In the past, couples were frowned upon for moving in together prior to marriage. Be it for religious reasons or societal norms, couples waited until they were married to live together. Nowadays, it is common for couples to live together first. In fact, the rates of cohabitation, while un-wed, have increased by more than 900 percent in the last 50 years alone. And with that said, this new lifestyle change also brings about adaptations in how relationships are viewed, as well as the importance placed on marriage.
Pros of Cohabitation
There are several benefits to moving in together prior to marriage. When we date, we tend to show our partners the good side of ourselves when together, and then we hide the bad parts when apart. Cohabitation allows each of us to see the other as a whole person, flaws and all. It also allows us to figure out how to resolve a relationship conflict in a healthy way, without the ability to flee if the argument does not go our way.
Cohabitation also helps to dissolve the myth that once a couple says “I do” and then move in together, married life will be paradise without any work or effort needed to continue to maintain the relationship. In cohabitation, couples experience how day-to-day life will be, should they decide to marry. However, it is without the legal or financial obligations placed upon them under a marital contract.
There has also been a trend in older couples, 50 and above, living together instead of marrying for reasons of companionship. Many of these couples have been married before and have grown children, and cohabitation is just a way of enjoying the company of the other person without the pressures of heading down the aisle. Older couples see this as a good alternative to spending their senior years living alone.
Cons of Cohabitation
Those against cohabitation believe it is a disservice to women to live with a partner prior to marriage. Opponents suggest it signals a woman's willingness to settle for less in her relationship as opposed to what she really wants, which is always the end game of marriage. However, this argument is not without flaws.
First, it presumes that all women want to get married and that all men do not. Next, it implies that one party has more control over the relationship than another, and that moving in together is a power play in the relationship. Some argue that cohabitation, just to save on finances, can also be a bad idea. In fact, if a couple decides to move in too early in a relationship to cut costs, it may actually end up putting more strain on the relationship.
Best Practices for Cohabitation
If you are considering cohabitation, set clear expectations of what you and your partner want from the relationship once you move in together, and also what cohabitation means to your relationship. If the goal is eventually to get married, say it upfront so that neither one is unclear where the relationship is headed.
Next, keep finances separate, whenever possible. Although most couples will likely share utility or other household bills, it is advisable to hold off on co-signing a major financial purchase like a house or car title. If you decide to marry, there will be plenty of time to commingle your assets and file joint taxes together. However, should the relationship dissolve, having separate finances is one less headache to have to go through during a break-up.
Finally, learn to identify the red flags in the relationship while you are living together. When a couple sees each other every day, and has to go through the challenges of sharing a living space, each sees how the other deals with conflict, change, and stress. Living together can be a healthy way to discover whether you are in fact compatible for marriage prior to committing for life.
Legal Resources in Wheaton, Illinois
If you or someone you know is seeking family law support services in Wheaton, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys at Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today.