Deciding whether or not to get married is a highly personal choice. For some, marriage can be a powerful symbol of love. It may logistically make sense for sharing finances, having kids, or making other major life choices together. Other people may feel unsure about it, and still. others may decide marriage isn’t right for them at all. Perhaps they ideologically disagree with the institution of marriage and choose to celebrate their relationships in other ways. Whatever the reasons, statistics are showing an interesting trend: People’s attitudes about marriage have changed dramatically since the mid-1980’s. The most recent data published in 2018 from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that “a record number of current youth and young adults are projected to forego marriage altogether” and marriage rates are at an all time low — with only 6.5 marriages per 1,000 people, following a steady decline since 1980 when there were 10.6 marriages per 1,000 people.
We wanted to hear directly from our O.school community so we asked our network how they feel about marriage: whether not it’s right for them, or if they feel unsure. Here’s what they had to say.
Note: To respect privacy, we are using first-names only, and referring to some as “Anonymous” for those who requested it.
Some people feel resolute in their belief that marriage is right for them
1. “Marriage feels right for me since someone committing to me in that way would make me feel so loved. I don’t agree with the ‘forever’ aspect. People change! Divorce is OK!” - Nikki, 25
2. “Yes [marriage is for me], marry me ASAP. I am a sucker for love, connection, and building together.” - Taylor, 21
3. “I believe marriage is for me. Although part of me finds the idea of divorce really scary. Growing up in the early 2000s, I think society taught us divorce was something to be feared and represented failure. I know this is not true, that there is happiness on the other side of a split.”- Anna, 27
4. “Marriage is for me for land ownership, citizenship, or other legal measures/needs, not love.”- El, 27
5. “I feel like I want to get married, but I couldn’t really tell you why honestly. I feel like there’s this entrenched societal norm in me that’s making me think I do even if it doesn’t really resonate with me, like, that’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to do, so I’ve spend my whole life believing that’s what I want. I’m also super lucky to have parents that struggled in their marriage, but made it work in a very non-traditional way that makes me think marriage can look like whatever you want it to if that’s the route you choose.” - Cathryn, 26
6. “[Marriage] can be great for companionship and for creating space for hard conversations.” - Jay, 36
7. “Yes [marriage is for me]! Devoting forever to someone and sharing a life. Can do it without the legal part too!” - Anonymous, 28
8. “I want to get married to have kids. Partially for my parents sake. But security is nice, too.” - Hailey, 27
9. “I got married right after college. Christian at the time and felt like it was necessary. LOL. I appreciate the security of the relationship, that we’ve gotten to grow up together, have a built in teammate, etc. and wouldn’t change our current situation, but sometimes, I wish I/we hadn’t done it so quickly. In hindsight, I feel a bit coerced by the religious system and definitely didn’t fully understand myself/our relationship/being humans in general.”- Alyssa, 30
10. “Totally [marriage is for me]! Love having a partner to spend my life’s ups and downs with. Marriage also makes you more vulnerable than just cohabitating.” - Mercedes, 22
11. “Marriage is great if you can communicate with each other. Get help. Work on it!” - Shawn, 43
Others feel more unsure about it
12. “I’m not too sure [if marriage is for me] part of me loves the idea of getting married and then another part of me wonders if it’s actually necessary at all and if it’s just a paper of social constructs.” - Dana, 26.
13. “I would maybe do it for my partner's health insurance lol.” - Hannah, 25.
14. “I love the celebration/community support side of weddings! [I’m] still unsure where I land on marriage [for myself].” - Kate, 29.
15. “I don’t want kids because of finances/climate crisis/parenting my inner child, so that aspect of marriage is moot for me, but I understand there are a ton of financial benefits and rights only granted to married people, so I haven’t ruled it out altogether, either. With that being said, it’s totally bogus that people should have to get married to have those benefits/rights/whatever and that should absolutely be changed.” - Zoe, 22.
16. “Marriage can be a creative and sacred ritual. It's also tied to patterns of hetero-patriarchy and land theft. (@allmyrelations has an amazing podcast on this.) Can I imagine myself stepping into these contradictions? Yes, I think so. If I felt free along the way.” - Sarah, 26.
17. “I got married at 24, divorced at 26, and discovered I’m a [dom]-type at (almost) 28. I’m now 32, and for me like marriage? Idk. Could take it or leave it. The only reasons I’d want to would be for taxes, insurance, retirement, legal reasons, if we have kids, etc etc. But collaring? Ooooof that’s my idea of romance and ultimate commitment. To have a partner surrender to me, wear my collar, be totally mine and only mine. That’s a huge step for me and incredibly personal. Now for both of these, they’re a desire, not a need. I don’t need marriage, I don’t need a partner, I don’t need a submissive in order to live a fulfilled life.” - Anonymous, 32.
18. “I feel completely unsure about marriage. I know I want a long-term partner or partners. And life-long platonic relationships, too. But I don’t know where I fall on getting married. So much of it just feels patriarchal, cis-heteronormative traditions and a capitalist industry. But, having a huge party to celebrate myself and my partner — that part sounds good.” - Anonymous, 26.
Some people know they want to forgo marriage altogether
19. “No [marriage is not for me], it’s expensive and there aren’t many wedding traditions that aren’t based on misogyny. I mean, white dress to symbolize purity, asking for the father’s permissions, taking your husband's name and making your kids go by it too??? Yuck. And, it’s believed that the best man’s original purpose was to make sure the bride didn’t leave, if she did, the best man would fight her family and kidnap her to make her agree to the wedding.” - Jessica, 19.
20. “Married for almost 10 years. Divorced for one year and don’t see myself getting married again.” - Carissa, 30.
21. “I like the idea of a long-term partner and for legal purposes it’s nice to be married, but long term committed without the marriage tie.” - Erika, 26.
22. “It feels more like a thing I’m supposed to do versus something I want to do. It’s outdated in my opinion.” - Ross, 38.
23. “I understand why people do it and why the gay community fought so hard for that right. But I was married and ugh, it sucked. The paperwork, the wedding itself, how people would be so weird about me talking about the verbal and emotional abuse I was experiencing and saying stuff like, ‘There is always time to work on your marriage’ instead of telling me to kick him out. Things had to get so bad before I finally ended it. If we had not been married, I wonder what that would have been like. Would people have encouraged me to leave sooner?” - Ashley, 30.
The bottom line
Deciding whether or not marriage is right for you can be complicated at times. Most of us are taught from a young age that marriage is the only way to validate and legitimize a romantic relationship. It can be hard to differentiate those societal messages and what we “truly” want. For some, marriage is what they truly want and they see it as a beautiful way to represent commitment and a next life chapter. While many find value in the institution of marriage, others feel limited by it. Ultimately, the decision is very personal and there is no wrong answer.