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Live-in Relationship – Meaning, Benefits, Disadvantages, Rules and More

Live-in Relationship – Meaning, Benefits, Disadvantages, Rules and More

Updated on Oct 18, 2023

Reviewed by Julianne Cantarella, MSW, LSW , Certified Relationship Coach

Difference Between Marriage and Live-in Relationship

Wondering if a live-in relationship is the right choice for you?

Well, though it sounds so glamorous, modern, and edgy… it comes with its own set of drama… yup! It’s not drama-free just because of the missing legal affairs.

If you and your partner want to consider living together without getting married, this think-piece will highlight everything you need to know… before things get messy!

So, let’s head right in…

Live in Relationship Meaning

When two romantic partners cohabit and commit to each other romantically, emotionally, physically, and sexually but don’t get legally married, it is called a live-in relationship.

In a live-in relationship, an unmarried couple commits to each other in a romantic relationship and decides to live together with physical, emotional, and even sexual commitment… but no legal commitment. The partners that choose to live together are called cohabiting or live-in partners.

Though cohabiting couples aren’t legally married, they share domestic duties and responsibilities. In case they fall out of love, they move on without the legal drama of divorce.

There are several reasons people decide to live together instead of getting married. Some want to have the single status forever, some want to check compatibility before tying the knot.

Others are just married already and can’t marry another person legally… this is the usual case in polyamorous relationships.

If you’re still uncertain about the difference between living together and marriage, keep reading…

Difference between Marriage and Live-in Relationship

In marriage, your bond is socially and legally accepted and you get to enjoy all the benefits of marriage. But live-in relationships might be frowned upon, you’re not legally accepted other than a particular nation, and you don’t have spousal rights the same as marriage.

The chief difference between marriage and a live-in relationship is the legal status and its benefits.

So, when you’re legally married to your spouse, your bond is ritually, socially, and legally accepted. You and your spouse are legally bound to support and protect each other in the marriage.

In different nations throughout the world, various marriage laws and guidelines are formulated for a proper and healthy marital life. The laws even help spouses resolve disputes.

Especially, in diverse nations like India, marriage laws for every religion are different. Moreover, there are special laws for women’s and children’s protection and maintenance.

But when you’re living with your partner, no law binds you both. Either of you can walk out on the other as you wish. Due to the lack of legality, there’s no right to maintenance whether in the United States or in conservative nations like India.

However, the Domestic Violence Acts of most nations protect women against any violence in live-in relationships.

Wondering why don’t people substitute marriage with a live-in relationship? Let’s know in detail here…

Is a live-in relationship a substitute for marriage?

Live-in relationships can never substitute marriages even though it seems so attractive due to the lack of legal rights and protection for each partner which later leads to insecurity.

In the modern age, marriage laws are more biased towards women to protect them from being exploited. However, not everyone uses them for defense… some take advantage of marriage laws and make their spouse’s life miserable over the years.

For this, people want to be free from the twists and turns of law and enjoy a relationship without fear. On the other hand, some simply compare marriage with a form of unnecessary bondage that complicates life.

However, the commitment and will to continue a live-in relationship is much lower than that in marriages. So, ultimately, this type of relationship also grows miserable when couples start fighting.

Though a live-in relationship looks like a brighter and more glorious alternative to marriage, it’s actually not.

But of course, live-in relationships come with their own set of pros. So, let’s get to know them here…

Benefits of live-in relationship

Live-in relationships are a great way to know your partner and explore your connection. It’s the perfect way to know if you’re ready for marriage. You can also learn to deal with the responsibilities of marriage. So, let’s take a closer look here…

1. The pain of goodbyes will be gone

In dating and relationships, you go on dates and then have to get back to your own homes.

In a cohabiting relationship, you won’t have different destinations to return alone to. You won’t feel lonely after a nice date and will spend more time even after getting home.

2. You can have each other right when you wake up

When you wake up in the morning, you can start your day together in live-in relationships.

On a busy weekday, you both can make breakfast together to pick up the pace… on peaceful weekends, you can take it easy, watch the sunrise, sip on coffee and chat together.

You share your most intimate and vulnerable moments together this way.

3. You can enjoy all kinds of couples’ activities

Individuals living together also have ample time to spend together and enjoy small couple activities… which you either can’t do if you live apart or need lots of planning to make it work.

For instance, you can’t randomly bring your boyfriend/girlfriend over to cook together… you’d need to clean your space and prepare lots for that. Or, you can’t surprise your partner with breakfast in bed or a massage on their stressful days.

