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What's the right reason to marry?

Updated on August 30, 2013
This motorcycle-loving couple made their wedding memories unique.
This motorcycle-loving couple made their wedding memories unique. | Source

Are couples nowadays getting married for the wrong reasons?

And if so, what would be the reasoning? Do some people get married because of obligations, money, or the false sense of a "fairy-tale" life? Or is it that they envisioned a wedding without the responsibilities of marriage?

This is a multi-faceted question with multi-faceted answers, but the short answer is: In Western society, our reasons in general for getting married have changed drastically over the last several hundred years. In addition to this, we are Westernizing the world in general, so these changing ideas on marriage are being exported around the world.

In a nutshell, marriage used to have very little to do with the individuals in question, and everything to do with the families and community as a whole. Over time, as society became more industrialized, the individual union grew in importance until people were marrying (and divorcing) on the basis of love -- an emotion which, though idealized, is often changeable and transient in nature, not to mention frequently confused with passion.

Tevye and Golde
Tevye and Golde | Source

Do some people get married because of obligations?

Marriages historically were contracted and carried out, even on the level of peasants and commoners, based on what each party could bring to the union, always with an eye to strengthening and increasing assets.

Whether you were looking to bring in a hard-working, solid partner who would provide lots of children (free labor), or whether you had your eye on a partner who would increase your family's holdings and wealth, a new partner was considered first on their usefulness to the family and community as a whole, and second on their ability to bear and raise (or provide for) children. Whether or not the parties got along was a distant third consideration, with "love" often considered a liability to the process. Love meant that the partners would turn more toward each other, and away from the community and their families. They would become more insular, less social.

Historically, this model worked fairly well. The parties in question often got along comfortably well, they did not expect passionate love or affection, and in most cases a sort of comfortable affection developed. Unfortunately, there was an unhappy percentage who were in angry, bitter, marriages full of resentment and abuse -- abuse exacerbated by laws that dictated the wife and children to be the property of her husband.

This obligatory family/ community based relationship has mostly been done away with. A few cultures still practice it with arranged marriages, but the love-relationship model is, by and large, accepted as the desirable norm in modern culture. Now, obligatory marriages are generally caused by self-imposed obligations:

  • We've been dating so long, it feels like marriage should be the next step (societal pressure; distinct from choosing to do so)
  • The girl is pregnant and feels obligated to marry the father to support the child.
  • The girl is pregnant and the guy is pushed into a "shot-gun wedding," or feels honor-bound to marry her.
  • One person in a partnership is coasting, the other is deeply in love. The one deeply in love begins pushing marriage, and the one coasting agrees out of a vague sense of guilt for stringing their partner along.

There are likely other self-imposed obligations that I haven't addressed, but outside of a few cultures where arranged marriage is still an accepted norm, or a few subcultures (like FLDS) where women are considered property to traded and awarded, most modern marriages that are based on a sense of obligation rest on self-imposed obligations.

The excellent book Marriage, A History, by Stephanie Coontz addresses the basic shift in the essential concept of marriage from a community relationship to a relationship between individuals in much more detail, and I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the origins of marriage. It's also available in Nook and e-pub reader format.

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Do some people get married because of money?

Of course some people get married because of money. It's not getting married for money that's the problem, it's whether or not they're honest and upfront about it. Both parties -- the wealthy one and the wealth seeker -- need to be on the same page about what they're looking for and what they're willing to provide. Someone on reddit actually link to a website called Sugar Daddy for Me that caters to people looking for wealthy benefactors (or looking to be a wealthy benefactor).

Although we as a society tend to react with a knee-jerk disgust when we hear someone has essentially bought or sold affection and companionship, it's not that outrageous of a notion. The problem with these relationships primarily arises when the parties are dishonest with themselves or each other about the expectations they have.


Do some people get married because of the false sense of a "fairy-tale" life?

I think, perhaps, some people confuse the wedding with the marriage. Auxiliary to that, some people just may not think past the wedding -- they're in love with their fiance now, and they're certain love will always feel this exciting and passionate, and it simply does not occur to them that after the passion of falling in love and the excitement and attention of an engagement and wedding, they will have to settle down into the everyday grind of life, but this time with a permanent roommate and lifelong monogamous partner.

