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Difference Between Marriage and Cohabitation

Group Therapy: What's the Difference Between Marriage and Cohabitation?

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our TrèsSugar Community. Add your advice in the comments!

Besides the legal stuff (I don't care about religion so don't really need that kind of input).

Two days ago I wrote a post about how my boyfriend doesn't feel ready for marriage:

wrote that I should decide if getting married is that important to me and wanting getting married for the right reasons.

Well, the only friend I have that first lived with her boyfriend and four years later got married told me that it's the same thing. Two years later they are heading to divorce, but not because their relationship changed with marriage, but because he was pressuring her to have kids and just as the baby was born he started to change, doesn't help her with his kid, and acts like a total ass around everything that has to do with his son.


I have three other friends that are currently living together with their partners. Two of them have great relationships and the other one . . . let's just say she is not the most mentally healthy person and I can understand why they have so many problems (actually, it amazes me that he's still with her).

Of the two friends that got married the traditional way, one of them is really happy two years after the wedding, and the other one is probably going to separate from her husband of 11 months because she is a hard working type of person, while her husband is more of the passive kind and she can't deal with that anymore. (They were together for seven years, she knew what she was going into.)

So, what I'm asking is for your opinion in this subject. For what I see, if a relationship is doomed to failure, it doesn't matter if you are married or not, it's not going to last.

Thanks for your responses!!!

Have a dilemma of your own? Post it anonymously to Group Therapy for advice, and check out what else is happening in the TrèsSugar Community.

