Paul studied philosophy at the University of Leicester, UK, and has done a variety of jobs since, including advocate, librarian, and writer.
Marriage has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. Almost all cultures and religions on the planet have some sort of partnership ceremony.
In some cultures, men are allowed to have multiple wives; however in most places, marriage is limited to one man and one woman.
In modern times, marriage has become less popular, particularly in developed countries. The institution suffered a dramatic decline in the middle-to-late 20th century—partly due to increased divorce rates, but also because many couples have chosen not to marry at all.
The traditional concept of marriage has also been challenged in recent years by people who believe that gay couples should have the same opportunities to wed as straight couples do.
Below you'll find a list of the main advantages and disadvantages of marriage.
Advantages of Marriage
- Companionship. Most humans are not solitary and crave companionship. Life is enhanced when experiences can be shared with another person who cares and shares your interests and concerns.
- Acceptance. Marriage is an accepted way for two people to show their commitment to each other. Most institutions—from governments to corporations—have policies that give concessions to married couples.
- Endurance. Couples who marry have been statistically shown to stay together longer and are more likely to bond for life.
- Stability. Marriage benefits society generally because it is associated with stable families. Stable families produce happier children and a more stable society with less crime and fewer social problems.
- Finances. There are often financial benefits associated with marriage. Taxes are often lower. Financial issues and legalities such as inheritance can be easier to sort out when a couple is married.
- Partnership. Marriage is about sharing burdens and responsibilities, and that can lead to less stress (financial or emotional). Raising a child, for example, is relatively easier for two parents than it is for one.
- The Family Unit. Marriage gives a child two parents, which can help a child to develop into a balanced and happy adult. Children have two different role models to look up to and twice as much potential support, emotionally and practically.
- Sex. Marriage promises and helps deliver a happy sex life. Partners can get to know and fulfill each others' desires in a trusting long-term relationship. Monogamy also reduces health risks such as sexually transmitted diseases.
- Religious Reasons. Most cultures have religious reasons for getting married. A religious marriage can be a way for a couple to deepen their bonds to each other, as well as help them form a deeper relationship with God and receive His blessing.
By retirement, the average married couple has accumulated about $410,000 worth of assets, while those that never marry accumulate about $167,000. Divorced people average $154,000 accumulated assets at retirement.
Disadvantages of Marriage
- Infidelity. Fidelity is not a natural state for humans, especially during young adulthood when sex drive is its strongest. Most married sex lives fade over time, which can lead to affairs and other infidelities.
- The Rut. Many couples get stuck in a rut, repeating the same arguments over and over. The key differences in their personalities never go away. Petty problems and irritating habits become magnified over time. (These Marriage Counseling Questions You Can Ask Each Other can help.)
- Lack of Individuality. Marriage restricts an individual's freedom. Single people can happily live their lives pretty much as they please without having to be concerned with the needs or wishes of others, but marrieds must always consider others' needs.
- Family Conflict. Couples have to deal with their partner’s families, which can be a source of problems and conflict.
- Red Tape. Getting married can mean extra bureaucracy and red tape, especially when the wife changes her name and official documents such as social security and driver licenses have to be changed.
- Limitations. Society has moved on; the traditional idea of marriage is outdated. Rather than seeing marriage as the only possible option, we should embrace the various sorts of human relationships (e.g. single-parent families, gay couples, etc.) and expand our definitions and limits.
- Conformity. Marriage is about seeking approval from civil and religious authorities when it should be just the opinions of the two people in the relationship that matter. Relationships should be purely personal: religion and government don't need to be involved.
- Financial Penalties. There are some financial disadvantages to being married. The "marriage penalty" is when married couples end up paying more in taxes than they would if they hadn't married. Divorce costs can also be huge if you make a mistake and marry the wrong person.
- Expensive Ceremony. Marriage ceremonies can be very expensive and extremely stressful. It is not uncommon for relatives to take over and for the couple's wishes to be sidelined.
- Getting Stuck. Marriage can extend the time that a couple stays in a bad or unhealthy relationship—for instance, where the pair is simply ill-suited or where there is physical or emotional abuse. Couples may be persuaded to stay together due to religious or cultural taboos against divorce.
50% of all marriages in the USA are estimated to end in divorce. Despite this, there are still plenty of people who choose to tie the knot, whether for romance, tradition, or religion.
What Are the Financial Pros and Cons of Marriage?
According to some estimates, married men earn as much as 40% more than their single peers, and the longer a man is married, more he benefits financially in terms of salary. Married women also see bumps in salary (unless they have children).
It's easier to build wealth and accumulate assets as a married couple... assuming there are two incomes. A study at Ohio State University showed that married people's individual net worth was 77% greater than singles', so marriage seems to have a very positive impact on wealth creation and accumulation. Married couples can also expect a 16% bump in wealth for each year of marriage.
Legal marriage offers financial protection in case of divorce. After the divorce, the court might require one ex to pay support or alimony... but with no marriage certificate, the break up won't come with any financial support (which might be seen as a pro or a con, depending on whom you ask).
For some, marriage means lower taxes... but it depends on how much you make. For many, marriage can result in higher taxes.
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Spouses don't have to pay estate tax, but non-married couples do. That means if a married person dies, their partner will automatically inherit all their assets without paying the inheritance tax they'd have to pay if they hadn't married.
Sharing a health insurance plan usually saves money, and many companies still require marriage for shared coverage.
A surviving spouse can inherit Social Security benefits. Anyone who was widowed or divorced after ten years of marriage is entitled to their spouses' Social Security benefits.
