Here’s Why to Skip Getting Married.

Coming from an idealistic romantic who loves weddings.

image by Jeremy Wong Weddings

At heart, I’m a romantic. I believe whole-heartedly in lifelong love. I see the commitment and an intention to build a life with someone else as beautiful, worthwhile, and incredibly awesome. There are many positive things about marriage. I’ve been married. My wedding day was one of the most emotional, magical, awe-inspiring days. I loved every second of it. I wouldn’t take it back even though we are no longer together. And still, I would potentially consider marriage again.

And yet, with all of that said, there are a lot of reasons not to get married.

Whether you are happily married or not, single or coupled up, wanting to walk down the aisle or without interest, I’d like to offer an alternate point of view. One that might give you things to think about and perspectives you might not have considered prior. And these are never a bad thing.

Here are several reasons why to skip getting married:

  • In many ways, while there is a positive connotation with the wedding day itself, with marriage over the long-term? It is much less so. The popular perception of marriage is laden with discouraging messages, such as the idea of “ball and chain” or thinking such as “this is it, are you sure?” Men call their wives, “the old lady” or “the wife,” both of which are unkind and unflattering. People might refer to their partner as a “leash,” as in, “Oh, he or she is letting out your leash a little more today, eh?” It’s seen as commodore and routine in books, television, and other media for women to get together and complain about all the ways their husbands don’t fulfill them.
  • Historically speaking, marriage was never about love at all. Instead, it was essentially a business transaction. In eighteenth-century England, the doctrine of coventure dictated that a woman had no legal rights within her marriage, other than those afforded by her husband. Early American laws replicated this idea, none of which changed until the 1960s. Before then, most states had “head and master” laws, giving husbands the right to beat their wives and take full control of family decision making and finances, including the woman’s own property.
  • Through centuries and across cultures, women have been intimidated and coerced into marriage through terrible means, such as kidnapping, physical violence, even gang rape.
  • Marriage is a societal construct. One that has been sold as a way to make women safe or improve their lives, but for the most part, it has been used to keep women down. In America, a woman could not get a credit card or bank load without written permission from her husband until the seventies. Until then, a man could also force his wife to have sex with him (there was no such thing as marital rape- instead it was assumed that one’s husband had no-holds-barred, always open access to his wife, regardless of how she felt about it in a given moment).
  • Marriage only provides government benefits and tax breaks in traditional patriarchal setups, where the man makes all the money and the woman makes far less or even stays at home. Our tax system punishes couples where both members are high earners.
  • Marriage is outdated, exclusionary, and works just 50 percent of the time.
  • In numerous other developed, happy and healthy, well-run countries (Sweden for example), marriage is not nearly as much of a thing as it is here in America, and they all do just fine.
  • Marriage (the legality of it) can result in staying because it feels too daunting to leave. A marriage certificate serves as a major hurdle to ending a relationship. This can be a good thing at times, in that it prompts pause and makes one think carefully about if they truly want to end it. But this can be a bad thing in that it likely keeps a lot of people stuck in something that is no longer healthy, happy, or well-fitting, because it seems too difficult, too much to deal with, too much to surmount, to leave. And that is not a good thing.
  • With marriage, we have this odd, nonsensical idea that “forever” is the marker of a successful relationship, and this can also keep people married when it would be otherwise better that they left. Yet, tons of relationships endure, though are miserable, resigned, lacking life, are wildly mismatched, no longer healthy or happy. This is not a success. This is the opposite. It’s unhealthy and it’s a waste. “Forever” is not a marker of relationship success. Everything ends, including each of our lives. Thus, nothing lasts forever. Does this mean our whole life is pointless and a failure then because it ends? Of course not. What makes a relationship successful or not are questions like this: did the relationship add to my life? Did it teach me important things? Was this person good to me? Did we love and respect each other? Did we have fun together? Did I grow while in this relationship? These are indicators of relationship success. Not how long it lasts.
  • Marriage is seen as an end-game goal for women, which often leads to settling or disappointment. As though once “finally” married, their life is complete and will be good and better. This can pressure a lot of women to settle too fast and to stay in relationships that aren’t so great for them. It also offers a false sense of security and fulfillment. This can also lead to a one-dimensional life, with the focus on marriage as their main goal, while excluding so many other forms of satisfaction and life-fulfillment outside of marriage.
