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 cure-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 them concentrate on his or her career aspirations without:
the frustration of divided energies among dating, career development, and economical survival. The burden of living can bee shared as the couple persue personal goal and ambitions. Living together, for example, can provide a harried student with emotional, physical, and sometimes economic support from a sympathetic partner. (Pearce, Jack M. Modern Day Marriages. New York: Abel-Hils,1990.)
Finally, more and more are turning to the idea of living together as the emotional, physical, social, economic, and legal benefits are much better alternative than the consequences that can arise from a failed marriage. Certainly, "not all couples choose to include living together as a temporary stage in their courtship, yet the option to cohabit is becoming increasingly popular."(Groode, Williams J. "Marriage" Comptoms Interactive Encyclopedia. (1996 ed.)
The freedom associated with living together is an important aspect, because after a period of time the couple may decide to marry, to end the relationship, or simple continue living together. As future trends continue, and more marriages fail, the number of couples who live together are going to increase due to the valuable benefits.