I've worked with patients who are getting married, patients who are getting engaged, and patients who are getting separated or divorced. These different experiences have convinced me that some people underestimate or misunderstand marriage.
Occasionally I've had patients who have been in long term relationships without getting married tell me that marriage is "just a piece of paper." If that were true, why would gay people be fighting for the right to get married? Legally, marriage has certain benefits. But more importantly, it's a public declaration of a relationship.
A few years ago, someone wrote a popular book, "He's Just Not That Into You," which included a chapter called "If He's Not Marrying You, He's Just Not That Into You." It's true. If a man really wants to commit to a woman, he wants to marry her. If he doesn't want marriage, it's because he wants to keep his options open.
Marriage includes legal responsibilities toward a spouse. Sometimes, people who really, really want to be married marry someone who isn't financially responsible, truthful or ethical. Later, they find out that they are responsible for their spouse's debts. Don't marry someone who mismanages money or who is dishonest. You will regret such a decision.
I've found that people also underestimate the trauma of divorce. Depending on many factors, divorces can take years and cost thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
People tend to evaluate prospective marital partners based on shared interests and goals and on sexual attraction. Although these things may be important, it's just as important to marry someone who is a good person and who really wants to be married. Don't marry someone who's ambivalent about marriage and don't marry someone who can't be trusted. Better to stay single than have a bad marriage with a bad divorce.