  • Weddings have become much about image, status, and showing off, which cheapens and takes away from what they are meant to be about. The way brides raise their bouquet in victory after saying “I do,” as if she has just accomplished something. How normal-sized women see dieting as a requisite thing for an impending wedding day, working out and starving themselves to bobble-head versions of themselves. Thousands of dollars thrown down a dark hole, for food, flowers, dresses, and cake that could be put to much better use. Women identifying themselves as “brides” and “wives,” as though this makes them complete and impressive.
  • We don't take other long-term relationships as seriously as we take a “marriage,” which is a dismissive misperception. Why? We assume that somehow, that piece of paper indicating that the government is now involved makes it somehow better, more valid, more genuine. Yet plenty of marriages are not especially kind, emotionally close, or respectful. And plenty of long-term relationships that do not marry are way more loving, respectful, and emotionally close than lots of marriages. Marriage makes no difference in terms of depth of love, the authenticity of the connection, or level of commitment. This is merely a facade and a harmful one.
  • Marriage can lend a “rubber stamp” effect to relationships, making them seem much the same. Husband and wife. “Married.” And yet, why would someone want their relationship to be like everyone else's? Each romantic relationship is entirely different from all the others out there. Each one is totally unique. Marriage can make it seem as though it’s the same and falls in line with all the others now.
  • Weddings today are all about profit and have become big business (aka, capitalism and conformity): T.V shows about choosing the perfect dress, the perfect theme, the perfect cake. And always, the expense is astronomical. This detracts and can distract from what a wedding is truly about: the love and joy between two people. It’s gone from being more simplistic and sweet to being showy, braggy, and about profit.
  • We are obsessed with perfection and with “the day” while often ignoring what comes afterward. Will it rain? Which dress should I pick? What kind of appetizers to have passed? How will the photos come out? All while we talk little to none about what an actually long-term marriage, a happy and healthy one, entails. That this will be, at times, a significant challenge, and how we might navigate this when it feels impossible. Maybe this is part of why all the focus on perfection, image, and money? That this is an attempt to distract from the fears, uncertainty, and weight of what a wedding is truly about?
  • People change, and god forbid, being legally tied to this person might be a considerable problem someday. Maybe something terrible happens in the marriage and you decide it needs to end. Or, maybe like a lot of normal human relationships, you just come to points in your life where the relationship no longer fits. You outgrow one another. Your needs take you on different journeys. This happens. Endings are healthy, normal parts of human life. And there are times like this then when being legally tied to a particular type of person can be a huge problem. They make your life a living hell while you have to then endure being attached to them legally for months or even longer when it would be much better for your emotional and physical health to just be able to leave immediately. No one ever thinks this will happen at the end of their marriage but it does to a fair amount of people.
  • Weddings, though we try to make them unique, are in fact all the same and are very much about conformity, social proof, and going along with the crowd. We feel better with that slip of paper, as though somehow it elevates and validates our relationship more in the eyes of others. We want to impress people with our Instagram photos and the huge party, with how thin we’ve gotten, our sparkling dress, our themed wedding cake, and a photo booth. We claim to be different when we change up the cake for a cupcake tower instead, have our wedding in a field instead of a church, make our bridesmaids still wear the same color but they can pick the style (whoa, what freedom!). Yet, everyone says the same one-size-fits-all, canned vows, the entire thing unfolds much like the template of every other wedding, most brides act eerily similar to each other. None of it is unique. It’s all, in reality, the same thing with a different theme.
  • Marriage often (and of course, not always) results in people getting comfortable, even too comfortable. Some people feel as though, once married, “that’s it,” they “can’t leave me now since they’re committed.” They assume, “I’m settled and all set in this relationship now.” They feel like, because this person is their spouse, they have to and will love them no matter what. Romantic love is a bit more complex than this. When people let themselves go, gain a ton of weight for example (and for no health reason other than laziness and complacency) or when manners and effort go out the window, these are the ingredients that, over time, diminish and kill eroticism and romance. Yes, part of a great relationship entails feeling generally comfortable and at ease around your partner, but within reason. This is not to say that significant weight gain or bad manners or other lack of effort make someone unloveable or less worthy of love. Not at all. But they could make it harder to maintain the tenuous, inexplicable dance of long-term desire, lust, and romantic love. Part of maintaining interest and romance also means maintaining yourself, putting in the effort, and keeping some degree of mystery in the relationship too. Total comfort can = the death of sexual attraction, romance, and eroticism.

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author.

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