Marriage--for better or worse--is a social contract created to unite two people (or more in some cases) in a legal, and sometimes religious, union based upon a mutual commitment of fidelity of one to the other.
The history of marriage is unclear. According to Leonard Hobhouse in his "Morals in Evolution," the earliest records of marriage date back to Mesopotamia around 1790 B.C. as preserved in the Code of Hammurabi. Many Christians, however, believe that marriage was instituted by God after the creation of Adam (the first man) and his "wife" Eve.
People marry for several reasons; the first is usually for love. Although love doesn't require marriage, the formal union usually holds great significance in most cultures throughout the world.
Many cultures deem marriage to be "sacred" and refer to the "sanctity of marriage" when speaking of their own perception of the uniqueness of the institution. This argument is usually brought forth when the issue of marriage between male and female is threatened by various forms of other relationship-based unions.
The ramifications of marriage are evident in the economic, religious, legal and private lives of the partners. This is mostly where the pros and cons come in. The pros and cons of marriage are usually based on the compatibility of the partners in the areas of handling money, religious commitment and personal habits, but also can be based on the institution of marriage itself.
Pros of Marriage
Some of the pros of marriage may include that the union is state-recognized and respected by the legal system in every country. This allows for many social privileges, such as lower taxes (in some places), inheritance benefits, insurance benefits, as well as protections for partners in case of divorce.
On the social spectrum, marriage allows for societal acceptance of most sexual relations, a sense of security, a sense of partnership and belonging, and--many believe--a stronger foundation for a family.
Cons of Marriage
Although marriage presents an array of both legal and social pros, it has also been criticized as early as the time of ancient Greece; Plato advocated "group marriages" instead of a union of two. Many others also argue(d) against the institution of marriage, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, who claimed that marriage denied the existential freedom of the individual. In the modern-day "Alternatives to Marriage Project," a variety of social alternatives is advocated, such as staying single, "living together"and even polyamory.
The legal cons of marriage are affected by geography and legality, but may include higher taxes, binding debts and other financial obligations. A divorce may be very difficult to obtain as well, depending upon the laws of the area in which the partners reside.