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.
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:
- 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.
- The parties must have mutual consent; no one can be forced to marry against their will.
- 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.
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.
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."
Is marriage still important today?
Marriage remains important for many individuals and societies today, but its significance can vary depending on cultural, social, and personal factors. Here are some reasons why marriage continues to be important:
- Legal and Financial Benefits: Marriage may carry legal and financial advantages, such as tax benefits, inheritance rights, and opportunities for healthcare and insurance benefits. It can provide a sense of economic stability.
- Emotional and Social Connection: Marriage can offer a deep emotional and social connection. It provides a framework for building a committed, lifelong partnership, which can lead to a sense of belonging, emotional support, and common responsibilities.
- Family and Children: Many people choose to marry in the context of family planning and raising children. Marriage can provide a stable environment for child-rearing, offering legal immunity and structure.
- Cultural and Religious Significance: Marriage holds cultural and religious significance for many people. It may be a rite of passage and a sacred commitment in various cultural and religious traditions.
- Social Recognition: Marriage is a widely recognized and celebrated social institution. It may signify a couple's commitment to one another and is often celebrated with ceremonies and rituals.
- Commitment and Longevity: Marriage signifies a commitment to a lifelong partnership. For those who value commitment and monogamy, marriage can be a meaningful way to express their dedication to their partner.
- Community and Support: Marriage can provide a sense of community and support, as it often involves the inclusion of family and friends in celebrations and important life events.
Why is marriage important to society?
Marriage plays a significant role in society for several reasons:
- Economic Stability: Information shows links between marriage and economic stability. Couples can pool their resources, pay for expenses together, and benefit from tax advantages. This economic partnership can help reduce financial stress and may deliver a greater sense of overall economic stability.
- Legal Protections: Marriage may offer these, such as inheritance rights, spousal healthcare benefits, and decision-making authority in case of illness or incapacity. These legal benefits help safeguard individuals and families.
- Emotional Support: Marriage may provide a framework for emotional support and companionship. Spouses may rely on each other for emotional, social, and psychological support, contributing to overall mental and emotional well-being.
- Social Integration: Marriage is a recognized and celebrated institution that integrates individuals into society. Wedding ceremonies and celebrations often involve family and community, promoting a sense of social belonging.
- Public Commitment: Marriage can be a public commitment to a long-term partnership. This commitment can provide a strong foundation for couples, reinforcing their dedication to each other and promoting monogamy.
How is marriage seen in society today?
Marriage is viewed in society today with a complex and evolving perspective. While it continues to hold significance as a symbol of commitment, love, and partnership, the institution of marriage has also seen changes. There is a growing acceptance of diverse family structures, including unmarried cohabiting couples, same-sex marriages, and single-parent families. These shifts reflect society's recognition that love and commitment can thrive in various forms and that individuals should have the freedom to define their relationships based on their values and personal circumstances.
The concept of marriage is still deeply rooted in many cultures, but the emphasis is often placed on the quality of the relationship and the values it represents, rather than adherence to traditional norms. In today's society, the importance of marriage varies widely from person to person, and its significance continues to evolve alongside changing social, cultural, and legal landscapes.
Why is marriage hard nowadays?
Marriage can be challenging in modern times for several reasons:
- Changing Expectations: The expectations placed on marriages have evolved. Couples today often choose to seek not only companionship but also personal fulfillment, which can create added pressure on the relationship.
- Individual Autonomy: With an increased focus on individual autonomy, some individuals may be content to prioritize personal goals and interests over the general well-being of the marriage.
- Communication Challenges: The fast-paced, digital world can lead to communication challenges. Couples may struggle to find quality time to connect and effectively communicate during the week amidst their busy lives.
- Financial Stress: Economic pressures, such as rising living costs and student loan debt, can lead to financial stress within marriages, which can strain the relationship.
- Work-Life Balance: Balancing career and personal life can be difficult, and career demands can place additional stress on marriages, especially when partners have conflicting schedules.
