The Joint (Ad)Ventures of Well-Educated Couples

What it really takes to create and sustain an exceptional and lasting marriage.

Dangerous Reasons to Get Married

Review your motivations before deciding to marry

In terms of motivations for marriage, thus far I've been focusing mostly on delusional thinking processes caused by fantasies we create during the cocaine-rush phase of relationships. For example, within the context of a short courtship, two delusional reasons for getting married are "because it feels like I've known you forever, even though we just met" and "because our love story would make a great movie."

There are a number of other equally bad reasons to take the plunge. These generally fall into three categories—anxiety, inadequacy, and self-centered pragmatics.

If you are contemplating marriage or are "on the hunt" for a spouse, I'd advise you to get honest with yourself and plumb the depths of your motivations. Do your motivations stem from any of the following thoughts?

I want to get married… 

• because all of my friends are doing it.

• because I don't know if I'll get another chance if I take a pass on this one.

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• because I want to feel secure.

• because I don’t want to deal with the dating world anymore. 

These motivations are fear based. Anxiety is driving the bus when we fear that we will be left behind, when we accept the premise that a full and interesting life without a spouse is less successful than a partnered life, or when we believe that marriage will give us a sense of security that we cannot experience without a partner.

In a way, the person who marries for these reasons is looking to his or her partner to function as a different type of drug—not cocaine, but some type of sedative in this case. The supposed stability and security of the marital bond is sought as an antidote to the tumultuousness of "life on the outside." When one looks to one's partner to be any type of drug instead of a living, breathing human being with an agenda of his or her own, the result is often a short-lived bond. 

A second category of unwise motivation is marrying because of feelings of inadequacy, typified by any of the following thoughts:

I want to get married…

• because the person I'm dating loves me and that makes me feel special and lovable.

• because marriage will show everyone that I'm an adult.

• because marriage will demonstrate that someone wants me.

• because this will bring my life into better focus.

• because I'm lonely.

If your motivations fall within this category, please consider some of the future blog posts I’ll submit about self-esteem and marital success (upcoming in the next couple months). I’ll need some space to address this issue in a meaningful way. 

Finally, a third category of misguided motivation is shallow pragmatics, which boils down to thoughts such as these:

I want to get married…

• because we've dated awhile and this is the next logical step to take.

• because I want to register for nice things and create a Pottery Barn nest for myself.

• because I will not get stationed with this hottie I'm dating unless I marry him/her (for those in the military). 

As someone who hears the stories that people don't tell in polite society, I continue to be surprised at the frequency of motivations like these. Ultimately, motivations in any of these categories are likely to result in what author Pamela Paul has referred to as a “starter marriage.”* 

 

*Paul, P. (2002). The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. New York: Villard Books.   

Shauna Springer, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, relationship and lifestyle researcher, and author of Marriage, for Equals: The Successful Joint (Ad)Ventures of Well-Educated Couples. more...

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