The Pros and Cons of Marriage
We have far more choices today about how we live our lives and yet marriage still remains popular which suggests that to many the advantage outweigh the disadvantages. During the duration of marriage there can be times when the disadvantages take priority and we deal with this in different ways. For those who are willing to communicate and adjust it is likely that the advantages once again take priority and the age old expectations can be fulfilled.
the Advantages and Disadvantages of Marriage
The Pros and Cons of marriage
Identifying the pros and cons of marriage is complex and in my view it is important that we take into consideration historical, religious and cultural influences.
Historically marriage had financial, moral, societal and religious support. It was viewed in many societies and cultures as something that was expected and in most cases seen as a life long commitment even if one or both parties were unhappy. To end a marriage through divorce was difficult, viewed as morally wrong and frowned upon. Children not born in marriage were labeled as bastards and socially stigmatized. Unmarried mothers were sometimes institutionalized and or made to give their children up for adoption being seen as immoral and not fit to be part of the community. Cohabitation or remaining single was not usual and single sex relationships were not recognized, accepted or spoken about.
Marriage in general was seen as a way of life where you ‘made the best of your lot’. For women and especially those with children ending the marriage was not an option as it often resulted in poverty, homelessness, removal of children, stigma and shame.
During these times when roles and responsibilities were clearly defined (men were seen as the providers and women the housekeepers and responsible for child care) the advantages and disadvantages of marriage were in many respects far clearer than they are today.
During the past 50 years things have gradually moved on. Attitudes towards women, education, children, relationships, marriage and divorce have significantly changed and there are far more options available to us in respect of how we live our lives. Progression has meant that education is available to all and there are equal opportunities open to both sexes for career development. Scientific and medical developments have brought about many changes resulting in sexual freedom where both men and women can enjoy sex without the constant worry of pregnancy. In addition such is the progression that women can now choose to conceive without actually having sex with a male and same sex relationships are not exempt from having children.
Curiously marriage has survived these many changes and it is still viewed by some as an integral part of life. So what is it about this institution that is so special and what are the advantages and disadvantages of marriage in today’s society?
Many still view marriage as something to be celebrated and today’s weddings are often elaborate and expensive affairs, where both men and women legally and publically express their love and commitment to each other. Marriage is not only seen as a joining of two people in legal terms but on a less formal basis it is viewed as a joining of resources, family and friends. The advantages of a wedding ceremony, be it large or small, is that it gives recognition to the fact that two people want to commit themselves to each other legally and for some in the eyes of God.
Alongside the sheer joy of marriage and expectations of unconditional love, security, fidelity and so forth, an important practical long term advantage is that it provides legal protection for both parties and any children of the marriage in the event of divorce. For example disputes about property, possessions and custody of children are ultimately decided by a Judge during divorce proceedings.
Whilst I think that on balance, planning for a wedding and being part of the ceremony is a positive experience for all, one disadvantage can be that for some couples the expense of wedding results in them beginning their new life together in debt.
However at the beginning of marriage most couples envisage happy times ahead. Expectations are that they will grow old together, perhaps have children, live in harmony, be financially secure, emotionally stable, physically safe and sexually exclusive. To those who opt to marry these concepts are all very positive and are often seen as the main advantages of marriage. On the other hand to those who choose to remain single it is often these same sentiments that discourage them and are seen as major disadvantages to marriage.
However to the newly married couple disadvantages such as a loss of freedom, (including sexual freedom) having to adjust and consider another person in day to day life is often dismissed.
As the relationship progresses it is not unusual for cracks to appear and for example those once endearing behaviors become tiresome and irritating. For some the very aspects of marriage that were deemed as advantageous become disadvantages for example fidelity, routine, responsibility, commitment and sharing. Whilst some couples are able to work through these issues either by themselves or with help. Others, particularly where one party is not willing to change, are left feeling increasingly unsettled, disrespected, isolated, used, sexually dissatisfied, marginalized, not valued and lonely. For these couples some would say that it is better to divorce rather than to live in misery. But is it really that simple?
Whilst divorce these days can be a straight forward process it is still not always considered to be a viable option particularly for those who hold firm religious and cultural beliefs. But even for some couples who are not pressurized by outside influences divorce continues to be something to be resisted.
In practical terms a couple may not initiate divorce proceedings for financial reasons for example a women may feel that ending the marriage will result in financial hardship whereas a male may resent the idea of sharing his possessions and hard earned cash with his partner who in his eyes has contributed nothing financially. In addition if there are children couples often feel that it is important to stay together despite their dissatisfaction with each other. In these circumstances where couples are not able or willing to resolve differences some choose to ignore things such as extra marital relationships and just get on with life the best they can. Others decide to lead separate lives whilst still living together in marriage.
Another reason for resisting divorce is because there is a strong belief, particularly in women, that love prevails throughout and that over time things will change. They often make excuses for their partner and are in denial about the extent of their problems. In marriages where domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual and emotional abuse occur women are particularly vulnerable and yet they tend to blame themselves and somehow feel responsible for their partners failings. The above for me highlights one of the major disadvantages of marriage in that despite easy access to divorce many of us still feel the need to stick with it in the hope that our partners love for us is enough to bring about change even though we are living in what can be extremely difficult circumstances.
To conclude we have far more choices today about how we live our lives and yet marriage still remains popular which suggests that to many the advantage outweigh the disadvantages. During the duration of marriage there can be times when the disadvantages take priority and we deal with this in different ways. For those who are willing to communicate and adjust it is likely that the advantages once again take priority and the age old expectations can be fulfilled.