Today there’s less pressure to marry and more freedom for us to choose the type of relationship we want.
There’s also a widespread belief that the quality of a couple’s relationship is more important than its legal status.
However, I’ve always loved the idea of marriage. It’s just how I was raised.
For me, what makes modern marriage wonderful is the belief that these emotions can reliably be entertained over a lifetime with the very same person.
In fact, I read somewhere that scientific research has even long-flaunted the benefits of being married early on: from happiness to finer health.
But why do so many couples shy away from commitment?
According to the UK National Statistics office, the average age by which females marry has risen from 23 years old in 1981 to 30 years old in 2014.
This shouldn’t really surprise us, as our famous bride of the decade Catherine Middleton was 29 when she elegantly strolled down the aisle.
Comparatively, Diana Spencer had just turned twenty when she was wedded to the Prince of Wales.
This trend can only suggest one thing – the stigma attached with remaining single, cohabitation and delayed marriage are all now widely regarded as acceptable.
Nightmare or life-affirming? You decide.
In general, later marriage allows young women and men the chance to enjoy great educational and employment opportunities before they start a family.
This is the case of a 28-year-old student who wishes to remain anonymous, as her parents don’t know she’s going to get married yet.
[pullquote align=”right”]”Far from peer pressure, it’s a change in outlook. Plus, I’d love to call this fabulous man my husband.”[/pullquote]She says she’s not wearing her ring because she wants to finish university before they make it official; they’ve been in a relationship for two-and-a-half years and hope to be married in 2016.
She adds: “These days in big cities like London, we’re so immersed in our daily life with so little money that it’s only natural that we’re getting married later in life. Also, people aren’t coupling up as easily as they used to – therefore it can be hard to meet people in a busy city.”
“I’m not religious, so for me getting married is a commitment to someone I love and I suppose a kind of rite of passage,” she later continues.
The student has always associated marriage with “wrinkles and a shit sex life” but says that her perspective has changed: “Many of my friends are getting married and engaged and you start seeing it differently. Far from peer pressure, it’s a change in outlook. Plus, I’d love to call this fabulous man my husband.”
She also believes you should reach a specific age before you get married: “Any younger and chances are you’ll change your mind. I mean, you can do that at any age of getting married, of course, but you’re less experienced earlier in life.”
The Knot Yet report highlights this advantage, saying: “couples who marry in their early twenties and especially their teens are more likely to divorce than couples who marry later.”
However, Richard Kane, founder and director of Marriage Week UK organisation, believes that women have a duty to their nation to have children.
He says: “if a woman delays marriage until 35, it’s likely that up to that point, she may well have a series of sexual partners, which could then diminish the likelihood of her enjoying a long lasting marriage later on. Basically, the more sexual partners you have pre-marriage, the more likely you are to divorce.”
Another female believes that her path to happily-ever-after isn’t down the aisle and thus remains unmarried.
One 44-year-old librarian admits the growing impact of the feminist view of marriage being an oppressive patriarchal institution, have influenced and dissuaded her from getting married: “I have been to a few weddings and seen that it’s a beautiful thing. But no, I’m fine as I am.”
While it’s common for people in European countries to get married later, in central and southern Asian regions, early marriages among women are rampant, with the average age of first marriage changing very little since 1990.
In developing countries, women usually marry at the age of 22 or 23, with men between ages of 24 and 27. This notion of young age at first marriage stems predominately from cultural ideas about ‘the appropriate age of marriage’.
Newly-wed, Kymbat Suleimenova, 22, admits she never thought of her age as an obstacle, since she has friends who married at the age of 19-20: “My husband and I had a distance relationship at first, since I was in my last year at university in the UK while he was working in Kazakhstan.”
“This has made every second together count, and we didn’t want to spend this precious time arguing, or lying to each other, or even pretending to be someone else. By the time I moved and started working in the city where he lived, I knew he was the man for me. Therefore, when he proposed, I didn’t even consider options other than accepting the proposal,” she continues.
Kymbat also adds: “I believe that marriage can work at any age, since its success depends on whether both people involved in this relationship are willing to put in efforts to make it work.”
[pullquote align=”right”]”I believe that marriage can work at any age, since its success depends on whether both people involved in this relationship are willing to put in efforts to make it work.”[/pullquote]While a lot of young couples are concerned with finishing their education and stabilising their work lives before getting married, it’s not the case for Kymbat.
She and her husband are currently doing their masters at Manchester University. Kymbat is also planning to continue working after she graduates: “My husband is very supportive in terms of my career, since he believes that personal progress is impossible without the achievement of certain career-related goals.”
Although marriage is disappearing as a norm for westerners, the very notion of a woman having the free will to marry the man of her own choice is still mocked in some parts of the world. Throughout much of southern Asia, a girl’s fate is pre-destined and arranged by her parents.
Parna Sahil (not her real name), 22, was engaged when she was just 11 years old but got married later at twenty. She’s now pregnant with her first child. Parna tells me she’d never seen her husband before she was given to him.
But the medical student at East London University tells me she’s happy to be married earlier: “I’m happy with my family’s decision but the truth is I had no other choice.”
Featured image by John Hope via Flickr ; other photos by Gu via Flickr