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No, You Don’t Really Have to Get Married

Social pressure is a passing phenomenon.

Key points

  • Worldwide studies reflect decreasing rates of marriage; possible reasons include the fact that women enjoy more economic freedom.
  • The ideal age of marriage is usually correlated with the ideal age of childbearing.
  • The stigma of remaining single is felt most strongly between the ages of 25 to 35.
Naassomz1 from Pixabay
Source: Naassomz1 from Pixabay

Do you need to be married to be happy? Most people, if they really thought about it, would have to admit the answer to that question is no. Sure, there are benefits for many people who choose to tie the knot, both physically and emotionally. But there are advantages to remaining single as well. From social flexibility to financial independence, many people enjoy the wind beneath their wings when they are flying solo. And increasingly, more satisfied singles are speaking out.

Walking Down the Aisle For All the Right Reasons

We want our precious young adults to marry for love, not perceived public pressure. There is a point in a young woman’s life when she will be invited to a flurry of bridal showers and bachelorette parties, even fighting to catch the bouquet at the wedding. But how do witnessing these rites of passage impact the mindset of singles who remained unattached? Recognizing the legitimacy of singlehood, as well as the growing number of satisfied solos, may provide a broader perspective on whether marriage is an attractive option for everyone.

Professional Women, Broader Perspectives

Kezban Celik (2018) investigated the reasons professional women decide not to get married, especially within so-called “windows of opportunity.”[i] She notes that worldwide studies reflect decreasing rates of marriage; possible reasons include the fact that women enjoy more economic freedom, individualization, and weakening ties between bearing and raising children within marriage as an institution. But there is more.

With more access to educational opportunities and higher-paying jobs, many women no longer have to marry for financial dependence. And many are not choosing to partner up and cohabitate, either—they are choosing to remain single.

Celik noted that women with significant educational backgrounds face a variety of social pressures and dilemmas when it comes to deciding whether or not to tie the knot. She acknowledges the perception of “missing” the age of marriage, usually correlated with the ideal age of child-bearing. Yet she also notes that research on women who never married suggests they are happy enjoying their freedom and credit their personal development with singlehood. True, other researchers have documented a stigma associated with “singlism,” a recognized ideology that favors couples over singles. Celik notes, however, that the stigma of remaining single is felt most strongly between the ages of 25 to 35. After that, she notes that women begin to accept that marriage age has passed, and focus more on their current life path.

Now we all know people who have tied the knot well past the age of 35 only to live happily ever after, as well as women who never felt pressured to have children at any age. But in modern times, many people believe marriage is not necessary to enjoy a full, satisfying life.

Modern Marriage Alternatives

Celik studied university graduates and professional women between 35 to 50 in a Turkish population. But she recognized that her findings were broadly transferable, suggesting that many years of education and professional opportunities may present remaining single as an alternative lifestyle. Although the women she interviewed did not accept the prevailing unequal gender roles they experienced and found remaining single to be the most feasible alternative, many women favor singlehood even without perceiving inequality.

The bottom line appears to be that partnering under pressure is not a viable option for singles with the financial independence to enjoy faith, family, and friends independent of a significant other. And even those seeking assistance are increasingly motivated to explore options that avoid unwanted physical and emotional entanglements.

Marriage is a joyous ceremony, where both parties pledge love and loyalty, till death do they part. But although it is a covenant, it is not a requirement. Choose to take the plunge out of love and devotion, not an obligation.

Facebook image: eva_blanco/Shutterstock

References

[i] Çelik, Kezban. 2018. “Unmarried Women with Closed ‘Windows of Opportunity’: Professional Women’s Reasons for Not Getting Married.” Women’s Studies International Forum 66 (January): 48–55. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2017.11.012.

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