Marriage as an institution has been through so much. For centuries, it has been held in reverence as the ultimate act of two people joined in the holiest, most sacred of bonds, so much so, that the question of why is important was moot. Over time, as the structure of family and relationships became more fluid, the relevance of this institution was brought under the scanner.
While many tenets of this institution can be considered archaic in the age of common-law partnerships, live-in relationships, and so on – all of which are solid and viable alternatives to building a shared life with someone, it’s nearly impossible to deny or erase the significance of marriage completely. As of 2017, a study showed that 50% of Americans aged 18 and above were married. This is a reasonably stable number in recent years, but down 8% since the 1990s. Yet, in a 2010 study, 85% of Americans cited a successful marriage as extremely important to them. But exactly why is marriage important?
Let’s take a closer look at the importance of marriage in consultation with relationship coach Geetarsh Kaur, founder of The Skill School which specializes in building stronger relationships. We will discuss the benefits of marriage and its place in modern-day relationships in a bid to understand why it remains a top life goal for most single women and men across geographies, cultures, and demographics.
Why Do People Get Married?
For the cake and presents, of course! No? Well then, it must be love. As per a 2017 study, 88% of Americans feel that love is the most significant component of marriage and the best reason to go ahead with it. Now, this can differ across geographies and cultures, of course.
“Some people marry because it’s the norm because that is what is expected of them. Others want friendship and companionship, to celebrate life, and to make memories. Some only do it for family and to fulfill societal expectations. There are also those who marry simply because they are fearful of ending up alone.
“Marriage sees its ups and downs but the question of why you have chosen to get married can mean different things to different people. However, if you’re sure you’ll sail through any difficulty with kindness and dignity, if you and your spouse are always ideating on how to be a better husband or wife, you know you’ve chosen well,” says Geetarsh.
The answer to “what is the purpose of marriage” can be different for different people. However, here are some of the common reasons why getting married remains important to a sizable majority of people:
- A long, lasting companionship. Depending on when you get married, you can hope to spend anywhere between two thirds and one third of your life with your spouse
- As two people legally combine their assets and incomes, they can go through life with lesser financial burden than their single counterparts
- Spouses can become each other’s source of emotional support
- Raising children becomes easier when you have a spouse to share the trials and tribulations of parenthood with
- To a lot of people, marriage means greater social security and acceptance
- Why do people get married? Because it is seen as the highest form of commitment you can make to another human being
- Religious beliefs also play an important role in people’s decision to get married
As we said before, the answers to why do people get married can be as diverse as there are people in this world. The reasons can also vary across cultures – from a celebration of love and commitment to being a matter of adhering to social mores. Whatever the reason, the importance of marriage in sustaining the societal structure cannot be discounted. And why is that? Let’s find out.
Why Is Marriage Important? 13 Reasons
Commenting on the meaning of marriage, Geetarsh says, “Marriage is a beautiful institution, provided you find the right partner. The wrong partner can make marriage a disastrous word in the dictionary of life. Therefore, before looking at the necessity of the institution, it is important to choose the right partner. Once you’ve done that, marriage brings security, stability, hope, a shoulder to fall back on, a lifelong companion, and much more.”
To those who’ve been wondering, “Is marriage worth it?”, we want to say that marriage definitely has the potential to bring beauty and richness to life when done right – “done right” being the operative words. We’ve taken a peek into the whys and wherefores of marriage, but since we’re all about getting real, let’s get down to the bare bones of things and address the question that brought you here: why is marriage important? Here are 13 expert-backed reasons:
1. Economic stability
“Look, I love my husband to bits – I love everything about him. But honestly, the difference it makes having a two-income household, knowing we can co-sign on a mortgage and so on is a huge part of it and a major relief for me after years of struggling on my own,” says Katy, a reader from Philadelphia, adding, “I enjoyed the single life for sure, but as soon as I started looking for a house of my own or wanting to buy a car or health insurance, I realized having a partner makes it so much easier.”
