Debra Smith

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Can you tell me what motivates a man to get married? What is marriage to a man living today? Do you also have a theory of why women marry?

We all havw ideosyncratic meanings for words. I see it all the time here on TED. When, however that disconnect in meaning touches something as foundational as our meaning about the prime relationship of our life = it is scary so I ask all my friends and interlocuators here if you might help me by sharing your own defination..

Addition^^^^ If a man has proposed to me- can you give me an idea why and what it means?

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    Jun 22 2012: Getting married a second time is perhaps a triumph of hope over expereince.
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    Jun 15 2012: Personally, I never could understand what motivated anyone to get married. Always seemed like most of the married people I knew were miserable with each other. Yes, marriage can serve a useful function to bind people together in order to create a stable environment for raising kids. But beyond that, what is the point? If two people love one another and want to be together, why not just live together? Is turning it into a legal contract somehow going to improve the relationship? Well, I guess there are the tax advantages and the sharing of health insurance and the sundry other material benefits. But is getting hitched for financial reasons really wise?

    I think the motivation (for both men and women) to get married is the belief that doing so will somehow increase the probability that their mate will stay around and be faithful. But does it?

    What do you think Debra? What would (did) motivate you to get married?
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      Jun 21 2012: Tim, You enrich every disussion with your inclusive style.

      I read your response with avid interest, now that i can get in again and I guess my answer is that for me it has something to do with 'belonging' We discussed that book "Sex at Dawn" I think, and I really felt anger when I realized that men who died long ago had highjacked my own relationship with the inputs of my body. I am still working that through in my own life but i still think I feel that if a man wanst to call my body his home base - he better be willing to publically acknowledge me. Does that make any sense to you?
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        Jun 21 2012: Yes, I agree on the desire for acknowledgement of the relationships we consider most special in our lives. But the need for a legal contract? That seems most founded on the unequal power relationship between women and men which always existed in the past. But aren’t we getting beyond that?

        I always remember a statement I read (I think it was one of Plato’s writings) that said that you can’t be a true friend with your slave. Even if you believe you have a strong friendship, some event will always arise with makes you aware of the shortcomings of the connection. Isn’t the same true in any grossly unequal power relationship?

        So if true friendship is sought with our partner, isn’t it imperative that we seek equality first? And does a legally binding constraint aid or hinder the sense of equality?
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          Jun 22 2012: Tim, I do adore you and the fact that you consider the level of fairness and equality in a relationship warms my heart. I do have to analyze why I am so surprised but as Cladeus pointed out, I clearly have unanticipated effects which linger as a result of his infidelity. I am working diligently on that.
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        Jun 23 2012: Debra. You don’t know how much I miss our open-ended discussions ; )
    • Jun 22 2012: Did anyone say love.? Or have I simply overlooked it.? I think love, coupled with the desire to have children and raise a family, is the reason most people marry today. However raising children in a bad marriage probably does more harm to the 'institution of marriage' than a broken marriage (divorce) does. Note that I'm saying harm to the 'institution of marriage' - I'm not commenting on any perceived harm to the children themselves.

      I've often said that marriage is ultimately responsible for the ruin of more relationships than any other single thing.. and I'm only half jesting.
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        Jun 22 2012: I think Mohammad Aizat mentioned love first, consistent with his nature and outlook.
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    Jun 10 2012: Government recognized marriage is largely a cultural element. In a culture where no definition of marriage exists people do not "get married". Many people are not so much motivated by legal/cultural tradition but get married because they specifically believe it is God's will for them to do so. Some people get married for the ceremony, celebration, and gifts. Some people get married simply because their mate wants to. A proposal of marriage typically indicates a desire to live-out one's life as a "mated pair." From this basic motivation for proposing spring many variations: money; social status; fidelity; romance; etc. Pragmatically, it seems beneficial for a man to leave his Mother and woman to leave her home, and for the two to be as one (Peter, Paul and Mary :-))
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      Jun 21 2012: Peter, Paul and Mary by way of the bible. Thanks for your kind insights.
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        Jun 21 2012: Bingo! Moses was inspired by God Himself to write the words (Genesis 2:24) which Jesus himself quoted in Matthew 9:4 thru 6, as did Paul (the Apostle, not the singer) in Ephesians 5:31. That is some very impressive support for the institution of marriage.
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        Jun 21 2012: This might be the same bible that says if an unmarried women is raped she has to marry her rapist. Very impressive.
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          Jun 22 2012: Maybe 3rd time is the charm as I had entered this before........the case is actually worse for women than you have stated. The verses say that a woman who is raped in the city and who does not yelll loud enough to be rescued should be stoned along with her rapist!
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    Jun 10 2012: I'm an atheist and married. So no supernatural motivation or imaginings for me in regards to marriage.