4. Labels don’t bog you down

Marriage comes with lots of pressure of expectations from family members. They want you to settle down, have babies, entertain each other’s loved ones, and so on.

In live-in relationships, nobody is obliged to do all of that. You feel free and have peace of mind. You don’t worry that “it’s all because of that stupid piece of paper aka marriage certificate!” You stay together because you want to.

5. Ample space and privacy are on board

Since you’re not obliged to do anything for each other’s family members, you have ample freedom and personal space. You can be together as per your own rules and not get baffled by social pressure or expectations. You can grow together on your own terms.

6. You learn to handle finances together

In legally married couples that never lived together, managing finances out of the blue is a big shock. On the other hand, couples living together can take their time to understand how they can manage financial stress together.

Who pays which bill, how much you save, or how much you invest in necessities, you both learn the tricks bit by bit without being overwhelmed.

7. You can check for compatibility

Before you tie the knot, it’s important to learn whether you guys are compatible emotionally, mentally, physically, and sexually. Without compatibility, a long-term relationship like marriage can’t hold up.

So, if you start living together, you can test your compatibility with time. Even if you’re not compatible in many terms, you can slowly compromise and meet in the middle.

8. It’s easier to move on

If you find you and your live-in partner aren’t compatible, you can simply break up and avoid serious issues of divorce and alimony. This is one of the biggest pros of living together over marriage.

In marriage, if you can’t reach a middle ground even after trying, there’ll be lots of issues other than divorce. A man will need to pay his ex-wife alimony until she gets married.

9. You get time to deepen the bond

While you spend more time living in relationships, you get enough time to learn more about each other at a deeper level. You get a long time to stabilize your bond and work through your differences. Even if things get tough, you might take a break and get back together.

Whereas in marriages, taking space away from each usually leads to divorce… and let’s be honest, you won’t consider each other romantically after the dirty court fight!

10. You’ll be much more aware of marriage

Unmarried couples living together get a test drive of what marriage looks like. They won’t be pressured to jump into this crazy institution called marriage out of the blue, get overwhelmed and smothered, and run for the hills.

You can decide whether you’ll be able to stand a married life. And even if you decide to get married, you know exactly what to expect.

However, there are some issues with it, so let’s check the cons…

Disadvantages of live-in relationship

Similar to how every relationship type isn’t flawless, live-in relationships also have their fair share of problems. Yes, conservatives don’t shun this type of relationship for NADA! So, let’s know the real reasons here…

1. Breakups become tough

Individuals living together almost every moment of the day get emotionally entangled with each other. But sometimes, one partner feels that “this is my dream partner” while the other one decides to walk away. It takes a huge emotional toll on the one in love.

If you both shared the rent, you’ll probably move out, and searching for a good place in that emotional condition is tough. But if you try to stay together until you find a space, your sweet memories will haunt you.

2. Infidelity might be a fatal blow

Since live-in relationships aren’t legally secured, either partner might cheat on the other. This is a huge blow to the relationship, and to the loyal partner’s trust and emotions.

Due to the lack of legal binding, the cheating partner might refuse to take responsibility. Though cheating also happens in marriage, at least you can seek legal help for that.

3. It’s not socially acceptable

Conservative societies and families don’t recognize live-in relationships. Mostly, women get the shorter side of the stick.

If anything goes wrong in the relationship, everyone blames the woman for being involved in the relationship instead of helping them.

Your families most likely won’t support you during fights… they might not even help you financially if you suffer.

4. Children born in live-in relationships feel insecure

Sexual relationships among live-in partners are pretty natural. So, unwanted pregnancy is also normal, to say the least. But if a woman chooses the wrong guy, he might demand her to get an abortion against her wishes or walk out on her.

Though some nations like India have laws to force the father to pay child support in live-in relationships, the child grows up with lots of difficulties, shame, and insecurity in the conservative society.

5. You’re not legally protected

There are lots of benefits of marriage starting from income tax, to inheriting each other’s property without putting each other in legal wills.

You won’t have any legal rights to see your partner if they fall seriously ill. If your live-in partner passes away before making a will, their family will claim their property and can legally deprive you.

Does that mean you can’t have a live-in relationship? Of course, you can! But for that, let me tell you some…

Rules for Live-in Relationship

While live-in relationships are tricky to maintain and work with, it’s not impossible. If you and your partner love each other enough, you will try to make things work. For a long-lasting relationship, first get these basics down to your fingertips…

1. Discuss money affairs

Since you both will run the household together, decide who will take care of which part of the finances before you move in. It’s much better to clear any misunderstandings while your lives aren’t tangled yet.

