Wedding Cake
Image via Naum Kazhdan/The New York Times

Vicki Larson’s recent Huffington Post piece “Marry For Love, Divorce When Love’s Gone?” explores the idea that love is the wrong reason to get married.  According to Larson, because people get married ONLY for love, they feel socially stigmatized for getting divorced simply because they have fallen out of love (and not because of abuse, affairs, etc.), resulting in couples who feel stuck in loveless marriages.

The idea that love is the wrong reason to get married seems a bit absurd at first. After all, isn’t marriage about love?

Well … yes, it is, but it also isn’t. What many people don’t realize until after they have taken the plunge is that marriage is about tying two lives together in every way possible — personally, spiritually, legally, financially, you name it, your lives are now one life. Throw in children, and now there’s no way to go back to your pre-marriage life. The concept of “marriage for love” is beautiful, but like anything that has been romanticized, it’s just not realistic for everyone.

So why do we get married? A part of it is simply because people do actually fall in love, and marriage seems like the obvious next step. And for some of those people, it actually works, sometimes for a lifetime. But many others get married because that’s just what they’re expected to do. So many people (myself included) grow up in traditional households in which pre-marital sex is wrong, co-habitation is asking to get “trapped” in a dead-end situation, and marriage is a given. While there’s nothing wrong with this line of thinking, there is a real danger behind it. When you grow up believing your path is love, marriage, and children, it’s easy to believe there are no other alternatives.

The reality is that we don’t actually have to get married. Society may expect it, but there are no real repercussions to not getting married. In fact, many couples maintain happy long-term relationships without getting married.

As I get older and encounter more and more people who are in unhappy marriages that eventually lead to divorce, I have become much more cautious about marriage. Listening to war stories ranging from custody battles to spending months convincing the cable company to remove your ex from the bill make marriage seems like a scary place. I believe in love. I believe in lifetime commitments. But do I still believe in marriage?

Like any girl, I fantasize about getting married, especially since I’m in my late twenties and seem perpetually surrounded by friends who are getting engaged and married. But I have also found myself becoming more accepting of the idea of a long-term relationship, with or without marriage, as long as I have one thing: my significant other must always be a friend to me. The passionate love you see in movies and read about in books is fun and exciting, but it’s not the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. And who would want it to? Yeah, it sounds great at first, but how exhausting would life be if you lived with passionate abandon all the time? Seriously, imagine the first few months of a new relationship: you drop everything to see your new beau as often as possible, but sooner or later you realize you’ve got to do some laundry and wash those dishes. Real life sets in.

But love doesn’t want to do laundry or wash the dishes, and that’s what makes Larson’s piece so compelling. Love really isn’t enough of a reason to get married. There has to be more there to support the reality of a marriage, and a part of that is the mutual respect that comes with true friendship, and true friendship takes time.

So don’t get married for love. If you’re going to get married, do it because it doesn’t make sense not to.

Love and (maybe) marriage,

The Slasher Chick


10 thoughts on “Married for Love? Bad Decision.

  1. Interesting concept! I think people do make the decision to get married because it feels like they’re supposed to, which leads to divorce in most cases. Lucky for me not only am I marrying for love…I’m marrying someone I can’t imagine my life without! What better combination is there than that?

    1. It’s definitely an interesting concept, one that I wish more people would consider before making the decision to get married. I’ve witnessed an equal number of divorces this year as engagements, which makes me sad. But congrats to you on your engagement!

  2. What you call love I call sentiment. Love washes the dishes, and it also helps plan recipes that use fewer dishes and taste just as good. Love is very practical.

