Do Too Many People Get Married For the Wrong Reasons?

According to Dr. Neil Clark Warren, founder of eHarmony, “Bad marriages don’t just happen to bad people. They mostly happen to good people who are not good for each other.”


“Attraction and chemistry are easily mistaken for love, but they are far from the same thing,” Warren continues, “Being attracted to someone is immediate and largely subconscious. Staying deeply in love with someone happens gradually and requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a lifetime. Too many people choose to get married based on attraction and don’t consider, or have enough perspective to recognize, whether their love can endure.”

He believes that when two people have a relationship built on upon broad-based compatibility, the likelihood of long-term relationship success is much, much greater.

“If we could ever reduce the incidence of marital breakup from 40 to 50 percent of all marriages to single digits,” he concludes, “I suspect it would be one of the greatest accomplishments of our time.”

Read the full article here. What do you think? Do too many people rush to the altar based on passion and ignore their core compatibility issues until it’s too late? How long do you think people should wait before getting married? I say two years minimum, given that the “passion” tends to wear off in 18-24 months, but I’d love to hear your comments below.

Join our conversation (54 Comments).
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  1. 31

    @SS #27,
    Indian arranged marriages (at least among the educated more affluent people that I know) don’t take place the way a lot of Americans seem to think that they do.  Now perhaps a generation or two ago, it was different, but my friends in their 20’s and 30’s get introduced to people that they can accept or refuse.  And more and more are opting to go it alone and just date (although unlike us, they kind of involve their parents and families sooner I think).  I even know a couple of people who got disowned for marrying outside of their caste. 

    They do very much work like matchmaking, but the courtsthip period is shorter (unless people are finding a bride long distance and need to deal with Visa issues).  I’ve had co-workers call me over to check out the pictures that mom, dad, or auntie just sent them, and knowing how it works, I’ve passed pics of Indian friends that I knew were looking on to other Indians. 

    I don’t know anyone for whom the decision was made by anyone other than themselves though.  And I know a couple of Indian Americans who turned to that system after failing repeatedly and just wanting to get married already(including one who had recently proposed to a long term girlfriend).

    So the period of solo dating and sex doesn’t occur, but your parents introduce you to friends of friends and children of friends and you are free to accept and reject and then move on to talking to the people that you prefer.

    I know “regular Americans” who have used matchmakers, and of course there are Jewish matchmakers too. 

    And really, in certain social circles this is more or less what goes on as well, but we don’t view it the same way.

  2. 32

    but no, I wasn’t putting their culture down or making generalizations, just pointing out that it’s different, and I think I know enough about it to see the postives and negatives.  For example, everyone who wants to get married seems to get married.  It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of, well, when I’m ready, I’ll tell my mom and aunt and they’ll get things started and I’ll be married a few months later.  And those people seem to work to bond over things other than lust since they don’t get to “try it before they buy it” that often. 

    But I just think it’s important to note the pros and cons as we critique our own culture.  And some things that you might be assuming are different just aren’t(so for example, skin color, education, and income are really important; fail in one of those areas and you get refused A LOT.  I worked with a guy whose dad was merciless in his criticism because NONE of the girls that they found wanted to talk to him).   If you are going to make the comparison, it’s important to be aware of all of the facts. 

  3. 33

    From a realism point of view, basing the Marriage Decision only on Love/Compatibility is very idealistic.  There are in fact a lot of serious reasons to get married, such as being pregnant, wanting children, getting health insurance, getting legal protection, getting a visa for immigration, and getting financial stability.  Of course, we can also eliminate Divorce!  Its not always easy to wait around for Love or perfection.  If its moral to have children out of wedlock, people may prefer to have a series of Medium Term Relationships ranging from 2-7 years.  Given our life expectancy, people want to experience and learn from more Partners.  But I think its also important for Men and Women to learn to be better Husbands and Wives, in a marriage or relationship.