    Civil ceremony. No religious baggage. Something between two equals.

    For me it was in part acknowledging to each other that we wanted to mutually commit to a life together. We are monogamous.

    I was working overseas at the time so it also impacted the way we were treated in terms of visas.

    We have been through some tough times and the seriousness and commitment associated with marriage (at least in our minds) has helped us carry on to work things out rather than give it all up.

    If a man has proposed to you, hopefully you have discussed marriage with him earlier and have an idea what it means to him.
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      Jun 22 2012: I am surprised that I did not acknowledge this excellent entry before now. Please forgive my oversight. Thanks, I needed that - as the commercial used to say.
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    Jun 10 2012: In some cases, it might just be LOVE.
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      Jun 21 2012: Well, I do adore some of my TEDdies!
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    Jun 9 2012: Usually because that's what everyone else does.
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      Jun 9 2012: I sometimes wonder if there is a virus which affects people after awhile. Do some people just decide that they have no idea what to do on the next date so why not ge t married?
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      Jun 9 2012: Listen to the rest of the Words.

      1 Corinthians 11:3
      But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God.

      Ephesians 5:24-33
      Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

      Leviticus 20:10
      “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

      deuteronomy 22 : 20
      If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

      Nice book, you're reading, Don. The parts about marriage and very helpful.

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          Jun 9 2012: Good for you, but keep in mind that it's illegal in most countries to stone people to death.

          Just trying to help.
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          Jun 9 2012: Your comments, on the other hand, get more mysterious as they get shorter.

          "I am a victim of a woman's rage and death by a 1000 cuts"

          can you explain this to me, please?
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      Jun 9 2012: Don, in your opinion then is it a bad idea for a woman to get a good education so that she might realize that the direction they might be headed is crazy?
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    Jun 23 2012: In my opinion the weakness is the cause of marriage ; women marry because hey are weaker by their nature .
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    Jun 22 2012: i think love and the urge to stay together is the motivation for marriage, in most cases.
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    Jun 22 2012: Hi Debra
    Answers to your questions seems to have socio cultural bias as the concept of marriage highly influenced by the socio cultural even at times economic background one is coming from.........

    Say the motivation of a Saudi man in Saudi Arabia to get married (please take it just an example without any cultural sensitivity attached) can be completely different while he is in say Canada.........

    In many culture for a women not getting married with in certain age is perceived to be her huge disquliafication irrespective of her social, economical status....

    So giving a single theory is me it seems the marital relationship of person has got multiple facets which made it also one of the most complex relationship.........well thats my feeling only.....
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    Jun 22 2012: I like to think, that like almost everything, it comes down to long term rational self interest, versus short term rational self interest. I once said that "Marriage, for a man, is the pleasant upgrade in lifestlye, from having to pretend to care about the problems of every woman in the world... to only having to pretend to care about the problems of one."

    If you're 20 years old, and you're sure the world's going to end in 2012, you don't have any reason to get married. If on the other hand, you want to stay healthy and live a long full life... You probably want to get married. Unless you get really rich, at 50... You're much more likely to talk your wife into sex, than a bar stranger : p

    Doug Stanhope has a great joke about life insurance "Basically every month I place a bet, I bet I'm gonna die this month... They bet, no you won't... So far they're the big winners". When a man or woman hit about 29, every year they go without getting married is like a bet "I bet I'm gonna die soon, better get some fun in while it lasts"...

