Is Marriage a Luxury?


A new study from the University of Virginia, polling men and women from all segments of the population, all educational backgrounds, and all levels of income, finds that stable marriage is a luxury item for those who can pay for it.

“Working-class people with insecure work and few resources, little stability, and no ability to plan for a foreseeable future become concerned with their own survival and often become unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others,” says Sarah Corse, an associate professor of sociology in UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences and the lead author of the study, “Intimate Inequalities: Love and Work in a Post-Industrial Landscape.”

The study found that because educated middle-class workers are better able to recover from the effects of “insecure work” than the less educated working class, they are more capable of seeking the stability of a committed relationship.

“Marriage is becoming a distinctive social institution marking middle-class status,” Corse said.

While it is certainly true that the sense of security that derives from being able to pay our bills, buy food, provide for our children, and pay for health care, is fundamental, it cannot tell the whole story. Otherwise, there would be no marriages to speak of in poverty-stricken areas of the world.

Clearly, this sense that marriage is a luxury, derives from our western individualism and sense of entitlement: the ideal of what we “ought” to have as a married couple: gym membership, date night once a week, private schools for our kids, yearly vacations, personal self-actualization, and other material items that “shore up” our sense of being happily married.

The key point left out of the study is faith. Not only is faith integral to happiness but it is integral—no, foundational—to marriage.

The relationship that depends fundamentally on “good times” will crumble like the house built on sand. The relationship built on the rock of Christ will have the firm foundation that can weather the storms.

I am not saying that every Christian marriage will be a happy all the time. But a marriage built on the foundation of faith has the non-material resources (grace!) that will bolster us during the inevitable bad times. As Jesus tells us, “In the world, you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).

God calls each of us to a vocation of love; just as we are created in his image, our own marriages are images of God’s unfailing and eternal love! Nevertheless, without God’s help, we cannot achieve this intimate communion of life and love to which he calls us.

So, let’s be courageous. Let’s worry less about whether we have the material resources necessary to get married or to have a happy marriage. Let’s be that beacon on the hill, proving that love is possible in this world. In good times, and in bad.



  1. Deanna-969445 January 13, 2014 Reply

    this story reminds me of several men I have dated when they found out I had a low paying job hit the road one guy actually said he did not want to date anyone who did not have a good paying job because he was afraid that would be the only reason they date him like the pot calling the kettle black.

  2. Frank-780947 January 10, 2014 Reply

    I understand it completely. I finished school in a mountain of debt; as a doctor. Thought I could latch on somewhere as someone’s associate. I did while awaiting my board results and license. A couple months in….the person who hired me…lets me go…due to a divorce ( his ex became owner of one of his offices). It’s now winter….and as a professional ….one can’t collect unemployment. I obtain my license……but can’t latch on elsewhere…steel mills at the time were laying people off…so no one was looking to take on an associate…when they were losing patients themselves. I take a chance of going into business alone. Banks weren’t willing to loan money like I thought they would. It’s 1987….and I’m now around 100,000 in debt….not knowing anyone in the area I located………and too late to obtain advertising in the yellow pages for that year. I’m 27 at the time…and couldn’t see the sense of trying to date….when I didn’t know whether I couild make it financially. It took me 5-6 years just to see some daylight. I often had to make a choice as to whether I place gas in my car….or spend it going out. I chose to fill up my tank. If I didn’t work….no one was going to cover my expenses ! I basically got a very late start to dating in my life; and have never married. Fortunately; I’m not one who “drowns in his sorrows.” I was dealt a bad hand in life initially; and made the best of the situation. Looking back….I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve got total control of my life and work situation; which is something very few people obtain.

    • BIll-154597 January 19, 2014 Reply

      I can understand your situation. I am not a Doctor but I did get an Advance Degree and struggled for many years. Go on a date or not pay your rent: I did the responsible thing and paid my bills first. Oh and the ‘Catholic’ College let me know that I was on my own after graduation except during fund raising times. Never sent them a penny.

  3. Gene-1002211 January 9, 2014 Reply


    dont want to get into any contests here, but with the announcement by Pres Obama about the 50th anniv of the “war on poverty” of starting poverty zones in select areas, is just exasperating, esp with obamacare where the young are dumped with more bills to pay and why they are paying the penalty fees instead. others on this line dont realize the war on poverty costs 30 times more than the war on terror and that these entitlements cost the public 70% of the fed govt’s 4trillion annual budget…so I ask how much more do we have to pay for those who dont have hope for their future??? is it when we’re all hopelessly bankrupt?

    ps…the bankruptcy of Detroit and Stockton, California is not the end of the world for those cities.