  4. 34

    One important thing that has happened with greater financial independence for women and more accessible divorce is that people can now actually find themselves in a situation where they can’t justify NOT getting divorced! My mother had no career, few outside friends and 3 children to think of, so even if she had been unhappy with my father she would have found it difficult to live with herself if she’d walked away. My situation is the opposite – I have no children, a well paying job and my own circle of friends and support network, therefore when I find myself in a relationship where the terms have become unacceptable to me, then even if I still love the guy I cannot live with myself if I stay and accept his poor treatment of me! There is no way I can justify it in my own mind – if I’ve done my bit to make things work and he’s still being a poor partner to me, I feel OBLIGED to leave him! Anything else would be cowardice!

  5. 35

    Women get married if they want to have children because having Children out of wedlock is considered immoral. 
    Because of the Birth Control Pill, women can try out multiple partners before deciding on a Husband.  This gives women more choice and power, but it delays the institution of marriage for women, and the longevity of marriages. 
    This is good because there are more single women around!

  6. 36

    @ helene #34, i agree with you. we’re all warned that men are opting out of marriage, and it may well be the case, i don’t know. women now have options too. because women are relational creatures, we can form friendships to get emotional needs met outside of marriage or a romantic relationship. i don’t think any of us would turn down a great relationship if we found it and its a perfectly legitimate desire to have. but i have learned its the “dessert” of life. it’s family and those friends that become family that are the “meat and potatoes”.

  7. 37

    @36 – I actually think the institution of Marriage is dying in a long-term traditional sense.  Marriage is almost a commodity for those who wait forever to find the right person, or just want to sleep around with many partners.  For those who were married, young, and pregnant, its so much easier today to divorce, especially after 20 years when the kids have left home.  In the past, men married the first female virgin and had some kids, but would cheat on the side, while staying married (having an unspoken open marriage).  Nowadays, women prefer divorce or might have a greater acceptance of honest open sexual relationships.  Society has become more open about sexuality and Men have the freedom to increase their number of partners from more than just one woman, if they can afford it of course.

  8. 38
    Darren Miller

    I agree, you should have dated your partner at least 2 years before you even think about marrying them. There can be so many issues and hurdles that arise during the first couple of years of your relationship. You need to agree with your partner when it comes to solving or fixing problems. If you jump into marriage too quick and don’t know how your partner reacts in certain situations, it could cause major problems and arguments.

    Marriage is a lifetime commitment and you need to be 100% sure that you can spend the rest of your life with this one person. I know someone who got married at the age of 19 after being with her boyfriend for only a year. In my opinion, she was too young to know herself entirely let alone a guy she had known for just one year.

    Their whole relationship before marriage was a ‘bed of roses’. I don’t believe that they spent enough time with each other to experience ‘normal’ couple problems especially seeing as they lived in different towns. They were still very much individuals as opposed to a couple. It’s no surprise, then, that the marriage lasted just 10 months after having a baby.

  9. 39

    While opposites attract initially, they repel later.  Common values and goals is the right mix.  ALso important are attitudes – self centeredness, fears, harboring of ill will from past experiences ( baggage ) needs to be cleaned out. 

    The time to begin marriage preparation is NOW, not when you are already in a relationship or about to walk the aisle in the church.  No marriage should ever start with debt on either side.  # 1 destroyer of marriage.
    A goal sheet needs to be developed and signed off by both parties.

    Marriage is collection of human emotions, mostly celebrating the exhuberence of not being single anymore.  BUT – it should be treated MORE like a business where you have an orderly process of living down and an agreement between the parties. 

    Without these things, guess what?  Divorce = 50% rate and climbing.

    (Actually Dan, the divorce rate is falling. Sorry to intervene with facts, but they do matter. – EMK)

  10. 40
    Sparkling Emerald

    (Actually Dan, the divorce rate is falling. Sorry to intervene with facts, but they do matter. – EMK)
    EMK – Do you think the divorce rate is “falling” because marriages are getting better, or do you think it’s the economy ? I am not trying to give you a hard time, but I am in the “married for the sake of finances” category (although we are working to make our split legal now)  And I’ve been researching, and there is an increase in couples who live separate lives but remain married for financial reasons.  (Health insurance being a biggie, and that is the main one for us)  So statistically speaking I am still “married”, but I am divorced in every sense of the word except financially and legally. 