- Social and Cultural Shifts: Social and cultural shifts have led to greater acceptance of diverse family structures, including cohabitation, single-parent households, and same-sex marriages, challenging traditional norms.
- High Divorce Rates: A history of high divorce rates may contribute to anxiety about marriage's stability and longevity, which can affect one's commitment to the relationship.
- Online Influences: Social media, online dating, and exposure to idealized portrayals of relationships can create unrealistic expectations and lead to comparisons with others' seemingly perfect lives.
How does marriage affect our lives?
Marriage may influence individuals' lives each day. It often serves as a source of emotional support, fostering companionship and deep connection within couples. Furthermore, many choose to raise children within the institution of marriage, providing a structured and stable environment for their upbringing. This arrangement can also offer economic stability by enabling couples to combine resources and have the same financial responsibilities, leading to reduced financial stress and future investment.
Marriage is not only an emotional and social commitment but also a legal one, providing essential protections like inheritance rights, healthcare, and decision-making authority in times of illness or incapacity. It also may play a role in social integration, with wedding ceremonies and celebrations promoting a sense of belonging within the community. The public commitment aspect reinforces the dedication to the relationship and the values of monogamy. Marriage serves as a way to pass on values and cultural norms to the next generation, as families play a significant role in shaping societal ethics and cultural values.
What are the biggest struggles in marriages?
Marriages can face a variety of challenges, but some of the most common struggles that couples may encounter include:
- Communication Issues: An episode of poor communication or a lack of effective communication is a significant challenge. Misunderstandings, unexpressed feelings, and difficulty resolving conflicts can strain a marriage.
- Financial Stress: Financial problems, such as debt, overspending, or disagreements about money management, can create tension and conflict within a marriage.
- Intimacy and Sexual Issues: A decline in physical intimacy or sexual satisfaction can be a source of stress. It may result from various factors, including health issues, stress, or differences in sexual desire.
- Work-Life Balance: Balancing work, personal life, and family responsibilities can be challenging. Conflicting work schedules or excessive time spent on professional commitments can strain a marriage.
- Parenting Challenges: Raising children comes with its own set of difficulties, including differing parenting styles, disagreements about discipline, and the stress of managing childcare responsibilities.
- In-Law and Family Dynamics: Disagreements or conflicts involving in-laws and extended family can spill over into the marriage, causing tension.
- Emotional Disconnect: Emotional distance or a loss of emotional connection can lead to feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction within the marriage.
- Infidelity: Infidelity, whether emotional or physical, can severely damage trust and the foundation of a marriage.
- Health Conditions: Serious health concerns or chronic illnesses can place strain on a marriage, affecting both emotional and practical aspects of the relationship.
- Life Transitions: Major life changes, such as relocation, career shifts, or retirement, can create uncertainty and stress that affects the marriage.
- Addictions: Substance use, gambling, or other addictions can place immense strain on a marriage, leading to trust issues and emotional turmoil.
- Cultural or Religious Differences: Differences in cultural or religious backgrounds may lead to conflicting values, traditions, or expectations.
- Lack of Quality Time: A busy lifestyle or outside commitments can result in couples spending less quality time together, diminishing the emotional connection.
Why is marriage becoming less important?
While the importance of marriage has evolved, it remains a meaningful and significant institution for many. Ultimately, the decision to marry or not is deeply personal and depends on individual values, cultural backgrounds, and relationship dynamics.
- Shift in Priorities: Modern society may place a greater emphasis on individual autonomy and personal fulfillment. Many individuals prioritize their own happiness, career, and personal growth over traditional societal expectations, including marriage.
- Alternative Family Structures: Cohabitation, single-parent households, and diverse family structures are increasingly accepted and recognized. People realize that commitment and love can exist outside the confines of marriage.
- Financial Independence: Women's increased economic independence has reduced the financial necessity of marriage. In the past, marriage often provided financial stability, but this is less of a factor today.