Love is wonderful, and it is great to find someone you can spend your life with. Marrying your best friend is a dream I think everyone cherishes. But there is a mistaken and prevalent notion that love fixes everything and love conquers all. It doesn't. Love can certainly help, in that we are more forgiving and patient with those we love, but it by no means fixes all the problems that come with the day-to-day reality of relationships. At some point in the relationship, both parties must remove their rose-colored glasses and accept that reality is not easy or fun or full of passion, and work with what they have. Some people are incapable of doing this, and when the rose-colored glasses come off, they blame their partners for the relationship not living up to their ideal of love and passion. So they flit off looking for someone else to fit this ideal, and are inevitably disappointed in them, too.

Is this bad? I don't know. I guess it depends on what you consider important. Many people prefer stability and companionship to an ever-revolving cycle of partners. Society tends to approve of stability and companionship in relationships. I myself prefer it. That said, if someone is genuinely as a serial monogamist (moving from relationship to relationship), I suppose there's nothing wrong with it as long as they aren't hurting innocent parties, like children. Perhaps, if you think you're not the type to remain in a stable, comfortable relationship, you should not have children. Stability is good for children.

Is it that they envisioned a wedding without the responsibilities of marriage?

I addressed this a little above, but to address the question a little more in depth: Obviously, yes. Some people do get married, whether consciously or subconsciously, because of the spectacle and attention that weddings allow. Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding addresses this idea in much more depth. Essentially, these big, lavish, spectacle-style weddings weren't always so common. As recently as the 1940's and 1950's, girls would get married in simple dresses at the local church or community center (or in their living room), with a ceremony attended by close friends and family. Afterwards would be a potluck meal or appetizers and perhaps some dancing or celebrating with friends. It was only the very rich who went for the extravagant wedding spectacle, in part because it was a way of showing off their wealth. Even then, the emphasis was often less on "spectacle" and more on "restrained wealth."

Around this same time, American society reached a unique spot in history. Post-WW2, the economy boomed, and the middle-class American family boomed with it. For weddings, this meant that mothers could afford to throw slightly fancier, more extravagant wedding parties for their daughters than what they had. As weddings increased in size and cost, it became the accepted norm. In the 1980's, Princess Diana's wedding inspired wide-eyed dreams in young girls around the globe, and the spectacle wedding became ingrained in popular culture as a must-have.

Kim Kardashian is the most recent (and, to my knowledge, extreme) example of a spectacular wedding followed by annulment or divorce, but she's hardly the only product of a culture that has focused more attention on the ceremony than the relationship involved. I think -- I hope -- it's becoming a more widespread recognition that big weddings are unnecessary, and that starting your life together with a pile of debt because you wanted a really big party is just a bad idea.

So . . . what IS the right reason to marry?

In modern society? Love, affection, commitment. The right reason to marry is because you've found someone you care about as more than just an occasional friend, they are someone you want to spend your life with. They're a constant companion. They are the family you choose. You trust them with your secrets, your hopes, your fears, and your flaws, and they trust you with the same.

It needs to be someone who you don't just love, because love is so often confused with passion, it needs to be someone who you genuinely like, someone who stimulates your mind and enjoys many of the same interests as you, yet is different enough that they draw you out of your comfort zone. Someone who brings equal and complementary skills and benefits to the relationship, someone who respects and values you as much as you do them.

These days, the right reason to marry is because the person is, well, right for you. The trick is figuring out who's right for you.

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    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 5 years ago from Philadelphia

      I totally agree with the statement you made that people marry for different reasons. However, the reasons for this are so many that I don't even know where to begin.

    • that one girl profile image

      that one girl 5 years ago from Washington state

      Holy crud, I just realized I didn't add the final paragraph to this hub. I've been all sick and feverish, and I just plain forgot to write that final paragraph. Damnit.

      Okay, I hate to do this after I've made a hub go "live", but I'm pulling it down so I can edit in that final paragraph. Thanks for pointing out that I never actually answered the question, lol.

    • trimar7 profile image

      trimar7 5 years ago from New York

      Marriage should come at a time when both people feel secure as individuals and can bring to a relationship a near equality.