Dangers Of Cohabitation: Why Monogamy Is NOT The Same As Marriage

Love, Heartbreak

The unavoidable pitfalls of living together before marriage.

"Why would cohabitation be like playing house?" one might ask. Because even though there's monogamy, as we would say when we were children, no one has signed on for it to be for keeps; no one has made a commitment for the arrangement to be permanent.

So when couples move in together without this commitment, they begin to "act" married without any of the actual commitment to each other.

The problem we're seeing as therapists when couples and broken-hearted singles come into our offices is that usually when cohabitation starts, one person is hoping it's on a rent-to-own sort of basis while the other partner was only thinking month to month as long as it works.

You can imagine the pain this causes when it's time to break the lease.

In today's economy, many couples find it easier to live together to save money under the guise of "trying out" the relationship before committing to anything long-term. In many cases, one partner is more marriage-minded and hoping the non-marriage-minded partner might somehow come to change his or her mind once they have been living together for awhile.

This is very dangerous from the get go. In fact, a recent study conducted by Fox News surveyed couples who cohabitated without a commitment to marriage and found that husbands who cohabitated without a prior solid commitment for marriage reported themselves as less committed than men who had a firm commitment to marriage prior to living together. 

What is dangerous about this mindset is that the marriage-minded partner is setting themselves up for failure and heartache.

Don't ever enter into a relationship or living arrangement with someone whose mind you're hoping to change. What happens is you move in with someone and give them all of the benefits of a marital partner without any of the commitment.

After time, they grow weary of not having the commitment and pressure begins to build up on the other partner. Since the other partner has already been given all of the benefits without having to commit to anything, what is their incentive to commit?

It's the old adage "Why buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free?"

Another danger is that in order to successfully run a household and sustain a relationship long term, like a marriage, there needs to be a certain level of accountability in a relationship.

Does this mean that you need to ask permission from your partner before you go anywhere? No.

But when you combine bills and begin mutual bills and income, there needs to be accountability as to what money goes in and what money goes out and how much. There is also accountability to each spouse as to your general whereabouts and who you're out with.

If a partner is not up to anything suspicious, there really should be no reason to have a problem with this. Usually the partner who is not marriage minded is less likely to want to share their whereabouts.

This may build up to resentment on the partner who feels they should be able to do whatever they want because after all, they are not married.

They don't feel they should have to be accountable like a married person; yet the couple, for all intents and purposes, is living together and acting just like a married couple. Starting to see how this gets sticky?

Another danger is that when and if these couples do get married, there are new problems with differing expectations because one partner believes things should change once that marriage license is signed. After all, you are married now.

Meanwhile the other partner has no intention of changing any behavior because they've already been doing things one way before marriage, so why should they have to change now?

Yes, it may be tempting to live together first and buy into the whole idea about "you have to try it out before you decide if you want to buy it" mentality.

You'd never go to the store and ask them if you can wear a shirt for a couple months and then bring it back to decide you want to buy it or that it's too worn out to keep.

Trust me, you don't need to actually live together to find out if you're compatible or have what it takes. Besides, why would you want to give away all of the benefits of marriage without any of the commitment?

Where's the benefit for the one who does want to get married? It's a very one-sided deal.

In order to protect your future marriage and your heart from unnecessary heartache, make sure you're on the same page with your partner. Never enter a monogamous relationship with someone knowing you definitely some day want to get married while your partner has the "maybe, we'll see how it goes" mentality.

Monogamy is not the same thing as commitment, and don't mistake the two. Don't give away the best benefits without any of the commitment.

Included below is the Fox News report on cohabitating couples and commitment: