What Creates a Family—Love or Marriage?

Lots of people these days believe that love, not marriage, makes a family. I’m not one of them. That’s not to say that close friends are really family—that I understand. What I don’t agree with is the conditional marriage concept of staying together as long as both people are happy and in love. Let’s face it, real marriage isn’t all romance and roses. There can be tough times to go through.


The irony is that couples who support this “conditional” marriage end up less happy in their relationships than those who value marriage as a permanent decision, value marriage for its own sake and prefer it over cohabitation. The legal institution of marriage creates an expectation of fidelity and lifelong commitment. This fact fosters “better romantic and parental relationships” than cohabitation. What’s more, married adults enjoy happier, healthier and less violent relationships than do those who are dating or cohabiting.1


Why is the conditional philosophy of marriage becoming so predominant in our culture? I believe one reason is a lack of great marriage role models as many of us have grown up in single-parent or divorced households with fewer extended family members nearby.


Another critical fact is our culture’s value of freedom and personal happiness above all else. What I have discovered through interviewing many married couples is that when spouses pursued their partner’s happiness before their own, their own happiness was increased beyond expectation.


How about you—did you grow up with great marriage role models? If so, tell us about them!



1 Why Marriage Matters, Second Edition by Institute for American Values.

3 responses to “What Creates a Family—Love or Marriage?

  1. My parents divorced when i was 3, and i hardly ever saw my dad. my mum only got married again after just over 10 years of raising me and my sister on her own. I think it’s a result of that I don’t hold much standards by marriage and don’t really believe in it, because i’ve never really had “marriage role-models” to look up to who are sucessful, and in my opinion it’s a rare thing to find a truly happy couple. But you come up with really interesting points, and I love your point about how if one person tries to make their partner happy they make themselves happy; I think that’s true in the case of everyone, partner’s, friends, family, etc

  2. Thanks so much for sharing. I agree with you that the concept works outside of marriage also. I grew up in a divorced family as well, but I can tell you from personal experience that marriage is a great blessing. No marriage is perfect, but if you seek out strong marriages to study, you will see great joy in being completely committed to another person. Because so many of us grew up without great marriage role models, I’m writing a book based on interviews with awesome married couples who have overcome great obstacles or shared their wisdom. Subscribe to this blog to keep updated and read about some of their insights. All the best to you!

  3. Parents divorced at 2 and didn’t see my Dad for years on end. My parents we’re never in love and the being married concept did not work for them.
    I think it has to be a choice that is made between two people that love eachother.
    I’ve can honestly say that my marriage is the hardest thing I’ve ever loved. I think it’s a lot like parenting…If it’s not hard, you’re probably not doing it right! It’s the journey.

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