    1. This is such a great point, Michael — one that I was hoping to make in this post but don’t think I conveyed very well. There are definitely different types of love, and I think the type of love that lasts is a deeper kind of love that is willing to wash the dishes. I have this belief that our culture, including what we see in the media, trains us to look for fiery, passionate, love-at-first-sight kind of love, but I think the love that lasts seems less exciting on the surface but runs so much deeper. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. LOVE this piece. I think it’s an amazing reality that many people don’t see because we have societal blinders on. I have a cousin who has been with her (seems trivial to call him this, but) boyfriend for longer than I can remember. At holidays, it was always Jennifer and Bob. As a kid, I never thought to question. As a teen, however, when I finally caught the message that marriage is what you do when you’re together long enough, I started to ask why they weren’t married. My parents always just told me it wasn’t what they wanted. They were happy and it’s what it was. It was way confusing to me. To this day, Jennifer and Bob are together. They are happy (to my knowledge), and have seemingly enjoyed the years.

    I think it really does boil down to looking at why you are or aren’t marrying who you’re with. If you aren’t marrying them because that’s not a priority, it’s not something either of you need or want. If you’re just happy to have each other, than why not? Save that money and do what you feel with it.

    If you’re not marrying them because there’s something that scares you about being legally, financially, and otherways linked with them? Why are you even dating, co-habitating, any of it?

    Otherwise, you want the wedding, the babies, the dog and the picket fence? Go for it… Just expect the periods of time where you don’t love each other, don’t like each other, are inevitably frustrated by something the other does…Just know that if you can’t get through those ugly patches, you’re probably marrying for love AND divorce.

    1. Thanks, Taylor. You give a really good example of exactly what I mean about marriage not being necessary. I agree with most of your points, but I do have a comment about this statement: “If you’re not marrying them because there’s something that scares you about being legally, financially, and otherways linked with them? Why are you even dating, co-habitating, any of it?”

      I think you make a great point there. If you’re uneasy or too scared, then why are you doing it? But I also think there’s nothing wrong with being realistic and taking precautions. I may love someone with what I consider to be an infinite depth right now, but I also know that we will both inevitably change over the years as we gain more and more life experiences. The question is if we will be able to change together or if those changes will create a rift that results in a “falling out of love.” If that happens, will we be prepared to deal with it?

      Love the last paragraph of your comment. To each his own, right?

  4. Hi Slasher Chick,
    Thanks for finding me (and sorry it’s taken me so long to find you.

    You shouldn’t be “cautious about marriage,” but you should be fully aware about why you want to get married — kids? financial security? companionship? all three? — and why you want to marry this particular person. “Because I love him” just isn’t enough (although, you know, we do want love.)

    As for accepting a “long-term relationship, with or without marriage, as long as I have one thing: my significant other must always be a friend to me” — don’t you have enough friends? (This is something “The Secret Lives of Wives” author Iris Krasnow asks her young female students when they ask her if they should marry their “best friend.”) You do want that passion to start with, and you also want someone who’s as committed to you as you are to him (and that means if you’re planning to cohabit, too). I don’t think having him be a friend is as important as having him be someone you genuinely like.

    It is true — we no longer have to get married. And many people really shouldn’t; they’re just not up for commitment, monogamy, etc. And that’s OK. But, I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that we should get married if we want kids. I’m not anti-marriage, but I am anti-not-thinking-beyond-the-wedding (a la Kim Kardashian).

    Good luck!

    1. Hi, Vicki! I think you’re splitting hairs with semantics on a lot of this. Making sure you are “fully aware” of why you’re getting married is showing some caution — after all, you’re not just diving into it. Also, wouldn’t you “genuinely like” your best friend, if that’s who you chose to marry? I’m not saying the best friend relationship works for everyone; what I’m saying is that often people rely too heavily on those euphoric feelings that come with the beginning of a relationship but don’t work to build the solid foundation that will sustain the relationship, and to me, it’s about building a true friendship with that person. Again, it seems to me this is all about semantics. Call it what you will — “friends” or “someone you genuinely like” — you should make sure your relationship has the foundation to weather whatever challenges the two of you may face. Make sure there’s love there, but make sure you’re realistic about the realities of marriage to ensure your marriage lasts.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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