The cold hard fact is that about half of marriages fail, whether by ending in divorce or through making one or both spouses unhappy. What is less commonly thought about is that this is rarely inevitable: few people marry when they are truly incompatible on some fundamental level. Instead, marriages break down slowly. Issues that are not all that significant are allowed to grow into something that can eventually destroy a couple's ability to find joy in each other.
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is marriage?
From the time that we are children, many of us think about marriage. Marriage is special. Although there are different definitions of marriage, marriage, however, simply refers to the legal joining of two people. Merriam Webster defines the word marriage as “the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” Cambridge Dictionary gives the definition of marriage as a legally accepted relationship between two people in which they live together, or the official ceremony that results in this. Although the word ‘wedding’ is one of the synonyms for marriage and people use both words interchangeably, marriage is actually much deeper than a wedding which only lasts for a day or thereabouts. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. Today, there are different types of marriages- monogamy, polygamous unions, same-sex marriage, etc.
Some other synonyms for marriage are nuptials, union, espousal, coupling, unification, hook-up, alliance, etc. Antonyms for marriage include divorce, splitting up, sundering, separation. To get more antonyms and synonyms for marriage, you may check the dictionary or thesaurus.
Why do people get married?
People get married for a variety of reasons; these reasons are unique to each relationship and many couples usually have similar reasons why they want to walk down the aisle. People in relationships choose to make a commitment to spend their lives together because it supports their dreams and values, helps them enjoy great sex life, or serves their other needs, whatever these needs are. Marriage goes beyond exchanging sparkling rings or throwing a glamorous party. For some, marriage could be for love/emotional reasons, some financial, some legal, some for recreation, while for some, it is a combination of some or all of these reasons.
Most of the time people meet and fall in love and marriage is the next step in their relationship. Romance is at the core of their decision to take their vows to each other. Based on a research conducted by the Pew Research Center, about 88% of the general public reveal that the number one reason they got married to their life partner is love. Other times people get married for legal purposes or benefits related to the common law. By law, marriage means that you can receive healthcare benefits that your partner holds, hospital caregiver decisions and visitation rights can be invoked with lesser bureaucratic obstructions or limitations, and that you can file taxes jointly. It is also easier for married couples to legally manage property and build structured parenting plans, and also next of kin, home ownership and employment sick leave issues.
However, people get married for reasons other than those related to the legal benefits affiliated with marriage. Marriage is special to a lot of people, and many have dreamed of their wedding ceremony for all of their lives. It can be a way to show that you're devoted to your partner. Most people consider marriage to be a sacred covenant. Here are some more reasons people get married:
Can you have a long-term relationship without getting married?
Yes, you can have a long-term relationship without getting married. Some people are together for all of their lives but are never legally joined through marriage. Civil marriage is not for everyone. For some, it's just not an important part of a relationship. People's opinions on marriage vary from person to person, as does their personal desire to get married. It's important to respect other people's choices as they pertain to marriage. Marriage is something that a lot of people choose to take on, but it doesn't make a romantic partnership or long-term relationship any less sacred or serious if a couple chooses not to get married. Some people may choose to not have a civil marriage as long as they are playing their individual roles in the relationship and meeting each other’s needs. People who have also been in multiple marriages previously may find it difficult to commit to another legal marriage, and may prefer that the relationship remain without any legal binding. Some same-sex couples may also decide not to have a civil marriage especially in countries where same sex relationships are not legalized. Marriage requires a lot of work, comes with expectations and responsibilities and some would rather not go into it, which is absolutely fine as long as both parties have an agreement on that.
Similarly, it's important to respect the choices of a couple when it comes to their wedding. Some people choose to have large ceremonies, whereas others prefer small ones.
What should I do if my partner and I don't know if we want to get married?
