Whether you're thinking about popping the question, considering marriage as a possibility or steering clear from marriage entirely, recognize the differences between dating and marriage so you'll know what you're up against. Be prepared should you decide to move things forward, or arm yourself with information for the next time you have to explain why you are not married yet.
Married couples are expected to adhere to different social norms than couples who are merely dating. No matter how serious a dating relationship gets, the idea of union for life that is evoked by marriage has more serious implications. Although divorce is always an option, marriage was originally designed to be "till death do us part." Marriage implies settling down, having babies and spending the rest of your life with your chosen partner, whereas dating does not. You must file for divorce to exit a marriage, and it can become a long, tedious legal process. There is not as much societal pressure on dating couples to remain united as there is within a marriage. Dating couples are not bound by legal restrictions and are free to enter or exit the relationship as they please.
Dating couples don't receive financial consideration just for being together in the way that married couples do. Marriage allows two people to receive significant financial breaks. A married couple may claim marriage-exclusive deductions during tax season, file federal income tax jointly, sign joint contracts for major purchases and benefit from one another's insurance policies. Couples that are not considered married from a legal standpoint do not receive these benefits.
Marriage presents an opportunity to gather with loved ones and celebrate. It is less likely that a newly formed dating couple will be thrown an elaborate shindig in their honor. Marriage is viewed as a milestone and is therefore awarded the same recognition as birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. Weddings reward the newly betrothed couple with congratulations, blessings and gifts, whereas there exists no universally recognized method for celebrating the union of a dating couple.
Marriage provides several psychological benefits, according to the University of Missouri Extension website. Happily married couples live longer, have better intercourse and see fewer instances of illness than singles or couples within dating relationships. Domestic violence and relationship discord occurs less frequently amongst married couples who live together than dating couples who live together.