‘It is better to marry early for it helps you adjust to the new family’. We have heard even the most liberal parents say this to their daughters. Marrying early was and is still (in a huge section of society) considered to be healthy and beneficial which makes for lasting marriages. But with girls getting higher degrees and stepping into the workspace more and more opt to marry late in life rather than early. Millennials, especially, seem to be in little hurry to marry. Susan, a writer, worked for 4 years, earned enough to pay for her own wedding, and married at 29. “My mother told me to be financially independent before I tie the knot and I will tell my kids the same”, she said.
According to an article in The New York Times the median age of marriage in the US rose from 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women in 2017, up from 23 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970. In India, according to the Census of 2011, Indian women now prefer to get married at an older age than the last decade. Late marriage is a reality for the woman of today. Even though there is still a huge section of the population considers late marriage, especially of women to be almost shameful, in the urban and even small-town India, things are changing rapidly. This is welcome news from what we usually get, women make the headlines for the crimes committed against them – rapes, domestic violence, dowry deaths, and child pregnancies.
Despite living in a society where marriage is considered to be the priority for a girl as soon as she reaches her 20s, so much so that from relatives to nosy aunties in the neighborhood – all start asking about her wedding plans, this shift which was much needed, has come.
Late Marriage – Causes And Effects
The latest statistics on marrying later in life confirms that the long-held definition of ‘marriageable age’ has changed. According to the released data, the mean age for women getting married has increased from 18.3 years to 19.3 years. Data also stated that in the US, in 2018, the average marriage age for men was 30 and 28 for women, compared to 24 and 20, respectively, in the 1950s. In countries like Sweden, studies showed the average age of marriage for women went up from 28 in 1990 to 34 years in 2017.
- The change was slow but steady since the beginning of this century as women started focusing more on getting a good education and becoming financially independent, rather than using marriage as a meal ticket
- Parents are positively shifting their focus in upbringing from getting a good groom to making acquire education and skills to be self-sufficient.
- This has led to economic empowerment of the women and they have more say in their own future
- Effects of women empowerment, urbanization and access to facilities are also responsible for this positive change in perspective
- Fear of commitment, change from nuclear family to joint family system have also influenced girls to delay their marriageable age till they are very certain of the choice they are making
- Effect of globalization- The internet and TV has brought in western culture to our doorsteps as people watch more shows like How I Met Your Mother and Friends which typically show late marriages
- With more individualization and focus on romantic love, girls want an ideal life partner and are willing to wait for the right person
- Live-in relationships and alternative relationship arrangements such as polyamory are no longer taboo. In other words, marriage is no longer the ultimate symbol of commitment and validation.
What Is Meant By ‘Late Marriage’?
Also known as Delayed Marriage, late marriage gives us a peek into the exciting progress of women empowerment worldwide. Until the last century, women were expected to get married right out of high school and start a family soon after. But the trend is changing now.
Women of this age are more excited to explore other options for themselves, such as getting a well-paid job, travelling abroad, fulfilling their personal materialistic desires with their own income, ensuring a comfortable life for the parents after retirement, than focusing on marriage.
Late marriage indicates the rising trend of pushing the age of marriage into the late 20s and higher among women, by personal choice and preference. However, based on the marrying later in life statistics as published by the International Centre for Research on Women, UNICEF, early marriage and child marriage is still a problem, albeit reduced in number than the previous century, in rural communities of Bihar, Rajasthan, and Haryana. But urban women equipped with good education and well-paid jobs are now more likely to postpone marriage. Different countries like China, Germany, U.S, Indonesia, etc all have varied average ages at which their citizens tie the knot.
Reasons women are opting for late marriage
Marriage is a highly personal decision and thanks to the change in society, women these days have found the footing to take their own sweet time before tying the knot. There are five major late marriage causes among women.
