Is marriage optional? Does it matter if I get married? Does it matter if fewer people choose to get married in general? Those who are coupling up and those who follow cultural trends are asking these crucial questions today.
And these questions span the globe. A few months before the pandemic shut everything down, I was in London presenting some of my research to a global family-development congress. And as representatives of many dozens of countries gathered, the questions above were urgently on their minds. Because this trend has been clear for decades: as countries “modernize” and develop, marriage becomes more and more optional. (Customize these charts to see trends around the world.)
And yet those broad academic studies don’t help the average couple who is wondering if marriage really matters for them. So here’s one truth that will help: It turns out, you will likely have a much better and happier relationship if you get married than if you cohabit.
This fascinating study from the U.K.’s Marriage Foundation found that married couples have a stronger commitmentto the relationship and to each other, greater happiness within the relationship and with each other, and greater ability to weather the storms and come out thriving on the other side.
Let’s look at how this works—and why.