My earliest ideas of love were shaped by Disney. A pretty girl, a handsome prince, and a long, white wedding dressing that signaled ‘happily ever after.’ As I grew older, the books and movies I absorbed seemed to have the same idea – true love = marriage.
However, in an increasingly complex world where the definition of love is expanding all the time, the questions ‘is marriage worth it for a woman’ and even ‘is marriage worth it for a man?’ come up more and more frequently.
Relationships and our ideas of love, intimacy and commitment are changing. Queer love, open marriage, polyamory and so on are realities that go beyond the notion of a socially accepted bond involving two heterosexual people.
So, does marriage still have a place in the world we inhabit? Clinical psychologist Adya Poojari (Masters in Clinical Psychology, PG Diploma in Rehabilitation Psychology) gave us some insights on the gains and losses of marriage.
Reasons To Get Married – What You Gain
There’s no conclusive data on when marriage as an institution began, but some historians claim the earliest recorded ceremony between a man and a woman dates back to 2,350 B.C. in Mesopotamia. That’s a lot of history and tradition and could explain why the institution is tough to throw aside entirely.
“Today, marriages take place for various purposes,” Adya says. “Some seek emotional support, others want financial support. In the case of arranged marriage, a prevalent trend in conservative cultures, the financial and societal status of the family comes into play. And in the case of love marriage, it’s all about the comfort of living together and achieving emotional and psychological as well as financial support.”
Given its long history and its strong links with religion and societal acceptance, marriage holds a significant space in the world. So, whether you’re generally wondering, ‘is marriage worth it anymore?’ or on a more personal note, ‘is my marriage worth it?’, we’ve got some good reasons why marriage works:
Related Reading: 10 Bankable Reasons For Getting Married
1. Emotional stability
You’ve signed a legal document or recited vows before a priest, or both. And somewhere, your heart is at peace because now you know you’re going to be together forever. Yes, you’ve heard all about the divorce statistics, but that’s okay. You’re married now, and there’s a wonderful finality to it.
“Honestly, I’d just had so many bad relationships and breakups, I think it was a relief to marry my husband,” says Jenny. “I didn’t want to date anymore, or think about what a relationship meant, or if we were getting serious? I just wanted certainty, and to not have to overthink love anymore. To me, marriage is like the sweatpants of relationships, where you can be totally comfortable. And I was ready for sweatpants.”
While our options and definitions of love have expanded in recent times, it’s possible that too many options also lead to increased confusion and inner conflict. Every new relationship comes with the possibility of ghosting, gaslighting and other such horrors. Not that marriage is free of these, but hopefully, you’ve gotten to know the person you’re marrying enough before you enter into a lifelong bond with them.
If we go by the age-old tale that marriage is all about true love, then emotional stability becomes a major gain in the marital bond.
2. Financial stability
We’re going straight from true love to economics because let’s face it, marriage is a major transactional relationship. And even the truest of love falters under rocky financial situations and financial stress.
If you’re a working woman, marriage means a double-income home and greater financial stability for you and any children you’re considering. If one of you is not working, at least you know the rent and groceries will be taken care of.
“I put ‘financially stable’ high on my list when I was dating,” says Nicole. “I’m a freelance writer and honestly, I was tired of being broke all the time. Any time it looked like a guy and I were getting serious and heading toward marriage, I honestly asked about his future work and financial plans.”
If you sign a prenuptial agreement, you could ensure your financial security even if the marriage doesn’t work out. Sounds terribly cold and clinical, but it’s better than moving back in with your parents in your 30s. Is marriage worth it anymore? Check your bank balance before you say no.
3. Socially accepted union
As much as this term makes me grit my teeth, as an unmarried woman in my 30s, I appreciate the perks of being in a traditional relationship that doesn’t raise a lot of eyebrows.
Being married means you can share a bedroom in your parents’ home when you head there for the holidays. It means your landlord or landlady won’t look at you funny when you bring a date home. And won’t it be lovely to not walk in as an unmarried person to family gatherings and have nosy aunts and uncles ask you why you’re not married yet.