It's okay to be uncertain about if you want to get married or not. Perhaps, both of you aren't sure about marriage, or perhaps one of you wants to get married, and the other prefers to have a long-term relationship without necessarily having a civil marriage. people who have been in a number of marriages in the past may not be enthusiastic about getting married and may prefer not to. Some potential spouses, whether same-sex couples or opposite sex may decide to have an open marriage, where expectations are more flexible. Marriage counseling and premarital counseling helps so many couples. Premarital counseling specifically can help you get prepared for marriage and work through any issues related to potentially getting married. There is nothing shameful about not knowing, and there is nothing shameful about wanting to talk through things with a mental health provider. It's important to work through any issues that you have as a couple prior to marriage so that they don't interfere once you are married.
Get help in your marriage
If you are experiencing issues related to your relationship, marriage or romantic partnership, couples counseling can help. In case you have been in a number of failed marriages and you are scared of going into a new one, you may need to seek professional counseling and talk to an expert in psychology today. The counselors at ReGain.com are well versed in helping couples through any hardships that they are experiencing. You can also get individual counseling if you feel that an individual therapist would be more helpful for you as a person. Online counseling is an excellent way to get the help that you and your spouse need to make your marriage work. You can see an online counselor from the privacy of your own home, and it's often cheaper than traditional therapy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the true meaning of marriage?
The true definition of marriage takes on different meanings in different parts of the world, different religious traditions, and different cultures. But at its most basic and broadest level, marriage is a formal agreement between two people that serves as a legally binding contract. This legal contract brings their lives together in pretty much every aspect: the two individuals merge legally, emotionally, economically, and they become what society recognizes as a basic nuclear family unit. The institution of marriage also helps to grow and strengthen the ties between a married couples' extended family. So, in most parts of the world, primarily, marriage means taking on the rights and responsibilities of building a new family while also joining in and enjoying the rights and responsibilities of the wider extended family.
Throughout different traditions in different parts of the world, marriage usually begins with a wedding ceremony. This wedding, along with a marriage certificate or other official document, marks the beginning of the married couple's life together. In some cases of common law marriage, couples are considered married without a wedding, but after they’ve lived together with a shared family life (as if they were married) for a certain length of time. In most parts of the world, though, the wedding ceremony marks the beginning of married life as recognized by law.
The definition of marriage (which can include common law marriage, an arranged marriage, a plural marriage, a civil union, or a traditional marriage with a civil or religious ceremony) varies throughout different parts of the world. However, in almost every definition of marriage, the goals of the married couple revolve around the rights and responsibilities that their culture and society expects of them. Also true for most parts of the world is that sexual relations and the legal status associated with sexual relations is wrapped up in a person’s marital status. When it comes to sex marriage is the key in many parts of the world. Research suggests that these delineations are still strict in practice in Western countries, which may be especially true for some conservative or religious pockets of the society.
What is the purpose of marriage?
When looking at the purpose of marriage, it can be different for everybody. The only way to define the purpose of general in a general way is for marriage to be viewed in terms of the society as a whole. In many parts of the world, marriage is considered the building block of a nuclear family, and the nuclear family is considered the basic unit of society. So, the institution of marriage – whether it’s common law marriage, an arranged marriage, a plural marriage, a civil union, or a traditional marriage with a civil or religious ceremony – historically serves as a way of building up the society.
In addition to constructing a new nuclear family, the married couple helps to solidify relations between the extended family. In many parts of the world, the extended family serves as a wider social support network, and the institution of marriage helps to expand and solidify this network of the extended family.
What are the 3 most important things in a marriage?
Although there are a number of factors that are needed to make a marriage work, however, the three most important things in a marriage are love, trust, and commitment. In this case, love doesn’t refer to the feeling of butterflies in the stomach, physical attraction or even the sex. Relationships don’t just thrive based on good sex or mushy feelings. Instead, love in a marriage is based on commitment and a willingness to put the needs and desires of your partner ahead of your own. In a healthy marriage where your partner loves you in the same way, they’ll also be looking out for your needs and desires, as well. This is true even in a common law marriage or a same sex marriage. In a marriage marriage, love is an action as well as a feeling, and acting out of love is one of the most important things in every marriage.
