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Societal pressure, marriage and divorce

Society celebrates a happy and loving marriage as the ideal way to live life. Two people – and in the modern world it doesn't matter if you're the same-sex or not – coming together to live happily ever after is an archetype that we see again and again in books and movies. Our parents could model it, our friends could model it and – if you're single – it seems that everyone is watching and waiting until the day you say "I do" with your special someone.

The truth is, marriage is a wonderful thing, but if you get married due to pressure from your peers, family members or friends, it very well may end in divorce. It's important to remember that there are many ways to live a happy life and still have a sense for companionship, intimacy, love and affection – and they don't always involve a formally codified legal partnership like marriage.

The touted benefits of marriage

It's not surprising that people get married even if the union isn't right for them. The commonly touted benefits of marriage that we constantly hear include:

  • You'll have more financial stability
  • You'll be happier
  • Your kids will be healthier
  • You and your partner will be healthier
  • You won't be lonely
  • Someone will be there to take care of you

There are, indeed, numerous benefits to a healthy marital union when the relationship goes well, and even when the relationship goes just well enough. However, society seems to imprint a cookie-cutter approach to marriage and relationships on us. According to one psychologist, this is particularly damaging to several "groups" of people.

Who does the pressure to get married hurt?

In a recent article published by Psychology Today, a psychologist identified three groups of people that the pressure to get married hurts more than it helps:

  • People who are interested in marriage but want to wait for the right one: It's not easy to find "the one." Many people succumb to the marriage pressure early in life, even if it's not the right match. Others stick it out and wait for someone who is right for them. These people can face enormous pressure, feel like something is wrong with them and they may eventually cave and marry the wrong person just to get married.
  • People who aren't ready to get married yet: Getting married only because you're "suppose to" is never a good idea. Also, although society seems to frown upon it, some people are not made for monogamy. They are wired to have multiple partners during their life, and this isn't easy to come to grips with when everyone is saying your supposed to get married. Some of these "supposed to get married" unions work out, but many end up in divorce proceedings later down the road.
  • People who are unhappy in their current marriages: The pressure to get married and stay married – "until death do you part" – is a strong one. There are many people in marriages that make them sad, who are staying in them even though it's time to get a divorce. Societal pressure says, "stay in the marriage, you should be married, work it out, work on yourself, work on your relationship and stick it out." Sometimes, though, the only path to a better life is divorce.

Are you contemplating divorce?

If you're contemplating divorce, you may need to overcome the societal pressures – which could simply be a strong voice in your head – that says: "You should be married" or "You're a failure if you get a divorce." Ultimately, the decision to divorce is a personal one that should be made for yourself and your family in a way that honors and respects everyone involved both under the rules of family law and the rules of human kindness.

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