I’ve been asked this a lot recently, as I know a few people who are divorcing/recently divorced.
People today get married for completely the wrong reasons and then end up confused over why things go wrong.
I don’t believe anyone should marry for emotional reasons. Infatuation lasts a couple of years max after you meet someone, and getting engaged during that infatuation stage (especially if you are already in a bad place when you met and not thinking objectively) tends to end very badly. When the infatuation stage ends, you see them for who they really are and things go downhill at that point as there is nothing else holding the relationship together. A lot of people come out of one bad relationship, feel like crap, find someone else to date and get infatuated with, get engaged within a year or two, marry, then the infatuation wears off and they realize they are completely incompatible, so they get divorced, feel like crap, find someone else to date and get infatuated with… ad infinitum! Terrible idea.
A lot of women marry for money or security in order to get a nicer lifestyle and/or have babies (which requires time out of their career). If they are completely honest about this (rare, but it happens) then it can work out if the man just wants sex and nothing else and the woman agrees to that. The older man, younger gold-digger style relationship, for example. There is an agreed ‘trade-off’ and everyone knows what they are getting, so no one feels cheated.
Religious marriages in some cultures can work out a lot better, due to the shared religious bond, intensive counseling, and ‘matchmaking’ that goes on before anything is agreed upon. There are several non-infatuated people making an objective judgment about the relationship rather than just the two partners (who are usually loved up and mostly thinking with emotions). I’ve seen this work out pretty well in the strict Judeo-Christian culture I grew up in. The couple has very in-depth discussions with their church pastor/elders (who already know them well) for months on end and cover everything from financial goals, religion, morals, culture and values, family expectations to friends, social life, hobbies, sex, lifestyle preferences (how they expect to share out housework, etc), retirement and everything else in-between. All the boring, awkward, taboo questions are answered upfront. Things the average couple don’t think to discuss, at least not in detail, before tying the knot. They know how in tune they are before walking down the aisle, so there is no surprise. It’s a less emotional and far more pragmatic way of doing things.
Then you get others that marry entirely for business reasons (very rare outside of the upper echelons of society these days) and have no expectation of romance. I’ve only met one couple like this. Both of their families are very old and wealthy and the two of them have a very happy arrangement where they live together, share a business, and are best friends, but they also hook up with other people on occasion with the other one’s blessing. It’s basically an open marriage, but that was the expectation going in and they have done very well out of it.
But the above cases are not the norm. Most people follow the entirely emotional route of infatuation, marriage, then divorce, and buy into the Disneyfied version of things. They expect their partner to live up to some idealized version of themselves and being married to somehow fill all the gaps in their life. Then they come crashing to the ground when marriage doesn’t magically do this.