Cohabitation usually refers to an arrangement whereby two people decide to live together on a long-term or permanent basis in an emotionally and/or sexually intimate relationship. The term is most frequently applied to couples who are not married. More broadly, the term can also mean any number of people living together (see other uses).


Reasons for cohabitation

Today, cohabitation is a common pattern among people in the Western world. People may live together for a number of reasons. These may include wanting to test compatibility or to establish financial security before getting married. It may also be because they are unable to legally marry, due to reasons such as same-sex, some interracial or interreligious marriages are not legal or permitted. Other reasons include living as a way for polygamists or polyamorists to avoid breaking the law, or as a way to avoid the higher income taxes paid by some two-income married couples (in the United States), negative effects on pension payments (among older people), or philosophical opposition to the institution of marriage (that is, seeing little difference between the commitment to live together and the commitment to marriage). Some individuals also may choose to cohabit because they see their relationships as being private and personal matters, and not to be controlled by political, religious, matriarchal or patriarchal institutions.

Some couples prefer cohabitation because it does not legally commit them for an extended period, and because it is easier to establish and dissolve without the legal costs often associated with a divorce. In some jurisdictions cohabitation can be viewed legally as common-law marriages, either after the duration of a specified period, or the birth of the couple's child, or if the couple consider and behave accordingly as husband and wife. (This helps provide the surviving partner a legal basis for inheriting the deceased's belongings in the event of the death of their cohabiting partner.) In Saskatchewan, Canada, a married person may cohabit with other married or single persons and become the spouses of all of them under the Saskatchewan Family Property Act. Consent of the "subsequent spouse" is not required. Although Canada has a federal criminal code law prohibiting polygamy, which includes anyone who authorizes more than one conjugal union at a time, Saskatchewan judicial authorities that unilaterally authorize multiple conjugal unions have not yet been charged under this federal law.


In the Western world, a man and a woman who lived together without being married were once socially shunned and persecuted and, in some cases, prosecuted by law. In some jurisdictions, cohabitation was illegal until relatively recently. Other jurisdictions have created a common-law marriage status when two people of the opposite sex live together for a prescribed period of time. Most jurisdictions no longer prosecute this choice. In the province of Saskatchewan, Canada, judicial authorities have used binding authority to sanction married women being the same time "spouse" of other men due to cohabitation.[citation needed] Consent to be spouses of all persons involved is not required. Therefore, it is likely that future court challenges in Canada will use this Canadian case law to claim married persons may also civilly marry other persons without divorcing first.

A scientific survey of over 1,000 married men and women in the United States of America found those who moved in with a lover before engagement or marriage reported significantly lower quality marriages and a greater possibility for splitting up than other couples. About 20 percent of those who cohabited before getting engaged had since suggested divorce - compared with only 12 percent of those who only moved in together after getting engaged and 10 percent who did not cohabit prior to marriage.[1]

Psychologist Dr Galena Rhoades said: "There might be a subset of people who live together before they got engaged who might have decided to get married really based on other things in their relationship - because they were already living together and less because they really wanted and had decided they wanted a future together. We think some couples who move in together without a clear commitment to marriage may wind up sliding into marriage partly because they are already cohabiting.".[1] Many cohabiting couples may also end up getting married due to pressure from their parents.

Cohabitation by region


  • In Canada, 18.0% of couples were cohabiting as of 2001 (29.8.% in Quebec, and 11.7% in the other provinces).[2]
  • In Mexico, 18.7% of couples were cohabiting as of 2005.[2] Ley de sociedad de convivencia: the Spanish name for "Cohabitation Societies Law", legislation created on November 9, 2006, by the Legislation Assembly of Mexico City to establish legal rights and duties for all those cases where two people (due to either sexual, familial or friendly reasons) are living together.
  • Cohabitation in the United States became common in the late 20th century. As of 2005, 4.85 million unmarried couples were living together, and as of 2002, about half of all women aged 15 to 44 had lived unmarried with a partner. Seven states still have anti-cohabitation laws on the books, but they are almost never enforced and are now believed to be unconstitutional since the legal decision Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.[3]


  • In Bangladesh cohabitation after divorce is frequently punished by the salishi system of informal courts, especially in rural areas.[4]
  • Cohabitation in India had been taboo since British rule. However, this is no longer true in large cities, but is not often found in rural areas which are more conservative. Live-in relationships are legal in India. Recent Indian court rulings have ascribed some rights to long term cohabiting partners. Female live-in partners have economic rights under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005.
  • In Indonesia, an Islamic penal code proposed in 2005 would have made cohabitation punishable by up to two years in prison.[5]
  • In Japan, according to M. Iwasawa at the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, less than 3% of females between 25-29 are currently cohabiting, but more than 1 in 5 have had some experience of an unmarried partnership, including cohabitation. A more recent Iwasawa study has shown that there has been a recent emergence of non-marital cohabitation. Couples born in the 1950s cohort showed an incidence of cohabitation of 11.8%, where the 1960s and 1970s cohorts showed cohabitation rates of 30%, and 53.9% respectively. The split between urban and rural residence for people who had cohabited is indicates 68.8% were urban and 31.2% were rural.[6]
  • In the Philippines, around 2.4 million Filipinos were cohabiting as of 2004. The 2000 census placed the percentage of cohabiting couples at 19%. The majority of individuals are between the ages of 20-24. Poverty was often the main factor in decision to cohabit.[7]


