A Few Thoughts on Marriage

I’ve currently been indulging in my new guilty pleasure — Sex and the City. I have always wanted to jump head-first into Carrie Bradshaw’s thrilling New York City sex life, because I’ve always felt like I identify with her in some way (but isn’t that the point?). Only on season two, I’m still catching up…with the years. Still stuck in the nineties, there was one thing I quickly noticed about the female protagonists; they all seem hell-bent on one goal: marriage.

I don’t know why this is weird to me as a twenty-something woman, but it is. Why is it that these NYC, fun-loving women are all self-categorized as man-hunting piranhas who swim through the city looking to sink their teeth into diamond rings, white weddings, and family life?

Maybe it’s because I’m a newly turned twenty year old woman and am nauseated at the idea of constantly seeking out someone who will commit themselves to me for life, but I think there’s something more.

In the twenty years since Sex and the City‘s premiere (how funny is it that babies like me are enjoying the same programs that our parents once watched on live television), a generational divide has been created between Millennials/Gen Z and the generations that came before them. Younger people today just aren’t getting married.

In a Gallup poll conducted in 2014, 59% of Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) reported that they were single or had never been married, while 9% reported that they were in a “domestic partnership,” three times higher than what Baby Boomers reported.

Millennials aren’t in a rush to get married. According to U.S Census Bureau data, 36% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers were married when they were the age Millennials are now. In fact, many thirty-something Millennials are now gravitating away from marriage and more towards unmarried partnerships.

I’m not saying that I’m a statistic, but as I watch Sex and the City, which represents the mindset of women a full generation (or two) behind me, I find that I’m less able to identify with the characters. Because marriage is the last thing on my mind right now.

But then that brings this into question: is Sex and the City putting all women in a bubble, making it appear that every woman’s goal is marriage and a family? Charlotte’s character is determined to find her Mr. Right and have plenty of babies, living in the suburbs of the city, and while that’s fine-and-dandy, there have been many times where Carrie, while narrating, says something along the lines of “all these women are looking for one thing: marriage.” And is that not sexist?

The idea that all women aim to be married with families is something that has been slowly fading since the day of the 1950’s housewife. And I believe that it has been pushed away even more now than ever.

While I do know many women my age who want to get married or are married (I’m from a small town), I have multiple friends who are considering never getting married, or at least have a 10-year plan that doesn’t include marriage. More and more people are focusing increasingly on themselves and their careers, putting the latter before long-term, romantic relationships.

So I went to Facebook (as I always do), to ask my friends and peers about their thoughts on marriage, just to see how true these polls and statistics were.

Beth – “[I] have no need to rush.”

“I’m totally down for marriage but have no need to rush out of my regular relationship just to change the social status of us!”  

Sara – “It’s a dumb social construct.”

“Marriage for tax benefits and other benefits like that is cool but otherwise it’s a dumb social construct that just makes it harder for people to break up.”

Hayden – “I don’t believe I need validation.”

“Marriage is becoming more and more just something people do for validation of their love and to change the way they fill out taxes. I don’t believe I need validation and I believe that if I’m gonna be with someone forever, we will be together regardless of being married or not.”

Kate – “[I] would probably wait until later in life.”

“I’d like to get married eventually, but would probably wait until later in life (30ish?) and date the person for longer than previous generations. I don’t want to have to take a husband into account when making decisions until I’m pretty settled down and content with my career . . . I feel no need to rush that along, especially because I don’t feel the need to have biological children so no concerns about the tubes ticking.”

Jonathan – “[It] isn’t for everyone.”

“I believe marriage is a beautiful thing that isn’t for everyone. I absolutely love the idea of finding someone and there being a mutual love between us that puts us beyond being two people in a couple and more like a single unit . . . It can be stressful and there will be fights, but the same can be said for a regular relationship.”

Madison – “Traditional marriage is a bit outdated.”

“I find traditional marriage a bit outdated (for me personally, no hate to anyone who is all for it) I personally think handfasting* is better. It puts more emphasis on a completely balanced partnership where both are equals and the ceremony is super sweet.”

The general census is this: there’s no need to rush – and that’s what the data is saying too. Millennials (and the younger generations) just aren’t rushing to get married. They aren’t really seeing it as a priority either. For many younger people, marriage is seen as something that can add to a relationship, but isn’t required. As seen in the previous quotes, many young people believe marriage to be more of a social “construct” or “status,” not something that’s necessary in leading a fulfilling life.

Out of everyone who responded, only two spoke in complete defense of traditional marriage. But their comments were still striking; they both expressed an opinion that insinuated that they have received harsh judgement for their decision to marry in their early twenties.

Hannah – “Marriage is a beautiful thing.”

“I believe marriage is a beautiful thing regardless of age. Some people called me crazy for getting married at 23 but who cares?? We’re happy and thats all the matters . . . If two people are in love they absolutely do not have to get married but when two people want to for their own happiness I think family should just back off!”

Allie – “I’m marrying my best friend!”

I’m getting married in December and I couldn’t give a crap what people think. Why are people so judgmental? I think it’s a beautiful thing. I mean, I’m marrying my best friend!”

With most Millennials and Gen Zers choosing to get married later in life, it’s interesting to see the perspective of those of us who choose to get married at a younger age. Is there a difference between those of us who are marrying younger versus what’s become more common?

I’m not sure. I know plenty of Millennials and Gen Zers still hold onto traditional values, and that’s okay. Overall, though, I think that all of us can agree on one thing: marriage is a wonderful thing, but it’s not necessary. And those of us that are choosing to get married in our twenties are doing so because we believe it’s the next step in the right direction for our relationships.

But one thing is clear: an increasing number of younger people have accepted the fact that marriage doesn’t have to be the next step in a relationship. And that’s one of the ideological differences that has divided Millennials and Gen Z from previous generations.

So, what does this mean for me?

I don’t know the answer to that either.

If twenty has taught me anything so far, it’s taught me that everything I thought about the world is false, or at least very cloudy. I’ll try to sum up my thoughts in one sentence (but two complete phrases, separated by a semi-colon): marriage isn’t for everybody and marriage certainly isn’t necessary; for me, I know that I don’t need marriage to be happy but it’s not completely out of the picture.

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*For more information on handfasting, click here.

Photo Courtesy of: Pexels

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