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. 21

    I’ve come to believe compatibility of personalities is the most important criteria in a good relationship. It’s not necessary to have tons of interests in common, or to share all the same attitudes, values, philosophies. But the ability to understand where your partner is coming from, and to be okay with it – leads to far less conflict.

  2. 22

    @L.D.   #19  Thanks for making that point.   A lot of people like to suggest that people raised in Western cultures are more narcisstic and have unrealistic expectations about what a marriage should be.   But we only have to look back a generation or two in our own cultures where long marriages where the norm, where divorce was frowned upon, and where women had no financial independence to understand that dynamic.   People didn’t stay married because they were “better” and less selfish.   I dislike the characterization of people who divorce as being too lazy to do the work of marriage or too self-centered to adjust to someone else’s needs.   It’s not that simple.

    Getting divorced in many of those   other cultures results in being disowned by family, elimination of any future marriage prospects, loss of children, and being an overall outcast in society.   Who would get divorced if those were the stakes?   And how could anyone suggest that is better?   People in those cultures stay married whether the offense committed by the spouse is adultery, abuse, or some of the supposedly “trivial” reasons that people in the West have for ending marriages.  

    I think getting married in a society where everyone is expected to be married make finding a partner easier, and yes, expectations are different, but I wouldn’t laud it as the ideal, and I’m sure as many of those people would get divorced if it was an option as do in other cultures.

    And while we are on the topic of people getting married for the wrong reasons, I’d say that expectations of family and society are high on the list in some cultures, and I’m not sure why anyone should feel pressured to be married to feel normal.  

    I don’t know…I’ve heard from people who dated or lived with someone for years pre-marriage and divorced 1-2 years after.   I’ve heard of people who married quickly and stayed married for decades.   It seems like a lot of luck and then there is just the sliding scale for people with regards to what is a deal breaker and what isn’t.  

    People are complex.   People evolve and change, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that what worked for your at 25 might not work for you at 50, and if you still have another 30 years to live, why be unhappy? How is that selfish and why does that make you a failure? I don’t think you need to get abused or cheated on to feel justified ending your marriage, but so many people seem to act like those are the only things that give you a right to leave without being judged.

    I do think that while it’s not a requirement in this society, being unmarried in this culture is hard.   There is just no place for you anywhere once you reach a certain age (in my opinion, your 30’s) and have no husband or wife.

  3. 23

    @ nicole 19, you make some very good points and i agree with many on here as there are many components of a successful relationship and marriage. sometimes we do divorce for selfish reasons and sometimes not. chemistry, compatibility, and character all play a part in a successful marriage.

  4. 24

    @LD… I’m thinking of arranged marriages that I see in Westernized countries (U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Israel) among Indians, some Jews, etc…. not the arranged marriages that take place in traditional countries.
    I know of Indian-American/Indian-Canadian doctors/lawyers/engineers/etc. who did modern-day versions of arranged marriages. Women and men who had total say in the process and some women who actually sought an arranged marriage instead of going through the Western-style dating system.
    I obviously can’t speak of the true success of an arranged marriage among people living in insulated, rural, traditional communities, and I’m sure that even among “modern” folks, divorce is strongly discouraged and that’s one reason arranged marriages stay together.
    On the other hand, one can ask how such couples judge happiness, and even whether they see a lack of happiness as a valid reason for divorce.

  5. 25

    Even for couples in the U.S. who are Indian American or Indians living permanently in the U.S., divorce is very taboo.   The exceptions are those who are American born and choose to date like everyone else.   But those other   couples face the same challenges as anyone else, but even when divorce is available and they live here, they are still far less likely to consider it as a valid option.   It’s not just people from the far East who live that way either.   There are more religious and strict branches of Judaism where divorce is not an option either.  

    I know people who are just going through the motions and will likely do that until they die for that very reason.   Some stay married in name only and live separately.   Others just live platonic lives in the same house.  And still others endure abuse and infidelity all  because of what their families and culture says about divorce.   The fact that they  live here doesn’t change that.  So they aren’t necessarily staying married for the best of reasons, or because they are naturally unselfish and willing to put in more work than everyone else.   And love marriages do occur in those cultures even though everyone who sees an Indian couple assumes that they are a product of an arranged marriage.   Some of those happy couples picked each other and dated.   I have several Indian born and raised friends who made “love marriages” and some have parents who did the same.  