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YukiNoOujo YukiNoOujo 5 years
I think the main problem here is that whenever people get married and start to have issues they quickly opt for divorce (instead of counseling or just trying to work things out.)  I think the sooner people stop considering divorce a reasonable option, the sooner that the divorce rate will go down because people will be opting to actually work out their problems.   I'm not saying divorce shouldn't be allowed at all.  Honestly, if I get married and my husband cheats on me I'm probably going to want a divorce.  But all because your husband starts acting differently or you realize later that you can't deal with something (something that you 'knew what you were getting into') I don't think that is a good reason for divorce and in that case the fault is all your own if the relationship doesn't work out because you didn't want to put the effort into to repair it...     Just my 2 cents.  I hope I didn't offend anyone ^.^ 
karlotta karlotta 5 years
By the way, I have no idea what Jazzy Tummy is talking about. My boyfriend never told me he'd "marry me in 8 years". I've never been crazy about the idea of marriage - while I'm not opposed to it, I've also got the philosophy of "why change something that works?". My only concern with him is delaying children, but that's not what this conversation is about, and it has nothing to do with commitment, rather with maturity. And I really hate when people project intentions upon me that are so completely false - that's just a wild interpretation based on the cliché that women are desperate to get a ring from a guy who's waiting for something better. I'm tired of having to justify my choices and opinions. I find this forum filled with very intolerant, narrow-minded people who think in clichés and pre-established concepts. While it's sometimes fun to try and shake things up by coming around and opening a debate, it's also often a terrible reminder of how close-minded the world really is. Your world anyway. Cheers everyone - good luck with all of that.
mnp mnp 5 years
You're right. If a relationship is doomed to fail it doesn't matter if you're married or not. Not everyone wants to be married with 2.5 kids. It's your decision as a couple. // @spacekatgal and jazzytummyl. You're both awesome. =)
BiWife BiWife 5 years
People change. I used to think I wanted kids. Now I know better about myself and wouldn't even think about starting a family. Nothing wrong with that, it's a person's prerogative to grow and change. If someone doesn't want to get married, they shouldn't get married, regardless of the reason why. People that don't want kids shouldn't be trying to have kids. People that don't want to start their own business shouldn't do so. It's common sense. If it's a big deal to you and not your partner (in any of the previous scenarios) or vice versa, it's worth some serious discussion and consideration of the other person's view. If you can't talk things out regarding whether or not to get married, you probably can't handle the things that will inevitably need to be talked out during your married life.
pax4pax pax4pax 5 years
Wonderful insights, jazzytummy. Hopefully, the man will be willing to pay his life down for the one he loves. If he hedges on making a legal commitment, I doubt that willingness is there.
jazzytummy jazzytummy 5 years
Who wants to be with somebody that wants a quick and easy way out? I remember when I first came on this board 3 years ago. Karlotta posted alot back then about her issues with her boyfriend not being ready to get married. I even remember, because it was so strange, that she posted her boyfriend told her it would be another 8 YEARS before he would consider marrying her. I remember that, because at the time, I thought it was bullshit and 8 years was so arbitrary. It was also pretty clear that she was heading into or already in her early 30's, and the biological clock was ticking and this was a concern. Now fast forward 3 years, no ring, no wedding, and now Karlotta you are "fine" with that. That's great that you have weathered the storm with your boyfriend, but the bottom line is, if the guy had asked you to marry him three years ago or even asked you now, you would JUMP on it. I am not saying that you should want to get married, but at least be honest about your history with this guy. You DID want to marry him, and I think you still do. You've chosen to go along with his wishes, okay, but don't talk about marriage being just a piece of paper because you didn't get what you wanted. I would wager most women that use this phrase just haven't been asked yet by the man they love. Marriage is a leap of faith. It is a risk, emotional, financial, legal, everything. The fact that two people want to at least try to make that commitment speaks volumes.
hottopiccasey hottopiccasey 5 years
My mother and her boyfriend have been together for a long time and don't plan on marrying. They're very happy together. The majority of gay couples can't get married and have been together 20+ years, so yes, I do know of people who live together without being married for many years. I agree with karlotta.
Pistil Pistil 5 years
Any pair of immature individuals can get married. The successful relationship you've built is the accomplishment. That being said, eventually I will go to city hall and sign a legal document. OP, you want marriage, he doesn't. Unless the two of you can come up with a common goal to work towards, I don't see it working out.
bryseana bryseana 5 years
I share karlotta's philosophy. However, I do respect people who get married. I think it's a beautiful thing.
Natty85 Natty85 5 years
when in a relationship, it's important not to rush anything. This includes, marriage and having kids. Being pressured into having children is really wrong because having a child is a life changing deal. If your partner loves and understands you, they will wait because marriage and kids should be forever. Marriage, is a very old tradition. You shouldn't have to feel like there is a need to get married.
karlotta karlotta 5 years
Thank you Testadura - especially for bringing the conversation back to the OP, with such clarity and objectivity. I agree with your take 100%. I deeply believe "to each their own". Sometimes that's a difficult thing to do in a relationship when both partners have differing views, needs, and emotional backgrounds. But what matters most is not always to agree but to come to a better understanding of the other person and find a solution that works for both, even if it means a compromise. I see a lot of posts here from women who flip out when their boyfriend isn't ready for marriage according to their timing. What's more important in the end - getting married by a certain deadline, or being with the person you love and respect? Let things come, evolve, develop. Growing together and building a solid foundation is what's the most important for now. If he's the type of guy who believes in marriage, he'll come to be ready at his own pace, and it doesn't mean anything's wrong or the relationship will fail. Good luck :)
testadura67 testadura67 5 years
Actually spacekatgal, it sounds like you're flippantly dismissing karlotta, and she's simply defending herself. Just an objective point of view.
testadura67 testadura67 5 years
To the OP: it appears from all the posts that the difference between marriage and cohabitation is what you make of it. Check the legal differences depending on your country and state of residence, but those are not necessarily within your control. But as far as the relationship, which I think was the real question here, it is what you make it. If you and your boyfriend feel like a marriage will strengthen your relationship and help it last, then do it. If you are concerned about how it will affect the dynamic between you, then hold off. If you intend to be together forever anyway, waiting an extra year or two to make it a legal promise isn't going to kill you. But your relationship is what you make it, married, cohabitating, or long distance.
karlotta karlotta 5 years
My best friend has been cohabitating with her children's father for 14 years, and I know many married couples who are deeply unhappy and don't find a way out because divorce is too expensive. I even know one that has been sleeping in separate bedrooms and not had sex for 30 years. Yay. Sound great. I see a million reasons why people would want to bypass marriage that have nothing to do with keeping an eye out for a better option. I waited 27 years to meet THE guy, and I haven't looked at another one since. He's my pain in the ass, and I don't want any other. And he absolutely feels the same way about me. But we have the right to be anti-establishment; to feel that marriage is what sometimes leads relationships to fail because the couple dissolves into complacency; to immensely appreciate every day that the other person is there of their own accord and not because the law forces them to or because getting out would be too difficult financially or administratively; to enjoy the freedom of choice, even if that choice is sometimes just as hard as for the married couples (we've had our rough patches); to not understand that need that people have to do just as everybody else; to refuse to have the government put a stamp on our love; to simply not see the point (really, zooming out from mankind's idiosyncracies, what's the point??) - and again, we'll probably do it when we have kids, but more because we want to be able to cross borders with them separately without being accused of kidnapping.
