Strange, yes? Because we don’t particularly apply these same judgements to the unmarried verses married in real life. If anything, we apply the opposite: the married man or lady is more interesting, while the unmarried isn’t as worthy…perhaps because the fact of marriage means that someone valued that person enough to sign and seal a life contract with them, adding “value.”
In fiction, for me, what is interesting about how I potentially may handle it is how that married character changes –interpretations the reader puts upon that character’s actions both before and after marriage. Readers seem to give less leeway to the married man or woman than they do the bachelor or spinster. After marriage, the good deeds become expected and the bad ones inexcusable. After marriage, the character becomes more black or white, good OR bad, rather than black AND white (grey), good AND bad. So some three dimensional depth automatically is sacrificed once one “shackles” the protag with a wedding ring. Not always. But enough that it makes any author pause before committing a character to “holy” (or unholy) matrimony.
Of course, one can just have the protagonist get engaged. Or, if married, kill off the partner.
But here’s the second half of the intriguing question:
Let’s say I have two candidates for marriage to the protag, one a wonderful personality, and one with, say, a good personality, but not as good a match to the protagonist as the first. BUT. Let’s also say that the first candidate for engagement and matrimony is fat, while the second candidate — the one who isn’t quite as good a match — is lean, trim, and ranks high in looks. How are my readers to react should I match-make to number one candidate, verses how will they react should I match-make to number two candidate?
So far, even though the jury isn’t done deliberating, the answers come ranked like this:
While readers can understand matrimony to the fat candidate, almost across the board, they aren’t thrilled with the idea. However, should number two, the leaner, more aesthetically pleasing candidate be chosen, they feel more “right” about it, even though they already know that the choice might mean a less than excellent marital relationship and could mean divorce or at least trauma and conflict in the future.
So then I ask: What if marriage to number one proves totally perfect for both — wonderful, in fact?
Nope, say those I ask. Marriage to the fat person just doesn’t sit well say all but the most occasional voice.
And, what, you ask, am I going to choose? To marry or not to marry? And, if marry, to which candidate?
I’m not telling. (And, yes, I do know.)