The majority of people wish to fall in love and have that love result in a happy marriage with children. This seems hardwired in us biologically. Some people, I would guess a minority of people who actually get married, get this lucky.
The rest compromise. They marry someone whom they don’t love or whom they are not attracted to (I know of at least three women who have admitted they never enjoyed sex with their husbands), or they marry someone they are crazy about but who is poor spouse or parent material and make do, or they have a child alone.
In the past, this made sense, as the pressure to marry was great for reasons of economic and social security and population growth. Even today, society pushes people to marry so they can take care of each other (and thus not become a burden to the rest of society) and procreate (so there are new generations to take care of the old).
Despite all the marriage and parenting mania out there, I believe we are on the cusp of questioning this arrangement due to three factors: environmental devastation, the economic liberation of women, and the flexibility required of the current job market, which works against the stability of marriage and the requirements of parenting. At some point the environment will become inhospitable to continued population growth, and we will have to think of alternatives for the care of the growing elderly population that don’t rely on the young. Given all the single people out there, we will also have to imagine other economic and social arrangements that don’t involve leaning on a spouse.
New social arrangements would allow people to have children only in the ideal situation, one in which they were truly in love with their spouse and that spouse was a good candidate for partnering and parenting. Everyone else could marry the person they love but not have children, not marry or have children at all, or, if they truly desired to do so, have children as a solo parent. This would free people’s energies up to tackle pressing societal problems such as elder care, community building, environmental pollution, wealth inequality, and so on.
Of course, people who can’t find the right partner would have to overcome their biological hardwiring to partner and have children, which, speaking from experience, can be quite difficult. On the other hand, they would be giving up doing those things in a stressful or unhappy situation, so that’s less of a loss, and if there was enough societal support for alternatives, those alternatives might just begin to seem more appealing.
Or perhaps I’m dreaming.