Money and marriage are closely intertwined. While love and the wedding of your dreams are amazing, sharing the financial burden is one of the undeniable benefits of marriage. This is also a big reason why marriage is important. “Marriage brings economic stability, which in turn brings a measure of peace. Not only can you split the finances with your spouse or have more money as a married couple than you would as a single person but you also have the option of turning to their family for help in times of need and/or crisis,” says Geetarsh. Here are some financial benefits of getting married that you just cannot overlook:
- Eligibility for Social Security spousal and survival benefits
- Possibility of better tax cuts and benefits
- Married couples with double income have better odds at securing mortgages for significant purchases
- Generous gift and estate tax provisions
- Saving on insurance premiums
2. Emotional support and security
There’s a certain sweetness in knowing you’re coming home to the same person every day, that you’ve bound yourself together by choice for the rest of your lives and that you know each other’s quirks and eccentricities and are (mostly) willing to live with them. There’s comfort in the sameness, much like an old t-shirt you like to sleep in night after night, or an armchair you hauled from your grandparents’ basement.
Not to make marriage sound threadbare and dusty, but emotional support and security can be a major reason why marriage is important in our life. We all want a steady companion, someone to turn to with our woes and worries, someone we know will be there and have our backs no matter what – marriage has all the fundamentals of support a relationship requires.
“You can discuss even the most mundane parts of your life with a spouse. You air out your issues to each other, you feel safe sharing your fears and you draw comfort from knowing that you’re both working as a team to figure out how to overcome them. Here is someone with whom you’re comfortable being yourself,” says Geetarsh.
A healthy marriage is like a security blanket around your heart, where you’re not constantly wondering if you’re good enough for the relationship. Even if there are relationship insecurities, you have the freedom to talk them over because you know you have a willing ear and shoulder in your spouse.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Cultivate Emotional Safety In Your Relationship
3. Marriage brings a sense of community
Marriage brings with it a sense of belonging, not just to your spouse, but to their family and a wider community. “Marriage was sort of a gateway for me,” says Shane, a dance teacher from Woodstock, “I wasn’t always very close to my own family, but after I got married, my spouse’s large, warm family welcomed me with open arms. Celebrating holidays and so on with them really made me feel like I was part of a great circle of love and helped me understand healthy family dynamics.”
Communities aren’t created solely by marriage, of course, but if you’re wondering what is the purpose of marriage, it’s a great place to start becoming part of a wider network and circle of people. As author Rebecca Wells wrote, “We’re all each other’s keepers”, and marriage and the communities it can lead you to are true testaments to this.
4. Marriage is an affirmation of your commitment
There’s something about standing up in front of everyone you love (and probably a few you don’t!) and declaring, “Look, I love this person and I want the whole world to know it. This is my ultimate romantic gesture.” There’s something about declaring it with a big party and lots of champagne and a legal document and a ring. Even my wizened, cynical heart would find it difficult to argue too much with that.
As a stubbornly unmarried person myself, I often ask friends why they took the leap. What was it that prompted them to see the significance of marriage? Time and again they tell me that it just felt like a solidification of love, of commitment. Like the final step, but also the first step in the relationship. An affirmation of feelings they knew they had, but that they wanted to put a name and a label to. Despite the ugly realities like astronomically high divorce rates, this affirmation of love and commitment remains one of the top reasons behind people getting married.
Geetarsh warns that while commitment in a marriage can indeed be aspirational, it’s important to remember good marriages are built by consistent work and conscious effort by both partners. “The institution of marriage does not guarantee togetherness, you still need to choose to be together every day, regardless of what temptations come your way,” she says.
5. Marriage is good for health
We’re not even being glib or cliched when we say marriage is good for your emotional and physical health. A study shows that unmarried people are at a 42% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 16% higher risk of developing coronary artery disease than married people. Marriage can quite literally keep your heart happier, it seems. Another study indicates that married people live longer. This is especially true of married men.
Maybe it’s just not having to worry about doing everything on your own and having someone to unload on and yell at when things go wrong. Maybe it’s being able to lounge around in your oldest pajamas with a giant zit on your nose, brandishing your wedding ring at your spouse, and going, “Hah, you’re stuck with me!” Whatever it is, the importance of marriage can be gauged from the fact that it can literally prolong your life.
