A. Introduction

Author:Julien D. Payne - Marilyn A. Payne
Pages:38-40
 
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Cohabitational relationships involve two people who share their lives together but are not married to each other. Cohabitational relationships may involve members of the opposite sex or members of the same sex. Unmarried heterosexual cohabitation is sometimes referred to as a common law relationship. Unmarried cohabitants go under a variety of names, including common law spouse, co-vivant, significant other, mate, life partner, cohabitee, and cohabitant.

There are various reasons why some members of the opposite sex enter into unmarried cohabitational relationships instead of marriage. They include the following:

1) There may be a legal impediment to marriage - as, for example, where one of the parties has been previously married but is not divorced.

2) There may be some religious obstacle to marriage.

3) Marriage may be perceived by one or both of the parties as a patriarchal straitjacket that involves traditional homemaking and breadwinning roles that fail to recognize equality between the sexes.

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4) Marriage imposes certain legal rights and obligations that one or both parties might wish to avoid. They may have been involved in a previous marriage breakdown that carries emotional and economic scars and may assume that history cannot repeat itself if they avoid the marriage "trap." Any such assumption is misplaced, however, because the emotional trauma of the breakdown of a relationship is not conditioned on whether the parties are married. Furthermore, unmarried cohabitation may carry significant economic consequences that are legally enforceable on the breakdown of the relationship.

5) Changing social mores and the weakening of religious influences have largely removed the stigma that formerly attached to unmarried cohabitants of the opposite sex.

6) Many young couples enter into unmarried cohabitation as a "trial marriage" that can be informally terminated or legally formalized at some time in the future. Conversion to marital status is often triggered by the anticipated birth of a child.

7) Unmarried cohabitation may enable one or both of the parties to preserve their entitlement to certain benefits, such as support payments or pension payments, which would be lost in the event of remarriage.

8) Many couples who begin sleeping over at each other’s houses slip into a cohabitational relationship as a matter of convenience rather than as a consequence of carefully weighing the pros and cons of married and...

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