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.

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  1. 1

    That’s why marriage should be sooner than 18 – 24 months, and should be based on common values and outlooks on marriage.   With that common ground, at least there’s motivation to stay in the relationship rather than jump after 2 years.

  2. 2
    E. Foley

    I’ve given a lot of thought to the marriage thing when it comes to my own relationship. I know I *want* to get married. But the technical reasons for getting married don’t apply to me. My boyfriend and I don’t want children. We make equivalent salaries, so there’s no tax benefit to being husband & wife. So the legal & familial reasons for the vow are irrelevant for us. What are the benefits to getting married for us? Dunno. It would more be a statement of commitment than anything else. It wouldn’t change our day-to-day lives or our financial situation.  

  3. 3

    I agree wholeheartedly because I’ve done it.   My ex-husband and I were kids when we started dating and we never took a break from each other to decide if we were meant to be together.   I think we were both terrified of never finding anyone else, and then after being together for so long, it seemed like the next logical step to take.   Now, I don’t completely regret it because one thing we did do right was have 3 amazing kids.   After all the pain, anger, and hurt of splitting up healed (at least as much as it can) we’ve developed a good friendship.   But now I find myself doing things I should have done in my 20’s (I was married at 23 and a mom at 24) like getting the education I wanted or developing strong non-romantic friendships and spending time with those people as my bff’s have become family.   I think this article is spot on, especially when we are very young and don’t have a whole lot of life experience.

  4. 4

    I had a friend recently marry a man she met online one month after she met. Since the wedding was a few weekends ago, I can only wish them well and I have no idea if they will still be together one year from now.   

    I don’t see how you could possibly know anyone in one month, especially well enough to marry them.    In my experience, it takes at least one year, if not longer, to see the good, the bad and the ugly and to decide if you are compatible.

  5. 5

    Jake and I were together 5 years before we eloped.   We know what our differences are, but we also know we are compatible and willing to work to preserve what we’ve got!

  6. 6

    “requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a lifetime”
    THAT is the issue – you have to be a couple, not two singles. Most people lack the focus and skills to negotiate, communicate and make the right decisions.   

    1. 6.1

      Mmmm… I’d say it’s more that you have to be a couple AS WELL AS two singles.   It’s important to maintain your own life, interests, personality when paired up.

  7. 7

    Broad based compatibility is a better basis for marriage than c hemistry/lust but still no gurantee that the marriage is going last until death.   There are so many factors involved.

    I  married  my ex h at 33 after living together for two years really thought  we would last  I never considered divorce a possibility.   It’s just so difficult to predict my ex h had a mid life crisis of sorts in his late forties.   Maybe one should not marry until they are over 50.  

  8. 8

    I have to say I think its all a bit of a catch22 situation. “Broad based compatibility” is all very well, but without initial attraction and passion, the relationship will never even get off the ground. But if there IS initial attraction and passion, then notions of “broad based compatibility” fall by the wayside! If you’re deeply attracted to someone you want to be with them, compatibile or not. If you’re NOT deeply attracted to them, you DON’T want to be with them, however “compatible” you are.
    We all just have to take out chances. Passion AND compatibility, of course, are the ideal – but we don’t live in an ideal world. You can’t just find a suitable mate to order, at the end of the day you can only choose between the guys who actually ask you out.
    I felt passion and compatibility with my second husband – unfortunately, he only felt compatibility. That was fine by him because that was what he was looking for – (he’s not a big fan of passion) but for me it turned out to be soul destroying. I wanted and needed him to feel as passionately about me as I did about him. His lack of passion towards me, and my inability to cope with that , ultimately led to the disintegration of the (othrwise highly compatible) relationship

  9. 9

    I think this is very likely true. Quite a few people, especially the very young get married long before they’ve established whether or not they’ll be good together in the long rung. And far too many people have very superficial criteria for the one they marry, with attraction being the main driver of the decision.
    Far too many get married for other bad reasons, mostly having to do with timing. The old biological clock, “all my friends are getting married,” feeling that you “should” be married by a certain age. I wish I could remember where I saw it, but there was a   pretty recent study showing that a majority of married people didn’t marry based on really being in love, they got married because they   were ready and their partner was convenient at the time, more than anything else.

