In 2014, the American publication The Atlantic published an article on the science of cohabitation. Latest research concluded that it was not whether you decided to cohabit that increased the likelihood of divorce, but rather the age in which you decided to settle down. Couples who lived together at 18 had a 60% divorce rate, whereas it dropped to around 30% for couples living together at 23. Also, the article noted that poor marriages may be a result of cohabitation “sliding” into marriage. Couples decide to live together not out of any particular commitment and then they slide into marriage, without consciously considering the implications.
So if cohabitation is widely accepted, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to a break-up, is marriage worth it? Aside from ideological reasons, the cost of a wedding alone would make one weak at the knees. In the UK, the average cost of a wedding is about €28,000! Why spend all that money for just one day? Caitlin Moran, a writer for The Times, argues that it would be much better to spend the money on a celebration after 20 years of marriage, rather than be in debt at the beginning of it. It seems like a lot of money and stress for just one day.
We make our choices often on a mixture of rationalism and emotion. I may do everything right to increase the success of my marriage but it still may fail. In his book Sex God, former pastor Rob Bell tells the story about a wedding he conducted. The couple had done all they could do wipe the slate clean and start again. It was a simple, intimate and touching ceremony. They divorced shortly after. “Life is messy,” he writes. “Sometimes everything falls apart and we wonder if there’s any point to any it… But I have to believe that we can recover from anything.”
Getting married is not essential for a life-long committed relationship. I’ve seen many couples that thrive without being married. Neither does it provide guarantees for ‘happily ever after’. I am getting married because I want to declare my love and commitment – seriously, formally and publicly – to the person I chose. In a landmark ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court stating that civil marriage should not be denied to same-sex couples, Chief Justice Marshall summed it up perfectly: “Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity and family.” She continues, “Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and who to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”