What are the Pros and Cons of Marriage? What You Need to Know

What are the psychological effects of marriage on individuals?
on June 20, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Laura Caruso LMHC

Marriage is a huge milestone for any couple, as it signifies a lasting commitment to one another — through thick and thin. 

While the ups and downs of marriage are often spoken about, do couples get swept away by the romance and forget to think about the reality? It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of marriage before you walk down the aisle. 

So, should you follow your head or your heart? From financial to psychological, there are a lot of things to consider and chat through with your partner before you make this lasting commitment. 

What should you think about before you get married? 

We all might like to think that marriage is a decision you make with your heart, but if you’re to have a successful marriage — you can’t leave your head out of it altogether!

While we can all get swept away by our emotions, marriage shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Even though it’s not quite as transformative as some fairytales might make out, it’s a huge commitment that isn’t necessarily for everyone. 

“Marriage is a personal choice that varies greatly in meaning amongst couples,” says Laura Caruso, a licensed therapist, and relationship expert. 

“Explore what marriage represents to you and whether or not this decision aligns with your vision for your relationship. It’s important to consider long-term compatibility, particularly in the areas of shared values and beliefs, communication, and financial responsibility.”

Talk about these feelings with your potential spouse, so you’re both on the same page about what you want from a future together. 

What are the pros and cons of marriage?

Marriage is a huge commitment, and like any big decision, it requires a lot of careful thought and consideration. 

“Marriage is an expression of profound love and commitment. It’s an opportunity to establish an identity rooted in shared values and traditions and is representative of a willingness to grow as a unit,” says Caruso. 

While there is often a very idealized conception of marriage out in the world, there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Before you walk down the aisle, every couple should be aware of the difficulties that marriage can bring. 

If you’re unwilling to accept that there will likely be tough times along the way, you may not be ready for the kind of commitment that marriage requires. 

“While marriage can bring many positive aspects such as companionship, emotional support, and shared goals, it’s important to consider the potential downsides,” says Caruso. 

“Marriage often requires compromises and sacrifices, which can sometimes lead to a loss of personal freedom and autonomy. People also change over time, and fundamental differences in personality, lifestyle, or values can lead to persistent conflicts and dissatisfaction. 

Even though marriage isn’t picturebook perfect all the time, knowing that you will have to take the good with the bad is actually for the best. 

“However, being aware of these negative aspects can help couples prepare for and address potential issues, leading to a healthier and more resilient relationship,” says Caruso. 

So, while we can’t write you a personalized pros and cons list for your partner, we can hopefully help you dive into the potential upsides and downsides of marriage. 

Pros of marriage to consider 

  1. Companionship: Marriage not only offers love, but it also offers the promise of lifelong companionship. When you commit to a marriage, it means you're signing up to have your partner by your side through thick and thin. A best friend and a lover all in one!

  2. Emotional support: When you’re married, you always have your partner to rely on for emotional support. Having a committed partner means you have someone to turn to during tough times, who understands your needs and can offer comfort and encouragement. This emotional support helps in building resilience and can make navigating life's challenges more manageable. 

  3. Mutual growth: Marriage fosters an environment where both partners can grow together. As partners support each other's ambitions and dreams, they can achieve greater heights together than they might alone. This mutual growth strengthens the bond and creates a shared sense of purpose and achievement.

  4. Shared growth: Beyond individual growth, marriage facilitates shared growth in terms of building a life together! Shared growth involves learning from each other, adapting to each other's strengths and weaknesses, and evolving together over time.

  5. Family bonding: When you marry someone, you don’t just gain a partner but you also gain their family as an extension of that. This can open you up to a whole new world of nurturing and fulfilling relationships with your new family! 

  6. Stability: Marriage can offer a sense of stability in life, providing a reliable foundation on which to build a future. While unmarried couples can rely on each other, a marriage certificate can give this an additional level of support and security. 

  7. Shared burden: When you’re going through something when you’re married, you don’t have to do it alone. It helps to have someone you trust by your side to help you through good times and bad. 

  8. Stable environment for children: Marriage can provide a stable and nurturing environment for children to grow and thrive. This kind of committed partnership can offer children the benefits of consistency, routine, and a sense of security. 

Cons of marriage to consider 

  1. Compromise: When you’re married to someone, you can no longer wholly prioritize yourself. Even though you might want to do something, you have to take your partner's needs and wants on board — coming to a healthy compromise that suits you both! If you’re not willing to make these compromises, marriage might not be for you. 

  2. Independence: Marriage involves a high level of compromise and joint decision-making, which can lead to a perceived or actual loss of personal freedom and autonomy. Even though this naturally comes with marriage, it can feel like restricted personal freedom.

  3. Conflict: Marriage can’t be all rosy all the time, as natural conflicts will arise as romantic relationships go through their ups and downs. Differences in how each partner handles conflict can exacerbate issues, making resolution difficult and potentially leading to ongoing tension. Even though this is normal, it can feel very draining. 

  4. Expectations: Marriage comes with societal and personal expectations that can create pressure on your dynamic. Each partner may have different expectations of what marriage should be, which can lead to misunderstandings and disappointment if those expectations are not communicated and aligned.

  5. Lifestyle adjustments: Even though there are so many benefits of marriage, merging your lives naturally leads to adjustments and changes that can be stressful. For example, differences in habits and routines, such as sleep schedules, cleanliness standards, and leisure activities, require both partners to compromise. If these changes don’t suit you long-term, it can lead to tensions down the line. 

  6. In-laws: Even though your extended family will hopefully add so many positives to your life, not all in-laws make it easy. If you’re dealing with a toxic mother-in-law or father-in-law, it can add a lot of strain to the relationship. 

