May 1, 2024

And so we come to what is apparently the most challenging question I ask my couples.

Why Marriage?

Why are you getting married?

Now, when I first started asking this question, I had no idea it would be so difficult. I didn’t intend for it to be difficult. But the answers I received made me realize that I had asked a question that I wasn’t sure even I could adequately answer.

We live in a day and age where marriage is not necessary, nor required. But I am here to tell you that it is still very much sought-after . . . by couples from every walk of life. And let me add that scientific studies show marriage, when it is at its best, is good for our overall health and wellness, for society, for humanity. And, oh yes, there are also those tax benefits of being married (couples who mention this as an answer always get gold stars for honesty and cheekiness!)

But while those are answers, they don’t really get to the heart of the question.

Why? Why do we seek out this ancient and often outdated agreement? Why do we see it as an ideal? What is it about marriage, exactly, that keeps couples coming back to it again and again and again?

I am not sure I know the answer, even thirty years into my own covenant agreement, even after 10+ years of collecting answers from couples. And it’s actually this obliqueness – the “why” of marriage – that makes my job endlessly joyful, fascinating, and intriguing. It’s like I am on a quest for an answer that simply may not exist in any one form. So, I keep going, keep looking, keep seeking. The “why” of marriage is what engages my brain, enlivens my marriage, and certainly fuels my work. It’s at the core of the book I am writing.

I’ve thought about abandoning the question, but the quest keeps me asking. I genuinely want to know the answer. Or, more accurately, answers.

I know that for me, and for my spouse, marriage was seen as a destination. We are Generation X through-and-through. So while we were left to figure life out on our own, we were also saddled with the expectations of our parents. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes the babies in the baby carriage.

We dated. We dated seriously. We were engaged. We got married. We had two children. [Where is our trophy? Or are the kids the trophy? Because I gotta tell you, they’re hard to keep on the trophy shelf.]

But we also know that perhaps if we’d been willing to lean into more of our Gen X feral-ness, we might not have followed that path as quickly. We were definitely told that if we chose to live together before marriage, we’d forfeit any wedding we’d dreamed of having (I wanted a wedding. Joey was likely more “meh” on this). We did not have any sort of money to self-fund our own wedding. So . . . we got married. I mean, it worked out and all. But in retrospect, it was a bit of blackmail. Blackmail we have chosen not to foist onto our own children.

But “It was next on the list of things to do in our serious relationship,” and “We wanted to have a wedding,” is at best an odd answer to “why” we got married. And at worst, it’s no answer at all. So, I don’t know, really. We both readily admit that we really had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea what marriage would be, could be, and had ended up being. (And honestly, anyone entering marriage for the first time that claims that they do know – with any level of certainty – is delusional.)

My couples give me all sorts of answers as well. Some are similar to my own . . . it’s the culmination or destination. Some talk about wanting to spend their lifetime with this person, which is beautiful, but, again, sidesteps the fact that you can do that without a wedding. Some talk about professing their commitment in front of friends and family as a way to publicly acknowledge their relationship, which may be getting a little closer? And some explain how marriage will deepen their commitment, which again, is an insight I like and admire and feel it may be getting closer.

If you are expecting me to end this blog by pulling the rabbit out of the hat – “Voila! The answer!” – I will tell you right now, you will be disappointed. It isn’t going to happen.

Instead I will say that much like the fact that there is no one way to be married, and there is no single set of one-size-fits-all wedding vows, no ideal or perfect marriage, and certainly no magic bullet to marriage, there is no one, perfect reason to choose marriage.

Over the past seven to ten years, as I began to realize the answers were all good, but nothing quite captured all of it, I’ve decided to live into the quest of it – both personally and professionally. I’ve made a sort of hobby out of collecting the answers, putting them together in myriad ways, pulling them apart again, weaving and stitching together the thoughts and ideas my couples have. In the end, my hope is to one day – someday – have a really cool “marriage tapestry” of words, I guess. Or a map? Certainly a book!

So, tell me married folks: Why? Why did you choose marriage?