  10. 10
    diane valenti

    I married a man who I had great compatibility with but not much in the way of chemistry after we had dated for 2 1/2 years. The marriage didn’t last because he changed after he said “I do.” We were still compatible, but there were other issues. My feeling…it’s a matter of luck and no one really knows if it will really stick. You do your best and you hope that your partner will do. But, there are no guarantees.

    1. 10.1

      So like most women, you broke your commitment.   Why exactly should a man get married again?

  11. 11

    I have friends who are celebrating their 21st. wedding anniversary today. The interesting thing…they “went together” for 17 years before getting married.   They were in their mid-forties when they decided to ‘make it legal’.   Didn’t live together  until a few months before the marriage when the woman sold her house.

    I agree about waiting to marry until the “shine” wears off a bit. At least a year, better  two – but  one never can tell how long a relationship will last it seems, regardless of how soon one jumps, or how long one waits. 🙂

  12. 12

    This is a hard question to answer, since the right reason for one person may be less legitimate for another.
    At core, society needs children to survive, and whether one believes in God or Darwin, the impulse/mandate for children is undeniable for most people.
    What is at least as interesting a question is this:
    Does our culture tend to reinforce the marriage decision process to a large degree? If people marry for “wrong reasons” more than they used to, are there external cultural forces that encourage this?
    I believe yes. Men and women (American ones anyway) used to expect much less   from marriage than they expect now. I tend to believe this is a by-product of American consumerism, which pushes people to expect complete satisfaction at all times.
    For most of human history, life generally sucked. If you weren’t dying of disease, you were being attacked by barbarians. The problem is that humans judge their happiness in relative terms rather than absolute terms. Life in the US is not too bad at all, even though you can always find someone richer and happier than you are.
    The key is to pick a point in your life where you shift away from pure aspiration and learn to become content with your life as you find it. Some call it “settling”, which is an unfortunately pejorative term. I prefer to think of it as having the grace to find contentment with what you have.
    Someone has to be average, why not me?

    1. 12.1

      EXCELLENT post—I agree 100% with everything you said!! Ultimately, I think we have to stop relating “happiness” to Madison Ave and concentrate on the only things that really endure–the heart and spirit. If we look at marriage within that context you would find so many more successes rather than failures!!

  13. 13

    Yes I think people marry for the wrong reasons and with the wrong people.

    It’s a constant battle between “passion and excitment” and the less exciting but  more enduring respect/friendship/love type relationship.

    I know which one I prefer 🙂

  14. 14

    I like the main idea of the article because it encourages seeing that a relationship is something that is built over time (“Staying deeply in love with someone happens gradually and requires conscious decisions, made over and over again, for a lifetime”). However, the “Broad-based compatibility” is not a very precise concept, and it’s easy to say that the partners were not compatible once the marriage did not work out. I have a feeling that there are more profound reasons that explain why people stay happy in marriage: ability and willingness to understand your partner’s point of view, find a balance between personal development and a life as a couple, respect for other person needs, etc.  Resuming everything as a question of compatibility doesn’t seem to be informative.

  15. 15

    Nothing lasts forever.  
    People evolve & change.
    I definitely believe people marry for the wrong reasons & to the wrong people but all of that is experience.
    I am glad i have NEVER married any of my ex’s except probably ONE of them.
    I could not IMAGINE being with them today because we are two different people with different goals and passions. If I would of married either one of them, we would of had a divorce, AGAIN because people grow apart and change, I would say everyyear.
    ITS like business, you BOTH re-invent yourselves AND MAKE IT WORK, or you both are on the path of break up.
    Careers change. Moods Change. Looks Change. Emotions Change. EVERYTHING CHANGES AND EVERYBODY CHANGES.
    I say-with the experience I have now, FOR ME-I would not date anyone past a year without the relationship moving towards marriage.
    I am dating, having fun. When I meet the one that I feel is 80% right for me and I for him, I would marry him within 6-months to a year.
    Life is too short. People SHOW their true selves and intentions within that YEAR. Listen to yellow alerts, signs, and intuitions. They never fail you. If it doesnt feel good, keep moving forward.
    But why not experience marriage?
    Have your rules. Have your break list. Ex: DRug and disease FREE. No habits. No anger issues, ect.
    You have enough time to LEARN about people. But if you wait to long, on a person who has 80% of what you LOVE, you will lose them.

    Just my opinion.

    Have fun. LOVE. live. LAUGH.   

