• Tue, Jul 5 2011

eHarmony Founder’s Advice In Love: Don’t Get Married

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, clinical psychologist and founder of the online dating site, eHarmony, posted some interesting advice for lovers on Huffington Post today in an article, On Second Thought, Don’t Get Married: “More than 2 million couples will get married in the United States this year alone. Several hundred thousand of these couples should reconsider, postpone their weddings or not get married,” he says.

He points to research and statistics that we’ve all heard before: Too many marriages end badly, and in recent years, more and more couples are choosing not to get married at all, which is all leading more and more of us to believe that marriage is obsolete. But he draws a different conclusion: Marriage is still important, he says, but we just don’t know what we’re doing.

Warren points to a second set of statistics that shows 70% of adults under 30 still want to get married someday as proof that it’s part of human nature to seek out a lifelong partner. And he also says that studies show people in long-term relationships enjoy greater life satisfaction than those who aren’t. “So it’s clear that a majority of us still crave to be married. It’s like we are hard wired to search after that person with whom we can spend the rest of our lives — even in the face of these dire marital statistics,” he says.

So why doesn’t he want you to get married, again? Well, apparently he thinks that most of us are just choosing the wrong partner:

Of course, no one intends to be in an unhappy marriage. Bad marriages don’t just happen to bad people. They mostly happen to good people who are not good for each other… [But] when two people have a relationship which is predicated upon broad-based compatibility, there is every reason to be optimistic about their long term prospects. A marriage of this type has virtually no chance of becoming “obsolete.” If all of us together can focus on the challenge of getting the right persons married to each other, it just might change our society more than anything else we could do. Goodness knows, when marriage is right, little else matters nearly so much.

Of course, the unsaid conclusion here is probably that we should all start using eHarmony to find compatible husbands and wives, or visit a clinical psychologist to figure out if our current partners are really the right choice. (He also mentions that with some “common sense societal changes at the front end, marriage can still serve a vital purpose for a vast majority of adults.” Call me a skeptic, but common sense tells me that his website figures into those changes somewhere.)

But what bothers me about his article isn’t really the silent plug for expensive services and products at all: It’s more that he’s still selling us on an old-fashioned idea of marriage. Sure, he talks about his work as a psychologist with couples who, despite their hard work, just needed to get a divorce. But he also rattled on about how divorce all but ruins children, and he seems to be saying that anyone outside of that 70% of under-30 adults who fantasize about their wedding day are all but doomed to misery, too.

For anyone who’s married, more power to you. And for anyone (over or under 30) who’s still intrigued by the notion of a lifelong union despite plenty of evidence that we should fee otherwise, I have to admit: I’m with you. But there’s also a big part of me that believes we don’t have to get married to be happy. There are all kinds of relationships that can be fulfilling and great — even if they don’t last a lifetime and aren’t officially registered under the state. And I do think there’s more to life than marriage, for those who haven’t found that perfect broad-based-compatible partner, through eHarmony or otherwise.

I’m with Dr. Warren’s principle that people who aren’t compatible shouldn’t get married, but I think his conclusion could use some tweaking: On second thought, don’t get married just because you think it will make you happy, or you’re scared that the alternative will make you sad. And if you’re still inclined to walk (or wait) down the aisle, then do make sure you’ve taken the time to pick your partner well.

Whether or not you’re looking to get married, how about finding someone to just join you on a unique date? Maybe a yoga class? Find them at our sister site TheGloss’ dating page, brought to you in partnership with HowAboutWe.

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  • Lainey

    I was married. It didn’t work. But I believe in marriage. It can be a wonderful and fulfilling union if and only if you choose the right partner. Just because many marriages don’t work is not a reason to say they are obsolete. People have more choice and options and don’t stay in unhappy situations. What they need to do is learn from their first mistakes and make better choices. My parents have been married for 46 years, no affairs, no fighting outside the norm and they are still in love. They have 4 stable kids who are all close to them and 4 grandchildren who want to be with them as much as they can. It is a special connection and our family is the most valuable thing in their lives. You can’t replace that with anything. Strong families help to create a more solid society. And if anyone knows of a better way or option I’m all ears!

  • Briana Rognlin

    Ha! I think we’ll be hard-pressed to find a way to build a happy, healthy society that doesn’t involve families, so true.

    A similar issue came up in today’s Ms. Monogamy column; she responded to the idea that monogamy is obsolete… Her opinion is similar: Just because it doesn’t work for some people, doesn’t mean that it’s passe.

    Like I said in the article, I definitely count myself as someone who believes in marriage and hopes to (successfully) experience it myself someday, despite all the depressing statistics, but I do think it’s okay for some people not to be married. My mom, for example, has never been married, and I doubt she ever will be — and I don’t fault her for it or think she should spend all of her time focused solely on the goal of finding a husband. She did an amazing job of raising kids as a single mom, and she’s done a lot of cool stuff with her life. Who knows if she would be happier or more satisfied if she were married, but I’m glad that she hasn’t let it make her unhappy not to be.

    Cheers to being married and cheers to being single – I think there are ways to do both!

  • Wally

    As an experiment I filled out the free e-harmony form as honestly as I could and was told there were no matches, check back later.

    This despite the fact I’ve been more or less happily married now for 37 years. So I suspect there are probably quite a few people outside e-harmony’s target demographic who require some other method to find each other