Living Together Before Marriage


As the rate of divorce soars and as increasing numbers of marriages
disintegrate, living together has become the popular alternative to many people
in north America. Expersts estimate that "roughly 2.2 million people are
currently sharing bed and board in a live-in arrangement, this is approximately
1% of the total population."("Family." Comptoms Encyclopedia. 1992 ed.)
Living together, more formally known as non marital cohabitation, is an emerging
lifestyle. In fact, "More than one fourth of all unmarried couples living
together in the early 1980\'s were between 25 and 34 years old, and an additional
19 percent were 45 and over."("Today\'s Families."Detroit Free Press 18 October
1995: B17.) Although living together is not a recent invention, the relationship
has yet to be legitimized with a respectable name. Existing terms such as
"shacking up" or "living in sin" are just some of the crude names being tagged
to people living together. Living together can be valuable a substitute for
marriage, a cur e-all for marital problems, and a solution to the problem of
frequent divorce.

A popular rationale for living together is that it is an ideal way to
have a "try out." This trial marriage is a result of the ever increasing divorce
rate. Many couples are afraid of marriage and decide to live together with the
intention to persue marriage if the temporary arrangement is successful. The
couples hope to "minimize their chances of a potential disastrous marriage; any
conflicting attitudes toward social activities, economic arrangements, or
domestic chores will be discovered and hopefully resolved while the couple live
together." (Carter, Sharon. "Trial Marriage". Ladies\' Home Journal 14 (May
1993): 12-13.) If an unsolveable conflict arises, the couple can cancel their
wedding plans and escape the painful exercise of divorce. Living together
ultimately can test the couple\'s compatibility and have them really get to know
each other. Although evidence suggests that "couples who live together do not
necessarily have more or less successful marriages than couples who don\'t live
together before the wedding, studies show that non-marital cohabitors are more
realistic about their demands and expectations of marriage.("Ross, Eshleman J.
The Family: An Introduction. 5th ed. Detroit: Allyn,1988) Living together
couples who eventually get married tend to have a better foundation for their
marriage due to their practice from living together.

In many cases, living together can have many legal and economic benefits.
Living together is conducted with minimal legal interference, therefore if the
relationship fails, separating is quick, unhampered by legal details. It would
be wrong to think that all people living are free from legal interference. In
most provinces "only short term relationships are unaffected by existing
legislation. Couples who have cohabited for several years have significally more
legal rights and responsibilities, depending on their place of residence.
Several provinces have recently introduced laws that give non-marital cohabitors
certain legal rights" (Carter, Sharon. "Trial Marriage". Ladies\' Home Journal
14 (May 1993): 12-13.)

It is important that couples understand the legal ramifications of living
together. Those who wish to avoid the legal liabilities of living together or
wish to establish property rights or other responsibilities should enter a
cohabitation agreement with their lover. Furthermore, a couple\'s finical
situation may discourage thoughts of marriage. Some people may be trapped on a
minimal income and may be forced to choose between marriage and income due to
benefits or pensions from former or deceased spouses that may be discontinued if
that individual gets remarried. "Rather than marry and impoverish their incomes,
a number of couples choose to cohabit and pool their financial
resources."(Pearce, Jack M. Modern Day Marriages. New York: Abel-Hils,1990.)
Other economic advantages that are present in a live-in relationship is the
sharing of food, rent or mortgage, and other housing expenses. This sharing of
expenses can be very beneficial to a young couple who may not be financially
well off.

For many, non-marital cohabitation is used by the couple as a private
support system, providing emotional, and physical support. The emotional and
physical support can be a valuable asset to the couple as many cohabitors are
young and trying to find their own niche in the difficult career world. The
support that an individual can get from their partner can be very comforting to
them, and can be a good stepping stone from dependence on their families to
independence. Many experts claim that " the loosely structured arrangement
instills a sense of independence while establishing resources of support;
marital decisions are postponed until a greater degree of maturity and
occupational independence is secured" (Pearce, Jack M. Modern Day Marriages. New
York: Abel-Hils,1990.) The security from the emotional and physical support
experienced by many cohabitors can help