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Abstract

In many European countries, cohabitation has become a prevailing practice. Norway is one of the countries leading this trend; cohabitation before marriage is the norm and a majority of couples become parents before they (eventually) marry. This article explores the meaning of cohabitation for Norwegian couples today through a qualitative analysis of interviews with 17 urban, heterosexual couples. As the trend towards increased cohabitation has emerged so strongly in Norway, such analysis may provide important insights into the possible implications of more widespread cohabitation in Europe. Why is cohabitation so attractive to young Norwegians today? Why do most couples postpone marriage until after they have children? The main finding is that cohabitation in this context is understood as acting according to important norms about intimate relationships. Cohabitation is a way of dealing with the complexity of attitudes towards love and relationships in late modernity. The option of living together outside marriage makes it possible for couples to be sensible (not committing themselves ‘too much’) as well as living together when they want to develop a relationship and are ‘in love’.