Trust is another important part of every marriage. Trust in a marriage means that you never have to question the motives or intentions of your partner, because you know that they have your wellbeing in mind and would not betray your trust. It also means that in a marriage, weather that be a same sex marriage or common law marriage, you can rely on the fact that your partner is telling you the truth and being open and honest with you. Of course, trust breaks down in a marriage when partners lie to each other, which makes it impossible for a husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of a same sex marriage) to trust each other fully. In these situations, it takes time and work to rebuild that necessary trust within the marriage.
Finally, commitment is a key element of every marriage, whether it’s a traditional marriage, same sex marriage, or common law marriage. Commitment means sticking with your partner through thick and thin. Through all of the stages of family planning, raising a family, and fulfilling all of the rights and responsibilities faced by a married couple, they should stand together as a united front. This means that, even if you don’t feel like supporting or staying faithful to your partner, you do it anyway. It stems from a sense of duty and commitment that is stronger than fickle emotions or passing lust.
What are the 7 stages of marriage?
When it comes to the typical marriage, marriage will go through seven distinct stages. Every husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of same sex marriages) will experience these stages throughout the course of a lifelong marriage. The timing of these stages is different for every marriage, but the themes and developments that every married couple goes through are quite universal in all parts of the world.
Here are the seven stages of marriage that married couples in all parts of the world experience:
So, every marriage, whether it’s a traditional marriage, same sex marriage, common law marriage, or another form of marriage will go through these seven phases. Remember, the goal is to keep pushing on and progressing, even if the stage of the marriage where you find yourself isn’t ideal at the moment! Talking to a professional marriage counselor or couples therapist is a great way to process the more difficult stages of marriage, help you understand gender roles in marriage, solve marital conflicts, and build a marriage that lasts.
What are the actual benefits of marriage?
There are many benefits of marriage, including personal, societal, and legal benefits. In terms of the personal benefits of marriage, men and women who are married enjoys the sex marriages afford. A married couple will often report enjoying sex more frequently that a person who isn’t married. The personal benefits of being husband and wife also extend to the emotional sphere. Being part of a married couple allows men and women a safe and intimate space to share and grow emotionally. Research suggests that this can also be beneficial to the mental health and longevity of men and women alike.
In addition to the conjugal love enjoyed in a marriage, in many parts of the world, a husband and wife have a special status in the society. Research suggests that in many parts of the world, including in Western countries, married men and women are seen as having a particular, often higher, status within the society. This is because married men and women take on the rights and responsibilities of being a married couple in a public and definitive way, in front of their social circle. This can be done in a religious ceremony, or by a civil union that is performed separated from the church. In either case, the legal status confirms the social status, and the entire social sphere is present to witness it!
There are legal benefits to the institution of marriage, as well. The legal status of a marriage, as confirmed by the marriage certificate, grants married men and women plenty of rights and responsibilities under marriage law. These rights granted to a husband and wife include tax benefits, conjugal rights, and rights concerning inheritance and other financial issues under marriage law. Marriage law covers the ins and outs of this formal agreement and the process of establishing this legal contract and family life between the two individuals. In most cases – especially in Western countries – marriage law is limited to only those marriages which are recognized by law.
Under marriage law, married men and women enjoy rights and responsibilities once they’ve been granted a recognized marriage certificate. So, in many parts of the world, the legal status of a marriage – as well as the married couples ability to obtain the rights and responsibilities associated with the legal status – is limited based on the definition of marriage of a given society. In Western countries, this has led to many movements to expand the definition of marriage so that more men and women can enjoy the legal status of being a married couple. This process is considered a movement towards marriage equality for all men and women. For example, in many Western countries, the definition of marriage has been expanded to include interracial marriage, same sex marriage, and common law marriage. The significance of the definition of marriage in the eyes of the law expanding means that marriage equality is also expanding for many individuals of different backgrounds to have the same legal status of a married couple that was once reserved to a man and a woman of the same race, religion, and social standing.