    Every married couple places a bet "I bet I'm going to be here next year, I hope someone still likes me... Gotta put that work in".
    • Jun 22 2012: That's interesting David.. I was also considering how our viewpoints towards marriage change with our age.. and our experiences..
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      Jun 22 2012: David, I genuinely value and appreciate your candor (but please do not pretend- my heart can't take it!)
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        Jun 22 2012: I am intrigued by this response... Pretend what?

        I'm crazy, and desperate... but I'm a believer.

        Long term rational self interest is where it's at... Even if I'm standing on the crow's nest of a sinking ship like Jack Sparrow : p

        Ahh, pretend to care about your problems... I am never pretending to care about your problems Debra... Have you read my comments on ted, I only ever pretend to care about myself on here : )

        Just so you know, whenever I get down to the one, I will have to stop pretending and really care, that part was a joke. As a single man however I do have to pretend to care about an awful lot of problems "just in case". After all, you never know whose problems you may end up having to be familiar with, hehe.
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          Jun 22 2012: Dear David, I am so disappointed that i was so unclear and caused you such introspection. NO, honey, none of the above- I was just quoting your writing above. I find you very sincere and forthcoming so your assertion took me by surprise

          ".I once said that "Marriage, for a man, is the pleasant upgrade in lifestlye, from having to pretend to care about the problems of every woman in the world... to only having to pretend to care about the problems of one."
          I work so hard to be sincere because i cannot juggle multiple motives (and again maybe I am oversensitized by experience. The most devasting result of my ex's infidelity is and was my utter lack of confidence in myself and my own instincts - far from loving him anymore- I am petrifed of him.)
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        Jun 22 2012: It was totally my mistake. I didn't get very introspective either, I always feel like I'm the crazy guy on a sinking ship when I try to convince people that it's in a mans self interest to get married and be monogamous.

        I do it in a weird way, but I'm very traditional at the core. I accidentally worried that you had begun to believe men like me were unicorns in todays society : p

        I'm like "No, we still exist... Just a bit worse for wear", hehe. It's a weird world though for men like us. There are a whole bunch of men out there willing to say "I'll love you forever, and never treat you wrong, and blah, blah, blah, die without you, whiny emo song"... It makes "Ya, I think I could put up with you for eternity" a tough sell.

        If a man loves listening to all your stories... Something terrible is about to happen to you. It's sad really. People need to conflict, and let their emotions out, on a regular basis, but we're so scared to do it.
  • Jun 21 2012: I couldn't tell you why anyone does anything. Most of the time, the answer is either habit or money. I can tell you why I, a young professional woman, married. I married to grow old with someone, but not anyone, someone with whom I have a shared past and hope to have collective memories in efforts to live happily. Three years in, it's working, the making memories and living happily part.

    I think marriage goes against "our nature" on some levels but that's what makes it so beautiful-- that the conscience rebel against DNA, the latter of which has its own agenda, namely to propagate itself. In doing so, we exercise our conscience, which is one of those things that solidly sets the human apart from other animals.
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      Jun 22 2012: Your answer is so introspective and honest that I feel honored to have read it. Thank you Sheryl.
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    Jun 21 2012: Or worse yet, if she is raped in the city and does not scream loud enough to be rescued that she must be stoned with her rapist.
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      Jun 21 2012: Karthik!
      Thank you for your generous insighgts. I am 56 with 5 kids of my own so I am not in child rearing mode. AS to your final valid insight, we may agree that it is certainly 'as', howver, this is a plutalistic group with differing ideas and I was hoping to be inclusive. Please give me feedback to my last statement. It does not mean that I am unwilling to alter my profile. Thanks agian.
  • Jun 15 2012: 1 marriage is the most beautiful thing in the world. a woman is the bodification of the the unbealiveble beauty of life. in the end all i want is a beautiful wife, and some kids, thats the highest grade of coming close to life and "god" in my opinion.
    2 if the womans would dissapear i would seriously consider taking my life.
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      Jun 21 2012: Hi Richie, Thank you for your response. May I ask how you define beauty?
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      Jun 14 2012: Wow! I finally clicked your link and I guess the poigniant thing to me is the observation of just how compliant she was until he violated her trust.
      • Jun 14 2012: She enjoyed herself in the first picture even more than he did. The poignant thing to me is the observation of how she reveals her true nature once she's locked him in. She feels that she's free to mold and shape him to fit into her ideal.

