15 Reasons Not to Get Married

There are as many reasons to get married as there are marriages — a desire to build a family together, to take care of each other through sickness and health, to run a business together; the list goes on. That’s not to say all these reasons hold equal weight, however. We’ve all known at least one person whose reasons for getting married make our eyebrows shoot skyward — and sometimes you aren’t aware of it when this person is you. If you’re planning to get married, take a second to take stock — if any of these things apply to you, you may want to reconsider.

1. You don’t feel willing or capable of being “messy”

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It’s easy for us to imagine marriage as the ultimate reward for finally getting it together — being free of “baggage,” finally having any issues “under control,” and having molded ourselves into a solid partner who’s easy to be around. 

While most of us fantasize about this eventuality, the difficult truth is that making a marriage work actually requires a willingness to be “messy” — to be fully vulnerable and authentic in your relationship, even during times when you feel lost or uncertain and not at all under control. When people share aphorisms like “marriage is hard work,” this is what they’re talking about. If the idea of committing to being truly unvarnished and vulnerable even during the moments you’re least proud of, forever, sounds like nails on a chalkboard to you, you may not be ready for marriage.

2. You primarily identify as an “independent” person

Independence is a positive trait! It’s good to be capable of taking care of yourself and having your own vision for your life. However, there’s a difference between being independent and being someone whose whole sense of self is based entirely on their “independence” — the latter person will be unwilling to engage in the kinds of reciprocal vulnerability and caretaking that a healthy marriage requires. Pride in your ability to be independent is one thing; viewing intentional practices of interdependence as weak is another.

3. You know you have “toxic” relationship habits

None of us are perfect, in relationships or in life, and you don’t need to be perfect to get married. But if you’ve been told by partners, friends, loved ones, therapists, family members, etc that your relationship behaviors seem toxic, or if you know you struggle with issues around keeping conflict respectful and healthy, jealousy, possessiveness, or control, you need to work on getting to a different place with those issues before you commit to building a marriage and a home with someone.

4. You aren’t willing to work on or change an unhealthy relationship with substances


Addiction isn’t a moral indicator, and past or present addiction issues don’t mean anything about who you are as a person. You don’t even need to be in “perfect” sobriety to be in a relationship — is there even such a thing? However, if you know you’re in active addiction — or if you don’t use the term addiction, but know that your relationship to alcohol or other substances isn’t healthy — you need to have a plan to address this in a genuine way before building a life with someone. Sometimes we can get into relationships as a means toward sobriety, thinking that the stakes of wanting the relationship to work will help us get our priorities together — this isn’t a fair thing to do to your partner or to your own recovery journey. Most recovery programs suggest avoiding intimate relationships until you’re on solid footing with sobriety; while there’s no one blueprint for living in recovery, it’s something to think about.

5. You haven’t actually thought much about your personal take on marriage, but you know you’re supposed to

We live in a culture obsessed with marriage and all it signifies — we have an overriding shared narrative of finding “the one” and settling down, and are often told our adult lives aren’t complete until we’ve done so. This is before even factoring in your family’s desires or your religious values! It’s shockingly easy to get swept up in the momentum of feeling like marriage is just what you do next at this stage in life. Do you, personally, have a desire to get married? Why? If you can’t answer those questions, it might be good to take a beat and consider before jumping in headfirst.

6. You think therapy or self-work is great for other people, but not for you


“Everyone needs therapy” may be a little reductive, but it’s incontrovertibly true that we all have work to do. No matter where you came from or what your life has been like, you have some baggage — and part of your job as a partner and a spouse is to take on the work of continually examining and working with that baggage, being aware of how it’s impacting your relationship and taking accountability for that. If you aren’t prepared to do that, either because you think it doesn’t apply to you or because the prospect seems too daunting, you may not be able to handle the emotional responsibilities of marriage.

7. You haven’t developed healthy relationships with your family

Many of us face pressure from our parents, cultures, or families of origin to get married and have kids. But if this is the main motivator for getting married, or if it isn’t and you know that your family is going to expect to be the priority or have unrestricted access to your home and your family, you need to work on boundaries before building a household with someone. It’s normal for your partner to support you in dealing with a difficult family, but it’s not fair to expect them to deal with family showing up unannounced, violating your privacy, demanding grandchildren, or otherwise being invasive.

8. Your primary motivation for marriage is material support from your partner


Especially in the US, where so many social supports and necessary infrastructure are made more accessible by being married, it’s normal to factor in material security when making a decision about marriage. However, if it’s the main or only motivation — and you’re pursuing a real marriage, not a green card or health insurance workaround — you need to take a step back and evaluate whether you’re being fair to your partner.

9. Marriage is all you’ve ever wanted, and your relationship is the most important thing in your life

Alternatively, some of us know exactly why we want to get married — because our relationship is the most important thing in our lives, and we can’t imagine being without it, and marriage feels like reassurance that we won’t lose it and also a stamp of approval. If this sounds like you, it may actually be time to take a step back. We know it isn’t healthy to have your partner or your relationship be your everything, and if you’re driven by a deep, overwhelming anxiety about losing your partner or becoming less important to them, you may be in the passenger seat with anxious attachment behind the wheel. If these concerns aren’t addressed, your marriage may become rapidly unhealthy, and not the idyllic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow you’ve hoped for.

10. If you aren’t ready to be truly transparent with your partner, and find yourself keeping secrets

Intimacy is hard for many of us — for some of us, that includes even knowledge about ourselves or our lives we feel we don’t want to tell our partner. Whether it’s about shame — a gambling problem, career failures, insecurities — or something that we’re worried our partner might see us differently over — cheating, children from past relationships, a history of congenital illness in the family — you need to be able to be honest with your partner, or you shouldn’t marry them. Full stop.

11. Your partner has minor children, and you aren’t interested in parenting


Dating someone with kids isn’t off limits for childless adults; they’re not aliens you should be freaked out by. That said, especially if the kids are younger and/or still live at home, a serious relationship with a parent is also a serious commitment to their kids. Even if you choose not to call yourself a stepparent, you’re still going to be an adult who plays a huge part in their lives, and needs to take that responsibility very seriously. Doesn’t sound like something you’re up for? You shouldn’t be getting married to a parent.

12. Getting married isn’t about this person becoming your spouse, but wanting to get married in general

When did you know you wanted to marry this person? Was it before you even met them? Or when they proposed? If this marriage isn’t about this specific relationship and the way it will deepen or grow with a new title, and it’s more that Getting Married feels like an accomplishment you’re impatient for, you need to take a step back and do the work of locating your self-worth elsewhere. A marriage just for the sake of being married will turn sour quickly for both you and your partner.

13. You aren’t in a comfortable place with conflict and accountability

Conflict is hard for everybody — but it’s necessary. If you find yourself bending over backwards to avoid conflict, or shutting down entirely during it, you may not be ready to take on the work of a marriage. Committed relationships are the fastest ways to reach emotional growth because you don’t have a choice; you work on it or bow out. If you don’t want to bow out, you need to be ready to work on it. This includes accountability and admitting when you’re wrong or have caused harm; if you need to be the victim or the “winner” in every argument, marriage isn’t for you.

14. You’re less looking forward to being married than you are relieved not to be alone

Is the idea of getting married exciting to you? Or do you just feel a certain kind of anxiety relax? For some of us, the idea of being “spinsters” or having no one to take care of us when we age is an overriding fear — and it can transmute into a rush to get married just so you don’t feel like you’ll be alone forever. Making big decisions out of fear is never a good idea — and making a decision that links you to another person in a significant legal way definitely isn’t.

15. You’re tired of people asking when you’re going to get married

Enough said!

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