Marriage VS Live-In Relationship: Everything You Wanted To Know

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Updated On: December 29, 2023
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Relationship dynamics have undergone a paradigm shift in the new millennium. In the past, couple relationships typically referred to a heterosexual alliance culminating in marriage. Today, that spectrum has expanded astronomically. One trend that has fast caught on in new-age relationships is that of couples living together without tying the knot, which brings us to the perennial marriage vs live-in relationship debate.

Are there clear differences between the two? Do both feature fights about wet towels on the bed? Or is one of them the clear winner, a utopia where everything is rainbows and butterflies? While we’re pretty sure that the wet towels on the bed are going to annoy any couple at least once in their lives, the general differences between them might seem elusive at first glance.

Since you’re essentially living with your partner in both cases, you might even think that the differences between marriage vs living together aren’t too pronounced. But when you get into the nitty-gritty of it, the clear differences might surprise you. Let’s take a look at things you should know, about each of these kinds of relationships.

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Differences Between Marriage And Live-in Relationship 

Today, living-in is as commonplace as getting married, if not more. Studies have found that marriage rates have been gradually decreasing while the rate of live-in relationships is skyrocketing. Almost every other couple in a committed long-term relationship, cohabitates today. Some then take the plunge into marriage. To others, the idea becomes redundant since they’re already sharing their lives and doing so without getting involved in the formalities and obligations that come with the institution of marriage.

However, the key difference between marriage and a live-in relationship lies in the legal rights that you can claim as someone’s spouse versus as partners living together.

If you and your partner find yourselves at that crossroad in your relationship where you’re contemplating whether you need to get married or if merely living together is enough, weighing the pros and cons of marriage vs a live-in relationship can help. Here are some facts to consider when making the ‘marriage or live-in relationship’ choice.

1. Relationship dynamics

Marriage is an alliance between families, whereas a live-in relationship is essentially between the two partners. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your outlook in life and what you want from your relationship. If you cringe at the idea of playing the daughter or son-in-law, a live-in relationship may be the way to go. But if you have a traditional outlook toward relationships, marriage may make you feel more secure.

2. Children in marriage vs live-in relationship

If having children is in your life’s vision, then that becomes an important aspect to factor in when making the marriage vs live-in relationship choice. Legally speaking, cohabiting partners do get legal influence over the lives of their children.

Bringing a child into a live-in relationship can prove to be a complicated affair, if things go south between you and your partner. On the other hand, in a marriage, a child’s rights are fully secured. But should a marriage end, custody battles often become a sore point in divorce proceedings.

3. Commitment is a key difference between marriage and live-in relationship

Research shows that married couples are more likely to report overall satisfaction and a greater level of commitment than those in a live-in relationship.

Research also shows that cohabitation is not always a well-thought-out decision. It might start with leaving a toothbrush at each other’s apartment, to spending most of your days there. One day you realize you want to move in with them, but conversations about commitment, the future and life-goals haven’t been had. So, from the very beginning, a live-in relationship starts suffering from commitment issues.

When you’re contemplating the all-important marriage or live-in relationship decision, the societal and legal perceptions are crucial aspects to mull over.

4. Better health is a factor to consider in the marriage or live-in relationship choice

benefits of being married vs living together: being healthier
Being married might just be better for your health

According to Psychology Today, research indicates that marriage can promote better mental and physical health among partners as opposed to staying single or being in live-in relationships.

Married couples also experience a lower incidence of chronic diseases as well as a higher recovery rate , which is probably because they enjoy greater social acceptance and experience emotional stability in the traditionally approved institution of marriage. It’s hard to pinpoint the reasons behind why this happens, but the stats don’t lie.

Related Reading: Survival Guide: Dos And Don’ts Of Being In A Live-In Relationship

Marriage vs Live-in Relationship – Facts to Consider

Relationships come in all forms and shapes today, and there is no handbook to ascertain if one is better than the other. More often than not, that decision depends on your individual choices and circumstances. That said, the marriage vs live-in relationship choice is one that you’ll need to live with for a long time to come, and as such, that decision should not be made lightly. Here are some facts to base your choice on:

Facts about live-in relationships:

Live-in relationships are becoming increasingly common among young couples today. A survey conducted by the CDC in the US points to a significant rise in the number of cohabitating couples in the age group of 18 to 44 years. The opportunity to get to know one’s partner without entering a legally binding relationship is one of the biggest advantages of live-in relationships. To ascertain whether this is the ideal choice for you, here are some cohabitation pros and cons to consider:

1. There is no formal requirement in a live-in relationship 

Any two consenting adults can decide to live together at any point in their relationship. There are no prerequisites to formalize such an arrangement. All you need is a place to move into and you’re good to go. The entire process of getting married might be enough to dissuade many from it entirely. Who wants to get the government involved when all you have to do is start keeping your stuff in your partner’s home, right?

For many people, this is the biggest thing to consider while thinking about marriage vs living together pros and cons. On paper, it may seem like getting the best out of married life without ever going through the hassle of getting married.

2. Cohabitation can be ended informally

Since there is no legal agreement in the relationship, it can be ended as easily as it can begin. The two partners can mutually decide to end the relationship, move out and move on. Or one of the partners can check out of the relationship, causing it to end.

Even though there is no long-drawn process to end a live-in relationship, the emotional toll it takes on you can be comparable to going through a divorce. When considering marriage vs long-term relationships, perhaps it’s because of the legalities involved in ending a marriage that gives people an extra motive to work towards fixing it.