        In America, our courts by far award custody, alimony and child support in favor of women. The notion of alimony is antiquated and was used in a time when only men worked. Now with dual-income households, it's become a sexist practice. The ugliest sentence for a man in the English language is when a judge says "to maintain a lifestyle she is used to..."

        I had a female friend admit that if she marries a business owner, and then later divorces him, despite having contributed nothing to the business, she still deserves half of his income. That one conversation killed any romantic potential we had. She hasn't been married for even 2 years now and she's already threatened divorce. Her husband is already becoming that caged lion.

        I'm not opposed to marriage, I just recognize that it has become a lawyer's racket. Divorce lawyers have an incentive to create hostility in the divorce process so they can more easily skin the hide off a man. Either I pay the best lawyer that racketeering charge before marriage by having one draft a bulletproof prenuptial agreement or I pay even more in terms of a percentage of my income later. But even then, I will never know if a judge decides to simply ignore the agreement altogether. It isn't that I plan to get divorced, I just recognize that by getting married, I'm effectively playing a game of Russian Roulette with half the barrels full.

        If the legal baggage can be cleared beforehand, then marriage can be a good thing. It's nice to have someone to come home to, to have someone to share life's experiences with, especially the little things, and to care about someone and have that reciprocated. In that case, marriage is a statement: the search is over, a mate for life is found.
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          Jun 14 2012: Hey Philip, Thanks for working to educate me. Have you ever heard of a Rorsach test. Those are the ink blots that you look at and tell someone what you see. The neutral ink blot becomes a canvas for you to paint a picture of your own mind. I think that might be what we both did. I have four sons who are finding their way in this difficult terrain. If you think that I am less loyal to them, less able to see their struggles rather than my own, you might really be mistaken. What I fight for in every circumstance is fairness regardless of gender for in the end our bodies should not deteremine our humanity. I am sorry that you have been hurt- truly- and I am sorry that I have been hurt but we do not have the right to make anyone else pay the penance for what someone else did. Agreed?
      • Jun 15 2012: Debra, when you posted this conversation, the first thing that came to mind is the opening clip of this movie: (time sequence: 1:00 to 2:20). The second thing that came to mind was the picture I posted earlier and that poor, poor male lion.

        It's not my own experiences of pain that gave me these opinions, but seeing the pain that my fellow men have gone through. Don't get me wrong, I love women flaws and all and I love being in relationships with women. I support equality. I support the empowerment of women. I support the idea of marriage. But I feel that the institution that has become divorce/family law is heavily rigged against men. Maybe after I get a strong but fair prenup, I can actually relax and focus on the business of having a happy marriage.

        The first breach of trust in any relationship is derogatory speech. The root usually comes from an idealist who expects too much of the other, then the other doesn't live up and forces the idealist to accept him/her as he/she is, which may not happen. I know this situation very well as I was the idealist. After hearing someone make the point about derogatory speech, I better understood myself and relationships in general. So long as a couple accepts one another as they are and doesn't expect them to fit into an ideal, then they're probably ready for a marriage.

        This new time around if you found someone who truly accepts you as you are and is a good companion, then it will probably work out. I wish you the best!
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          Jun 15 2012: Thank you Phillip for your kind wishes.Your point is very important. In general, psychologist would say that everyone needs to beware of allowing contempt to creep into a marriage. There is a specialist is marriage who I think is from NYC who identified this and he can determine with astounding acuracy which marriages will fail by identifying the evidence (usually facial and auditory) of contempt. Often the response of an idealist when their mate does not live up to their mental ideal is to feel contempt for this somehow lessor creature. When the other believed they were loved as they are - contempt arises there too. Thanks for your good wishes. I am still a scardy cat about it all.
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    Jun 9 2012: "with this ring (or goat, or land, or title) I purchase you."