Sit together and create a strategy so that nobody gets the shorter end of the stick. You both must be open and honest about your thoughts.

2. Allocate the chores responsibly

Whether it’s getting groceries, cooking, cleaning, or even changing the car oil, distribute these responsibilities proportionally. Don’t expect your partner to do everything or let your partner push it on you every time.

It’ll be great if you can create a routine and stick it on your refrigerator or somewhere noticeable to reduce issues of forgetfulness. Equal chore distribution will also build a happy relationship.

3. Be clear about your intentions

Don’t move in with a one-night stand or a weekend fling. Move in with someone you had a steady relationship for at least one year.

Make sure you both want to stay together for a long time. Remember the highlight of living together is bond strengthening and not sexual satisfaction or an exciting adventure.

If you move in with someone who only desires your body but doesn’t want you for the long run, you might experience major emotional trauma.

4. Create plans for unwanted pregnancies

Whether you’re a man or woman, don’t bet on unwanted pregnancies. Use protection and take birth control together. Plan for unwanted pregnancies beforehand because protection is never 100% secure.

Because being a woman you don’t want to be left to fend for your child alone if your man leaves you… or, being a man, you don’t want to fend for child support when you can’t handle it.

5. Promise to deal with problems together

With time, you both will have lots of issues with each other. Make sure you don’t forget that you’re both on the same team. Don’t fight each other… fight the problems together.

Learn to communicate and resolve problems together. Take a deep breath before spilling bitter words and take space if you’re too agitated. If needed, seek relationship experts for better ideas.

6. Don’t turn away from sexual desires

Though unwanted pregnancies are scary, take your time to explore your sexual desires and fantasies.

A good sexual connection can help you understand your sexual, physical, and even emotional compatibilities and whether the relationship can work in the long run.

Even if the glimmer of hope is too small, you guys can still try!

7. Try to let each other have a life

While you live together, try to allow personal space and time for each other. If you always try to hog each other’s free time, nothing good will come out of it. Instead, you’ll be tired of each other and want to split sooner.

Even when either of you faces troubles in your individual life, one mustn’t meddle too much unless the other partner asks for help.

8. Never forget to save money

Discuss money-saving and investing methods together. Don’t create joint accounts too fast. Keep control on your money but don’t be shy about suggesting ways to save up.

Moreover, if you have a bad breakup, your money will stand beside you… but if you have a joint account, you might get cheated big time.

9. Set boundaries and maintain them

Set boundaries about what each of you wants and doesn’t under the roof and in your relationship. Perhaps, you don’t want your partner to listen to music on speakers at 2 in the morning… or they want you to be more organized.

Build dating boundaries… Can you guys date or flirt with other people? If your partner borrows money, when must they return it to you?

Discuss the hard parts, write down your boundaries, and maintain them mindfully.

10. Learn to accept each other

You and your partner are meant to have different tastes in food, aesthetics, leisure activities and so much more. It’s wonderful if you can appreciate each other for your differences.

So, don’t force each other to change your inner circle or likes. Accept each other wholeheartedly and broaden your horizons. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t and let your partner also accept you.

11. Own your mistakes

Perfection was never real… so, you guys will naturally make mistakes at some point. Remember to not become defensive… take a moment to think about your actions, how that wronged your partner, and how they feel.

Once you understand your mistake, apologize from your heart with the reasons and tell them what you’ll do to make up for it this time and prevent it from repeating.

This will prove your commitment and things will eventually get better.

12. Set your priorities straight

Sometimes, you must prioritize yourself… Other times, you must sacrifice your happiness for your partner. There’s no straight formula for this, so you must think carefully during these situations.

Compare the pros and cons of both sides of the decision. This way you’ll make better decisions and regret less. Otherwise, regrets can ruin your bond.

13. Don’t take relationship advice from just anyone

Whenever you get into fights or have difficulty deciding something, you’ll seek an outsider’s help. But make sure you don’t blindly trust anyone.

Don’t take others’ words seriously unless they have your and your relationship is best in their mind. Choose to talk with another experienced live-in couple or seek relationship experts.

14. Think about getting serious

Whether you aim to get married soon or never wanna get married, sit and talk with your partner. You might never know… your partner might have their own opinions about marriage.

If you talk about it before, you’ll lower the chances of hurting each other with expectations. So, decide how long either of you can or wish to stay in live-in. Set a time when you guys wanna tie the knot.

15. Be prepared for the end

Even after everything, the relationship might not work out and you might split. You might get extremely invested in this relationship and be hurt if you break up.

So, create a plan to heal yourself and move on instead of reliving past memories. Don’t force your partner to stay back or be the crazy and toxic ex. For this, make sure you don’t detach yourself from loved ones as you’ll need them.

However, before you jump into one, don’t forget to check in with your local and national laws. Let’s check a few here…

Even if you love your partner a lot, you mustn’t overlook the law ever. Otherwise, you might get penalized or sentenced for breaking the law or you might be at a disadvantage if anything goes wrong while living together. So, let’s check a few here…

1. The United States of America

In the greater parts of the US, people are more accepting of cohabitation or live-in relationships. California allows live-in partners to get registered under the Domestic Partner Registry which helps them enjoy a few limited legal recognition and rights similar to marriage.

As per US Cohabitation Agreements, cohabiting partners have the right to palimony, i.e., grant maintenance to the woman.

2. The United Kingdom

In the UK, live-in couples have no rights similar to that of married couples. They can’t inherit properties unless they mention each other’s names in a will. However, any child born from the relationship will be given equal care financially and emotionally by both parents as per their law.

3. France

In France, same-sex and opposite-sex couples sign pacte civil de solidarite or civil solidarity pacts. This lets couples have a social union and enjoy their life similar to married couples. A live-in partner can revoke the agreement anytime they want with 3 months prior notice to the other.

4. Ireland

Both opposite-sex and same-sex live-in relationships are legal in Ireland. But their law grants the right to demand maintenance and property share when couples split to the financially dependent one. The public is against that part. That law comes into effect only if a couple stays together for 3 years or they have a baby and the partners are together for 2 years.

5. Scotland

As per Family Law Act, 2007 of Scotland, couples living together are recognized and authorized legally. But if the couple breaks up, the financially dependent one has the right to demand monetary help from the other.

6. Australia

As per the Australian Family Act, 1975, de facto relationships can be built between opposite-sex and same-sex partners… even if they have a legal spouse.

7. The Philippines

In the Philippines, the rights of live-in partners are governed by the co-ownership rule. It allows both partners to own their total wages, salaries, or properties in equal shares during the relationship. However, they won’t get any legal benefits from marriage.

8. China

In China, live-in partners sign a relationship contract. If they have a baby, the child’s status and succession rights are no less than children born from legal marriage.

9. India

In India, live-in relationships can be a domestic cohabitation can be of 5 forms:

  • an adult unmarried man and an adult unmarried woman
  • an adult unmarried man and an adult married woman (mutually entered)
  • an adult unmarried woman and an adult married man (mutually entered)
  • two same-sex partners
  • an adult unmarried woman/man and an adult unmarried man/woman (entered unknowingly – punishable under IPC)

Other than the last type, all other live-in relationships are legal in India.

10. Mississippi, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, Florida

These US states have strong laws that oppose cohabitation or live-in relationships of couples of the opposite genders. But of course, same-sex couples might get themselves out of this loop if they identify as roommates or something similar.

So, if live-in relationships are legal in your locality, let’s get going and work more on your bond…

How to make your live-in relationship easier?

Living together isn’t easy at all in reality. It’s nothing like what they show in romance dramas and novels, so you may expect the worst. But when the worst happens, don’t give up and look around for more ways to make your relationship beautiful. Here you go with some tips…

1. Stop taking each other for granted

Put more effort into the relationship, flirt, go on dates, complement each other, surprise them with gifts, help each other with your chores, pamper your partner with a massage, cook for them, and so on.

You can do a lot of things to make your partner feel appreciated, so it’s totally up to you how you want to do it. Cherish your partner with everything you have.

2. Remember there’s no connection between gender and chores…

Cooking and cleaning aren’t just for women… Fixing the car or driving isn’t just a man’s task. Make sure you don’t expect a particular chore to be done by your partner just because of your chromosomes.

On the other hand, your partner will make mistakes with the chores. Remind them with positive thoughts… little questions like “why didn’t you still take the trash out?” sparks stupid fights. Instead say “honey, don’t forget the trash!”

3. Always use protection

Men, don’t get too adventurous and skip the protection. Don’t give excuses like “I don’t feel good with a condom… can’t you pop a pill?”

