Top 5 Reasons Not to Get Married.

Via Krystal Baugher
on Feb 8, 2011
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rules happy marriage

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

When I go back home for the holidays it doesn’t take long to run into a surly relative or an old friend who feels the need to ask,

“When are you getting married?”

To which I always reply,

“I’m not.”

Yes, I have been with my partner for almost five years.

Yes, I love him.

But guess what I don’t love..? Marriage.

Here are 5 Reasons I’m Not Getting Married.

1) The Pains of Patriarchy

I, for some reason, agreed to be in my best friend’s wedding (and no, it doesn’t turn out anything like the Julie Roberts movie).

I thought that if I could respect her decision to marry she could respect my decision not to, but I forgot about all the other people who go to those sorts of things. I’m sitting next to her dad while photos are being taken. He leans over and asks the dreaded question, “So, when will it be your turn?” I reply that I have no plans to do such a thing. He says, “Oh, you just haven’t met the right guy yet.”

Right. I’ve just been hanging out with some dude for the last four years that I only sort-of kind-of like. And until Mr. Put-a-Ring-On-It comes riding up on his white stallion to take me away, well, this other dude will have to do. (?!?)

And then my best friend’s dad walks her down the aisle and “gives her away.” Like what happens in every traditional wedding ceremony.

This ritual, both historically and symbolically, gives the woman away as if she is a piece of property that a man is privileged enough to own.

A man’s hand to another man’s hand.

And we continue to do this ritual even though it’s saturated with inequality and starts off the marriage unbalanced.

Don’t even get me started on certain sayings like “man and wife,” which allows the man to be whatever he wants but labels the woman immediately to one specific role.

I don’t find it necessary to participate or support this type of institution (I no longer attend weddings, either). And though many married people have chosen alternatives to these traditions and rituals, when one says they are “married” it carries the weight of patriarchy whether the couple wants it to or not—as well as the weight of sexual acceptability.

As Judith Butler says in her book Undoing Gender,

“For a progressive sexual movement, even one that may want to produce marriage as an option for non-heterosexuals, the proposition that marriage should become the only way to sanction or legitimize sexuality is unacceptably conservative.”

By participating in marriage I feel as if I would be taking part in legitimatizing and accepting the power dynamics that already exist—the power dynamics that keep us all oppressed. And why would I want to do that?


2)  I must find my prince and ride off into the sunset?

When I was a little girl I never dreamed of the picture perfect wedding. When I closed my eyes I didn’t see a big puffy white dress—nope, not me. In my fantasy I was decked out in a blue sequin mini-dress. My long blonde hair flew wild to the beat of loud music. I was surrounded by beautiful people—everyone loving me, me loving everyone. I don’t know why I never pictured myself in a big fluffy white dress. I guess I thought they were ugly. And I thought being a rock star would be more interesting than being a wife. But many little girls do dream (and dream and dream) of the perfect wedding day (if you ever watch TLC, examples abound).

photo <> Guilherme Tavares

The idea of finding our “one true love” is embedded in us all from a very early age. Watch any Disney movie, see the princess being saved by the prince, followed by the “happily ever after” marriage. (Because in fairy tale land, life ends after the “I do’s”.)

In shoptalk, we feminists call this heterosexual normativity—the practice of encouraging people to fit within heterosexual strict standards of being monogamous, married, usually protestant/Christian, usually white, usually middle/upper class while shunning and making feel guilty those who do not. Examples of heteronormativity are everywhere from Hallmark cards to sitcoms to algebra questions to pop music… Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with woman/man love, of course, what is wrong is making it out to be the only thing that’s right.

One of my favorite theorists, Gayle Rubin, writes in “Thinking Sex,”

“Most of the discourses on sex, be they religious, psychiatric, popular, or political, delimit a very small portion of human sexual capacity as sanctifiable, safe, healthy, mature, legal, or politically correct. The ‘line’ distinguishes these from all other erotic behaviours, which are understood to be the work of the devil, dangerous, psychopathological, infantile, or politically reprehensible. Arguments are then conducted over ‘where to draw the line’, and to determine what other activities, if any, may be permitted to cross over into acceptability.”

These sorts of power dynamics keep people from reaching their true potential and restrict people from enjoying life to its fullest degree.

In other words, I’m looked down upon because I just want to wear my blue sequin mini and “whip my hair back and forth” instead of fulfilling my duty to be “princess” for a day (and wife for my life).

Marriage is the pinnacle of heteronormativity, and I don’t feel comfortable supporting it. Though I am currently with a “man,” not getting married is one way we keep our relationship “queered.”


3) Monogamy, Monotony

My grandparents on my mother’s side have been married for 50 years. My grandmother on my father’s side has been married 13 different times.

