We’ve all seen those photos on Facebook of a woman beaming as she holds up her hand to show off her engagement ring. Sometimes a happy partner crowds into the picture; sometimes it’s just the hand and the ring, a proud declaration: “We’re engaged!”
In fact, within hours and sometimes even minutes of their engagement, 38% of couples shared photos and details on social media, and 25% shared the next day, according to a survey of couples married in 2017 done by The Knot, a wedding planning website. And just one day after the actual wedding, 45% of couples shared wedding photos and details on social media, and 48% updated their relationship status to “married” on Facebook.
It’s as if the big, public party were not public enough. (The average wedding has 136 guests!) Everyone in the world has to know, and they have to know right now. The likes and hearts and congratulations come pouring in (who would respond to wedding photos with a crying or an angry emoji!?), and they bring with them validation of our choices and actions on a scale that was impossible before the age of social media.
That social validation is a big part of what drives marriage addicts. They have an insatiable need for acceptance and validation—things they never got that as they were growing up. As adults, they seek it through social conventions like marriage.
Societal expectation and need for validation
Although the age at which people first get married is creeping up (just over 29 for the bride and just under 31 for the groom, according to the survey), “married” is still the social default. It’s hard for anyone to defy social norms and deal with the endless question, “When are you getting married?” as they reach their 30s. But it’s especially hard for marriage addicts, who already have a deep need to fit in, be nurtured, and seek validation from others.
Why is the focus on the wedding instead of on marriage?
How many people do you know who fantasize about their wedding, or even the thought of getting married? Their priorities are way off. A wedding is just one day, but a marriage should be a lifetime. And when you’re thinking about a lifetime, you need to wait and make sure you’re getting it right.
So many clients I have worked with compare themselves unfavorably to their friends who are married. They spend all their time future-tripping about the spouse, the house, the children. They live in a fantasy future and are desperate to make it come true, by any means necessary.
Getting married for the right reasons is important
What social norms are you buying into that are keeping you frozen in the belief you must be married? Do you live in the illusion that other people must be happier than you because they are married and you’re not? When did getting a ring on your finger become more important than your self-respect?
What motivates you to step into what should be one of the biggest decisions of your life? When we aren’t honest about what motivates us, we end up settling for less—in marriage, and in everything else.