Related Reading: Dating For Marriage? 15 Important Thing You Should Be Prepared For
‘But, is my marriage really worth it?’ you ask. I’d love to tell you that society has moved past these situations, but it hasn’t. And if you’re older than 30, you’re going to get a lot of pitying looks and relatives offering to set you up with a third cousin. So, if you’re looking for reasons to get married, this is a good one.
4. Healthcare and insurance
I love the movie ‘While You Were Sleeping’, but what stands out most to me is that Sandra Bullock wasn’t allowed to visit Peter Gallagher at the hospital because it was ‘family only’.
Similarly, my partner and I have been together nearly a decade but I can’t add him to my health insurance at work because he’s not a spouse. Mind you, many organizations are changing these policies to include domestic partnerships, but it’s a slow process.
If you’re living in a country where healthcare isn’t nationalized and accessible to all, you know that even a doctor’s consultation is going to set you back a pretty penny. So, if marriage is what it takes to make sure your body and your insurance are both healthy, maybe you want to consider it.
5. Support in difficult times
Again, we’re not saying a long-term non-spousal partner isn’t going to support you, but a lot of times, that dratted legal document of marriage is a factor.
“My dad passed away, and my partner and I drove down for the funeral,” says Jack. “My family’s always been a little traditional, and they were taken aback that I’d even brought her along. There was such a ruckus about it, and they made things terribly uncomfortable. It didn’t occur to them that she was my support system while I was grieving because we weren’t married.”
Marital rights continue to trump partnership or cohabitation rights, right down to who has the right to offer you comfort. As a spouse, you have the right to hold your husband or wife’s hand while they grieve or if they’re in pain. And also, unless you’re in a live-in relationship, or your spouse is a twat, it’s comforting to have someone on hand to take care of you during tough times.
6. Overall security and ease
Every time I go to the grocery store, I stand confusedly in front of all the ‘family packs’. When I wanted to buy a dining table, I wondered why there was nothing smaller than a set of four.
The world is still designed for people who are married and have families. Now, the opposite of marriage isn’t necessarily singledom – you could be dating or in a long-term partnership – but the fact remains that marriage is the most convenient way to go.
Your parents are happy, your friends enjoy the open bar at the wedding, your health insurance is sorted, and hopefully, you need never wear Spanx again on a date.
“I don’t think an alternative to marriage can be defined,” Adya says. “Living with someone is not equivalent to marriage because marriage is a legal process of becoming someone’s partner. Even if a marriage turns sour, people often continue it to avoid the hassle of divorce.”
Reasons Not To Get Married – What You Lose
We’ve given you the pros of the marital bargain, now what about the cons? With all the cozy conveniences that the institution brings, what are the benefits of not getting married?
“There are so many reasons,” Adya says. “Maybe you’re asexual or aromantic and marriage and companionship don’t appeal to you. Or you’ve seen too many unhappy marriages and the idea traumatizes you. Or maybe you just want a drama-free life and choose to live independently.”
1. Loss of personal freedom
Listen, we know some modern marriages are heading toward equality and openness, but the very definition of marriage is that you’re now a non-single. One half of a couple. A spouse. The idea of you as an individual is pretty much eliminated.
For women, especially, the possibility of exploring themselves further, whether it’s via solo travel after marriage, or a career change, etc. narrows considerably.
“I wanted to take a creative writing course after I got married,” says Winona. “My husband didn’t expressly forbid me, but there was always something that got in the way. Money was tight, or the kids needed something, or he was prepping for a big promotion at work. There was no space for me to get out there and explore myself as a writer and as an individual.”
Individuality often becomes a dirty word in a marriage and you’re considered selfish if you put your own needs first. So, in answer to the question, ‘is marriage worth it for women?’, it’s a tough call.
2. You’re forced to occupy certain roles
“I don’t think I ever thought about how loaded the term ‘husband’ is till I actually became one,” says Chris. “It was all about being the main breadwinner and knowing how to fix everything with wires and watching sports. I like baking and hanging out with our cats, and oh boy, did my friends and family sound me out!”