  4. Ann-69118 January 8, 2014 Reply

    When folks seem to think they need all the technology and a huge wedding when really all that is not necessary at all. A small wedding and simple lifestyle can still be a worthy or enriching life to live.

  5. Audrey-964855 January 8, 2014 Reply

    The cause of marital instability among less educated, less well-off couples /families struggling to get by from day to day is not a “sense that marriage is a luxury” or a sense of entitlement. Those who struggle to get by, often feel helpless and unable to provide for themselves, much less for other people in their lives and personal psychological insecurity affects their relationships. We can tell people ‘have faith and pray that it will all work out’, but perhaps society should also seriously think about how it can create systems that will reduce the pressures and equip people with the life skills to take care of their own needs and that of their families. And widening income inequality isn’t helping matters. When you don’t have any hope for your own future, it’s hard to even think about building a new life with someone else. I bet that people in those situations aren’t thinking of a dream wedding with all the bells and whistles.

  6. Naomi-825244 January 8, 2014 Reply

    Sad how money is now our god, and without it we cannot succeed. If this study is anything to go by, my hopes are way to high. Thank goodness my faith is not in money. 😉

  7. Jenny-584403 January 8, 2014 Reply

    My father had to drop out of school because his father died when he was young so he could work to help provide for his younger brothers and sisters. My mother only had a 6th grade education because her father also died when she was under 5. Both of my parents are “not educated” or have the means to provide well for their family, especially having to come to this country with nothing but the clothes on our backs. They managed to put 3 children through college. They did it not with barely nothing – they did it because of their commitment to each other and their family.

    What’s wrong with our modern society now is that we were raised with the Hollywood mentality of “happily ever after”, especially from Disney movies. We forget the most important part of the marriage vow – “for poorer”, “in sickness”. Eventually one of the spouses will get sick & pass away before the other, are we going to “run” when that happens? Or stay by his/her side? It is not about “keeping up with the Jones”, marriage is a Sacrament of service, it is about being selfless. If both people come into the marriage with the mentality of thinking of what’s best for the other, everything will fall into place. The reason why there is such a high rate of divorce is because when one or both parties think only of themselves, of “their own happiness” – they never learned that it is a Sacrament of service. Not only did they not learn it, they did not live it. Until we all truly learn & understand this Sacrament, we should not date in hope of entering into this Sacred Sacrament.

  8. Maria-1022025 January 8, 2014 Reply

    This is quite depressing…our society is plagued by grandiose ideals and the misconception that all weddings have to be this large affair costing thousands upon thousands of dollars. There is a huge difference between a wedding day and a marriage. A marriage is an every day commitment and a vow made before God. If you love someone and can give them love unconditionally and are willing to live the married life for more than just the wedding day, it does not cost thousands of dollars and is easily affordable.

    In the “olden ages” people got married, they could not always afford it, but they scaled down the ceremony, people get so caught up in the “Day” that they do not realize marriage is for a lifetime, not a day and a vow doesn’t cost anything….the materialistic societal values do….

    • BIll-154597 January 19, 2014 Reply

      It is not just society: many Catholics spend $10,000s on Weddings and as the picture in this article implies a good wedding must cost a lot.

      Not sure if the church understands that it is pricing itself out of marriage.

  9. Gene-1002211 January 7, 2014 Reply


    Can I be politically incorrect??? Well I’ll say my piece…We’ve had a welfare system for 75 80 years now…The “War on poverty” has created the largest underclass in the country’s history. As Matthew has indicated, the economist Charles Murray’s study “coming apart” shows marriage to be much more stable especially for Men…Makes me feel normal that someone is going beyond what liberal “mainstream” media feeds us..Dr. Murray’s study by the way measures only whites in Philadelphia…where working class white men in the Fishtown-Kensington section of Philly laughed at welfare social workers in the 70s, they are overwhelmingly on the dole…and families have fallen apart…with many men just jumping around from woman to woman to collect a check…while others who have families and jobs in another, (more middle class neighborhood) refuse to adhere to those 60s and 70s slogans on promiscuity, drug use ect. and have stable marriages, education, few divorces..and are much more happy with their lives…I urge members to read this work. Thanx to member Matthew for making me feel normal.
    Falls Church, VA

  10. Matthew-962869 January 7, 2014 Reply

    That study has the causation wrong. Marriage causes wealth. Wealth does not cause marriage. See “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray.

    • BIll-154597 January 19, 2014 Reply

      Unfortunately the costs of getting married in the Catholic Church seems prohibitive to many.

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