While Valentine’s Day may spell ‘Romance’ for many happy couples, it’s also a big day for consumer spending and, apparently, a boost to the national economy.
So, while many are blissfully Instagramming their flowers and chocolates, let’s take a look at some more important decisions we might make about our future happiness and financial situation, like … whether to get married.

It’s difficult to believe, but the latest figures out show that:

‘Almost half of us mistakenly believe that common law marriage exists’

According to social researchers NatCen, the first findings from this year’s British Social Attitudes Survey show that 46% of those questioned are under the wrong impression that cohabiting couples form a common law marriage – a figure that remains largely unchanged over the last 14 years, despite a significant increase in the number of cohabiting couples. Only 41% of respondents correctly said that cohabiting couples are not in a common law marriage. The question is part of ongoing research by Professor Anne Barlow and colleagues at Exeter University on why people choose not to marry.

Coincidentally, here at The Transparency Project we’ve recently published a guide to the common law marriage myth and what your rights really are if you’re in a living-together-type relationship, but not married or in a civil partnership.
You can download this here –


We cover: finance; parenting; property; inheritance; domestic abuse; and ‘cohabitation contracts’.

As the NatCen Research Director writes:

“Misperceptions like this can have very real negative implications for people’s lives and the decisions they take. Cohabitants may face financial hardship and even losing their home if the relationship breaks down. Additionally, we know that the lack of legal rights for cohabitants affects particular groups disproportionately, particularly women and children, as women remain more likely to put careers on hold while raising children and become financially dependent on their partners”

It’s thought that the Equal Civil Partnerships Bill currently going through Parliament (which is intended to make civil partnerships available to opposite sex as well as same sex couples) might encourage more cohabiting couples into entering a formal arrangement. This won’t be an answer for everyone though..

Note: we’ve already been alerted to a small error in our guide on page 5 where we say: ‘In past centuries, some people married according to local customs.’
As research by Professor Rebecca Probert ‏has shown, there isn’t any evidence of this type of marriage, and the myth seems to have originated as recently as the 1970s.

However, it seems that this widespread misunderstanding about legal status (or lack of it) isn’t going away any time soon.

Happy Valentine’s Day all (!)

Whilst you’re here – we’d be cock-a-hoop if you were to show us some love today and donate to our Just Giving page! No amount too small (or big!).
Thank you!