Live-In Lovers in Sweden, Including Gays, Given Same Rights as Married Couples


A new Swedish law has given live-in lovers, whether heterosexual or homosexual, identical rights to couples married by church or state.

It is the latest move by the Swedish state, champion of liberal life styles and minority social groups, to recognize the legitimacy of relationships outside wedlock.

The Co-habitees Law, which took effect on Jan. 1, gives partners in such relationships equal rights over all property acquired for joint use--no matter who paid for it.


The government is pressing the message home in a nationwide poster campaign, featuring broken hearts and warning couples to “read the law before your love ends.”

First of Its Kind

“I don’t know of any other country that has this kind of legislation,” said Hans Jacobsson, an expert on family law with the Justice Ministry.

“It is a good law,” said Egon, 35, who has lived with a woman for six years. “My partner and I have built something just as important as a married couple, and should have the same rights and obligations if our relationship comes to an end.”

Like many Swedish couples, Egon and his common-law wife Gun chose not to marry partly because living together would provide an easier way out and partly because of principles.

“Although we don’t celebrate a wedding day, we made as much a commitment to each other as any married couple when we decided to live together,” Egon said. “But we don’t believe we need the blessing of the church or society to make it work.”

No Prior Agreement

He and Gun did not sign any agreement before moving in together. But Egon said they would probably do so now to protect themselves.


Cohabitation has been widely accepted in Sweden for several years. The Swedish word for co-habitee-- sambo --is in Swedish dictionaries. Swedes introduce their sambo as casually as they would a wife or husband. There is no stigma attached to the term.

Jenny, 28, belongs to another group--the traditionalists who tend eventually to get married but live together for a while first.

“The new law won’t change too much for my boyfriend and I,” she said. “But if we were not planning a wedding, we would obviously have to write a co-habitee agreement on what belongs to whom and who bought what.”

New Home Together

Jenny has been living with Sverker in his apartment for a year. They recently acquired a new home together with the proceeds from the sale of his apartment.

“I am going to pay him half of what the first apartment cost,” Jenny said, adding that this had already been agreed prior to the new law.

Were she not to pay and the relationship to end, Swedish law would now entitle her to half the apartment--as it was acquired for the use of both parties.


The partition rules could, however, be overridden by a written agreement. That way, the couple could just split up, take their things and go their separate ways.

Same Rules for Gays

Homosexuals splitting up a marriage-like relationship also have to follow the rules governing the division of property.

“This has made homosexuals more equal to heterosexuals,” said Justice Ministry official Severin Blomstrand, adding that similar legislation was under consideration in Norway and Denmark.

But he said that homosexuals were still not completely happy. “They still feel discriminated against because they were denied the right to marry and adopt children,” he said.

Although live-in lovers are widely regarded as a family unit in Sweden, marriage is still the most common form of cohabitation.

But Swedish couples tend to take their vows later in life and often only when they have children.