3. Division of assets is up to the partners 

There are no legal guidelines to govern the terms of live-in relationships. This remains one of the starkest committed relationships vs marriage differences. Our laws haven’t been amended to keep up with the changing times, and courts are for now addressing disputes between cohabitating couples on a case-on-case basis.

Should you and your partner decide to end the relationship, the division of assets will have to be done through the mutual consent of both parties. In case of a dispute or deadlock, you can seek legal recourse. This is considered one of the key disadvantages of live-in relationships.

4. There is a provision to leave an inheritance

The live-in relationship rules do not cover inheritance in the event of death. If one of the partners dies, the joint property will be automatically inherited by the surviving partner.

However, if the property is legally owned by only one partner, they will need to make a will to ensure that the other is provided for. In the absence of a will, the asset will be inherited by the next of kin. The surviving partner would have no rights to the estate unless his or her name was mentioned in the partner’s will.

5. Joint bank account in a live-in relationship

marriage vs living together pros and cons: finances
Discussing finances with your partner might be trickier in a live-in relationship

Setting up joint accounts, insurance, visas, adding your partner as a nominee in financial documents, and even visitation right to a hospital can be a challenge. This is an important factor to consider in the cohabitation pros and cons.

In case both partners maintain separate accounts, neither of them will be able to access the money in the other one’s account on their own. If one partner dies, the other cannot use their money until the estate is settled.

You can, however, open a joint bank account if you agree that your partner gets the feasibility to access or manage your bank accounts. With a joint bank account, the surviving partner’s financial independence is not curtailed in case of an untimely or sudden demise of the other.

6. Assisting each other after separation

Couples in a live-in relationship are not obligated to support one another after separation. Unless there is a legally binding commitment statement in place. This can lead to financial issues for one or both partners. This is among the big challenges of live-in relationships.

Related Reading: Divorce By Mutual Consent – Bridges Vs Battlegrounds

7. In case of illness, the family has the right to decide

It doesn’t matter how long two people have been living together, the right to make decisions regarding end-of-life support and medical care of such a partner rests with their immediate family unless explicitly specified otherwise in a will. The necessary paperwork must obviously be made beforehand in case of any eventuality.

8. Parenting in live-in relationships has a lot of grey areas

With no clear laws governing the rights and responsibilities of parents who are not legally married, raising a child together in a live-in relationship can involve a lot of grey areas, especially if differences begin to take hold. The social stigma attached can also be an issue.

As you can see by now, the major differences in marriage vs living together exist in the legalities and the complications that may follow. Since the commitment isn’t upheld by a legally binding notice, things can get a little tricky. Even so, it’s not to say one is necessarily better than the other.

Facts About Marriage

Despite the rising popularity of cohabitation among couples, marriage still finds quite a few takers. Some couples decide to take the plunge into matrimony after living together. Others view it as a natural progression to a romantic relationship. Is marriage worth it? Are there any benefits? Whether you’re considering marriage for practical reasons or to put a seal of finality on your relationship, here are some facts to consider:

1. Solemnising a marriage is a more elaborate affair

Marriage is a more formal arrangement, governed by certain state laws. For instance, there is a minimum age for marriage. Similarly, for a marriage to be legally recognized, it must be solemnized as per state-approved religious rituals or in a court. A couple needs to apply for registration of marriage afterward and obtain a certificate from a competent authority.

2. Ending a marriage is a legal process

Dissolution of a marriage involves annulment or divorce, both of which can be long drawn out, complicated and expensive legal procedures. Though ending a live-in relationship comes with its own hurdles and grief, going through a divorce is, at least on paper, a more complex process than ending a live-in.

3. There is a division of assets in divorce 

A divorce proceeding entails a division of assets jointly owned by the spouses. Based on the settlements or the statements of the divorce, the division of assets can be allotted accordingly. Since everything is governed by laws handled in the court of law, there isn’t much room left for confusion or arguments about it.

4. Financially stable spouse will have to support the other

The financially stable spouse has the responsibility to provide maintenance to the estranged partner even after separation. This can be done by way of alimony or monthly maintenance or both, as per the court’s decision.

5. Legal right to make decisions on spouse’s behalf 

In case one of the partners is taken seriously ill, the other partner has the legal authority to make crucial decisions involving healthcare, finances and even end-of-life care. Perhaps these legalities can be considered a few of the benefits of being married vs living together since married couples automatically get the power to make such decisions.

Related Reading: 8 People Share What Ruined Their Marriage

6. Right to inherit property

A widow or widower automatically inherits their deceased spouse’s assets, unless specified otherwise in a legally executed will.

7. Legitimacy of offsprings

A child born to a married couple is the legal heir of all their assets and the responsibility of financially supporting the child rests on the parents.

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8. After the divorce

Even in case of separation or divorce, the non-custodial parent has a legal responsibility to financially support and co-parent the children born out of the marriage

Final Thoughts

The difference between marriage and a live-in relationship lies in the social and legal acceptance enjoyed by the former.  As society evolves, these dynamics may change. As things stand today, marriage is the more secure form of commitment for a long-term relationship.

That said, marriage can come with its pitfalls and shortcomings, especially if you end up with the wrong person. So, is living together before marriage a good idea? Know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to relationship choices. It is, however, pertinent to weigh in these pros and cons when making your decision.

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