The number of unmarried, heterosexual couples who are living together has increased seven-fold since 1970. The larger number does not mean that living together has become an unproblematic panacea. In fact, far too many couples are not finding the happiness they expected. It is common for men and women of all ages who were full of love and hope to experience a breakup shortly after moving in together.

Why? All too often live-in lovers have not given enough thought to moving in or the consequences of wanting to move out.

Unfortunately, the unique set of circumstances surrounding living together make it one of the most difficult relationships to break off. There are ways, however, to minimize the trauma and the damage.

The Nature of Live-in Love

The reasons couples generally move in together provide a poor foundation for a lasting relationship. Jimmy and Jane most often decide to share a home because:

He/she sleeps over most nights anyway.

Splitting rent and household expenses is more economical and raises the potential for a better standard of living.

Sex is more convenient.

He/she likes the companionship.

She thinks it will lead to marriage.

He thinks he can put off getting married.

They want to test their compatibility.

He wants the benefit of a wife but not the legal commitment.

lovers separation

These certainly aren’t good enough reasons to commit oneself to an exclusive live-in partner. Unfortunately and all too often, couples don’t realize this until they have already set up housekeeping.

The Reality of Live-in Love

It may take time, months, and for some even years, but eventually reality sets in. A vast number of live-in lovers realize that moving in together did not meet their original goals or expectations. Here’s what they found instead:

Living together does not turn out to be the road to matrimony women think it will be. At least 40 percent of partners never walk down the aisle together.

Couples who live together may outwardly resemble other families but lack equal commitment and security.

Extended family members and friends do not view live-in couples in the same category as married couples.

Live-in couples appear to be equitable in superficial things like housekeeping but do not equally divide childrearing responsibilities. Women bear the brunt of this task.

Women do not find a live-in relationship as satisfying as men and express a loss of self-esteem and regret when it is unsuccessful. A majority say they would never live with someone again.

Living together is not a compatibility tester. Those who live together have a higher divorce rate than couples who have not cohabited.

Rarely is living together the monogamous sexual arrangement it was thought to be.

Living together does not provide the legal protection of a marriage relationship.

Significant numbers of individuals who have experienced both divorce and separation from a live-in lover say it is more difficult to break off the latter.

At the end of this tarnished rainbow is often a blackened pot of gold. Separations can be bitter, angry, and lead to serious disputes. The problems become more pronounced without protective legal measures already in place.

Breaking Up Without Legal Benefits

Unlike Sweden, where living together has been recognized as a legitimate social institution that requires regulation by law to protect participants, men and women in the United States and a number of other countries are not afforded this legal consideration. And when couples move in together, romance, love, and passion are on the upswing; imagining a bitter end is way out of sight. What they don’t realize is that the generosity and kindness shown in the early stages of a romance do not accompany the breakup phase. Consequently, the notion of implementing a legal contract that might serve them later is not uppermost in their minds.

Dangerous Liaisons.

If you have ever met a couple like Henry and Sandra, you know how important it is to at least give a living together contract a thought. These two moved in with all the optimism that lovers do. Sandra even accompanied Henry to a new city and happily set up housekeeping in his home until she came to the realization that Henry wasn’t the marrying kind.

Sandra was angry, bitter, and frustrated. She had contributed to the household finances, spent money on wall-coverings, and handed over her tax refund. When Henry was out of town, she hired a moving truck and took everything she thought was rightfully hers.

couple photo

The problem was Henry didn’t see it that way. He thought what Sandra took was his. He wasn’t buying her idea that a number of the expensive household items were gifts he had purchased for her. They both adopted a mode of revenge and filed lawsuits and counter-suits. It was impossible for them to be civil to one another. The breakup brought out the worst in both of them. Sandra, it is thought, sabotaged Henry’s relationship with his employer and before long he was out money from legal fees and lost his job.

More Legal Bombshells

Can you imagine how hard it would be to deal with serious issues if Henry nearly sent Sandra to the slammer over taking what he argued was his expensive, antique grandfather clock? Try these on for size without a legal contract:

1. What happens to a joint lease or loan on a home, car, or appliance?

2. What recourse would you have without written proof you loaned your lover a thousand dollars?

3. How do you divide the joint savings account that you contributed well over half of?

4. How do you get child support when paternity was never formally established?

5. How can you get repaid for the five years you took off work to further his/her career and be the homemaker?

How to Gauge If It’s Over

Don’t let the prospect of an ugly split prevent you from packing your bags. Delaying only prolongs the agony, especially in the presence of these signs that it’s probably over:

Your sex life is dwindling to a standstill.