I don’t believe that everyone is monogamous, or that everyone should be. I think the world would be a much more beautiful place if we were all more accepting and open to other ways of love.

photo <> Katia Dametto

Supposedly around 50% of marriages end in divorce, and the percentage gets even bigger by the second marriage.

So, let me just reinforce this point: half of the people who tie the knot end up needing to untie it later—and usually it’s a really tight knotty knot that is difficult and expensive to untangle.

And I’m the weirdo for not wanting to be a part of that?

People get married because they’re told over and over again that this is the way it’s done, and yet over and over again it isn’t being done right (and obviously not for the right reasons).

Why do marriages fail? Perhaps they weren’t supposed to be together forever to begin with, perhaps they’re too limiting, perhaps the couple lacked necessary communication skills, perhaps the love juices ran out, perhaps…

Perhaps it’s because the institution of marriage is not for everyone.

And it’s about time we all accept it, and accept the people who don’t want to do it—even and especially if we happen to be one of those people.

4) Benefits for Whom?

Too many people I know have gotten married for the benefits. And I’m not talking about the benefits of a long loving relationship; I’m talking about literal benefits, such as health care.

Isn’t it gross that the health care system in America functions in a way that requires its citizens to maintain a heteronormative lifestyle in order to utilize it fully?

Kathleen Hanna, poster-grrrl for the riot grrrl movement, a 90’s feminist *F*-the-establishment movement, got married for the insurance. This breaks my heart.

I don’t think health care should be a high priority for a major decision like marriage.

It sort of comes off as a nonchalant choice—like egh, why not, it will save us $500 a year, might as well.

photo <> Francis Bijl

But what is most disturbing is the fact that the state legitimizing people who are married over everyone else. Because married couples get better benefits, marriage itself becomes justifiable (even if half of marriages end). As Butler says,

“The state becomes the means by which a fantasy becomes literalized: desire and sexuality are ratified, justified, known, publicly instated, imagined as permanent, durable. And, at that very moment, desire and sexuality are dispossessed and displaced, so that what one “is” and what one’s relationship “is,” are no longer private matters.”

When one marries for benefits one basically says, “yes state, you can control me and my sexuality.”

Yes, being able to see the one you love in the hospital is important, yes health care is important, yes tax reduction is wonderful, yes property ownership is grand, but why can’t we all have these benefits? Why do people who supposedly find their “one and only,” get that over people who may not, or can’t, or don’t want to?


5) *F* the Children

Politicians have been using “in the name of the children” for decades now. “What about the children?” “The future is our children.” Blah blah. When they use “children” in these statements they are not talking about living breathing walking (crawling) children, they’re discussing them figuratively. They’re discussing them so as to pull citizens’ heartstrings and get them to vote a particular way. But can the idea of “the children” ever really end? Isn’t it absurd to use “the children” as a scapegoat for influencing moral authority?

In “The Future is Kid Stuff” Lee Edelman writes,

“That figural Child alone embodies the citizen as an ideal, entitled to claim full rights to its future share in the nation’s good, though always at the cost of limiting the rights “real” citizens are allowed.”

We’re all really sensitive about our children, but guess what? We arethe children, your parents are the children, your grandparents are the children. When will we do what’s right for us instead of for some hypothetical person who hasn’t been born yet?

Why do we continue to behave in a manner that we don’t really like just because that’s the way it’s been done in the past? I don’t think any child would appreciate that if she or he knew.

And what about the children?

They think, they learn, they grow.

They are not innocent vessels of pure moral order…and even if they were, pretending that marriage is the only right way to live creates unhealthy boundaries that repress their sexuality and subvert their desires into a social order that is not necessarily moral or ethical.

So, I don’t want to get married for the children: true living breathing walking (crawling) children deserve to understand that love doesn’t have to be the same for everyone and it’s okay to follow your heart, to explore, to enjoy life and all the strange beautiful people in it.

This is just the beginning. Interested in more?

Suggested Reading:

Judith Butler, Undoing Gender

Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, The Ethical Slut

Lee Edelman, “The Future is Kid Stuff” in the book No Future

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality

bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions

Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy

Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex”

Riki Wilchins, Queer Theory, Gender Theory

Editor’s Note: there are other perspectives:

11 Reasons Why I’m Getting Married (Again). 


Love starts with us, first:


About Krystal Baugher

Krystal Baugher lives in Denver. She earned her MA in Writing and Publishing and her MA in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University/Chicago. She is the creator of Mile High Mating, a website dedicated to helping people "do it" in Denver and beyond. You can find her on facebook and twitter (as long as you aren’t a stalker).


159 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons Not to Get Married.”

  1. Sj says:

    Just to point out that hooking up with others in your marriage has nothing to do with security or maturity in your relationship. So if I am a person who thinks hooking up is for different types of people just not me that makes me insecure and immature? Who are you to make that assumption or label someone in that regard. That’s just being plain arrogant. As stated in this article, some life decisions such as marriage, monogamy and monotany are not for everyone. That sure as hell does not make those people who choose different lifestyles insecure or immature. It makes them who they are!