- Establishing a career comes first
- They are opting for love marriages. There is Tinder, speed dating and other options of matchmaking
- With rising financial independence among women, a sense of personal independence has also grown. Women now want to take charge of their personal decisions
- Being in a live-in relationship no longer raises eyebrows like before.
- Science can now take care of the biological clock with solutions like IVF and surrogacy
For instance director, Indian filmmaker and choreographer Farah Khan got married post 40 and had triplets through IVF. Hollywood actresses Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore married at ages 42 and 43 respectively.
Advantages Of Late Marriage For Women
If we want to know the pros and cons of late marriage for women, the advantages in terms of personal growth outweigh the late marriage problems women often face.
1. You have enough time for self-discovery
It’s important to know the ‘self’ before deciding to share your life with someone else. It gives one time to introspect and understand what one is. By delaying the marriage age, women can now explore what they want, what their dreams and aspirations are, and what goals they want to achieve. They understand how many kids they want or what kind of a life they envision, one with or without in-laws! Knowing yourself leads to having a good sense of what one is looking for in a relationship!
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2. You get time to grow and change
With age, our perspectives change, we mature and start seeing shades of grey rather than white and black. We understand why people do what they do and have in one sense more tolerance. As we move through years our likes and dislikes change too. We may be impulsive at 20, but learn and control our actions by 25. We may question everything our parents tell us at 19 but understand their reason behind it at 27. Our personality grows and we become more patient and understanding which helps us make better decisions as we cruise along with life. The 20s bring many firsts, the 30s brings a new kind of confidence and assurance based on all that you’ve learned throughout the 20s.
3. You can enjoy personal freedom for a longer time
With marriage comes a truck-load of responsibilities, but if you take your time to go down that road, you get enough time to live life on your terms and do the things without looking for validation from your spouse and in-laws and be able to explore life just the way you like it. Time for personal hobbies, trips with women friends add memories for life.
One of the major side effects of late marriage is that you truly get to focus on you. Kylie was 33 before she got married, and she’s thankful for it. “I spent my 20s working, travelling, dating, and really figuring out who I was and what kind of life and life-partner I wanted. By the time I took the marital leap, I was confident and clear,” she says.
4. You get wiser and find maturity
As we age, we get to have more experience in life, and with that comes wisdom and maturity. One of the most beneficial effects of late marriage is that when you do decide to tie the knot you become more capable of a successful marriage since you have matured enough.
Kimberly (name changed) said because of the two boyfriends she had, she knew what she did not want in a life partner and hence she was in a better position to recognize the right one when he came along. You also learn from the marriage of your friends, see what they like or not. Sarah wrote in that she realized she wanted to marry within her city when she saw a friend having a hard time adjusting to a new city and felt hat her personality was closer to that friend.
5. You become surer of what kind of a life partner is right for you
With that wisdom and maturity, you build a clearer idea about what kind of life partner is most suitable for you now that you have had enough action in the dating zone. Do both of you like adventure sports? Does the ambition level match? Are you both okay with working full time? Are you both outdoorsy or indoorsy people? It greatly reduces your chance of marrying the wrong person for the wrong reason.
Debbie loved her work as a archaeologist, but it meant she travelled all over the world supervising digs. She dated in her 20s and her early 30s but quickly realized most men had an issue with her work and her frequent travel. “I was 37 when I met Ted. He never felt threatened by what I did or how often I was away from home. Marrying later in life made realize this was what I wanted in a spouse,” Debbie says. So if you’re wondering, ‘Why is marrying late an advantage?’ – well, it means you have more time to find the one you really want.
6. You find financial security
If you’re contemplating the financial advantages and disadvantages of late marriage, consider this. For millennials especially, finances have been tough, making it harder to buy a home or make investments in a stable future. Now that you are financially independent and live life on your terms, you can pay off that educational loan, invest in a car or house, and make investments for your future without thinking of how your new family might look at it. By marrying late, you find enough financial security for your future.
