marriages in the U.S. fail and that many of the couples involved in them came from broken homes themselves. Therefore, they have negative attitudes about marrying.
You rarely hear these couples talk about the benefits of being married, but in truth there are quite a few.
Many view their preferred lifestyle as a substitute for marriage, but it is not. This is because when people marry they make a legal and emotional long term commitment to one another that exists for the purpose of binding them together.
It’s very easy to just walk away from a casual living together situation, but not so with a marriage. Even though people do end marriages, it is never as a casual walk away. It’s always for specific reasons that generally are negotiated in an attempt to resolve issues before a relationship can be ended.
In many cases it is the ease of dissolution that causes couples to avoid marrying, rather than the reasons they offer for living together.
Why People Choose Living Together and What Happens When They Do
There are many reasons why people choose to live together, the most popular being the one I just mentioned.
Here are some that represent real life situations I have personally seen.
One partner feels love for the other, but the object of their affection will not commit to getting married. They first person assumes that if they can live together, eventually the person who is unable to commit will eventually do so.
Sometimes this happens, but more often than not, it doesn’t.
When the couple does eventually marry it rarely is because the non-committal partner has a change of heart.
It more likely is because
- It is easier to tie the knot than to keep arguing about marriage,
- the partners have aged or become ill and thus have fewer options,
- has become more convenient or financially beneficial or
- children have become involved and it is to their benefit for the couple to marry.
Whatever the reasons, the spouse who did not want to commit always carries some level of resentment because they feel that they have been coerced into marrying. In many cases, these feeling fester, damage the relationship and cause it to end.
A young couple is in love but each is struggling financially. They think that if they move in together, it will cost them less to live and allow them to save for the big wedding they have dreamed of having.
This may seem a good idea, and sometimes it works. However, once people start living together they see sides of each other that are not always the most pleasant.
- If they are mature and are able to accept the flaws in each other, they usually will be able to follow through with their plans.
- If not, the relationship will fall apart.
They may find, for example, that one is a spendthrift while the other is not, one is neat about his habits but the other is a slob, or one of them has an addiction that negatively affects the relationship.
While it is better to learn about these things prior to marrying, it also creates the risk of losing the entire relationship due to the ease of dissolution. Had the couple married, they would have been more likely to attempt to work on resolutions to their problems.
A divorced older man becomes involved with a much younger woman. She is attractive and pleasant to be with, but he doesn’t love her. She, on the other hand, thinks it would be nice to move in with this man because it would save her a lot of money. She might even be able to talk him into marrying her. However, he has vowed never to marry again and does not want to have another person involved in dealing with his college aged children.
He asks her to move into his home and allows her to do some decorating so that she can feel comfortable. It is much easier to have a built in companion at his age than to start dating, so the expense of keeping this woman in his home is worthwhile to him.
As time passes, the woman becomes increasingly insistent about marriage, but he absolutely refuses. Now they have created a contentious living environment, but he can’t just “put her out” due to feelings of guilt, and she left with nowhere to go!
If this situation continues long enough, the woman has given this man the last best years of her life and has greatly limited any chances she may have for finding a new relationship that might end in marriage.
He on the other hand, must tolerate the conditions he has created, but allows them to continue because he feels he has no other choice.
In the end, living together has given each person some benefits but has also created a great deal of permanent discomfort.
I know one couple who continued on this way for more than 20 years. She finally had enough and left him. A year later, he married another woman!
Two people who are in their early twenties, are very mature and are financially stable fall in love. They make it a point to spend a good deal of time together in order to know one another as well as possible.
Neither of them wants to have children, so they see no reason to marry. They know that they can live very well because they have similar values and interests and believe that they don’t need a piece of paper to legitimize their relationship.
They do, however, employ an attorney to create wills, powers of attorney, living wills and other documents that will protect them in the case of illness of disability.
They also find the smartest and most secure ways of doing things such as setting up bank accounts, investing and purchasing real estate.
This couple has every reason to believe that their relationship will succeed because they have done all they can to make sure they’ll be happy and secure together.
Chances are that they will do well and that the relationship will last a long time. This is because they took the time to think things through and make sure that they are compatible.
Their reasons for not marrying are good, but are not written in stone. They may decide down the road that they want to get married, but if they do, it is likely that the marriage will do well.
Things to Consider Before Living Together
These examples point out that it is the reasons for living together and the intelligent planning for doing so are what make this type of lifestyle work.
In truth, choosing to live together is just as big a commitment as choosing to marry. So, if your reasons for doing so are not sound, it just is not going to work out.
There is always going to be risk, no matter your choice. If you take your time, really get to know your partner, make sure you have similar values and tastes and are in full agreement about the lifestyle you are choosing, you can eliminate many problems.
Divorces are expensive and often nasty, but ending any long-term relationship can be the same. There has been more than one situation where one partner has sued another for palimony for ending a live-in relationship. The best example is the situation that occurred between Cling Eastwood and Sondra Locke.
This, those who think living together allows them to escape the problems that come with failed marriages need to reconsider their views.
This is especially true if children become involved. If you parent a child and your relationship ends, you still will have to pay child support until the child reaches adulthood.
The bottom line is that there are no guarantees in life. Both lifestyles can succeed or end and either can be wonderful or horrible.
This is what you need to understand about living together, and the same is true for getting married, so think carefully before you proceed.
Do you believe that living together is a better choice for a couple than marrying?
© 2019 Sondra Rochelle