  11. 41
    Peter 61

    One of the young Punjabi women who calls me Uncle (by various links of in law marriage) was a very busy doctor and reached 28 without a boyfriend in site.  She outsourced the job of finding a husband to a matchmaker known to her mother and aunties.  They found her a young man she had known of briefly in the past, another doctor.  Both seem very happy now she is taking time off to be a mother.
    There are plenty of reasons for dating and long term relationships.  However, reasons for marriage without children do not leap out at me immediately in a social democratic age.  At the level of civil society, civil partnership seems more like it.  In France, a seculr country for generations, far more civil partnerships are registered by hetrosexual couples than gays.  So no marriage for older women or homosexuals.  When it comes to religion, Jesus was clear.  Sex, once, makes a lifetime commitment.  Seems a bad reason for marriage.  Celibacy is to be recommended to the unmarried.  Orthodox Christianity is more forgiving.

  12. 42

    @Sparkling Emerald 40 
    “EMK – Do you think the divorce rate is “falling” because marriages are getting better, or do you think it’s the economy ? I am not trying to give you a hard time, but I am in the “married for the sake of finances” category (although we are working to make our split legal now)  And I’ve been researching, and there is an increase in couples who live separate lives but remain married for financial reasons. ”  
    I see this in my own social circle.  Couples who gripe about how much they wish they could divorce but see it as a luxury they cannot (financially) afford in the current economic climate.

  13. 43
    Sparkling Emerald

    [email protected]
    I have scheduled an appt with a divorce financial planner for the end of the month, my goal is to start 2014 with a clean slate and to be completely divorced.  This “separation” status (and it’s not even a legal separation) is really getting to be a thorn in my side. And an impediment to the possibility of another relationship.  I know so many people who are in various “limbo” like relationships. Legally divorced but still living under one roof as room mates, living apart but still legally married for financial reasons, married but living separate lives under one roof, and happily living together (from what I can see), but never made it a legal marriage.  So while the stats tell us who has the legal status of marriage, they don’t tell us anything about the quality of those relationships.  I don’t know what legal status I want in my next relationship, I just want it to be HAPPY.  🙂
    I finally have decided to get 100% divorced, and financial consequences be damned.  The emotional turmoil is starting to outweigh any health care benefit I still receive under this marriage of convenience.  Also, the financial benefits to me, could quickly turn into a liability, as my soon-2-B-X has been in and out of the hospital lately, and our insurance doesn’t cover everything.  If he couldn’t pay his part, since I am still legally married, I could be liable for his portion of the medical care.

  14. 44

    @Sparkling Emerald 42 – WOW – good for you!  (I wasn’t referring to you in my post, by the way; I was just agreeing with your point that it seems as though now, more than ever, couples are remaining married on paper bc of issues like health insurance, high real estate prices and not wanting to have the kids travel back and forth btwn houses.)  I wish you great joy and success in your officially single life!

  15. 45

    Yes, I think many people get married for the wrong reasons.  Here are some I have heard:
    1. He’s a high earner
    2. We get invited to parties
    3. My family adores him.
    4. I’m lonely and need sex.
    5. It’s better than nothing (yuk yuk and thrice yuk)
    6. If I don’t marry now, I’ll never be married.
    7. St. Valentine’s Day.  Sigh.  (When I’m single, I just pray for it to be over, married woman – geez, he never buys ME flowers usually.
    8. Life is cheaper for two (shared expenses, no singles supplements on holidays, social status and sometimes, companies consider you to be more stable when you’re married.
    9. I  can’t survive financially on my own (either sex)
    I could go on for ever, except that, it’s nauseating!