His wife, Karen, retorts, “Every time we went to a family gathering, someone would say, ‘Gosh, Chris looks thin; Karen, you’re not looking after your husband!’ Or if his parents came over and I wasn’t home from work, there were murmurs of ‘these modern women never have time to run their homes properly’.”
We’re not in the Middle Ages anymore, but some things haven’t changed. The roles we occupy in marriage remain the same. The man is the head of the household, the woman is the nurturing homemaker. So, is marriage worth it for a woman? Is marriage worth it for a man? Make more money, squeeze out two kids, then we’ll tell you!
3. Inability to escape toxic relationship or family
While domestic partner violence and abuse occur even in the absence of marriage, it is perhaps a little easier to escape it if you’re not bound by the legal strictures of marriage.
“My husband and my in-laws verbally abused me because I couldn’t have kids,” says Gina. “I wasn’t working at the time, and I’d always been taught that you stick your marriage out, no matter how bad things get. I stayed for years in that toxic relationship and it destroyed my self-confidence. It made me wonder every day, ‘Is my marriage worth it?’”
Marriage is so often seen as the most sacred of relationships, such that domestic violence and marital rape are barely considered crimes in many countries. The tale we spin of marriage being forever often becomes the reason so many of us stay in bad marriages. This is definitely one of the benefits of not getting married.
4. Over-dependence on a partner
Losing your independence is one thing, but becoming overly dependent on a spouse is a more subtle change that could occur without you even realizing it.
“My husband took care of all the bills and taxes, etc. After we separated, I had no idea how to do any of it. I was 45 years old and had never done my taxes!” exclaims Deanna.
Forty-eight-year-old Bill adds, “I never learned to cook because my mom did it when I was a kid, and my wife did it when we got married. Now we’re divorced and I live alone. I can barely boil an egg.”
This ties in with people occupying traditional roles in a marriage, which means there are certain, vital skills we simply don’t bother to learn. Let’s face it, taxes and boiling eggs are things everyone should know, whether they’re married or not.
Related Reading: 18 Top Unhappy Marriage Signs You Need To Know
5. Divorce can be messy
“There are lots of reasons my partner Sally and I don’t want to get married,” says Will. “But, mostly, I don’t want to risk an ugly, acrimonious divorce and watch our love fade because we can’t decide who gets the picture of the horse in the dining room.”
In the United States, couples marrying for the first time have an approximately 50% chance of divorce. And while a marriage falling apart need not get ugly, divorce proceedings could actually make you and your spouse more antagonistic toward each other.
“When my husband and I decided to divorce, we still liked each other, but had grown apart,” says Annie. “And then lawyers got involved and it all became so nasty. We barely speak now. I wish we’d just stayed friends and never gotten married.”
6. Marriage narrows our idea of love
“My main argument against marriage is that it seeks external approval to declare a personal relationship as valid,” says Alex.” I don’t want the state or the church or society to step in and say, ‘Ok, now we declare your love real and valid.’ If my partner and I have decided that our relationship, whatever its form, works for us, why let the state or the church have a say!”
Marriage is often seen as the topmost rung of the romantic love ladder, thereby invalidating all other forms of relationships. Also, the things we seek in an ideal marriage – love, security, emotional connection and so on – can be found outside of marriage as well. You don’t need a piece of paper, or a priest, to tell you your love is real.
So, Is Marriage Worth It Anymore?
“I wouldn’t say marriage is worth it as such,” says Adya. “Yes, people who remain unmarried face many challenges, but I advise them to live their life to the fullest. Do not care about what people say or think about you.
“Find your community, keep a circle of love around you at all times. Maybe form a support group where you can share your problems and feel safe. Remember, this is your life and you need to live it how you want.”
“Loneliness is no good reason to get married – there are other ways to solve it. Plus you can be lonely in a marriage too. Get married only if and when you are absolutely sure it’s what you want.”
Marriage is one way to declare your love or take it forward, but remember, it’s not the only way or even the best way. As long as marriage is seen as a choice and not an achievement, it’s fine to keep it as an option. And it’s just as fine to live together, to remain single, to date who you please, or to eschew dating altogether.
Remember, marriage does not guarantee love, security or a healthy, happy relationship. As much as I hate to admit it, Disney got it wrong.