Why do People Marry?
Some people claim that, given the high rate of divorce (more than 50% of new marriages), and the fact that extra marital affairs are one of the factors contributing to the divorce rate, the conclusion should be made that human beings were not meant to be monogamous and that marriage is a useless institution headed towards oblivion. I do not agree.
In conjunction with the high divorce rate, there is a very high rate of remarriage. This fact signifies that there is something about marriage that people want and need. What is it that people are seeking when they marry?
The human species remains in a dependent relationship with parents and family for a long period of time. This time period is needed for the development of physical growth as well as intellectual development. The famous quote, "I think, therefore, I am," encapsulates the very vital need that human beings have in order to develop the ability to think, reason, develop self concept (I am) and to function in an extremely complex world. In the early twentieth century, when my grandparents were young, it was common for people to marry and start raising children from age 16 and onwards. Today, we consider it to be incredibly bad judgment and even illegal in some states, to contemplate marriage and pregnancy at such a young age. Now, in 2012, 16 year-olds are thought of as immature children. At the turn of the twentieth century, given the shorter life span, 16 was a good age for marriage and full family responsibility. In other words, we need marriage and family to provide a healthy and stable environment for the achievement of full human potential.
In my opinion, there is a kind of "nesting instinct" in human beings whereby adults have an urge to build a family, settle down and raise kids. The term "nesting" is interesting because it is seen with all birds but especially is relevant to those species, such as Ospreys, who not only nest to lay eggs but stay with the nest until the chicks become full adults who can fend for themselves. What is even more interesting is that these birds are fully monogamous. They remain mated pairs for the their entire lives and return to the same nesting home each year in order to raise more children. We human beings are not the only monogamous creatures on earth.
Osprey chicks learn how to be ospreys from being with their parents. In a similar way, human children learn to be human by growing up in a family. Part of learning to be human involves acquiring the rules, regulations, and behaviors needed to live in human society.
It is clear that marriage provides certain psychological benefits for each spouse. As members of the primate family, we need group participation along with the loyalty that it brings. Marriage and family are first and foremost in group involvement. Marriage provides a psychological and physical sense of security. It helps connect past generations to present generations via family lore passed on from generation to generation. Partially, this is how we get generations of a family being firemen, policemen, doctors, lawyers and etc. Children follow the footsteps not only of their parents but of their ancestors as well.
Within the safety of the marriage and family, parents can satisfy their needs for sex, affection and love without having to once again join the mating ritual first experienced after achieving adulthood. Man and wife come home from work with the understanding that they are secure in the connection with one another. They also feel secure in knowing that, with their spouse, they will have children and raise them in a healthy environment.
These are just a few of the reasons why people marry and, even in the event of divorce, remarry. They marry in the hope and expectation that the union will last forever.
What are your experiences and opinions about marriage and family?
You can respond here, or in the forum, "The Marriage Corner," or both.
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD