There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to how you and your partner should define your relationship. Some people spend their whole lives dreaming of the day they say “I do”, whereas some people like the idea of being in a committed relationship, but don’t necessarily want the pomp and circumstance so to speak, that goes along with marriage.
If you are in a relationship currently, then you might find yourself wondering what option or term is right for you and your significant other, so keep reading in order to familiarize yourself with similarities and differences between marriage, domestic partnerships, and cohabitation, and the pros and cons that go along with each.
What is Marriage?
Marriage is what the majority of people think is the “be-all, end-all” plan for those who are in a relationship and want to spend the rest of their lives together. It is a legally and socially recognized union between two people. According to an article in the New York Times, it is estimated that nearly 2 million couples got married last year (2021) in the United States.
Apart from having the wedding of your dreams, a new last name, and knowing you and your partner have committed the rest of your lives to each other (for better or worse) there are many other benefits that come along with being legally married.
- Marriage is recognized in all 50 states for both heterosexual marriages and same-sex marriages
- Should you and your spouse be from different countries, you have the right to sponsor them in the United States if you are legally married
- You can be on your spouse’s health insurance plan (things you never think of until you’re an adult, right?!)
- You and your soon-to-be spouse can create a prenuptial agreement together prior to your wedding. Keep reading to find out more about this!
If you’d like to read more about the benefits of marriage, be sure to check out this blog next.
Marriage should be viewed as more of a positive life choice, than negative, but of course there are always going to be potential setbacks with anything in life. Here are a few cons of choosing to get married.
- If something does go wrong in your relationship, going through the process of getting a divorce is the only permanent solution to ending your marriage
- Weddings can be expensive and stressful. But good news for you, you can still legally get married even without having a wedding. Here is the rundown on weddings vs elopements.
- You may be bumped into a higher tax bracket as a married couple BUT this is not always the case, so be sure to do your own research if this is concerning to you!
What is a Domestic Partnership?
A domestic partnership is similar to marriage, but has its differences. Domestic partnerships were originally created back in the 1980’s for legal and economical protection and rights for same-sex couples. Nowadays, adults who consider themselves to be in a domestic partnership reside together, may or may not share finances, and may or may not have children together.
- Any couple can be in a domestic partnership (it isn’t just for same-sex relationships)
- Benefits vary by state, but you may be entitled to things like health insurance, death benefits or inheritance, and parental leave
- You can still have a ceremony to recognize your partnership with family and friends
- Domestic partnerships are not recognized on a federal level or even in some states
- Some employers, insurance agencies, and places like hospitals might choose to not recognize your domestic partnership which can cause some unwanted stress
- There might be a stigma associated with being in a domestic partnership, especially from those who don’t understand what it means
What is Cohabitation?
Cohabitation is typically a term associated with couples, and is loosely defined as “two or more people, in an intimate relationship, who live together and share a common domestic life but are neither joined by marriage nor a civil union”. Unlike marriage and domestic partnerships, couples who are cohabitating do not have any legal benefits or state/federal recognition. One particular study found that nearly 78% of young adults (ages 18-29) found it perfectly acceptable for an unmarried couple to live together, even if they never plan to get married.
Cohabitating with your partner can be a lifelong (or as long as you are in a relationship together) deal, or it can be a stepping stone towards a more “permanent” commitment such as a domestic partnership or marriage. Living together before marriage used to be seen as extremely taboo, but cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century (Jay, 2012). Of course, there are pros and cons that come with cohabitating with your partner- you can decide for yourself if this is something that would work in your relationship.
- With the prices of everything rising these days, living together with your partner might have financial benefits- splitting rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc.
- Cohabitating might bring your relationship to the next level (hopefully in a good way) by seeing if you are compatible when it comes to sharing your space and calling the same place home
- It isn’t necessarily permanent- meaning you can choose to part ways without much hassle or may decide it is the right decision to become legally married
- Cohabitating with your partner won’t result in any health insurance, tax, or other employment related benefits
- “Cohabitation Effect”- this term stems from various research (Journal of Marriage and Family) suggesting that couples who live together before getting hitched tend to be less satisfied with marriage, and therefore more prone to divorce
- Even though it is more common and socially acceptable than it used to be, there might be backlash from people who don’t support cohabitation (but hey, ignore the haters if it works for you!)
Finally! Let’s talk about prenuptial agreements and how they play a role in marriage, domestic partnerships, and cohabitation. If you have spent anytime at all browsing through HelloPrenup, then you probably already know that a prenuptial agreement is a legal contract made between two people who are planning to marry, that will protect each party financially and allow for property and assets to be distributed according to plan, in the event of a divorce or death.
A prenuptial agreement can only be created for those couples who are getting married, therefore a prenup would not be valid for domestic partnerships or cohabitating partners.
The No Nup
There are some long-term couples out there that don’t plan to ever get married, but they still want protection of their finances, property, and assets should they ever break up or one person passes away unexpectedly. A “no nup” or Domestic Partnership Agreement provides flexibility and certainty for couples not marrying but still binding their lives together (Osman, 2015).
Navigating relationships whether they are legally binding (marriage) or you are just seeing where life takes you and living together in the meantime (cohabitating) can be tricky! At the end of the day, you and your significant other need to make decisions that are best for the both of you, and ignore any unsolicited advice or input that may come your way. As long as you feel secure, loved, and happy, other labels won’t matter.
Our ultimate goal here at HelloPrenup is to provide you and your partner with an affordable, fast, comprehensible, and collaborative option when it comes to securing a prenup of your own. We will do our best to make this a smooth process for you, but before we get started, you may want to familiarize yourself with all the terms associated with drafting a prenuptial agreement!
Nicole Sheehey is the Head of Legal Content at HelloPrenup, and an Illinois licensed attorney. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to prenuptial agreements. Nicole has Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School. She has a deep understanding of the legal and financial implications of prenuptial agreements, and enjoys writing and collaborating with other attorneys on the nuances of the law. Nicole is passionate about helping couples locate the information they need when it comes to prenuptial agreements. You can reach Nicole here: [email protected]