“The House believes that marriage is outdated.” This was the conclusion that the University College London Union debating society came up with back in 2014.
Do you agree? It seems that with marriage rates going down, and divorce rates at almost 50% in the U.S., this UK-based summary could easily apply to the U.S. and many other countries as well. The question is, Why?
Here are nine reasons why marriage has lost its power in the 21st century.
1. A Culture of Instant Gratification
Technology, fast fashion, and the convenience of most modern lifestyles make it very easy for us to feel instantly gratified without having to make a very big investment. We can get what we want when we want it, and we usually don’t have to pay much. And if we don’t like it? We can toss it and move on.
This cultural shift influences our take on relationships, including marriage. The idea of committing to one person for such a long time seems out of place in this collective approach to gratification.
2. “Perfect”, Long-lasting Marriages Are Largely Nostalgic
When couples get divorced, a common reaction is to lament about how marriages don’t stand the test of time the way they used to. We nostalgically compare today’s high rate of divorce to couples who never left each other.
We immediately assume that couples stayed together because they loved one another more than couples do today. Maybe it’s worth considering that people didn’t divorce as much in the past because there was such a strong social stigma attached to divorce.
And to avoid social disapproval, people may have stayed unhappily married rather than get a divorce.
3. Women are More Financially Independent
Up until the last century, most women were not financially independent. Without a marriage, they could end up very poor, living out the rest of their life with family.
Today, that is anything but the norm. Women have a lot of financial power which enables them to support themselves without a second income from a married partner.
4. Single Isn’t Synonymous with Spinster
Unmarried women used to be referred to as “spinsters”, a very unattractive term that basically implies that a woman is no longer marriage material – she’s gone over her expiration date.
Now, single women don’t stir up negative ideas of lost youth and lost opportunities. Single women, at any age, are just as beautiful and fun as their married colleagues.
5. It’s More Acceptable to Have Children Whether You’re Married or Not
Not too long ago, it was quite taboo to have children outside of a marriage. Now, most people wouldn’t blink an eye. That’s because marriage has ceased to be the prerequisite to starting your own family.
6. People Have More Power to Choose What’s Right for Them
Society, religion, family and cultural norms have always been a big factor in people’s choice to get married. One could even argue that people didn’t have much choice. Today, there are many more options for men and women.
They can own or rent. They can travel or be homebodies. They can earn a degree or start their own business. In short, people have more freedom to develop a life that aligns with their values and goals. And some people are finding that marriage doesn’t fit into that free choice.
7. A Rejection of a Patriarchal Society?
You can look at marriage as something that emerged from a patriarchal society. In some cultures, the woman was practically traded for money, livestock or land. The groom usually had to ask the father for permission to marry the daughter, and the father handed the daughter off on the wedding day.
A woman always wore a white dress and a veil. Her white gown signified virginity. Her veil was a talisman against evil spirits. And when the father handed over his daughter to the groom, the groom lifts the veil from the bride’s face to signal a change in ownership.
It’s customary in certain countries for women to take the name of their husband. And for some women, that’s a step back for equality. When it comes to marriage, they no longer want to partake in an arrangement that they see as steeped in sexism.
8. Men and Women Retain Their Own Identity and Independence
Married couples share the same last name, the same financial accounts, and home. Ultimately, two become one. It always takes two to tango, whether you’re married, engaged or simply dating.
But marriage kicks compromise up a notch, and for some couples, it’s too much of a demand. Some people value a life-long partner, instead of a spouse, because they believe this won’t hold them back as much.
9. Same-sex Marriages
Same-sex marriages are not the reason why marriage is less important than it used to be. On the contrary, homosexual couples who choose to marry are proof that some people still value marriage. But there’s something else same-sex marriages reveal.
Gay married couples prove that marriage is changing and evolving with the culture. People aren’t afraid to redefine what marriage is so that it serves their needs and aligns with their values.
Outdated Wedding Traditions
Some couples are choosing to write their own rules when it comes to matrimony. And that goes for everything from writing their own vows, to ditching the white wedding gown.
These deviations from long-held traditions show that modern couples don’t want to be subservient to empty practices. Instead, they want something meaningful. What do some of these changes look like?
Diamond rings aren’t set in stone, and wedding bands don’t have to match anymore. Brides can now don themselves in colorful dresses and even spend the eve of their wedding with (gasp!) their future husbands.
When it comes to the ceremony itself, they’re becoming more and more personalized, and you can easily find yourself eating an avant-garde wedding cake frosted in black. Bridesmaids aren’t exclusively female, and groomsmen aren’t exclusively male anymore.
Marriage may have lost its value but maybe that’s because values and life goals are changing. And some couples are deciding that if they get married, it’s going to be on their terms. Do you want to get married, or do you think it’s outdated?