    I think we feel an urge to own the loved one. And I think mariage is the ritual of officially taking position of someone, in front of witnesses, officials, gods, ...
    It's like we know deep down that biological love is not enough for taking care of the household. So we prepare for this and ask society to artifially hold the couple together.
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      Jun 9 2012: I was married for 28 years and sometimes the vows were like glue helping me stay loyal and respectful which was for the good of my family unit. Even when he had his first affair, a situation I believed that I would never tolerate, my inner dialogue would not let me destroy the family unit for the sake of redeeming my ego. I loved my children too much to change their lives based on my ego.
      • Jun 22 2012: Debra, this is off-topic concerning your original question, but is related to your post mentioning infidelity. I hope you don't mind but I'm curious if other's would agree with my theory that 'in general' women will tolerate a certain degree of infidelity, but that 'in general' men will not. Since my observances are somewhat limited, I'm interested in other's observations. Would you agree that - the 'majority' of women will not divorce their husband, at least not for a first, or single offence - while the 'majority' of men will divorce their wife for the same. (Please note that this statement pertains only to Western culture's, & only those where marriage & divorce are both practiced freely - (IE: no arranged marriage & societies where divorce is commonplace without any stigma attached to it).
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          Jun 22 2012: Claudeus! I always welcome the constructive expansion of the topic and this certainly fits! I am hesitant to say that women will tolerate infidelity especially with the empowerment of today's women. For example, my own daughter - in my estimation a very beautiful and educated woman who has spent time in Saudi Arabia- would kick anyone to the curb who looked at another woman- without a doubt. She has 4 elder brothers who value and empower her BUt she also had a dad who was unfaithful and she feels it keenly. She on the other hand is like her mom now that she is in love an NOTHING can turn her head to look at anyone but her beloved.
          What you refer to may be partially in the relational aspect of a woman's nature. Remember that my exhusband's infidelity cost me greatly. I was ashamed, went to my basement, didn't even tell my closest friends and my entire indignation and rebellion went into building a 'rec' room for my kids. I really have to examine that again- its weird and while I am at it I have ti examine the fact that my anger at him was directed at the way he blamed my duaghter for discovering the infidelity. I demanded he seek counselling for that because I could not face my own senseof betrayal perhaps.So plese do not hink that my reaction was well thought out or logical or automatic- just chaotic, confused and devastated.
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    Jun 9 2012: For many the reason is to go through life in intimate connection with a partner and to make a promise and formal declaration of that intention and commitment. For some marriage is part of joining an ancient circle of life that connects a person more surely to an ancestral heritage, to raise the next generation as a branch off of an ancient tree and potentially leading to eternity.
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      Jun 9 2012: Fritzie, I thought so too but the divorce rate within the church echoes that of the society and there is an awful lot of tolerance for affairs.
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    Jun 9 2012: Hi Debra,
    A very interesting question , though I am only 24 and not married . I attended a session on marriage, read about it in Tuesdays with Morrie(I mentioned this book previously also). It is a beautiful relationship between a man and a woman by sharing responsibilities . But things get complicated , when married couples start expecting too much from their partners and this eventually leads to higher divorce rates and people see the stats and fear entering into marriage.
    In India, marriages are usually arranged and they are the ones that are more stable . Love marriages have not been so successful as arranged marriages as there will be a lot of emotions involved, yet they too are stable to some extent.
    If we compare a man and woman of the same age , a woman is usually more mature. Many women love to be cared in a special way so they feel they can achieve that through marriages .But men on the other hand are more focussed on getting settled and having a career and earning respect from society .So , they fear entering marriages because they feel they might lose focus or they might not get so much support from their partners.
    With increasing taxes and expenses and work pressure building on people, there is very less time for people to focus on their personal life and maybe thats why people are not so on gettng married
    I hope it answered your question .

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      Jun 9 2012: Bharath Kumar Kunjibettu - thank you so much for this rich cultural perspective.