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7. You can pay undivided attention to your parents
Even though you have your heart in the right place, after marriage your attention gets divided between your parents and your in-laws. But as one of the most significant effects of late marriage, you can have more time to look after your parents’ happiness and their future security. Why is marrying late an advantage? You get more quality time with your parents and your family, the people who shaped you the most.
8. You will be more appreciative of marriage
If you have enjoyed your time as a single girl and had the most fun time, you will no longer feel like you have missed out on anything, as and when you do decide to get married. You could give yourself enough time to take the plunge. Annie says that she had loads of experience living as a single in a world designed for couples. Sometimes it was annoying to be the one to show up at weddings without a plus one especially when others were slow-dancing with their partners!
Disadvantages Of Late Marriage For Women
Waiting too long to get hitched, however, is not free of risk either. There are a few disadvantages of getting married later in life. The marriage market gets thinner as you get older for one and you may end up settling for someone who isn’t’ the best match.
1. You find it difficult to make adjustments
An advantage of marriage at an appropriate age, if there is such a thing, is that it’s easier to adjust to another person when you’re younger. Now that you have been single and self-dependent for a long time, you find it difficult to adjust after marriage to another person’s needs and likings. It becomes impossible to adjust to someone else because you have been living on your own for too long now.
Since you have been set in your ways for a long time now, you give your personal freedom too much importance to building a family. This leads to marriage problems.
2. You are no longer as zealous as you were in your youth
In general, with age, our zeal and enthusiasm fade. If we look at the pros and cons, it’s important to spend your youth with the utmost freedom, but marriage also needs a lot of crazy enthusiasm to build its foundation as happy and strong. Most people in late marriages have had all the fun earlier and are now too busy to care for their spouses and make their marriage strong from the beginning. This is one of the side effects of late marriage that you’ll need to work on.
3. You start giving too much priority to finances
Finances are always important, but if you decide to marry too late, it means you have been taking care of your finances for a long time now; in such a case most often money matters take precedence over a lot of things and your married life takes a back seat. So, again, if the financial advantages and disadvantages of late marriage are on your mind, think about this point long and hard. Money is great and much needed, but so is connection.
4. You don’t have enough time to spend together
Now that you are overly focused on your career, it becomes hard to shift career lines and find enough time to spend with your spouse. You have deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, and are pretty much busy leaving you with very little or no quality time with kids.
5. You have to rush for kids
One of the major late marriage problems women face is about rushing into the ‘kids discussion’ soon after the marriage. Babies are one of the most discussed concerns of delayed marriages and it’s impossible to ignore the topic.
Many people will suggest you not to wait and have the baby as soon as possible, leaving you with little time to enjoy the ‘just married’ phase. Another issue could be the possibility of dying off while your kid is too young to be independent. An advantage of marriage at appropriate age is that you can enjoy some time with your spouse before having kids. You’re also physically healthier and more able to run around after little ones that you would be in your 30s and 40s.
6. You might face complications while conceiving
Even though science now allows for various methods of conception, if you want to go for it in the all-natural method, some complications could arise. Women who marry late panic often fret about having children. Their anxiety can also delay achieving pregnancy. Plus it’s more likely to cause genetic problems in the kids once you are over your prime biological time for conception. However, both of you may decide to be childfree too and there are benefits to that too.
7. Your sexual activity is compromised
As a result of the diminishing zeal and enthusiasm and pressure of balancing your life, your sexual activity also often gets compromised. Imbalanced sexual zeal among the two partners could lead to issues in the marriage. However, there are many ways you can spice up your life though.
8. You start questioning yourself
When you look at your friends from school and college with kids of school-going age you start feeling strange about your life-choices. You are also the odd single out who everyone is wary of. In our culture being married means normal and hence the looks you get from relatives which are annoying and start influencing the way you see yourself. There are harsh truths to singles living of women who are in their 30s.
Either way, it’s important to weigh all the effects of late marriage subjectively before making up your mind on which way to go. Remember, it’s your decision and only get a say in when you tie the knot, if at all.