The Cohabitation/Domestic Partnership Conversation: Should We Live Together?

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Hello Keepers,

This is a question that comes up frequently in many different forms when a life transition triggers a discussion about living together: Should we live together? Living together always seems like a good idea. You can spend more time together as a couple and split expenses. You already spend several nights a week at each other’s house, so is it really such a big move?

Well, before I get into the considerations involved with living together, I thought it would be interesting to share some legal facts about cohabitation:

  • Cohabitation/Domestic Partnership is defined as two people in an intimate relationship, who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union.
  • Some places, including the state of California, have laws that recognize cohabiting couples as “domestic partners”. In California, such couples are defined as people who “have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring,” including having a “common residence, and are the same sex or persons of opposite sex if one or both of the persons are over the age of 62”. This recognition led to the creation of a Domestic Partners Registry, granting them limited legal recognition and some rights similar to those of married couples.
  • As an FYI, there are two states, Mississippi and Michigan, which have laws on their books against cohabitation by opposite-sex couples. There are similar laws with varying nuances in other states such as North Carolina, Florida, and North Dakota.
  • The IRS will not grant exemptions for a cohabiting dependent and relatives if cohabitation is illegal in the local jurisdiction.

Okay, now that I have shared some legal facts, let’s get down to business and talk about some important considerations of living together:

  • From a financial perspective, living together makes sense: Instead of paying two mortgages, or two rent bills, you are now paying one
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  When you live with someone you will really see them for who they really are.  With that comes the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So you really get to see who they really are before deciding to tie the knot, and it may actually save you from getting a divorce in the future by getting out before it’s too late.
  • You can have more fun together doing everyday things:  Cooking together, gardening or playing board games.
  • Expectations for Marriage May Not be in Sync With Your Timeline to Getting to “I Do”:  If they are getting everything without putting a ring on it, they may never put a ring on it.   Even if you’re already engaged prior to living together, the marriage may take longer to happen.
  • Financial issues can destroy a relationship if not discussed and worked out in advance: If finances are not discussed in advance, living together can cause stress and arguments over finances. On the other hand, living together may force the issue, and you can see if the two of you can work out your differences.
  • It may lessen the excitement of getting married: The only difference in your relationship when you get married will be the rings and the marriage license.
  • There is no guarantee that living together first will lead to a happier marriage: In many cases, couples who live together first, divorce at a higher rate than couples who never lived together.

 I am just mentioning a few things, certainly not everything as there are a multitude of other considerations, especially, if a co habiting couple have children…particularly in California where domestic partners can provide medical coverage for their household occupants including children.

There are certainly both advantages and disadvantages of living together.  The most important thing to consider is to do what feels right for you.  There is no right or wrong answer.

But the most important “right” thing to do if you are going down this road with someone is to have a realistic conversation about expectations and roles for cohabitation and whether marriage is something both parties want down the road. You can’t make the assumption that cohabitation is automatically a catalyst for marriage.

I will share that I personally have never cohabitated with anyone and most of the very happily married couples that I know have never cohabitated before getting married.

Just something to think about as I always try to Keep it 100,



Picture Courtesy of @black_couples__

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