The formidable Book of Common Prayer, written in 1552, offers these three reasons to get married (accordingly to the New Yorker, Oct 22 – I do not have a copy of my own):
First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.
So, 1) to have kids, 2) to make sure I don’t sleep around (or maybe have potato chips for dinner?) and 3) to offer comfort in the good and the bad times, and to protect us from the lack of health insurance before we turn 65.
I think it’s a pretty decent list, all things considered. The only marriages I really know are based on my parents and my sister, both of which are based in a lot of yelling at each other, and a general amassing of children and houses. I never wanted that marriage. On the other hand, I have brushed up against the marriage that ends in bitter divorce and a raging custody battle (quite a few of my friends find themselves here, including Mr. Faraway).
It’s taken (taking?) a long time to allow the possibility that maybe you can make a relationship something different.