Every time a woman marries a man just to get married—just to post that ring photo, wear a white dress, and feel special for one day—she’s selling herself cheap and setting a low bar.
It’s wedding season. And if pretending that your friends aren’t being selfish jerks as they prepare for their special day isn’t enough, you’re no doubt dealing with all the folks asking when you, too, are going to tie the knot.
You know why they have to do that? Because there are so few good reasons for us to get married.
Fellow 21st century American women, we’ve come really far. We’re now able to do things like vote, get library cards, have sex without getting stoned (to death), wear pants, travel, rent apartments and get a job without our husband or father’s permission.
But despite all our advances toward equality, many of us straight women continue to voluntarily marry crappy partners. And we tend to do it for even crappier reasons.
So I’m calling for a strike against settling for marriages that lack equitability, respect, and reciprocity. We need to stop marrying men who put their needs and desires ahead of our own.
Here’s a list of seven common reasons why good women end up marrying bad partners (and why those reasons are ridiculous):
1) Because it’s tradition.
Really? You know what else is tradition? Slavery, human sacrifice, and naming football teams after dead indigenous people that our forefathers slaughtered. It goes without saying that just because others have done something before doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
2) Because you want to have kids.
OK, deep breath, here goes: Human reproduction doesn’t actually require life-long contracts to sleep with only one person while assuming all of their debts. Don’t believe me? Ask almost half of the children born in the United States last year. And for options, there’s IVF, adoption, and millions of kids in foster homes looking for a good home.
And don’t give me the religious stuff—if Jesus was conceived outside of marriage and raised by his stepdad, I think we’ll all be OK.
3) Because you don’t want to be alone /for companionship/security/etc.
How about this? Living the rest of your life with someone you strongly dislike really sucks. And being lonely with a husband sucks even more. These kinds of households don’t shed such a great light on marriage for your kids, either.
4) Because of statistics.
This is a common refrain among women of color—they don’t want to feed into negative racial stereotypes by remaining single, childfree, or parenting alone. But even when we do get married, we’re left struggling with the misogyny, gender violence, and low wages in our communities, functioning as single parents because of a corrupt justice system, and being mocked by the likes of Tyler Perry and Kevin Hart. We can’t marry out of all the boxes they put us in. So do what’s best for you.
5) Because you’re getting older.
So now marriage is a retirement plan?
6) For sex.
Bodies change, people get ill, and there’s always someone more attractive. Plus, 1 out of 5 married couples report having almost no sex at all. This is a lousy reason to make a lifelong commitment.
Now on the health end, it’s absolutely true that being in a committed, monogamous relationship is the safest way to have sexual intercourse. But you can have these things without marriage. And experts estimate that infidelity takes place in up to 76% of American marriages.
7) For money.
If he has a ton of money, he’ll likely want a pre-nup. So unless you’re rolling like Tiger Woods’s ex-wife, I suggest you let go of this particular dream of getting rich.
Now, getting married creates a fiduciary responsibility toward a woman even if the relationship dissolves, and I don’t want to downplay the importance of that financial support for many women (especially in light of wage disparities). But for women marrying men with gambling problems, bad credit, or lots of debt, marriage might actually set you back a bit.
Plus, aiming for a guy who makes more money than you might mean you miss out on a wonderful partner who happens to make less.
Look, people will probably always like spending thousands of dollars to publicly declare their love in front of all the people who already know they love one another. Hey, maybe I’ll even do it one day. But every time a woman marries a man just to get married, just to post that ring photo, wear a white dress, and feel special for one day, she’s selling herself cheap and setting a low bar.
Women who want to get married should be looking for partners, not just husbands. Good partners shouldn’t ask you to do anything they’re not willing to do themselves (last name changes, for instance). They should be more than their own kid’s babysitter, and they shouldn’t think having a vagina means you were born ready to use a vacuum.
You know why these kinds of men keep finding wives? Because women keep marrying them.
These days, we talk a lot about a women’s right to choose. So then, choose. Choose better. Choose someone who makes you laugh, someone who respects your opinion, and listens when you speak. Choose someone who thinks you have something to teach him, who doesn’t raise his voice or hand to you in anger, and thinks your family, friends, and ambitions are as important as his own. Someone who doesn’t lie, cheat, or steal from you. Someone who isn’t using you or turning you into someone you’re not.
And if he doesn’t have all that, choose to leave if you can. Strike against settling.
It’s good for all of us. But it’s especially good for you.
Khadijah Costley White is a faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Find her on Twitter here.