What makes a happy marriage?
A happy marriage is often defined by a devotion and positive emotions between a husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of a same sex marriage). Whether this is expressed by intimacy, emotional bonding, or sex marriage is the happiest when both partners are invested in each other’s happiness. Having a happy marriage does not mean there won’t be marital conflicts. People who claim to be happy in their marriages also report the importance of forgiveness, commitment during hardship, and constantly working to improve the relationship, regardless of the years of marriage. While it might seem like a difficult – or even impossible – task from the outset, building and maintaining a happy marriage is something that must be worked at constantly. There are situations where people who find themselves in a forced marriage may eventually find themselves attracted to one another and eventually putting in the work to build a happy marriage.
What is the hardest year of marriage?
The hardest period in a marriage will be different for each husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of same sex marriages). For some couples, the hardest year might come towards the beginning of the marriage while they’re trying to figure out family planning, potential gender roles if it applies, routines, and general rhythms for the marriage. For others, the hardest year might come after the kids are grown up and moved out, a few decades down the line. Or, unforeseen circumstances such as medical or financial emergencies can cause the hardest point in a marriage. This can be true for all marriages including same sex marriage, common law marriage, or any other form of marraige.
So, in a traditional marriage, same sex marriage, or common law marriage, the hardest year of marriage can’t be predicted ahead of time. Instead, each couple must rely on one another and the commitment that underlies their marriage to get them through the toughest times in the marriage.
What is love in a marriage?
Love goes beyond mushy feelings or even the sex. Relationships thrive on a number of other factors. Love in a marriage can be defined as both a feeling and an action. As a feeling, love is the emotional bond that is formed between a husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of a same sex marriage). This feeling of love is fueled and confirmed by the sex marriage affords, and the good times that you have in the marriage. It is the feeling of closeness and intimacy fostered by the marriage.
Love is also an action, though. It goes beyond just the sex. In marriage, when a husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of a same sex marriage) are loving each other actively, they are putting their partner’s needs above their own. This means that, despite how they feel or what they want, they put their partner first. This kind of active love might sometimes spring from a sense of duty or obligation rather than the feeling of love or emotional attachment. However, even when it isn’t based on emotions or sex marriage benefits greatly when both partners are showing active love to one another.
How long does a marriage last?
For most people, they want to build an eternal marriage. A marriage should last until death separates a husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife in the case of same sex marriages). While being committed to being faithful to one person for the rest of your life is a lofty and noble goal, about fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. And this statistic doesn’t take into account all of the people who stay in unhappy or forced marriages without getting divorced. National survey reveals that on average, a marriage in the US lasts about eight years.
There’s no specific answer as to how long each marriage will last, because it depends on several factors. For example, the age at which a couple gets married can help predict how long the marriage will last, as can the socio-economic status of the couple. Other topics such as family size or ideals surrounding family planning, can also contribute to the longevity of a marriage. However, even when all of these factors are taken into consideration, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly how long a marriage will last.
What is the history of marriage?
Starting in the 20th century, the idea of marriage ceremony has become unpopular since the 20th century as a result of many cases of divorce. Marriage and divorce have become an anathema for many and they will rather remain single. Marriage and divorce are two major ethos that many would rather not live by.
The western world often ensures people’s freedom of association is paramount as people continue to exercise their legal rights. Recent times in the western world, unlike ancient Greek, the type of marriage that is acceptable has changed over time as people continue to opt into marriage without as much as a care about the other person’s social and political leaning. In the ancient Greek era, where arranged marriages were most sought after and practiced, the disadvantages of being married were usually brought to fore as the idea of marriage for forced couples changed over time. There are cultures who also believe in marriage covenant as a way to force their beliefs of marriage unto others.