  16. 46

    Judy #45
    I’ll add a few:
    1. All my friends are getting marrried
    2. We’ve already been together for two years
    3. I’m not that thrilled about him/her, but I don’t think I’ll find anyone better

  17. 47

    Ruby 46 – thank you. 
    On a more general note, it seems to me that my deceased mother and grandmother (and my friend the criminologist) were correct about having a long engagement period.
    It’s during this time of say 18 months – 24 months, that you ask the right questions, and know if you’re compatible to the best of your knowledge.
    2 years is nothing compared to a lifetime of being with the wrong partner, or an expensive divorce.
    EMK – 39 Hi and hope you have a super day.  Love the site.
    Yes, divorce rates may well be falling and that’s a good thing.  It may also indicate that people are not marrying at all.  I prefer the marriage thing.  In Europe, people tend not to get married but live together, or, even more frequently, they have a LAT relationship.

    1. 47.1

      I recently broke up with my boyfriend after more than two years. I am so glad I did not marry him!

  18. 48

    Inconvenient Love is LOVE

    My friends wife, motor cycle accident at 27, she’s a paraplegic, he’s still with her because he loves her.
    My sister, business problems, money issues, rebuilding, her husband backed her up supported her, got her on her feet again, because he loves her.
    My brother, cancer, alcoholic, his girlfriend stays with him, supports him, because she loves him. He has no cancer and his drinking is now next to nil. Love ya bro! they are truly adorable to watch, they are over 55 years old.
    My friends brother met someone while in Germany, couldn’t get back on the plane, cried to his bro. 15 years now, married, 3 kids, speaking German. HA. love it. That was one of my favorites.

    My girlfriend is pregnant, 2 year relationship, he left her, why, because the convenience of having a “no drama” relationship suddenly became too much drama, he did not love her, she is alone.

    As soon as I read “no drama” in someone’s online dating profile. I see someone who is a runner when things get hard. Foundation for love is the “drama”.

    You’ll only know how much someone loves you with how they handle the bad stuff.
    The good stuff is easy, it ‘s difficult times that really count.
    And in overcoming them that the good times are great.
    Watch the way people react to adversity, they scream milestones of answers about their ability to love and endure.
    But first watch your own. How do you react when the going gets tough in your own life? That will give you the answers to the people to whom you will attract.
    Be good, be helpful, be patient be respectful and persevere.
    If you can’t be those with the one you’re with, you need to adjust your spirit or leave the relationship.

    At the beginning of a relationship, identify your red flags. If you love someone some of these flags are manageable, forgivable and repairable. I’ve seen it! The heart wants what the heart wants. You can’t have a marriage of convenience. There is no such marriage. Shit happens, so you should have that loving feeling clearly rooted.
    We often hear “He/She left me after 4 years and got married last month to someone who is “……….” I can’t believe it”
    Why, because the heart knows. Not love at first sight, not a surge of fire in the veins, it just slowly creeps in there and becomes louder than convenience.

    My ex lover used to call me his “mon mal incommode” which means “my bad inconvenience”
    I still love the guy in my soul, but my nick name says it all. He did not love me to the core enough to handle the hard stuff. I loved the guy for all his inconvenience and there was quite alot. But he called it, and I’m glad for his honesty. He went back to his ex wife. His choice and I hope it’s working for him.
    But finding the same love between two hearts. That is the mystery.
    And I think if everyone can embrace the mystery, we become it and then the other walks towards you. I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried..
    Ooo.. now that’s living the dream..
    Merry Holiday’s to all and to all a good (nah) a great life.

  19. 49
    stephen obasi

    Marriage is very sensitive and beside you don’t just rush into marriage like that, marriage is just like a prison break so before making any decision u need to be careful. I prefer to marry my friend whom I can communicate because I believe after love sex comes, then after sex communication follows, so when there is no community the marriage can last.

  20. 50

    I’ve had that feeling of YUP they just might be the one…
    But see I ask the same questions consistently in different ways and end up with different answers as time passes. As time passes your answer is MOSTL IKELY to change and the real answers surface. If they are not what you’ve spoken some what in the BEGINING then yup = don’t do it.

  21. 51

    I think marriage should be a choice, why is it that everyone has to get married because they want to be together? Why is it that you have to live on top of each other too? In my relationship I specifically decided to live separately and not get married. Why? Because I liked my independence and space and as soon as you get married there is that pressure to have to committ for a lifetime. Which in my view, not healthy. I am ok with my arrangement of no marriage. Just wish most people could understand my viewpoint.

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