Difference Between Cohabitation and Marriage

Cohabitation vs Marriage

The difference between cohabitation and marriage is that, in both situations, two people live together but under different circumstances. Also, marriage is universally spread and recognized whereas cohabitation is not so. Cohabitation is a situation where two partners live together without getting married legally and this can be either temporary or a long term base. Marriage, on the other hand, is a social institution in which two people get married legally and this has been accepted by culture and the social conditions in a particular society.

What is Cohabitation?

Cohabitation happens through an arrangement between two people, who are not married, to have an emotional and/or sexually close relationship for a short or a long period. Here, the couple gets the decision on their own and they may or may not end up in marriage later. It is said that the Scandinavian countries have been the first to start this leading trend and at present, many countries have established cohabitation. This practice is more common in western countries and some countries have banned this. There are lots of reasons for cohabitation. The change of values in societies with the fast industrialization has introduced new concepts to the individuals. The change of gender roles, change of views towards marriage and religion, etc. are some of the major reasons. Most religions prohibit pre-marital sexual relationships but with the change of values of people, they no longer adhere to those rules. People always seek for their independence and they like to have a free life. Moreover, women have gained economic opportunities and they no longer want to depend on males. Thus, the institution of marriage has been converted into a living arrangement where the partners do not have strict rules or obligations to follow.

Further, people spend more time in education and their jobs and there is a trend of late marriages all around the world. Since couples find it easy to live together rather engaging in a legal vow, cohabitation has become popular. However, only some countries allow this and most religious countries have strictly prohibited this practice.

What is Marriage?

Marriage, on the other hand, unites a couple giving them legal assurance. Through a marriage, the partners agree on obligations towards themselves, the offspring and also the in-laws. Marriage provides security for the offspring, giving them a legal mother and a father. In most cultures, a couple may have a sexual relationship only after the marriage and pre-marital sex is prohibited. A wedding is not just the unity of two people, but it may unite their families as well. Also, marriage bounds the couple with certain responsibilities and they have to act accordingly after the marriage. People get married due to financial, emotional, legal, cultural or traditional reasons and marriages are characterized by social and cultural rules. Incest marriages are considered to be taboos and also in some countries inter-racial, inter-caste marriages are not allowed. Marriage could be either an individual choice or it may be parental influence as well. There are many types of marriages as well. Monogamy, polygamy, group marriages can be taken as some examples. However, marriage is a universal institution of any society and it is accepted and given legal assurance.

Difference Between Cohabitation and Marriage

What is the difference between Cohabitation and Marriage?

• When considering both cohabitation and marriage, we see that the marriage gets more acceptance, legally and culturally, whereas cohabitation does not have legal protection or cultural acceptance.

• Marriage is not an individual choice always, but cohabitation is solely an individual choice.

• Moreover, marriage brings more responsibilities and obligations to the wedded couple whereas cohabitation does not carry such responsibilities.

• Cohabitation has become a solution for the late marriages as well.

• Further, marriage is a universally accepted social institution whereas cohabitation is just a practice of few societies.

If we consider the similarities between the two situations, we see that there is a unity between two people and they share emotional and sexual relationships. They usually reside in one place and the couple looks after each other in daily life.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Marriage by Joshuajohanson (CC BY2.0)