Emotional and Social Advantages and Disadvantages of Marriage
According to some studies, 40% of married people say that they are "very happy," a claim only about 25% of single people seem to make. Married people are also less likely than single people to say that they are unhappy. However, the causation is unclear, and we don't know for sure that the marriage is the cause of the happiness: It might also be that the people who marry are already more prone to expressing happiness. (Read Ten Reasons Not to Get a Divorce for more information.)
Less Risk of Being Lonely?
A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 28% of people who report feeling dissatisfaction with their family lives also report feel lonely all or most of the time. However, marriage does not prevent loneliness, and the number of unhappily married people is rising—a recent General Social Survey conducted by NORC saw the highest number of unhappily married couples since 1974.
There is ample evidence that married people experience less emotional, physical, financial, and psychological stress than single people do. However, the effects of an unhappy marriage have not been adequately studied.
Better Physical Health?
As a result of feeling less stress, married people also tend to have lower levels of cortisol than single people and therefore have less risk of chronic disease and inflammation.
Better Mental Health?
Married people also report feeling less depressed. Compared to single, divorced, or widowed people, those that are married report feeling less depressed, anxious, and psychologically stretched. Getting divorced seems to have a negative effect on the mental health of both men and women who report increased levels of anger and hostility, lower self-esteem, and a diminished sense of personal mastery and purpose after divorce.
Research shows that married people live longer than those who are single: This is especially true for men.
Better Sex Lives?
Every marriage is different, but in general, not only are married people more likely to have a sex life and enjoy sex more frequently than single people, they are also more likely than singles to say they are sexually satisfied. Research shows that having satisfying sex more frequently has many health benefits. Not only do those who have sex at least two times a week report feeling younger, they also enjoy better heart, lung, and muscle health.
Many studies indicate that marriage makes having children much easier for parents and that the children of married parents enjoy greater emotional health.
The Ability to Focus?
Since married people tend to have more confidence in their relationship status, marriage allows them to specialize and take on the responsibilities that they're well suited for. Two partners can divide the daily tasks and specialize in what they do well, but single people must perform them all.
What Are the Legal Benefits of Marriage?
For many, legal benefits are a main reason for tying the knot.
A spouse can inherit the estate without paying taxes, but if the couple is not married, they will have to pay to transfer inheritance.
Legal decision-making benefits:
Married couples automatically earn next-of-kin rights for hospital visits and the ability to make medical decisions for their spouse.
Filing joint taxes:
Not every couple will benefit tax-wise by getting married. In fact, if they're both high earners, it might not be smart. However, many do get a qualify for tax credit and get deductions for filing jointly. It depends on how much money you each make.
If married, you can make any gifts or transfer an unlimited amount of assets to your spouse without paying a transfer tax.
It's easier for married couples to share health insurance and get a loan or mortgage.
Death and inheritance benefits:
Inheritance is automatic for married couples, which allows a surviving spouse to waive inheritance taxes. Surviving spouses are entitled to their spouse's benefits like retirement (IRA), social security, disability, veteran, military, and pension plans.
What Are the Disadvantages of Marrying Young?
- low income due to lack of career development, training, education, or advancement,
- the inability to live alone as a couple due to lack of savings,
- people live a long time nowadays so you will be together for decades... but people can change a lot over a period of just ten years.
- it's a proven fact: those that delay marriage end up choosing their partners more wisely and have longer relationships as a result.
- research shows that people who marry before age 25 are twice as likely to divorce.
Research consistently shows that if parents get and stay married, their children live longer and healthier lives.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: What are the disadvantages of traditional marriage?
Answer: Disadvantages might include: limited sex life or sex life fading over time, dealing with spouse's family, having finances and assets linked with another, expense of paying for a ceremony, and less individual freedom.
Question: What are the disadvantages of marrying young?
Answer: Disadvantages might include: low income due to lack of career advancement, restrictions on where you live and work because you have to take your partner into account, people live a long time nowadays so you will be together for decades, people can change a lot over a period of just ten years when they're young, as well as people choose their partners more wisely with the extra experience of age.
Question: What problems can in-laws create for a woman in a marriage?
Answer: There are numerous ways that the husband's family can create problems for you as the wife, four of the most common include:
1. The in-laws are over-sensitive and grill you for information. They regularly complain that they aren't getting enough attention, or that they are being mistreated.
2. The in-laws are over-controlling; if you arrange anything with them, they insist on being in charge.
3. The in-laws don't respect boundaries; they turn up uninvited and unexpected to visit grandchildren. They also don't respect your plans and wishes.
4. The in-laws are religiously or politically fundamentalist; they lecture you and your family on how you should live your lives.
Question: Does traditional marriage offer more advantages for men rather than women?
Answer: Modern attitudes tend to emphasize ideas of equality much more than they did in the past. Historically, married men were expected to be the main breadwinner in a marriage, and the wife's role was more centered around childcare, housekeeping, and other domestic chores. In a traditional marriage, men tend to have a higher status, have more involved careers and jobs, take more of the important household decisions, and play less of a direct role in childcare and many of the mundane household tasks.
Question: How do governments promote marriage?
Answer: Governments generally use laws, budget allocations, and administrative regulations that work in the favor of married people to promote wedlock. For instance, married couples can be granted tax breaks, or more favorable inheritance laws. At the same time, governments might use the same tools to discourage unmarried couples, or single parents.
Question: What are the inconveniences of marriage?
Answer: The disadvantages of marriages may include restricted personal freedom due to constantly compromising with your partner; getting bored of each other over time; having to deal with the in-laws; the stress and expense of the wedding ceremony; and the huge cost of divorce if you make a mistake.
© 2011 Paul Goodman