  16. 16

    Yes, I think people marry for the wrong reasons.   I think people allow their  gonads to drive the bus.  Everything feels so good when you meet someone you are attracted to and have great chemistry with.   It can cloud the  judgement, especially after sex.    Slow down, smell the roses.    Love is more than a feeling, it’s  a  conscience decision.              

  17. 17

    I belive the contrary when it comes to waiting for a year or more before marriage, I think that when you truly meet “the one”, you know it right away. My parents married after only three months and have been happily married together now for 26 years. I just got married this year at 24 and we only dated for 8 months prior, we were a little past 2 months when he proposed and I said yes ( I have been proposed to before and said no). I think it has a lot more to do with values and compatibility. From the first date with my now husband I knew I could marry him, we virtually lived together from that first date, and even though he had his house and I had mine, and we never said “lets live together” it just ended up that way. We were always with eachother so there was nothing to hide from eachother. We didn’t even have sex with eachother until we got engaged, but we spent every night together and became close friends. It’s a undescribable connection, but its undeniable when u finally feel it for sure. We are different in many ways but that is exactly what made us so compatible. When faced with trying situations we both wanted us to make it, and both put forth equal efforts. We knew we loved eachother without it even have to be said but it shows through our actions. When it came time for us to marry neither of us had any doubts, it was a carefree and peaceful day. What I’m trying to say is that true love isn’t forced, it just happens. I learned this the hard way after over 8 years of bad relationships and live in boyfriends. Usually you get the feeling its not gonna work within the first 6 months of the relationship, and it’s only when I didn’t listen to my instincts and walk away,instead forcing a try at the relationship hoping it will change, that I unded up unhappy. Following your INSTINCTS (that feeling in your gut) is neccesary. Another thing is loving yourself first and truly knowing what YOU want and not settling for less than that. Even when it means spending some nights alone. If you get sure in yourself, you can and will find someone who’s just as sure as you are if you just be patient. Hope this helps =).

    ** To add I also believe you must have a concious and mutual want to work through any adversity and stay together. If you are to easy to give up, or he is, you won’t make it. Marriage isn’t easy, but if you both determine you want to stay together, not matter what happens you will, but you BOTH have to want it and be willing to work hard for it. My parents say they look at their marriage as if divorce is NOT an option, in my dad’s words “it’s cheaper to keep her” so they both do whatever they need to do to make it work (in all my life with my parents I never suspected or heard allegations of either one cheating either.) So will-power and persistence goes a long way.

  18. 18

    I actually agree with Jack.   😉
    I think the “issue” today is the fact that in most Western countries, marriage is an institution entered by choice, and expectations of a spouse are much higher (by both parties) than they are in nations where life is a miserable, brutish existence and people are doing well simply if they aren’t homeless, starving or under attack.
    Because we expect a lot from our marriages, we’re disappointed a lot more easily when things go wrong. We also live longer than our ancestors did, and the idea of spending decades in a miserable situation is something we understandably choose to avoid.
    I don’t think that spending a longer time getting to know a person during the dating process makes much of a difference at all — the success or failure of a marriage depends on both parties’ willingness and commitment to stay together through growth, change, crisis and other challenging times. (Of course, if a partner turns abusive toward the other partner or abuses his or her body with alcohol, drugs, etc., that’s another story as well.)
    I find that modern-day arranged marriages seem to last because the parties don’t go into the marriage with expectations that the other person must make him/her happy, excite them, be compatible on certain scales… the goal seems to be the continuation of family and communal lines and the raising of children. If a couple goes into marriage with that mindset alone, they’ll probably last because the expectations are basically to be content.
    I’m trying to find the midpoint between my Western mentality and the more historic intent of marriage so that I find happiness and a fulfilling marriage simply by being content with what I have in life and in a partner.

  19. 19

    Arranged marriages are highly correlated with societies or cultures that also do not allow for easy access to divorce. All the things that SS says might be true, but its hard to know because in many instances lack of  divorce rates might not actually represent true happiness in marriage.

  20. 20

    What do people think are the important things to have in common?   The experience of finding someone who is perfect “on paper” ( online ) with all of the things you want only to meet them and have it fall flat is a cliche.     Then there are couples who have little in common, but their personalities fit so well together things work.
    In other words, what does being compatible really mean?
    Yes, for the reasons mentioned date at least 3 year before getting married and add a 5 year waiting period after that before having children.

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