The Case Against Marriage: 10 Readers Weigh In

Photos: Ten facts that might make you think twice about marriage. Jamie Grill / Corbis

Does marriage in 2010 make sense? In last week’s magazine, we published a story arguing against the institution, at least for young, professional women like us. It prompted our colleagues—a few of them, anyway—to argue against us. It also set off an outpouring from readers—some in support, some in opposition, and some, well, somewhere in between. A few of the comments that really got us thinking:

1.Don’t Forget About Same-Sex Couples
Mike Silverman, of Kansas, is right when he says “The Case Against Marriage” should have more consciously included an acknowledgment of gay and lesbian couples, who, as he puts it, “would dearly love to get married, but cannot.” He writes to us by e-mail: “Contrary to the what [the NEWSWEEK story] claims, same-sex couples simply cannot achieve the rights of marriage by visiting a lawyer. In most areas, including health care, Social Security, immigration, and so on, same-sex couples are profoundly disadvantaged in America. These aren’t just paper rights; real loving, committed couples are suffering. Even in 2010, some hospitals are keeping same-sex spouses from visiting sick or dying partners and the government is tearing couples apart with discriminatory immigration rules. It seems to me that the luxury of deciding to skip marriage is something that can only be enjoyed by those who blithely assume that it would be there waiting for them should they ever want it.”

2. Not All Men Want Women Confined to the Kitchen
“Many of my friends and [I] don’t expect a [woman who’s a] machine—we are looking for understanding, commitment, responsibility, and the joy of having children and watching them grow up,” e-mails Ismail Ali, from Africa. “It is not about who is doing the housework or who is picking up the kids, but about life's journey.”

3. Marriage Can Still Protect Women (Financially, Anyway)
Women may be graduating in greater numbers from college and graduate school than men—and may even make more money than their counterparts while in their 20s—but that’s about it, writes Sarah Seo, by e-mail. Men still far exceed women in mid- and high-ranking corporate positions; women make up just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and less than a third of law-firm partners and politicians. Still, she writes, “marriage is a wonderful, worthy institution.” Sure, it may be tainted—by politics, social demagogues, and even religion. But it’s still a good thing. “I thought I would not get married until my 30s, but got married at 29 after over three years with my husband,” Seo writes. “I don’t expect him to want to watch Sex and the City with me or surprise me with rose petals and weekend trips to Paris, but I do expect him to do the dishes and take the trash out. And with those small concessions, we live a life filled with love and happiness, and yes, stability—psychological and legal—in marriage.”

4. Marriage Doesn’t Have to Be So ... Practical
“Here’s the thing about my philosophy on marriage,” writes Marriage Confessions blogger Katie Brown, of Winter Park, Fla. “I don’t think we get married because it’s the best thing for society or for our families or for our religion or our country or the Western world. I don’t think we get married because it’s the financially responsible thing to do or because we can be counted as part of a statistic. I think we get married because, like any relationship, it teaches us and helps us grow as individuals. There are a thousand different reasons that people choose to either get married or not get married. People live the lives that work for them. But being married brings things into my life that otherwise I wouldn’t have. It makes my life richer, fuller, more complete, grounded, hopeful, and confident. Some may find those things in their life through other ways and means, but for me I have those things in my life because I am married to my husband.”

5. Marriage Isn’t Easy, But for Some the Work Is Worth It
“It isn’t marriage that’s hard, messy, difficult and complicated,” comments David Tillman on (He didn’t provide a hometown.) “It’s life itself. Opting out of marriage doesn’t avoid any of life’s struggles or heartbreaks. But going through life married to your best friend means doubling the joys and halving the sorrows. I can’t be angry at the authors of this article. Just very sad that they may miss out on one of the most intimate relationships two humans beings can share in life: marriage.”

6. Maybe We’re Just Scared
“I sense in the writers almost a fear of marriage, of the disappointment that may result,” writes Tom Nyquist, of New Paltz, N.Y. (He wrote in via “For them it may not be the journey they wish to take, the commitment they wish to make. But for me, December 22, 1956, marks the most important day of my life, the day of our marriage.”

7. Or Selfish ... 
“I suspect in reality [the authors’] case against marriage results from a personal disappointment in the men [they] see around [them], who are too selfish to understand what the commitment of marriage really means,” writes Kendall Jones, via e-mail. “I hope some day you can discover the magic that this commitment, and the work that goes along with it, brings. I have given everything to my family, and in return they have given everything to me. When we look for a partner who ‘gives us what we need,’ we are looking for failure. Selflessness in the only true path to happiness.”

8. Or Jealous ... (Ouch!)
“Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison sound like a bunch of jealous bitches who are pissed [that] no one wants to marry them,” writes Heather Habilatory, on NEWSWEEK’s Facebook page. “Get off your high horse, and maybe, just maybe, some guy will ask you to marry him.”

9. But We’re Not the Only Ones Who Feel This Way
“The fact is, I love my life, my friendships, my family, and my work,” writes 28-year-old Jessica Piha, by e-mail. “But the first question out of the mouths of many of my friends is, ‘Why aren’t you dating? Do you have a boyfriend?’ It’s as if something wrong when an attractive female does not make it her No. 1 priority to ‘mate up.’ I thank you for giving people like myself a voice.”

10. And at Least Our Grandparents Still Love Us! 
Says Fran, Jesse’s step-grandfather, e-mailing from his retirement home in California: “I agree with everything you wrote. I’ve shown it to many of the residents and staff here and they all want copies. I’m amazed at how many agree with your sentiments. It’s just like ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ story where someone has to say it.”

What do you think? Write to us in the comments, or find NEWSWEEK on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. You can contact the authors via their blog, The Equality Myth.

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