Marriage Today: Why Get Married?

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated November 29, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Some people want to get married and have a long, healthy marriage, whereas others may have no interest in getting married at all. Understanding modern views of the institution of marriage and why people might get married may help you understand if marriage is for you.

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Marriage: What Does It Mean?

The dictionary defines marriage as "the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law" or "the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship."

Marriage is an institution that has been around for centuries, and some evidence suggests it may be over 4,000 years old. This type of union has evolved and changed over time and can look different in various states and countries worldwide. Within the legal definition of marriage in the United States, it has three main elements:

  1. The parties must legally be able to marry each other, meaning they cannot be married to someone else and must be of legal marrying age. 
  2. The parties must have mutual consent; no one can be forced to marry against their will.
  3. A marriage contract must be legally binding.

A Brief History Of Marriage

When marriage was first developed, it primarily served to bind women to men and was seen as a property transfer. Women had few rights in the early United States, belonging to their fathers until they were "given away" in marriage and became the property of their husbands. Women could not hold jobs, have property, or hold assets. Anything that belonged to a married woman was their husband's as well. 

For many years, only men and women of the same race could get married in the United States. It was not until 1967 that interracial marriage was legal in the United States. Beyond that, until recently, only heterosexual marriages were recognized in the United States. Same-sex couples were not recognized under the law until 2015. 

The Defense of Marriage Act, otherwise known as DOMA, was a United States federal law that defined marriage for federal purposes as "the union of one man and one woman." The law meant that states were allowed to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. This law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, and then in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. 

Most recently, safety for interracial and same-sex marriages was codified into law with the Respect for Marriage Act in December 2022.

Why Do People Get Married? 

There can be many reasons why people might marry, ranging from positive, genuine love and desire to more complicated situations that might cause people to marry when they don't want to. For instance, familial pressures, rash decisions, or life changes may push people to get married when they might not want it. Below are some of the most common causes of marriage.  

Romance And Love 

For some, love is one of the most significant factors in wanting to get married. Marriage might seem like a logical next step when you are in love with someone and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Getting married and having a wedding can be a way to declare your love and commitment to each other and the world. 

Weddings can range from large to small and extravagant to rustic. Planning a wedding, getting your friends and family together, and celebrating a new chapter can be an exciting, meaningful way to start a life together. However, not wanting to get married doesn't necessarily mean a couple doesn't love each other, as marriage is a personal choice. 

The Law 

Legally, there may be benefits to getting married. When married, there can be a range of tax benefits, as you can file taxes jointly, potentially qualifying you for various tax credits. Legally binding yourself to another person can also give you legal benefits, such as legal decision-making benefits. 

As the spouse, you can make medical decisions for your partner if they become disabled or sick. You can also be there for hospital visits where family is only allowed. If something happens to your spouse, you may have the decision-making power on their funeral arrangements. While the death of your spouse may not be at the front of your mind, you may also have inheritance rights to your spouse's estate if they do not have a will.

Financial And Health Reasons

There can sometimes be financial benefits to being married. For instance, if you have been married for ten years, even if your marriage ends in divorce, you could be entitled to your spouse's Social Security benefits when you are older. You can also benefit from their IRA (Individual Retirement Account) by contributing to your spouse's account or rolling over a deceased spouse's IRA into your own. 

You may also have healthcare benefits. Being married often means you can put your spouse on your health insurance, which may offer a discount. 


For some people, being married has emotional benefits. Having a spouse who gives you emotional and physical support can help you live a longer, happier, healthier life. Some find the stability and companionship of marriage beneficial for their overall well-being. For some, being married is integral to having children together and growing a family. For others, there may be religious factors at play.

Counseling Options 

Marriage can be a personal choice, and there is often a wide range of unique factors and dynamics behind one's decision to get married. Given this factor, talking to a therapist can benefit those unsure whether they want to get married. 

In some cases, couples and individuals may face barriers to in-person treatment, like cost or a lack of insurance coverage. In these cases, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples may offer a more affordable and convenient option. With online therapy, you can get matched with a therapist based on your preferences and goals for treatment, often within 48 hours. 

Research has shown that online therapy can effectively address various concerns, including relationship challenges. For instance, one such study examined couples therapy delivered through videoconferencing, and its results "indicated improvements in relationship satisfaction, mental health, and all other outcome scores over time."


There can be many reasons why someone might want to get married, including romance, love, emotions, finances, religion, or the law. If you want support regarding marriage or your relationship, you can connect with a therapist online or in your area for further guidance.

Marriage can come with complex challenges

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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