The common law used to be that marriage was between a man and a woman, and upon getting married and saying vows, you'd be announced husband and wife. Historically, same-sex couples were not able to get married. In 2015, the Supreme Court declared marriage legal in all states in the U.S. for same-sex couples. Prior to the decision made by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriage was only legal in some states, and before that, it was not legal at all. Same-sex couples pushed for this right for a long time, as did their allies.
Many years ago, marriages were mostly arranged by parents or relatives. The couples do not necessarily know each other, fall in love and decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together like is prevalent in 21st century marriages. This is how some people end up in forced marriage.
Cousin marriage is one of the forms of marriage that was popular in earlier years, and is still common in some societies today, though the marriage is prohibited in some jurisdictions. A cousin marriage is a marriage where the couples are cousins- i.e., they share common grandparents or other fairly recent ancestral bonds. Some communities or cultures consider cousin marriages ideal and encourage and support it, while other cultures consider it as incest and a taboo, and are subjected to social stigmatization. Some indigenous cultures in North America, South America, Australia, and Polynesia historically practiced cousin marriage, while in some jurisdictions like China, South Korea, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, and 24 out of the 50 United States, cousin marriage is legally prohibited.
Is it better financially to be married or single?
Finding the right person and getting married requires huge commitments. Depending on the type of marriage, whether opposite sex or same sex, couples are usually daunted with coping with finances in marriage. Intending couples are usually faced with getting resources and planning the marriage ceremony together. In ancient times when arranged marriages and forced marriages were prevalent such as the ancient Greek era, men were known to live with the larger family or barracks until they are financially capable of bearing the cost of marriage.
In a study carried out in 2006 at Ohio State University (OSU), it was discovered that some people experienced a sharp increase in their level of wealth after marriage. After 10 years of marriage, some couples reported their average net worth was about $43,000, as opposed to $11,000 net worth for the people who had remained single. However, people who had gotten divorced after marriage were worse off than any of the groups. The average divorced man had about $8,500 left in assets, while the average woman was left with only $3,400.
There are a number of factors which play a role in how marriage affects one’s finances. This study shows that getting married holds a number of benefits as well as risks- even a marriage of convenience has its own risks- and these benefits or risks may vary depending on a number of factors- your income, standard of living, and also if you have children. Therefore, it is almost impossible to conclude as to whether it is better financially to be single or married. Instead, what is possible is to carefully consider the financial pluses or minuses of marriage and understand the probable present or future implications.
While the OSU study doesn’t explore specific reasons why people who are in a civil marriage may sock away more finances or assets, it draws suggestion to several possibilities. The author posits that married couples are more likely to save more as a result of shared expenses and duties in the home. Likewise, there are some benefits tied to taxes and insurance which married folks enjoy but singles do not. However, a marriage ceremony also comes with some level of financial costs. A wedding marriage in western climes, for instance, can hold heavy financial implications for some couples. A lot of couples may incur huge debts as a result of throwing a lavish wedding, thus starting out married life on financially shaky grounds. Some couples go as far as spending about $30,000 on their one-day marriage ceremony- some even spend more. This does not just pose a serious problem for them financially, but even goes to affect their future happiness. A study shows that people with credit card debts are usually unhappy, and a person who has unmanageable debt is likely to suffer mental problems like depression and anxiety. Also, some tax laws which some couples may find favorable may hold heavy penalties for other couples. And lastly, the possibility of a marriage ending in divorce is one of the highest risks which can pose great setbacks for a person in life.
Is it better to be married or single?
In terms of tax benefits, getting to make file returns especially for couples in civil marriages is a good one as you are more likely going to be paying less when compared to filling as a single as a result of deductions attached to lower income. For couples who file a joint return, e.g., people in a group marriage, incomes for all involved couples are combined and this can ensure you save more on taxes.
In terms of mortgage, irrespective of the number of the type of marriage or years in marriage, the most important things are having good incomes, earning capacity and credit scores. It is also important to have nominal debt levels. These factors come into play when mortgage is being discussed or considered.