  7. Vulnerability: Being in a deeply committed relationship means being emotionally vulnerable, which can have its perks but can also feel intense. When you’re married, this level of vulnerability is heightened, which can lead to emotional frustration and potential disagreements. 

  8. Potential for divorce: High divorce rates can be offputting when considering marriage, as it’s a big commitment with a lot of expectations. Even though we all hope for a happy ever after, the fear of divorce can keep people from walking down the aisle in the first place.

What are the psychological benefits and drawbacks of marriage?

Any intimate relationship requires both partners to be immensely vulnerable and that kind of emotional involvement naturally has a psychological impact. 

Marriage requires couples to open up to each other on an immensely deep and intimate level, putting their trust in one another every step of the way. Being able to rely on someone can feel incredible, as you no longer have to face life's burdens alone. 

This can have a huge positive psychological impact, as your partner can make you feel completely seen, understood, and cherished. This kind of intimacy is every relationship's ultimate goal, with untold benefits for both your physical and mental well-being. 

“Marriage can offer emotional stability, alleviate feelings of loneliness, and provide a sense of belonging. A stable and loving marriage can act as a buffer against life’s stressors, helping you better cope with difficult experiences,” says Caruso. 

If you’re experiencing this kind of love for the first time, it can feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders — with your partner in crime there to catch you when you fall. 

However, if you build up this kind of relationship, and they pull the rug from beneath your feet… The collapse of the relationship can be catastrophic on a psychological and emotional level. 

“Potential drawbacks of marriage include added stress due to disagreements or conflict, which are inevitable in any relationship,” says Caruso. 

“Similarly, poor communication can exacerbate misunderstandings and create ongoing tension. Marital problems can contribute to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and emotional distress.”

Are there any money-related downsides to getting married?

There are so many different aspects of a marriage, and while some couples prefer to dance around it, money can be a major part of that. Marriage involves the merging of two lives, including their finances. 

While this is a huge step for any couple, there are also several positive financial aspects available to married couples compared to unmarried partners. 

What are the financial advantages and disadvantages of getting married?

From a financial perspective, there are several important considerations to think about before signing your marriage contract. 

There are several financial benefits for married people, from social security benefits to tax breaks, and improved insurance plans. 

Potential financial pros of marriages to consider 

  1. Combined income: When you’re in a marriage partnership, you can pool your finances and boost your overall financial stability. “Combined income and resources provide greater financial stability, allowing couples to pool their resources and grow assets and savings more efficiently,” says Caruso. Usually, married couples utilize shared bank accounts, with less of a barrier between mine and yours when it comes to money. This means that they have an increased purchasing power, enabling couples to afford larger investments, such as a home, which might be out of reach for a single income.

  2. Insurance benefits: Married couples have access to insurance policies that are specific to spouses — these can offer better prices and coverage. This also applies to health insurance, certain health care policies, or life insurance policies. 

  3. Sharing of expenses: When you’re cohabiting, it makes sense to pool your resources and split your expenses — whether that’s equal contributions or an agreed-upon split. “Couples who share expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries can reduce individual financial burdens,” says Caruso. 

  4. Tax advantages: “Tax advantages are often available to married couples as well, including lower tax rates and increased deductions,” says Caruso. For example, married couples can complete a joint tax return or joint filers may qualify for higher income thresholds for various tax deductions and credits. 

  5. Inheritance: Spouses often inherit without having to pay estate taxes, which is not always the case for non-spousal heirs. Estate planning is of great importance for couples, as it gives them an extra degree of security that their surviving spouse will benefit when they pass away. 

  6. Financial protection: Overall, a combined income gives both partners greater financial security. For example, if one spouse becomes unemployed or has health struggles, they have a safety net to fall back on. 

  7. Retirement perks: While you usually have to earn taxable income to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), married couples can benefit from a spousal IRA. 

  8. Legal protections: There are some legal benefits from getting married, including financial, insurance, and tax benefits we have mentioned. Overall, from a legal perspective, a marriage license or contract offers couples more security and stability. 

Potential financial disadvantages of marriages to consider 

  1. Financial debt: When you’re married you could be taking on the debt of the other person, with this now becoming a shared responsibility. This financial burden can affect both partner’s well-being, as they have to prioritize paying this off. 

  2. Responsibility: If you’re married, you naturally take on some financial responsibilities for your spouse. Taking on this kind of responsibility can increase stress and conflict among the couple. 

  3. Difference in income: Partners frequently earn different amounts, and while this is normal, it can cause tension if one person is a significantly higher earner. “Significant differences in income can lead to financial dependency, which creates power imbalances and potential conflicts over financial control and decision-making,” says Caruso. Some couples prefer to sign a prenuptial agreement so there is no risk of financial disagreements down the line. 

  4. The “marriage penalty”: While marriage has many financial tax perks, there are also potential downsides for couples who fall within a higher tax bracket. The marriage penalty might pop up for couples after they jointly file with the IRS, resulting in a higher tax bill. If you’re worried about this, you can always talk to your accountant so you can know what to expect from your income tax filings and any potential penalties that may arise. 

  5. Power imbalance: If one person is outearning the other, or is making the largest financial contributions in the relationship — it can leave the other feeling in debt to the other. Or, for the person who has a greater financial stake in the relationship, it can lead to feelings of resentment

  6. Spending habits: Everyone is entitled to spend their money in the way they see fit. However, when it’s a shared income or savings, it can cause issues with how you choose to spend it. “Individual habits, like spending and saving, can lead to stress and a lack of trust when not managed or clearly communicated prior to combining resources,” says Caruso. 

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