6. Children benefit from healthy marriages
While marriage is no longer a prerequisite to having or raising children and we doff our hats to single moms and dads everywhere, a healthy, happy marriage between parents can definitely provide kids with a greater sense of security. “You need not get married or remain married to have children or raise them well,” Geetarsh clarifies, “But, our world is still built in such a way that children from homes where parents are happy and together tend to grow up with healthier attitudes toward life and love.”
Studies show that custodial mothers lose 25-50% of their pre-divorce income, which means the children may suffer from economic instability. In case of divorce, a child may also lose time with the other parent and set of grandparents, thereby losing out on joint celebrations, traditional holidays, and so on.
However, this does not mean that we continue to feed toxic culture patterns in the garb of eulogizing the importance of marriage. Remember, children only stand to gain from good marriages built on tenets of love, respect, and kindness. You don’t have to carry forward the generational trauma of staying in an unhappy marriage just because you have been told that a “broken home” can be devastating for your kids.
7. A good marriage brings responsibility
Why is marriage important? Well, it certainly spurs you to grow up and act like a responsible adult. You’re lovingly and legally bound to another person for life. As scary as that thought might be, it means you need to mold yourself into someone worthy of such love and such a responsibility.
This can truly be one of the benefits of marriage – that it’s such a vital learning process. Maybe that is the purpose of marriage. The sense of responsibility toward one’s spouse can mean so many different things, such as:
- Upholding the vow of “in good times and bad; in sickness and in health”
- Making long-term plans in consultation with your partner
- Factoring in your spouse in all life decisions, no matter how big or small
- Taking care of each other’s needs – emotional, sexual, logistical, financial
- Staying true to the promise of fidelity no matter how great the temptation
- Running a home as a team
- Managing finances
- Planning for children
- Making time for one another despite all that life throws at you
Speaking of this sense of responsibility that comes with marriage, Austin, a paralegal at an Ohio law firm, says, “I’d been dating my now-husband for 3 years before we got married. From going on holidays together to staying at each other’s homes short-term and being in a live-in relationship, we’d done it all. But marriage brought with it a sense of accountability that we’d never experienced before. Suddenly, we were responsible not just for ourselves but for each other.”
Related Reading: Marriage Counseling: 15 Goals That Should Be Addressed, Says Therapist
8. Marriage brings spiritual harmony
If you’re someone who believes in the spiritual realm, that the universe is run by a great and benign power, whatever shape they may take in your mind, marriage becomes a pathway to achieving greater spiritual harmony, whether by welding your subconscious to someone else’s or the religious and cultural rituals that celebrate your coming together as a married couple.
“I’m not a particular fan of organized religion but my family wanted a religious ceremony when I decided to get married. I wasn’t sure about it but looking back, there was a strange sense of peace in walking down the aisle, reciting ancient vows to each other, knowing that we were committing ourselves to a life together in the presence of universal love. It felt like I had a spiritual connection with my partner,” says Allie.
It’s not just the ceremonies, though. Marriage itself can often be a deep sense of inner peace from knowing that your heart and soul are in each other’s keeping. It’s a rooted sense of faith that you were brought together to enrich each other’s lives in the best possible ways. So when we wonder why is marriage important, the spiritual experience is a big part of it.
Related Reading: Domestic Partnership: 4 Ways It Differs From Marriage And 6 Benefits It Offers
9. Marriage heralds a new beginning
“When my partner and I were getting married, there were a lot of dark mutters about how this was the end of everything. A lot of people, albeit jokingly, talked about how fun and spontaneity were over and it was time to get serious. There were others who wondered why we were bothering to get married when we already lived together because it was essentially the same thing,” says Mallory.
For Mallory and her spouse, however, it was all new after marriage. “It wasn’t just that we now knew we were bound by more than our feelings for each other, that it was all legal and official. We knew that marriage is important to society, and that was part of it, but our relationship was different, too. It was a whole new relationship, a whole new getting to know each other as a spouse that just made it so special,” she adds.