  • In Bulgaria, cohabitation is very common; 53.4% of all children born in 2009 were into families of unmarried couples.[8]
  • In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, cohabitation is very common; roughly 50% of all children are born into families of unmarried couples, whereas the same figure for several other Western European countries is roughly 10%[citation needed]. Many couples decide to marry later.
  • In late 2005, 21% of families in Finland consisted of cohabitating couples (all age groups). Of couples with children, 18% were cohabitating.[9] Of ages 18 and above in 2003, 13.4% were cohabitating.[10] Generally, cohabitation amongst Finns is most common for people under 30. Legal obstacles for cohabitation were removed in 1926 in a reform of the Criminal Code, while the phenomenon was socially accepted much later on.
  • In the UK, 25%[citation needed]of children are now born to cohabiting parents.
  • In France, 17.5% of couples were cohabiting as of 1999.[2]

Middle East

  • The cohabitation rate in Israel is less than 3% of all couples, compared to 8%, on average, in West European countries.[11]
  • Cohabitation is illegal according to sharia law (for the countries that enforce it)[12][13]

Aside from the law, cohabiting remains very much taboo across the region. Nevertheless, the issue of cohabitation of unmarried couples has featured in some Tunisian movies, such as Les Silences du Palais (1994)


In America, in 2003, 22.5% of couples were cohabiting.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Couples who live together before marriage more likely to get divorced". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2009-07-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d Anne-Marie Ambert: Cohabitation and Marriage: How Are They Related?. The Vanier Institute of the Family, Fall 2005)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Women and Islam in Bangladesh By Taj ul-Islam Hashmi, page 112
  5. ^ "Indonesia plans new morality laws". BBC News. 2005-02-06. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ :: GMA News.TV ::
  8. ^ [1] based on the official statistics of the National Statistic institute of Bulgaria(Bulgarian)
  9. ^ The Finnish population structure of 2005 at Statistics Finland (Finnish/Swedish)
  10. ^ Elected MPs and candidates by family type in 2003 at Statistics Finland (English)
  11. ^ [2]
  12. ^ See commentary on verses [Quran 23:1]: Vol. 3, notes 7-1, p. 241; 2000, Islamic Publications
  13. ^ Tafsir ibn Kathir 4:24
  14. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cohabitation — I (living together) noun abiding together, act of dwelling together, alliance, living together in sexual intimacy, lodging together, lodging together as husband and wife, occupying the same domicile, residing together, rooming together associated …   Law dictionary

  • cohabitation — [ kɔabitasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • XIIIe; lat. cohabitatio 1 ♦ Situation de personnes qui vivent, habitent ensemble. La cohabitation des époux. Cohabitation avec qqn. Cohabitation et concubinage. 2 ♦ (1981) Polit. Dans le cadre constitutionnel de la Ve… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Cohabitation — Cohabitation, auch Kohabitation (frz., „Zusammenleben“) ist ein politikwissenschaftlicher Begriff, der eine Besonderheit des politischen Systems der V. Französischen Republik umschreibt. Er bezeichnet eine Situation, in welcher der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • cohabitation — mid 15c., action or state of living together (especially as husband and wife), from M.Fr. cohabitation (O.Fr. cohabitacion cohabitation, sexual intercourse ), from L.L. cohabitationem (nom. cohabitatio), noun of action from cohabitare to dwell… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Cohabitation — Co*hab i*ta tion, n. [L. cohabitatio.] 1. The act or state of dwelling together, or in the same place with another. Feltham. [1913 Webster] 2. (Law) The living together of a man and woman in supposed sexual relationship. [1913 Webster] That the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Cohabitation —   [koabita sjɔ̃, französisch »Beisammenleben«], die, , Schlagwort der französischen Politik für die Zusammenarbeit des Staatspräsidenten mit einer Regierung, die einer anderen politischen Richtung angehört; in Frankreich praktiziert 1986 88… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • cohabitation — COHABITATION. s. f. Terme de Jurisprudence. État du mari et de la femme qui vivent ensemble. Les Juges ont ordonné la cohabitation …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Cohabitation — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Cohabitation », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) La cohabitation peut désigner : la… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cohabitation —          JOSPIN (Lionel)     Bio express : Homme politique français (1937 )     «Je pense que la cohabitation n est pas un bon système dans la durée. Le problème n est pas tant que la cohabitation fasse courir le risque de la paralysie car le… …   Dictionnaire des citations politiques

  • COHABITATION — s. f. T. de Jurispr. Il signifie, en général, L état de deux personnes qui habitent ensemble ; mais on le dit plus particulièrement D un mari et d une femme qui vivent ensemble, en remplissant les devoirs du mariage, et quelquefois, par extension …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 7eme edition (1835)