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Legal Protection For Cohabitating Couples

Why Straight Cohabitating Couples Don't Deserve to Be Treated Like Married Couples

Last week, the British president of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall, said the UK needs legislation to protect the 2.3 million unmarried, cohabitating couples if they split up. Not to get all conservative, but I always thought the whole point of marriage, in the most unromantic sense, is to legally bind assets and receive protection if the marriage dissolves. It's the legal fine line between being married and living together.

Same-sex couples who can't marry aside (they deserve protection), I don't see legislation like this coming to the US anytime soon, nor should it. However, it does stir up age-old questions about cohabitation. Janet Street Porter writes in the Daily Mail, "Cohabiting is a status that favors men — that’s why so many of them refuse to marry and women comply in order to remain with the person they love."

This echoes the controversial interview we did with Mark Regnerus, author of Premarital Sex in America last week. Read what he said below.


"In the majority of cases, moving in together doesn’t achieve permanence. And yet most emerging adults will cohabit. . . But like so many aspects of contemporary relationships, cohabitation is easier on men, and its popularity is a reflection of their strength in the sexual marketplace. Cohabitation is a win-win situation for men: more stable access to sex, without the expectations or commitments of marital responsibilities."

We all know couples who cohabit and go on to have successful marriages, and both Porter and Regnerus acknowledge it, but the important distinction both Porter and Regnerus make is bird's-eye view vs. street view (think statistics vs. anecdotal evidence): more cohabitations end than marriages. That's a quantifiable fact.

Blame it on men, blame it on women, or call it a draw — I don't care — but cohabitation is a less serious agreement than marriage. It's like saying "I'm here as long as it makes me happy," where marriage (ideally) says "we're here to make each other happy." We can all name couples, married and unmarried, who defy this stereotype, because every relationship is a little selfish and a little selfless. Only the two people in it can decide if they've struck the right balance. But whether they have or haven't, if cohabitating straight couples want the legal benefits of marriage, then they should just get married.

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JamieRunning JamieRunning 6 years
In Canada cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples after being together a specified amount of time. They are called common-law marriages. It is interesting to look further into the statistics before forming an opinion. If a cohabiting couple doesn't end up marrying, or marries and later divorces the amount of time they spent with their partner should be compared with the amount of time someone is married prior to divorce. For Example; Couple 1 is common-law for 5 years, marries and divorces a year later. Couple 2 doesn't live together prior to marriage. Marries and divorces 3 years later. You can't assume that Couple 2 has been more successful than Couple 1. This is one of the major flaws with the research so I'd hold off on stating that research supports whatever view you hold.
Epicdoodle Epicdoodle 6 years
I don't think this article is condemning living together, its just saying is it fair for cohabitating straight couples to get the same legal benefits as married couples?! I actually agree with the article, if you decide to move in together and not get married thats fine but don't expect to get legal protection for your assets if you end up splitting. If you want that kind of legislation than you should get married, if not, like onlysourcherry mentioned, be ready to face the consequences.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
I've seen so, so many girlfriends get emotionally and financially screwed over living with boyfriends, which is one of the many reasons I'm choosing to wait until engagement to move in with my boyfriend. That said, I agree that this law negates the entire purpose o f living with someone without a commitment, and that the government does not need to get involved in people's private lives. If you choose to move in without any sort of legal commitment, you have to be ready to face the consequences.
Pistil Pistil 6 years
I don't know about legal protection for cohabiting couples, but I don't understand all the negativity towards living together... I wonder why it might be easier to move out than to go through a divorce.
bryseana bryseana 6 years
I don't think it's a guy thing. I prefer it over marriage. The thought of being legally bound to someone makes me uncomfortable.
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 6 years
I'd much rather move in with someone and realize they can't fulfill my needs in a relationship then marry them and then just have to deal with it or divorce. I don't think it necessarily favors men, because women can be miserable in marriages as well, and having this time to see how the men really behaves in the home is a huge advantage. This whole "Let's get married and THEN find out each others' flaws" seems really ridiculous to me...
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