Love and marriage are inextricably tied in the American psyche. As Frank Sinatra crooned in the 1950s, "You can't have one without the other." Or can you? Is there any compelling reason, beyond social norms, for a loving couple to get married? What might be the downside to tying the knot?
Marriage is a legally binding contract with serious implications for breaching that contract. If you are dating someone and they cheat on you, you break up and that's it. But if you are married and the love of your life is unfaithful, you can't just break up. You need to get a divorce, an emotionally and financially sapping legal proceeding. According to researchers at Ohio State, divorce drains an individual's wealth by an average of 77 percent, and that goes for both men and women [source: Grabmeier].
Then there are the health effects of marriage, which are frequently touted as highly positive. Married people live longer on average and experience fewer chronic diseases. But those studies ignore the unfortunate existence of the unhappy marriage. According to some studies, a troubled and stressful relationship causes as much damage to the heart as a smoking habit. And divorced people tend to have more physical ailments than single people of the same age who never married [source: Parker-Pope].