The Psychology Behind Why People Still Get Married
I think about weddings often. Not in the lovey-dovey, bride-wannabe kind of way, but more in the this-is-such-an-unnecessary-spectacle kind of way.
The decorations, the cheesy tradition of the couple’s first dance, the DJ — none of it impresses me much.
Upon reading the title of this piece, you may have said to yourself, “This writer is trying to be a smartass.”
I’m not; I’m writing out of genuine curiosity because I really do wonder why people still get married.
Back in the day, people — namely women — married for X number of reasons (financial security and childbirth, being just a few). But, now it’s 2015, and life’s messier than it used to be.
Women surely don’t need to marry for money anymore because now, they’re accepted in the workplace. And, having children out of wedlock is no longer socially shunned.
To play devil’s advocate, sure, you could compile a list of reasons why marriage is still relevant.
Maybe two people genuinely believe their love will stand the test of time or maybe, they just like each other enough and don’t want to miss the love boat to grannyville, only to end up alone in their grey years.
But, why do we feel the need to put on the show we like to call a “wedding?”
In the midst of proving our love to others by engaging in a public ceremony, are we also, in a sense, trying to prove our love to ourselves?
Andrew J. Cherlin’s thoughts on marriage parallel mine.
In his New York Times piece, “Why Do People Still Bother To Marry?,”
“People marry to show their family and friends how well their lives are going, even if deep down they are unsure whether their partnership will last a lifetime.”
In a time when career drive is through the roof and people work toward climbing up ladders, even as they age (all the while exposing themselves to the possibilities of more romantic pursuits), it’s not as much cynical as it realistic to think that a marriage won’t hold together perfectly over time without ripping at the seams.
That is, regardless of how much effort is dedicated to making it work.
Writer Jenna Goudreau references a sociologist who believes men only marry because they feel like they have to.
In her Forbes article, “Why Men And Women Get Married,” Goudreau writes.
“Sociologist [Christine B.] Whelan believes that both sexes tie the knot due to a combination of love and social pressure, and that pressure comes a bit later for men.”
“The typical ready-to-wed man, she says, has been out of college for a few years, maybe just got a promotion or raise, and has experienced a summer of attending several of his friends' weddings.”
“Once friends start walking down the aisle, ‘it's as if a light bulb goes off in their heads,’ says Whelan.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this argument; remember what Miranda claims in “Sex And The City?”:
“Men are like cabs. When they’re available, their light goes on. They wake up one day and they decide they’re ready to settle down, have babies, whatever.”
“And they turn their light on. The next woman they pick up, boom, that’s the one they’ll marry. It's not fate, it's dumb luck.”
If we are marrying for social pressures, maybe we need to consider how we can change the expectations society pushes on to us.
Picture this: What if a guy’s bros decided to never get married? Would that guy truly want to marry at all?
It’s a “what if” to which I most likely will never know the answer, but it’s an agonizing one at that.
And, what about the couples who are crazy in love and have been in committed, long-term relationships, but are not married?
Should their lack of obtaining a marriage license discredit or undermine the love they have for one another?
It should not; I know many couples that have chosen not to tie the knot and are incredibly happy.
My ironic theory is the men in these monogamous relationships don’t feel suffocated by that daunting piece of paper and thus, enjoy their relationships more because they don’t feel confined, even though they more or less are.
So again, I ask, why do people still get married?
Maybe I’m just too jaded because my parents got divorced and I don’t really believe in the institution of marriage.
I’ll admit I’m biased, but still, the facts can’t be denied; a piece of paper does not a bulletproof love life make.
Maybe one day, I’ll get married and hope for the best or maybe, I’ll continue to view a monogamous relationship as a less multifaceted sundae, but as a pleasantly surprising cherry on top of the sundae that is my life.
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