The pill will prevent unwanted pregnancy, but what about diseases? Moreover, do you know what the pill does to her hormones? She might even go barren for that.

Women, stop accepting him without a condom, you know both pills and pregnancy will be extra stress now and in the long run.

4. Choose who you’re comfy as visitors

You both have a life other than your relationship. You might want to bring over your friends and family at times. So, discuss whether you guys are uncomfortable with any of the other people.

Don’t bring in people that make your partner uncomfortable to your love nest and it’ll definitely reduce lots of potential fights. Or, you can bring them in with each other’s consent around hours when your partner is away.

5. Be clear about your relationship status and labels

Do you plan to move in because you’re in love but your partner thinks it’s to save bills? Before either of you assume anything, know each other’s reason behind moving in and what each of you thinks about the relationship. Stay on the same page and don’t hold unrealistic expectations.

On the other hand, if your live-in relationship doesn’t work out well, let’s head in here…

How to end a live-in relationship?

Live-in relationships may not work out… so, be grateful that you didn’t get married and undergo a divorce.

Don’t curse your luck but thank yourself for being brave enough to know the end sooner. But if you’re concerned about how to end things, follow these…

1. Let it out with your trusted loved ones

Discuss the situation with your trusted ones and know their insight. If they can help you find a different perspective, you might save the relationship. It’s better to seek someone who has a live-in relationship.

2. Take time for mental prep

Be kind and don’t jump in with a pre-breakup conversation randomly. This will also allow them to mentally prepare themselves.

Ask your partner to make time for some “important and serious conversation”. They’ll understand it’s bad news and choose a time when they can process it all properly.

3. Be candid about your situation

Tell them what’s the issue clearly and don’t beat around the bush. Discuss if there’s any way to change the current situation.

Ask about your partner’s point of view. What they feel about the issue and whether they’re willing to change anything. Talking might help you find a better way to deal with the situation.

4. Be kind and genuine during the conversation

Never use ultimatums like “If you don’t change, we’ll break up”. That’ll only spike your partner’s defensive side.

Instead, use more I statement like “To me *insert the issue* is an important matter in a relationship. So, I might be unable to continue the relationship this way”.

This way you won’t blame them and ease the blow.

5. Don’t keep any hard feelings

Most couples have dramatic breakups which lead to further troubles. But you don’t need that! Despite how angry and heartbroken you are, don’t take it on your partner.

Your partner is also quite devastated, so don’t say anything unnecessary. Of course, don’t take any slanders from your partner either.  

6. Allow yourself some space

If you continue to stay in the same house after this conversation, your partner might mistake your words for a joke.

So, crash at your friend’s or family member’s place. Take space until the bad news sinks in your partner. Let them process it so you can have a clean break.

7. Discuss the process

Once they understand you won’t change your mind, decide how you guys split. Discuss splitting of property sharing, finance splitting, rental lease, and moving out. Let them have an equal say in this and make sure you don’t force them to do anything against their wishes.

8. Define healthy boundaries until moving out

Your partner might try to patch up while you guys still share the same roof. Don’t share the same bed and if you guys don’t have two beds, alternately use the couch.

Avoid sex, spending time together, working together, or helping each other with chores. These might confuse you and the breakup might get delayed.

9. Seek your support group

Reach out to an online community or understanding friends to heal yourself. Go on a vacation and party with your friends. Socialize as much as you can with people that make you happy and practice self-care.

This will help you move on and distract you from the heartbreak. Try to surround yourself with positive people and get busy for a good cause. Learn a new skill, get a degree, or simply aim for a better job.

10. Check in with yourself

Though you must distract yourself from the pain, make sure you’re healing. Check in with your feelings every night and fill in a journal.

If talking with your loved ones doesn’t help, seek a mental health professional. Don’t feel shy to let out your emotions. Trust the process and it’ll get better.

A word from ThePleasantRelationship

It’s hard to say whether live-in relationships are a good choice for you or not. However, keep the laws and your rights in mind. Remember to not jump into a live-in relationship unless you’re truly sure and have no doubts. 

Don’t get pressured into it… refusing to move in doesn’t imply you don’t love someone. But if someone forces you to move in even when you’re uncomfortable, that’s fishy!

Don’t forget that you’re two individuals before you’re each other’s partners. So, be respectful and don’t take disrespect.

Chase your happiness and try hard to thrive together… things will work out eventually!

Are you interested to know more about ‘Signs She Wants To Be Friends With Benefits’ then click here?