Marriage is the beginning of a new chapter in your life, even if you’ve known each other forever and already shared a living space. But rather than seeing it as the end of an era, it could be the beginning of a new stage in your relationship, without losing its best parts.
10. With marriage comes social capital
Why is marriage important? Well, we live in a world with carefully constructed social norms and rules, a lot of which we may not agree with. It can’t be denied, however, that playing by these rules, at least on the surface, makes life a whole lot easier.
Is marriage important to society? Yes, indeed! When you’re married, in the eyes of society, you’re automatically a more settled, steady, sober sort of person, even if you’re sometimes wondering, is marriage restrictive? The kind of person who finds it easier to rent or buy a home, contribute to the community, and generally knows what is expected of them. None of this is fair, but since we’re talking about the significance of marriage, it’s only fair to look at the social benefits, such as:
- You can get health insurance through your spouse’s employment even if you don’t work
- If you’re living in a neighborhood where most people are married, you are more easily accepted into the community
- You are no longer subject to scrutiny that may have been an integral part of your single life
- Improved social interactions
11.Marriage brings a greater sense of intimacy
There are often murmurs that marriage is losing its importance. One major reason is that a lot of people assume that romance and intimacy get lost in the everyday humdrum-ness of married life. But intimacy can expand and grow when you’re married.
“I’ll be honest, the sexual intimacy is different to what it was when we were dating,” says Melissa, “But there’s the warmth of comfortable affection, the recreational intimacy of just reading together, the intellectual intimacy of setting and working toward shared goals. Marriage taught us that intimacy isn’t just sexual, there are a million different ways to be intimate and a good marriage is a great space to allow this.”
So, maybe you’re not making out like mad on the kitchen counter every day. Or maybe you are! But you do have the intimacy of knowing that this is your person and you get to touch their bodies and their minds in all kinds of new ways and learn new intimacies every day. That sense of belonging can be far more gratifying than just physical or sexual intimacy in a relationship.
12. Marriage brings overall joy
As per a study, married couples rated their life satisfaction 9.9% higher than widows and widowers and were 8.8% happier than divorced or separated people. In other words, when you have a spouse to blame for everything, you’re just happier! This is perhaps why men and women live longer when they’re married.
Now, of course, marriage brings its own strife and there will be fights and arguments and so on. But overall, a good, healthy marriage brings a good, healthy dose of joy to life. There’s something about sharing a couch and remote control and a bunch of kids to yell at together while you also jointly agonize over them. When you find that one person you can share every little aspect of your life with, you’re likely to be happier and more content and secure in the long run.
Related Reading: 23 Little Things To Make Your Marriage Stronger Everyday
13.Marriage brings hope that your faith will be rewarded
Marriage is a huge, huge leap of faith. These days, especially, a lot of people question the importance of marriage, relationships tend to be fickle, and the hope of finding the “perfect partner” at the next swipe makes people hold off commitment, it’s such a major step to take, not knowing whether it’ll work out or not.
There’s so much to lose in love, and things get horribly public when a marriage doesn’t work out. Big, scary words like divorce counseling and custody float around and before you know it, you’re not sure whether you really want to take this step. But you do, anyway.
That’s why we think marriage is a giant symbol of hope. Hope that things will be all right and that you and your spouse will keep your individual lives while building a future together. That no matter what comes ahead, you will face it together. And what could be a better defense of the institution than that?
- Despite the structure of family and relationships becoming more fluid, importance of marriage cannot be negated
- A sense of security, need for companionship, financial and emotional security are some of the reason why marriage remains a major life goals for most people
- Marriage can serve as an affirmation of commitment, foster a sense of community, bring joy and happiness
- While there is no denying that every marriage goes through its share of ups and down, with the right partner, it can be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of life
Marriage came up mostly as a transactional relationship and then evolved into the highest aspiration of a romantic relationship. With all the naysayers and cynics who are convinced marriage is archaic, it continues to stand its ground, even when you’re having a marriage crisis.
This article has been updated in January 2023.