Once you and your significant other have been dating for a while, the question will likely to start to come from both family and friends: "When are you getting married?" While every couple's approach to marriage, starting with whether they'll even get married, is different, it's undeniable that everyone wants a happy marriage. With that in mind, knowing the benefits and disadvantages of getting married is important before making the leap into a lifelong commitment.
For a mature relationship where you've already figured out how to fight fairly, successfully traveled together and perhaps even moved in together, getting married is a good decision. Couples that have already successfully achieved the other major milestones are likely to see themselves as two halves of a successful team — which is what marriage is about.
Inevitably, romantic love in a long-term relationship will dwindle over time as life gets in the way (especially once kids enter the picture) and the newness of the relationship goes away. So, it's important to be sure that you and your potential spouse have a strong friendship that'll keep you happy in your marriage through the ebbs in your romantic life.
A successful marriage is entered into with excitement, not out of a sense of obligation. So, if your marriage is based on an ultimatum from one party to another or pressure from one partner, it's a bad start. On the other hand, if you're both looking forward to marriage with excitement, it's likely that you'll enjoy being married to each other.
While it may not be romantic to consider the economic benefits of marriage, they are myriad. Married couples get to share the costs of housing, food and more daily expenses. They also receive tax benefits which lower their tax burden and preferential insurance rates. These practical considerations are nice perks of getting married (however, they shouldn't be your primary reasons for getting married).
Marriage's benefit for a couple's careers takes a few forms. A study in Social Science Research finds that married men earn more than their single colleagues even after controlling for age, education and experience.
Both married men and women are also more likely to be in senior leadership positions in their respective fields. Additionally, it's worth noting that power couples are usually married.
Being married may also benefit your career by making you a better decision-maker. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University found that unmarried CEOs are prone to making more aggressive and risky decisions, which can be bad for business and their own careers.
In the eyes of the law, unmarried partners have few legal rights in medical emergencies, accidents and other calamitous situations. While it's not cheery to think about these situations, it's important to consider that spouses have the authority to make decisions for injured partners in a way that unmarried partners can't in the eyes of the law.
Getting married isn't going to solve pre-existing problems in your relationship. So, if your relationship is already on the rocks or has historically been stormy, don't expect getting married to solve those problems — in fact, they may even be exacerbated by getting married.
Marrying the first person who comes along in order to avoid ending up alone is a huge mistake. Marriage shouldn't be entered into lightly, and it's difficult to have a happy marriage if you aren't happy with yourself first.
While well-meaning relatives and parents may only have your best interests in mind when they pressure you about getting married, their opinions shouldn't be the main drivers of your decision to get married. Marriage is a joint decision between two — and only two — people, and others' opinions on whether and when a couple should tie the knot shouldn't be the primary drivers of the couple's decision regarding marriage.
First, it's not necessary to be married to have a child together. More importantly, having a baby and making a lifelong commitment through marriage are separate issues that shouldn't be conflated.
No one likes a bridezilla and no one wants to be involved in a wedding that's only happening for the sake of the event itself. While it's great to have a big wedding so your friends and family can gather to celebrate your relationship, the wedding shouldn't be the point of getting married.
Especially in the U.S., the immigration system can be incredibly unfair to people from certain regions of the world; so there may be a temptation to get married to do an end-run around the immigration process. However, getting married for immigration purposes alone is a poor setup for a lifelong commitment and is also a crime in the eyes of the INS.
Getting married to your partner solidifies your status as a team. This means that you'll share in each other's successes and challenges in life, supporting each other and benefiting from sharing your lives together.
While it's not necessary to be married to have or raise children, married couples have the benefit of sharing childcare responsibilities so they don't fall on a single person.
Just as is the case of emergency situations, many companies only allow married people to use family leave to take care of sick partners. While some particularly kind bosses may allow paid time off to care for an unmarried partner, such bosses are likely few and far between.
For couples where one person has healthcare through work and the other doesn't, this can be an extremely valuable benefit. Being able to get medical coverage through your spouse's work is a pretty huge benefit that can yield major advantages down the line in case of medical crises.
As discussed above, married people receive preferential treatment when it comes to taxes, earnings at work and more. Married people tend to have lower auto insurance premiums, can contribute to a spousal IRA to help with retirement savings and realize other economic benefits through their union.
A major survey of 127,545 American adults found that married men with longer than men without spouses. It also found that the longer a man stays married, the greater his survival advantage over unmarried peers. In the Framingham Offspring Study, researchers found that even after accounting for major cardiovascular risk factors such as age, body fat, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol, married men had a 46 percent lower rate of death than unmarried men.
In a study of Japanese men and women published in BMC Public Health, unmarried men were found to have a three times higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than married men. Another study published in Heart found that married people in general were also found to have lower rates of heart disease.
While many married people still drink, they're more likely than singles and co-habitators to do so in moderation. They're also likely to have excessive smoking habits.
Some critics of marriage argue that it's an old-fashioned practice that doesn't have any place in the modern world. To these people, marriage once made sense when women didn't participate in the workforce and needed a man's economic support and men had income but needed heirs — but today, when women have equal rights and roles in the workforce, the economic argument for marriage is significantly diluted.
In a 2010 Newsweek article entitled "The Case Against Marriage," Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison write that marriage is now less appealing because "we know that legally tying down [our] unions won't make to break them." They argued that in a world where women are increasingly educated, less religious, living longer and able to rely on technology to handle many previously burdensome household tasks such as laundry, marriage is less appealing.
Whatever your opinion on marriage, going into this major decision with a full understanding of why you're doing it and the pros and cons will help ensure you're happy with your choice, whatever it may be.
Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.