According to the statistics, the number of cohabitating couples in our country firmly increases: in 1960 there were only 439,000 of unmarried cohabitants, and in 2000 this number came to 4,736,000 people. Currently, 60-75% of first marriages and 80-85% of re-marriages take place after some period of living together (School Health and Safety). This work is an attempt to examine and discuss the differences between marriage and cohabitation as two most popular forms of interpersonal relationship in our modern society.
The first difference is formal procedures and requirements to enter or stop one or another type of relationship. There are no official requirements for people, who want to start or stop living together. However, entering a marriage requires such formalities (depending on the state laws) as a waiting period, medical tests, minimal ages, an official ceremony, receiving marriage certificate, etc. The same can be said about ending a marriage, which has to be formalized with a long and exhausting procedure of legal divorce.
Another legal difference is connected with property relations between people who are officially married or just live together. A married couple is supposed to possess their property together and apply legal methods to divide their property in case of a separation. Since cohabitation is not a legal union, there are no legally prescribed procedures for dividing the property between cohabiting partners in case of a breakup.
Finally, there’s a difference in legal responsibilities and obligations of those married or cohabiting couples who have children. The offspring born to a married couple become official children of the husband and wife. In such case both parents are obliged to support their children financially till the children reach some certain age. However, in the case of cohabitation the male partner has neither legal rights for parenting nor a legal obligation to support the offspring.
There is another group of differences, which is connected with social consequences of marriage and cohabitation. Empirical researches show that cohabiting partners have higher tendency to separate (Ward). Also, married people usually have better opportunities for professional development. But, certainly, a key difference is the absence of commitments in cohabiting relationship, which often brings to various negative outcomes.
Some differences are reflecting economic sides of the issue. Specialists found out that married couples usually have better financial situation (Ward). On the other hand, male partners in cohabiting relationships are less stimulated to find some sources of extra income, to earn more money and to make savings or investments. Correspondently, children of unmarried couples are usually supported with poorer financial resources.
Finally, there are a number of differences connected with health effects and psychological conditions of married and cohabiting couples. Specialists report that married people express more satisfaction with their relationship and have lower tendency to feel disappointed, depressed, angry, suicidal, etc. At the same time, cohabiting partners are reported to be under much higher risks of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as other mental or emotional abuse (Ward).
Undoubtedly, by some reasons marriage may not be a preferable decision for a contemporary couple, and, therefore, the two people can rather opt to live together and give up all the benefits of legal marriage. Nevertheless, when making a choice between marriage and cohabitation it is crucial to consider all important advantages and disadvantages of both types of union, as well as to find out what human values are involved in the relationship between two individuals.
“Cohabitation vs. Marriage.” Georgia State University. School Health and Safety. Ed. Sandra Owen. 30 May 2007 <http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwche/cohabitation.ppt >.
“Marriage vs. Cohabitation.” Find Law for the Public. Thomson FindLaw Internet Resource. 30 May 2007 <http://family.findlaw.com/marriage/living-together/cohabitation-comparison.html>.
Ward, Nathaniel. “Marriage vs. Cohabitation.” My Heritage. Heritage Foundation. 13 Feb. 2007. 30 May 2007 <http://www.myheritage.org/Features/Archive/2007/021307_Marriage.asp >.
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