atraditionalist atraditionalist 5 years
Also: have you ever known a couple who has cohabited together since cohabitation became popular in the 80s/90s? I don't. But I know people who have been married for that long
atraditionalist atraditionalist 5 years
if it's just a piece of paper then why not get it? There's always something holding people back from it and that's that they're settling or waiting for something else. Maybe both parties feel that way maybe it's just one but I'm always suspicious of couples that live together for a long time and don't get married. I think they're usually just biding their time until someone ends things
karlotta karlotta 5 years
(and now, we're speaking about marriage as a protection for after a separation. So where's the level of commitment in that?)
karlotta karlotta 5 years
I live in a country where unmarried couples don't have that problem, so I guess the situation is different. If he were in an accident tomorrow, I could see him at the hospital - even though I was just thinking lately that we should get something drawn up in case we have to make medical decisions for each other (I'm not sure we can, I'd have to check), and of course testaments because our possessions would go to our siblings as it stands (our meager possessions!). So, yeah, it does imply some paperwork, I suppose, but so does marriage! Holland is a very liberal country where free unions have pretty much the same rights as married couples. Also, if we separated, I wouldn't want his money. I don't want it now that we're together - I can make my own, thank you. And because I picked a very honest and decent man, if we separated after having kids, he'd pay his share of their upbringing. So the financial aspect is non important to me, but I understand how that could be very particular and not everybody's case.
karlotta karlotta 5 years
We have the fierce emotional bond that we are partners, no matter what. 50% of married people end up NOT. So I really believe that what is important is your level of commitment, not the legalities. I understand what you mean, but it's not a matter of you having the Fendi bag and me a knock off. Yours is a Fendi, mine is by an independent designer. They're just as lovely and strong and nicely finished - but they fit our needs and personalities better, in a different way. I don't think of myself as superior, and married people shouldn't either. And we shouldn't introduce one option as being the best one, as each has their pros and cons and it all depends on the person, the relationship, the shared views the couple may have on the world. The OP was asking if a "cohabitating" relationship could be as strong as a marriage. I deeply believe so, after having gone through long distance, 3 inter-continental moves, unemployment, the gruesome illness and death of my father, and especially the evolution of our lives and selves from our mid-twenties to our mid-thirties, which is a crucial turning point in any personal development - and having found the love and bond to make it work and stick it out. This is where I think it's important to note that commitment is about what you feel and what you do - not about a ceremony, a piece of paper, and a status. Some marriages mean nothing, and some relationships will last forever. There is no formula.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 5 years
I think it depends on how you see it. A lot of people take living together lightly. They believe that you don't have to work as hard to make a relationship work, but for me, living together is the same as deciding to get married. You have decided to share part of your life with that person, share your space, to become a team. It's not longer your space or his pace, it's ours. And it's as hard as marriage. I don't take living together lightly, and people shouldn't. It's not healthy to move out if things don't work out, and I also don't believe that a piece of paper means you are more committed to the person you are with or that you will try harder to make things work. If I'm not happy in that relationship, a paper will not abstain me from leaving that person. However, in the legal sense, marriage does bring a lot of benefits, and it helps you protect yourself and your assets. Because if you live with someone for ten years and the relationship ends, you have no benefits if you are not married or if that person dies. In other words, in the emotional and commitment sense marriage and living together is the same for me.
karlotta karlotta 5 years
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize your way was the best way. I apologize. We've been together six years and plan on staying forever (plan to - but even married people can't promise it. Half of them did, and look where it got them). We also plan on continuing to work at it with everything we've got, and getting through hurdles, obstacles, and shit times together. To us, what you do when you are free is much stronger and true than what you do when you feel obligated. We have every right to feel that way, and don't ask you to do the same. However, we're going to feel entitled to express it on a public forum. So yep, to me and my BF, marriage is just that : a piece of paper. And you have absolutely no right to come up to me on your married high horse and tell me that I'm wrong. To each their own. You're happy married, I think it's fantastic. But don't go look down on my relationship because I didn't do it your way. That's just plain intolerant and close-minded, and you're better than that.I usually find you quite cool, but this time you're pretty darn self-righteous, spacekat.
pax4pax pax4pax 5 years
+++ forspacekatgal!!!!
karlotta karlotta 5 years
My incentive for working hard at my relationship with my live-in boyfriend is my love for him, not a piece of paper that for some obscure psychological reason gives people a stronger sense of commitment. What we like about not being married is that being there is a daily choice. We are very committed, very much in love, and have overcome very rough patches too - and I think the only thing marriage would change is maybe giving us a sense of complacency (and my last name.) I enjoy the fact that I am free. Don't get me wrong, we're extremely loyal and devoted, we take good care of each other, we're there during the bad times and support each other through thick and thin. All in all, we consider each other married. But we don't care about making it official - as long as we don't have a family. We'll probably tie the knot when we have kids, mostly for legal and practical reasons, and because marriage is what seals a "new family" along with the children. So is that piece of paper important? I asked and still ask myself that question sometimes. But 1. I work in the wedding industry, and big to-dos really gross me out; and 2. why change something that works? What if it makes us feel stuck suddenly, like we're around by obligation rather than out of our own devotion and commitment? And what if love runs out - why stay stuck because some social format dictates it? Ending it would be simpler, not as ugly, not as damaging, not as expensive.
ejr ejr 5 years
i actually disagree. if your boyfriend is just saying he's not ready, that doesn't mean he never will want to get married. i'm living with my boyfriend now, and for a little while i was really feeling like i was ready to get married and was dropping hints. then, i realized that being "married" is not what's important. if your boyfriend is committed to you, if he makes you happy, if you love him and he loves you, if your family and friends are accepting of your relationship, then you should just be content with how things are for now. i think that if you are committed to each other, then you're committed to each other regardless of if you are married or not. clearly we see all the time that being married doesn't guarantee that you will both be happy or that neither of you will cheat or that your relationship won't end. life is too short to spend it stressed should instead just spend it with someone who makes you happy. the only caveat i have is that if your boyfriend NEVER wants to get married, it's definitely a discussion that you need to have and you need to consider whether or not you are willing to make that sacrifice to be with him. but if he's just saying that he's not ready now, then give him time and enjoy the ride.
kurniakasih kurniakasih 5 years
If there's a 'Like' Button with spacekatgal's post, I'd click it. :D
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