Your don’t feel any closer to achieving your live-in objective.

You are less happy and satisfied than when you first moved in.

You feel less secure about your relationship.

You have begun to question your partner’s loyalty.

Your eye has started to wander.

You and your partner have different agendas.

Trust in your partner and your relationship has evaporated.

You don’t like coming home if your live-in is there.

You cannot honestly say you would move in with him/her all over again.

If this evidence is stacked up against you it’s time to pack the bags! Rarely will you experience a turnaround for the better once these elements are in play.

Eight Good Reasons to Move Out

Look at it this way: You are giving up much more by staying than by leaving, especially if this list of eight reasons applies to your relationship. It’s time to get a new address if your live-in relationship is:

lovers at sea

1. Preventing you from furthering your own goals.

2. Stifling your growth.

3. Taking advantage of your financial resources.

4. Turning you into someone’s caretaker and housekeeper.

5. Preventing you as a couple from addressing and resolving important issues..

6. Not providing a healthy atmosphere for your children.

7. Detrimental to your well-being.

8. Prohibiting you from moving on to a better love relationship.

Any relationship in which you are put upon emotionally, physically, or financially, as these conditions would indicate, cannot provide you with a nurturing, stimulating, safe, and happy environment.

Dismantling the Home, Hearth, and Relationship

Once you decide it’s over, don’t act impetuously. Getting out or removing him/her from the premises without undue problems requires serious preparation. Unless you are in a dangerous situation, don’t empty the contents of what was once your love nest into a waiting truck and disappear overnight. Take the following steps:

1. Make a plan. You may want to refer back to the daily breakup planner provided in a previous article, Get Ready, Get Set, Break Up. However, certain things will not apply to the couple sharing the same space. Important considerations include:

How long you will give yourself to break up.

Devising a time line.

Who is going to move out.

What you can do to avoid inflicting pain and at the same time keep yourself out of jeopardy.

2. Make the necessary provisions. Taking these few precautions is not only prudent but necessary. Do not count on your partner being generous or solicitous in a live-in breakup.

Separate any joint accounts.

Find a place to live.

Make a list of what is yours.

Try to even financial accounts before you lower the boom.

Make sure you have enough money to get by.

Attend to any legalities like taking your name off the lease and contacting a lawyer if you’re not sure of all your legal obligations.

If you are moving out, have your name taken off the utility and phone accounts.

3. Stop the charade. Emotionally and sexually begin to sever your ties to your partner and start doing more things alone.

4. Confront your partner. Tell him/her you want to separate. Be firm, organized, and up front about what you have done to ready yourself.

Following steps 1 through 4 will put you on solid ground and prepare you as well as possible for any complications or problems that arise as your love nest breaks apart. You may have warmly walked into your adobe together, but on the way it can get pretty steamy.

On Your Own Again

Greet your new life with enthusiasm. True, there are pluses and minuses to living alone. Like everything, you must make the choice whether to dwell on the positives or the negatives. To make this a winning chapter in your life, consider the upside. For the best results, follow the dos and don’ts in the table below. If you try live-in love one more time, proceed with caution.

If and When You Try Again

You want to move in with someone else? Don’t you dare until you check every one of these items off the list below. If it doesn’t prevent a future breakup, at least it will lessen the blow.

lovers in garden

Discuss personal agendas.

Agree on future course of romance.

Set up one household account that you contribute to equally. Keep all other money in separate accounts.

Draw up a list of items you each brought to the house or that you purchased with your own money.

Find a neutral living space, one not previously resided in by spouses or other lovers.

Agree on a policy of honesty if and when one wants to move out. Spell out a bargain.

Discuss the possibility of a living-together contract.

Consult with an attorney regarding your personal need for a contract.

Establish household rules.

Discuss what role you want to play among each other’s family.

Whether you have decided to terminate your live-in relationship or give it more time, you should be better equipped to evaluate the days ahead. Pulling the plug on living together is difficult and involves very specific issues not applicable to other relationships. Give serious consideration to what you have learned and how it applies to you.