- Delayed Marriage: Many people are choosing to delay marriage until later in life, focusing on education, career, and personal development in their younger years. This shift can result in a decrease in the overall marriage rate.
- Redefining Commitment: Some individuals view marriage as unnecessary to solidify their commitment to a partner. They believe that a strong, lasting partnership can be built without a formal marriage certificate.
- Changing Attitudes: Evolving social attitudes and the recognition of LGBTQIA+ rights have contributed to a broader understanding of commitment and partnership. Same-sex marriage, in particular, has played a role in challenging traditional views of marriage.
- Divorce Rates: High divorce rates have led some to view marriage as less stable and more risky, affecting the perception of its importance.
- Legal and Economic Implications: The legal and economic benefits of marriage are not universally effective, and some individuals may opt for alternatives to get those benefits.
- Focus on Relationship Quality: People are increasingly prioritizing the quality of their relationships over their legal marital status. They may seek to build a strong and fulfilling partnership without formalizing it through marriage.
- Fear of Commitment: Some individuals may have a fear of the perceived permanence and commitment associated with marriage. They may watch friends or family struggle with marriage, which can make marriage seem less appealing.
Does marriage make life easier?
Marriage can make certain aspects of life easier for some people. It often provides emotional support, companionship, and a sense of belonging that can ease the emotional challenges of life. In terms of practical benefits, married couples can have the same financial responsibilities, potentially leading to economic stability and reduced financial stress. Marriage also offers legal protections and certain tax advantages that can simplify financial matters. However, the extent to which marriage makes life easier depends on the quality of the relationship and the individuals involved. A healthy and supportive marriage can make life more comfortable, while a troubled or unhealthy marriage may introduce additional stress and challenges.
How important is marriage and family in life?
The importance of marriage and family in life may depend on a variety of factors including religion, social expectations, and personal goals. There may be no universal level of importance when it comes to marriage. However, some may decide to get married to improve social bonds, gain emotional support, for economic stability, or for other reasons.
Some individuals may place a higher value on individual pursuits, career, or personal autonomy. Alternative family structures and relationship choices are increasingly recognized and respected in today's society. Ultimately, the significance of marriage and family in life is a deeply personal matter, influenced by individual values, circumstances, and cultural backgrounds.
How do you cope with marriage?
Coping with marriage involves navigating the challenges and joys that come with a lifelong partnership. Here are 10 strategies to help you cope effectively with the ups and downs of marriage:
- Effective Communication: Open, honest, and empathetic communication is key. Learn to express your thoughts and feelings and actively listen to your spouse. This can help prevent misunderstandings and resolve conflicts.
- Conflict Resolution Skills: Develop healthy conflict resolution skills. Disagreements are natural, but how you address and resolve them can significantly impact your marriage. Focus on finding solutions and compromise.
- Quality Time Together: Spend quality time with your spouse. Engage in activities you both enjoy, create new memories, and strengthen your emotional connection.
- Maintain Individuality: While marriage is a partnership, it's important to maintain your individuality. Pursue personal interests, hobbies, and self-care to ensure you continue to grow as individuals within the relationship.
- Support Each Other's Goals: Encourage and support each other's personal and professional goals. This can help you both achieve your aspirations while fostering a sense of partnership.
- Intimacy and Affection: Nurture physical and emotional intimacy. Regularly express affection and maintain a healthy, fulfilling sexual connection.
- Seek Professional Help: If you encounter significant challenges in your marriage, don't hesitate to visit a marriage counselor or therapist. Professional guidance can provide valuable insights and strategies for overcoming issues and sessions may be completed via phone, video, or in person.
- Flexibility and Adaptability: Be flexible and adaptable. Life brings changes and unexpected challenges, so the ability to adapt to new circumstances is crucial for a resilient marriage.
- Practice Patience: Marriage is a lifelong journey. Be patient and understanding as you both grow and evolve. Allow room for change and development.
- Prioritize Self-Care: Taking care of your physical and mental well-being is essential. A happy, healthy you contributes positively to the marriage.
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