The Case Against Marriage

I wasn’t sure if this should be a P&R topic, but it seemed possibly contentious, so I put it here.

This is a fascinating article from The Atlantic. It kind of reflects my own experience; I’m happier, more socially integrated, more active, and more fulfilled in general now than I was while married.

The most obvious social good from marriage is that a couple can raise children together, but I’m not convinced it’s the best way, even in our highly nuclear-family-oriented society. My kids benefit, at least to some degree, from having two households with less, but more focused time with each parent. And I benefit by only having to parent half-time, which is a surprisingly huge deal for my mental well-being; parenting is difficult and draining, with little direct social benefit to adults.

I’m not entirely closed off to the idea of remarrying, but I’m not planning on it. It’s interesting to see the social landscape of our society shift under this question.

I admit I sometimes fantasize about the single life! :) In the next life, perhaps.

It’s probably safe to say that not being married is better than being in a dysfunctional marriage, but i know lots of folks who are in perfectly happy marriages that seem to benefit them.

I didn’t get married until my mid-40s, and only then when I was sure. This is my wife’s second marriage. For us, besides a few things like taxes or getting on her awesome teacher-focused car insurance, the relationship is pretty much the same – and as awesome – as when it began. I think marriage is great when done correctly, which seems to be a struggle for many these days.

I was married at 20 and a father at 21. Both far too young. Then, inevitably, years later, divorced. I stuck it out from a sense of duty for 23 years, then just couldn’t do it anymore. The early years were bad, the middle years okay, and the later years very bad.

I remarried a few years later. My wife is the same age but had never been married before. It is so much better now; I’m prone to telling her that she saved my life.

I like being married with a kid but certainly miss the alone time I used to have. The loneliness was rough though so it’s a fair trade. I don’t see my friends much anymore, which goes along with what the article suggests. Something to work on. With a small child I really feel deep in the rabbit hole at the moment.

That article is probably right that getting married and then having kids weakens your other social ties, certainly it has for me. I don’t see friends like I used to, I’m not really a member of any clubs or social groups, there’s just no time.

Yea, in my own experience being married isn’t the big issue. Having a kid is, it just murders any time you had for anything.

Mariage was the only way to prevent my country from repeatedly kicking my to-be-wife out of the country. As an administrative tool to be left the fuck alone, I appreciate mariage.
I lost most of my social life, like a lot of people I guess. Not missing it though.

I avoided marriage–or even committed relationships–into my 30s. Finally got married at 37. But only because I had found somebody who actually agreed with several red lines I wasn’t willing to cross–the main one being that I had no interest in having children.

22 years now and doing great. It really helps to be on the same page on the really important stuff. And to be mature and know what you want and where you are going before you commit.

Wife and I are both on third marriage. We lived together almost 20 years before actually getting married. It was a financial thing. I was always wary about us getting married, I thought it might be a bad thing. Nope. Everything fine.

Not married and never had interest in it. Or any significant long-term relationship that requires me to give up my significant amount of alone time. I occasionally get asked why I don’t have a significant other, and it really boils down to me liking a lot of alone time. It’s pretty amazing how difficult that is for many people to understand.

I am lucky because I’m retired and my wife still works. So alone time is during the day and I have the pleasure of her company in the evening. Weekends are a tossup, depending upon having plans or not.

That’s me now too, Rich. I’m 5 years older than her, and retired in April. I have the days to myself to do shopping, or fix up the house, or just sit around in my underwear and watch bad movies! Plus I get to cook all the time now, which is one of my favorite things to do.

Married 26 years. Two kids. We love 'em to death, but gotta be honest, they were almost the death of us at many points. Many of the other broad points of the article strike home as well.

Even so, I find it hard to even contemplate not having my life partner with me. Daily companionship is a huge part of what makes me who I am. I empathize with the article’s perspective even though I don’t share it myself.

There’s not really a way to not have your life turn upside down when you have small kids. They just soak up all the time, attention, and energy you have and more. And then you feel like a horrible human for not having more to give. But for all that, it’s part of who I am and I can’t imagine a world without my two wonderful monsters in it.

Also living alone and my mental health are super not compatible. So there’s that.

That article makes my teeth itch, with its cherry-picked and largely contex-free conclusions.

Really? So people living together as a pair are less likely to ask for help from a neighbor than someone living alone… because married people are less social. That’s some hard-hitting analysis, there.

My wife and I celebrate our quarter-century anniversary in a couple weeks. Pretty much all the ills that the article blames on marriage befell us along the way: less hanging out with friends, fewer visits with parents and siblings, a reduction in time for clubs and “outside” activities… but 90% of that was driven by having kids, which soak up pretty much all your free time. I’m fairly confident that single parents and split-parents suffer from those same reductions.

So if you want a healthy social life, don’t have kids and cultivate friends who also don’t have kids. Cool… unless you are the type of person who wants kids.

The second half of the article seems to argue that any serious monogamous commitment - formal or otherwise - is going to result in the same level of social problems. Her conclusion seems to be that being single, childless, emotionally detached, and sexually active is the way to go.

I guess that sounds fine if you’ve energy for it. Personally, sitting here on a Sunday morning eating breakfast with my wife laughing about a silly click-bait article while my young-adult kids rouse themselves upstairs seems like a slice of heaven.

Didn’t get married till 44, and only then it was to avoid my girlfriend being deported. She still allows me to do most of the stuff I did as a bachelor, like travel alone everywhere, which is cool. And having my first kid at 47 was super cool - but for the most part we want to throttle each other. There is really something to be said for alone time, of which there is none ever after 44 years of peace and quiet.

  1. I have kids, and am happier and more fulfilled unmarried than I was married. Obviously, not everyone is in the same boat. I don’t think the article is advocating getting rid of marriage, more just eroding its pre-eminence in culture a little and recognizing that presumed social benefits of marriage both to the couple and to society may not actually be beneficial over against remaining unmarried.

[M]illions of Americans are living alone, with other unmarried adults, or as single parents with children. It’s worth considering what would happen if they lived in a culture that supported all intimate relationships with the same energy currently devoted to celebrating and supporting marriage.

  1. The article considered whether children are the cause of social isolation in marriage:

Sarkisian and Gerstel wondered whether some of these effects could be explained by the demands of caring for small children. Maybe married parents just don’t have any extra time or energy to offer neighbors and friends. But once they examined the data further, they found that those who were married without children were the most isolated.

That’s not at all what she concludes–none of that.

  • As I quoted above, couples with children are less isolated than couples without.
  • The whole point of the article is that marriage itself can lead to emotional detachment and may do so even more than remaining unmarried does.
  • And she doesn’t discuss sexual activity at all, but I’m not sure what that has to do with marriage. Shouldn’t married couples be sexually active too?

This article has a lot of points that really hit close to home. My wife and I separated in April, and we’re finalizing a divorce now. We have 2 small kids.

I think we’re both happier now apart than we were but it’s hard. Both our social circles declined when we got married then completely evaporated when we had kids. I think if we had spent more time maintaining those relationships, and spending time on ourselves, things may have turned out better.

Now I’m a 40 year old single guy and part time parent and I feel like I’m starting life over. It’s intimidating, but also exciting. I honestly don’t know what to do with myself when my kids aren’t here.