Pew Research conducted a survey to find out why people get married. The top reasons include love, commitment, and companionship. They provided the statistics, and we’re here to explain them.
The number one reason people cited for getting married is love (88%). While this may seem obvious, this actually hasn’t always been the case! In fact, love has only recently become viewed as an essential prerequisite to marriage. Many couples throughout history have loved each other but that was not the primary reason to get married. Nowadays, we fall in love and then get married. Throughout history though, love was just a bonus, and if it occurred at all, it was typically after getting married. Marriage was always kind of a trade deal. You help me with my finances, I help you raise your kids. You provide a house for me, I provide support for you, etc.. If love happened, wonderful! But that wasn’t the objective.
In recent years though, love is at the forefront. The dating pool has increased, more women are financially independent, and technology has changed the scope of who we can communicate with and how. Since there are so many potential partners out there, a trade deal isn’t going to cut it. There are more requirements than just being a good provider or a good parent. We want to choose the best person for us, the person who makes us feel on top of the world, and we are not willing to settle for anything less. If we are going to spend our entire lives with someone, we expect them to make us feel passion and fulfillment.
Behind love, Pew Research stated that a lifelong commitment is the second most cited reason for marriage and 76% of people want companionship, putting it in third place. These can be hard to differentiate in terms of marriage, but to understand, think about the fear of commitment. Maybe you’ve dated someone who just “wasn’t looking for a relationship right now,” and so begins the millennial’s non-relationship relationship. It’s companionship, without commitment. But lots of people, 81% of people surveyed to be exact, really want a lifelong commitment. They don’t want to have to wonder where they stand with someone. They don’t want to be alone, and they don’t want to keep dating around. And they don’t even need to be in love in order to be committed. They just want to have stability and promises and someone to rely on, someone to grow with forever, someone to challenge them. They want someone to share life with and all the stressors that are less stressful with another person.
Companionship is different. Companionship is more about liking someone and the intimacy that comes from it. In this case, it is because we enjoy their company that we want to be married to them. We don’t necessarily have to love someone to like them. We just want to enjoy their company forever. In a committed marriage, companionship is what keeps two partners together. Romantic, passionate love will fade, but it will turn into companionate love: being best friends with a partner.
Without even intending to, we have just discussed the triangular theory of love! On three sides of a triangle are passionate love, companionship, and commitment. Altogether, they bring consummate love. But marriages always have pitfalls where one or two may exist without the others. Here’s some love math for your life:
Passion + companionship = romantic love
Companionship + commitment = friend love
Commitment + passion = fatuous love (think, love at first sight or moving “too fast”)
Check out the super helpful graphic at the end of this article (and read more about the triangular theory of love by Dr. Robert Sternberg of Yale University. Really interesting stuff!).
Since these are the three components that make up consummate love, it's no coincidence that they coincide with the three components that drive people to marriage.