Survey: As We Age, Marriage Seems Less Important

man proposing to a reluctant woman

Men want commitment, women want independence, and the older we get the less we want to marry.

A new survey conducted on nearly 5,200 unmarried men and women reveals that the older single people get, the less they desire marriage and that young men are more eager to settle down and start a family than young women.

More than 60 percent of people between the age of 21 - 34 said they wanted to get married. Between the ages of 35 - 44, that number dwindles down to just under 40 percent. By the time middle age strikes, less than a third of people said they'd like to get married. By age 55 - 64, just 13 percent of people were interested, and in the 65 and beyond age bracket, the number was basically negligible. Are You Ever Going To Get Married?

We should note that the "unmarrieds" included people who were divorced, widowed or separated. It's possible that the bulk of those surveyed in the older age brackets had already been married once, and didn't want to repeat the experienced, compared to the young singles who had no negative marriage experiences to go by. We can also imagine that in later years the mantra "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rings true for many couples, who, at a later age, aren't as swayed by peer or family pressure to marry. How Long Should You Date Before Getting Married?

The survey also shows that when it comes to finding love, traditional gender expectations have become less relevant in recent years. You can forget the rom-com-esque stereotype of women desperately grasping onto their commitment-phobic boyfriends; men have become more interested in marriage and children at an earlier age than in the past, while women today pursue independence in relationships more strongly than their mothers did.

"Men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes, while women are adopting some of those long attributed to men," says Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist who helped to write the survey.

Take the experience of falling in love. The survey's data indicates that 54 percent of men say they've experienced love at first sight, compared with 44 percent of women. Experts interviewed by USA Today say that this makes sense because men are more visual than women. At the same time, since the definition of love differs from person to person, the data might say less about who falls in love first, and more about how empowered people feel to own up to the experience. Meanwhile, of the singles without children under age 18, more men than women profess to wanting children. Are Gender Differences A Myth?

Finally, more women (77 percent) than men (58 percent) rated personal space as a top priority. More women said that having their own space and hobbies was important, and more than a third of women (as opposed to just 23 percent of men) said they valued nights out with their friends. 

So, what does all this data mean, besides—stop the presses!—that gender roles that were relevant 50 years ago are less applicable today? Traditional male and female behaviors may have gone topsy-turvy in recent decades, but more importantly, people have begun to value individuality, and we're in the process of reconciling personal ambition with the idea of marriage and blended identitites.