This might go against some of the assumptions we have about marriage, but according to García Márquez in Love in the Time of Cholera, marriage isn't always a relationship based on love. Love might sneak in there and start to flourish, but then again, it might dwindle in the midst of domestic disputes and marital catastrophes. If love often equates to suffering in this novel, marriage must be something else entirely – after all, Fermina says she is happy in her marriage, but she doesn't know if she was in love with her husband. On the other hand, Florentino (never married himself) sees marriage as a means of stripping women of their identities and independence, and casting them into lives of domestic servitude. Either way, with contractual obligations that extend to the grave and perhaps even into the afterlife, marriage is an institution to be reckoned with.
Florentino's notion that widows are happier than wives is pure wishful thinking, based on his desire to be a better lover to Fermina Daza than her husband ever was.
While romantic love and marriage each bring their own particular kinds of suffering, marriage offers the potential for happiness for the characters, while romantic love does not.