Modern Monogamy: Is Marriage Even Practical Anymore?
Marriage used to be an obligatory rite of passage. It was just what you did when you reached a certain stage of adulthood. Now, you don’t have to get married, but you can if you want to. So…should you? Is marriage even practical anymore? With other relationship options, like domestic partnerships, cohabitation, plain old dating, and even polyamory, there isn’t a simple answer to whether or not marriage still makes sense. We’re breaking down the perks, drawbacks, and other factors involved in marriage to help you can decide if saying “I do” is right for you.
Cover Photo: JGI/Tom Grill (Getty Images)
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You don't need a lot of money to get married.
Diamonds were once a girl’s best friend but are on the outs with millennials. The standard budget for an engagement ring used to be three months’ salary. Most young men aren’t willing to part with a chunk of change that size just so their fiancée can show off the rock to her friends. That's why alternative engagement rings, from less expensive colored gems to “ethically sourced” stones, are all the rage these days. Weddings are going the same way, with couples embracing low-key celebrations over bank-busting extravaganzas. So if you were going to use money (or lack thereof) as an excuse not to get married, think again.
Marriage is a safety net.
It’s easy to get married, but it can be hard AF to get divorced. That's actually a good thing because it keeps married people from fleeing the relationship when the road gets rough. Sometimes, if you just buckle your seatbelt and sit tight, not only does the road get smoother, it gets more scenic. You discover new places you never would have if you’d bailed earlier on. When you’re in a non-legally-binding relationship, there’s literally nothing stopping your partner from picking up and leaving on a moment’s notice. Also, being married means you free up a large part of your brain that was previously devoted to the pursuit of your next lover. Now, you can focus on bigger, better goals beyond getting laid.
Marriage is good for your health.
Multiple studies have shown that married men are healthier and live longer than never-married men, divorced men, and widowers. Even when men get a grave diagnosis like cancer, being married is associated with higher survival rates. Health benefits have been shown for married women, too, though only if the marriage is a happy one.
Marriage is good for your wallet.
Married people are more likely to prosper financially. In addition to dual incomes, shared expenses, the potential for a tax break, and other savings afforded married couples, studies have shown that married people experience a hefty increase in their net worth after a decade together. And, hey, if things go south, your ex might have to pay you alimony and/or child support as well as split their assets with you. This is a huge advantage if you're the lower wage-earner in the marriage. If you cohabit as an unmarried couple and break up, all you'll have to show for your efforts is a broken heart and an apartment you can't afford.
Sex changes after marriage.
Back when your grandparents were young adults, people weren’t supposed to have sex before marriage. Now, there’s little cultural stigma against casual sex. The upside: you can enjoy yourself without being disowned by your parents. The downside: have enough meaningless sex and sex will cease to be meaningful, even with someone you love. While the rumor that sex frequency decreases with marriage appears to be true, it’s still more sex than you’d probably be having as a single person and hopefully more consistently satisfying than single sex, too. (Though no promises.)
Marriage doesn't have to be monogamous.
Monogamy used to be synonymous with marriage, but no more. Today’s married couples not only know about their spouse’s trysts, they endorse them! Open marriage is gaining traction among couples of all ages. Whether or not it’s sustainable for the entirety of a marriage is up for debate, but in the short term, it might help stave off infidelity or divorce. Polyamory has totally made marriage cool again.
Kids fare better with married parents.
Having kids used to be a privilege of marriage. Now, people have no qualms about kids out of wedlock and cohabiting with the baby mama or daddy. While this might seem like a swell arrangement for you, it’s bad for the kids. Studies show that almost half of unmarried cohabiting couples with children will break up (and then recouple, forcing kids to readjust to new family structures). Studies have also shown that children born to cohabiting unmarried parents experience more abuse and poverty as well as suffer more psychological, social, and educational issues than children of married parents. The stats have spoken: put a ring on it before you procreate.
Marriage is more intimate than dating.
You don’t really know someone until you live with them…and then you might know too much. Being married is scary for a lot of people because it demands literal and figurative nakedness. Your health, your finances, your desires, your fears – in a marriage, it’s all on display. On the other hand, a benefit of marriage is being able to let it all hang out and know that you’ll be loved anyway. If you’re a serial monogamist who only dates people for a few months or even years, you barely scratch the surface of who they are. When you’re with someone for decades, you not only get to know them in depth, you also grow with them. That’s something dating just can’t beat.
I do...don't I?
Marriage isn’t right for everyone, but it isn’t outdated, either. The most important thing is that you and your love interest are on the same page about your needs, goals, and dreams for your relationship. Marriage has endured for a reason; it’s a commitment made in hope and love, and who doesn’t want that? While capitalism has corrupted marriage and turned it all into a wedding day extravaganza, marriage might actually be the longest commitment you’ll ever make to anyone or anything. If you’re really in love, rather than ask, “Why get married?” the better question is, “Why not?”