    I think that we tend to romanticize and idealize other cultures that we  perceive (often wrongly) to have avoided the “ills” that plague our own culture.   But all of those things have a price, and  I don’t think any of us wish we  had to endure a marriage until death at all costs.  

    I really think that where we get it wrong is that we think that longevity is a sign of a “successful” marriage with people who were doing the work and that divorce is a sign of “failure” by people who are selfish.   The amount of time someone stays married does not tell us as much as we’d like to think.

  6. 26

    @ nicole 25, i think your last statement about longevity not necessarily being an indicator of marital happiness is also spot on. how many rimes have we seen divorces among couples married 20 plus years (maria and ah-nold anyone?)? i would wager that even long marriages that are good have had struggles because we live in an imperfect world. i saw this subject as black and white and didn’t believe in divorce until i went through it. i used to say “aww they should have the character to work it out” and certainly character counts. but between the black and white is that vast expanse of real estate called the gray area.

  7. 27

    Nicole @25
    I don’t romanticize or idealize other cultures and how they do things, but at the same time, I don’t idealize my own either. I’m more than willing to study other groups to see if there’s something there (a mindset, a belief, etc.) that could possibly benefit me in my own relationships.
    The concept of matchmaking is becoming more popular in the United States, for example, but it’s being done with an American twist. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that more men and women who are not of Indian descent, for example, are considering the concept of having a third party that’s not a friend or family member perform an introduction… but then, after the introduction is made, the two people will likely proceed to Western-style dating and marriage.
    There’s no “perfect” system and the freedom to divorce can be very necessary at times. On the same note, for me to completely pooh-pooh what I see in other cultures by saying, “oh, well what they do has a price and most of those women have to endure marriage at all costs” isn’t very helpful either.
    Generalizations don’t get us anywhere. I think we can learn a lot from the way others approach marriage (which don’t place “love” as the first priority), and we can also appreciate some of the benefits we have from “love marriages.”

  8. 28

    @Nicole #25
    I also agree about longevity. I’ve never been particularly impressed by people saying ‘The Jones’  have been  married for X number of years’- sadly, just about anyone can do a bid.    I want to know if those years were, on the whole,  satisfying, happy and if each person’s expectations were met, more often than not. But you can’t get to that with one simple question. And frankly, lots of people shouldn’t have married in the first place so hearing of folks in that situation that ‘stuck it out’ does nothing but make me feel sad for them. ‘Uncle Frank cheated on Aunt Myra for years, had a couple of ‘outside’ children, but he’s calmed down now and they seem quite happy lately. They stuck it out!’ isn’t a story I personally aspire to.

  9. 29

    When it comes to getting married, I can’t discount the importance of compatibility OR strong attraction. I think a marriage fares better when both elements are in place. Another issue that I think is key is expectations.  A lot of people, unless they’ve given it a lot of thought, have no idea how many things they ‘expect’ their husband/wife to do or ways they ‘expect’ them to behave that are by no means standard- everything is so individual. Without laying these things out on the table and making sure you are on the same page, so many couples end up in the ‘this isn’t what i expected; maybe I need to try someone else/marriage sucks’ category, not realizing that the   issue is they never knew/never made their expectations clear.

  10. 30

    Ya’ll know that in most cultures with arranged marriages, male spousal infidelity is almost expected, right? It’s easy to stay in a marriage with a less than satisfactory partner when you’re still free to find love and sex with someone else.

    1. 30.1

      Very true. I come from a place where arranged marriages are common, and cheating does happen a lot, esp. on the part of males.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.  

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

    1. 34.1

      Beautiful. 100% agree. I find myself in similar situation. When someone calls you names, repeatedly lies, or demeans you – despite the chemistry and the passion and desire to get married you MUST walk away.

  15. 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!

  16. 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”.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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)

  20. 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.  

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