Also, marriage in western culture with couples having higher earnings, financial assets and better home equity, which are clear indications of economic success during active working years, would mean a higher social security benefit. Therefore, retirement is often better for married couples than single people.
Although there are different views on marriage, however, when it comes to the benefits of being married or single, research has shown that married couples encounter less psychological stress than those who are single. Having a good marriage partner would mean you have someone else to share your worries and anxiety with, thereby helping you to reduce stress levels. Building a good family and marriage with someone with whom you can complement each other’s positive attributes and help each other become better people, while also sharing your mutual goals, aspirations, dreams and desires with one another is an amazing feeling.
Psychotherapists also opine that married couples produce higher levels of testosterone and serotonin- the neurotransmitter in the human body which helps to reduce depression, anger or anxiety, and boosts healthy mood balance. Returning home after a stressful day and having someone to welcome you with open arms and provide physical, emotional and sexual intimacy can help boost a healthy state of mind, positive mood, good sex drive and wellness.
Research has proven over and over how some types of marriages can be a sort of anti-aging antidote; as couples in committed marriages tend to live for longer years than people who are single, divorced, widowed or cohabiting. This can be traced to the great emotional support and the great feeling of being heard, loved and cared for that a person can get from being in a good, healthy marriage.
However, it is important to note that all of the above points are only valid when one is in a good, healthy marriage. Some types of marriages will only make a person miserable and frustrated. The question as to whether it is better to be married or single depends on the people and circumstances involved, because there are people whose lives became miserable because they got married to the wrong person. A marriage can only be successful and happy when both parties involved are committed to making it work. There are married people who may be in a terrible type of marriage and wishing they could become single again. This is one of the reasons some people may go into a marriage of convenience or group marriage so that there are no demands or expectations, and they can still live their lives the way they freely desire.
What are the disadvantages of being married?
A few of the many disadvantages of marriage are;
What are the disadvantages of late marriage?
There are various reasons why people who seem fit for marriage or of marriageable age may be delaying marriage. This may be because of their views on marriage, fear of divorce and remarriage, polygamy, the financial commitment that comes with the marriage ceremony, or the form of marriage prevalent in the culture they find themselves, and so on. There can be certain disadvantages, however, that may come with late marriage. Some people who have been single for a long while may have difficulties adjusting their lives to fit their marriage partner’s needs, likes, and demands. Likewise, some people who marry late have most likely spent long years building their finances, and in such cases, financial matters may hold more importance to them and their married life may consistently take a back seat. Also, ladies, but not all ladies, who go into marriage late may rush to start having kids before they hit menopause, and this rush disturbs them from enjoying the ‘newly married’ phase. Research suggests another common disadvantage of late marriage is that complications may arise in regards to child bearing. Women who get married late, for instance, may panic or be anxious about having children, and such anxieties actually may cause a delay in getting pregnant. However, this differs per each individual as everybody is different and has their own views on whether or not to have children.
What are the disadvantages of not getting married?
The coming together in a marriage, whether that be of a man and woman, which is otherwise called opposite sex marriage, or of a woman and woman or man and man in same sex marriage, or any type of marraige is a powerful phenomenon. However, everyone’s choice may vary and some people may decide to stay unmarried if they are unable to get into serious, civil marriages, especially if they are running away from some types of marriages like arranged marriages, forced marriage, group marriage, marriage of convenience, there are, however, some disadvantages that may come with this decision. One of these disadvantages may be a shorter life span. For some people in a certain age group, marriage is what makes life worth living for them. Looking at some of the definitions for marriage, we will understand why just having someone to share their lives with, talk to, someone to share special moments with, someone who stands by them through thick and thin is the reason for them to live their life. Another disadvantage of not getting married is loneliness and instability. It is also believed that married men tend to be more stable in their career or in maintaining relationships.