  2. What it is says:

    This would have resonated with me much more if it didn’t feel like pure rebellion. Don’t know if it was the author’s intent, but it seems like marriage is out of the question for her because she is scared of how her marriage will represent her to other people. Which is terribly ironic. We choose what we choose , and people will read it how they read it. What matters is that we’ve chosen in a way that builds and supports our best life, whether in work, love, family, friendship.

  3. SereneMeadow says:

    Much of this was feminist which usually warrants nothing more than an eye roll from me cause I am more traditional. However, it's true that not everyone wants to marry, and I don't think it should be questioned . I also love that the author's grandmother was married thirteen times. How wonderful to love deeply thirteen times; most of us are lucky for one or two.

  4. Stacey says:

    I'm divorced and I agree with some of your points. But I find it a little selfish to say you won't support your friends and families decision to marry by refusing to attend weddings. That's no different than a bakery refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding. It's basically saying "because you don' t believe as I do, I won't accept your invitation to your event even though it means I'm important to you and that's why you invited me" Relationships are defined by the people involved. As long as there is religion, there will be a marriage institution. You, and many others, are also free to define your relationship. The world is changing, but I find acceptance and love to be much more freeing then condemnation.

  5. Jen Dunn says:

    I concur. Bravo. I have been saying this for a decade and it is time we stop brainwashing young women to believe marriage brings happiness; this is unhealthy for men and women. I was married and I admit it was for all of the wrong reasons; I wanted my daughter to fit into the acceptable societal pattern of America for some reason. Even though I never followed the herd before, when my daughter was born I wanted her to have the whole family experience I never had. In the end I learned that it is not about the steroetypical family, but about the love and acceptance you provide for your child despite the circumstances. Staying in a dysfunctional relationship for the kids just provides unhealthy role models. I have brought my daughter up as an independent woman, and I believe this was the most healthy experience she could have had as a young girl. I never settled or depended on men for my happiness again, and I hope she learned that vital lesson. I brought my daughter up to believe that her relationships are important, but the moment she dreams of should be the day she lands her dream job, travels to explore a country she always wanted to visit, or receives a role in a dance production, as she is currently studying professionally. The big white dress is sooooo overrated compared to these life events. Thank you for addressing this topic. I see a wave of change on the relationship front in America, and I hope it continues. We all need to learn to love ourselves, first, as cliche as that may sound… it is a vital truth.

  6. Didda says:

    Our only reason for getting married was to make his Mom happy.
    She was getting close to despondent that exactly 0 of her 4 children were going to be.
    Exactly nothing changed with our relationship after we had a nice little ceremony, a party, and $1300 spent. I didn't change my last name. We had a bunch of pretty flowers, a neat dress, a very cool tux, potluck, and some pictures, to show his Mom that yes, we valued her feelings, and her role in our lives. She's not getting grandkids from us, we thought that a day that we were not against, to bring her happiness, could be fun. And it was.
    And no, she does not 'control' our lives, we chose to do this to honour her.
    Marriage doesn't have to be an 'institution', it can just be a gesture for friends and family, or even the couple, if they so choose.

  7. Jessica says:

    You make some good points about why you don't want to get married. It sounds like the right decision for you. It is great that you have been so thoughtful about such a huge life decision, more people should be. But boycotting other people's weddings or telling other people what they should want or do is not feminist. Feminism is about having choices, not making choices for other people. Feminism is about equality, not saying my choices are better than yours. Feminists support the rights of others.

  8. Carrie says:

    Then what is even the purpose in getting married? If it’s not to be monogamous and not for the kids, why do it? That’s what I struggle with. Some people say it’s to make a commitment. But if you’re not religious, why can’t you just promise to try your best to stay together and do the best you can in the relationship? For me, it seems like an institution designed to force people to stay together so that so that spouses won’t just run off whenever things get tough. But in reality, people grow apart, and some people never grow up, and people just get plain sick of each other. I was married (twice ) and both times I was treated like an object to be possessed. I will never do it again.

  9. mculton001 says:

    Thank you for writing this. I've read a few of your posts on polyamory and you are an excellent writer. I just recently learned what pansexual means, and I think I might be one. I usually refer to myself as a "serial monogamist", but even when I'm involved with one person, there's always a few more whom I fancy alot. And I've always been open and honest with my feelings towards my lovers. I just haven't met any out or open poly people! I've discussed opening our relationship with my partner of 4 years, but he doesn't want to sleep with anyone else. I refuse to believe that "there is something wrong in our relationship" or that "he is not satisfying me" because I want to extend my love and body to others. Some people have a really hard time understanding that, but I guess hundreds of years of societal indoctrination will do that to you.

    love love love!