5 Things To Know When Dating In A World Where Marriage Is Disappearing

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The first time my boyfriend told me his doubts about marital commitment, it was difficult not to take it personally. Like many others my age, especially girls, I grew up with marriage on a pedestal — it was an unquestionable goal. After getting that wake-up call, I found myself re-evaluating my own beliefs around marriage as well as the general trends in society.

It’s no secret that marriage’s popularity is dwindling. In fact, only about half of all U.S. adults are married; the number has been decreasing drastically since its peak of 72 percent in the 1960s. With a divorce rate estimated between 40 and 50 percent, Americans are right to be wary about choosing to commit via a marriage contract.



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New perspectives on dating, marriage and general monogamy are undoubtedly changing the way we view relationships. Some say that humans aren’t wired for monogamy at all, while others argue that our sentience gives us the ability to decide if we want it badly enough. Those of us in younger generations who witnessed the changes in discussion first-hand may have grown up with the expectation that we would one day get married but are now finding ourselves navigating the world of dating while the possibility of marriage slowly fades out of grasp.

So what does this mean for our love lives? Here are a few thoughts on the topic.


1. No marriage doesn’t equal no commitment.

In other words, just because someone doesn’t want to enter a contractual agreement with you doesn’t mean that they don’t love you as much.

The expectation surrounding marriage to stay together through whatever unfathomable ugliness arises is rightfully daunting and couples shouldn't take it lightly. And, if you can’t make it work, you face the possibility of a messy and expensive divorce. It isn’t unreasonable for people to want to avoid such possibilities altogether. In fact, having the freedom to leave without the strings of marriage attached kind of seems to take the pressure off of a romantic partnership, no?


2.  Who wants a wedding, anyway?

Many of us (again, especially girls) grow up with weddings instilled in our minds as this fantastical day when all of our dreams come true. We get to wear a princess dress, be the center of the attention of all of our loved ones, and then live happily ever after, right? Well … if that’s your perspective.

As an early-20-something who consistently struggles financially, knowing the value of money makes me think that, for me, a wedding would be a huge waste of it. Why spend thousands on a one-day ceremony when I could travel internationally with my significant other instead? Or save to buy a home?

In many religions and cultures, weddings are sacred. In fact, religious groups have higher rates of marriage than the general population as well as lower rates of divorce. It’s understandable for people of those cultures to want it to be ceremonious. However, there’s also a pressure on young people to have a wedding for the sake of older family members who place a larger sentimental value on weddings than we see in modern times. In reality, a courthouse “wedding” yields the same result if a marriage is the ultimate goal.


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3. What’s the value?

Speaking of sentimentality, is it enough to justify such a risky leap in a relationship, or is it just a long-held perception that should be questioned in a decreasingly-committed modern society? Each individual’s answer to that question will be difficult, but it’s an important one to answer. It’s easy to say that you want a marriage for the lifelong commitment or the tax benefits, but is there anything beyond that?

For those who are hopeful for a future marriage, having concrete reasoning to back up the decision will be essential when the topic comes up in relationships with contrarian views.


4. Lose the expectations.

If you’re the type to pursue marriage and make it the end-goal of every romantic relationship, it might be time to change your goal in dating. Maybe you’re finding it difficult to find someone with your same goal in mind who is a match.

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If you try to focus on the here and now, evaluating each relationship as it goes to determine its future viability, it won’t be so hard to hear when someone you love would fundamentally rather not get married. If someone you’re with does want a marriage and brings it up to you, you can evaluate the relationship rationally rather than jumping into a marriage simply because you want to be married.


5. Do you want the marriage or the person?

Being hit with the “I don’t like the idea of marriage” or the “I need to be married whether it’s with you or someone else” when your preference is the opposite might sting a little, but it begs the question: do you want the marriage (or lack thereof) or the person? When you take the time to ponder this, you might find that your perspective changes a bit. If you’re with someone who you truly love who doesn’t want to get married, would losing them in pursuit of the promise of marriage be worth it to you?


It seems that our individualistic society is losing sight of the sanctity of marriage that was once commonly accepted. Today’s world is fast-paced, disorganized, and fundamentally non-committal. This isn't unfavorable, but taking on a new perspective while dating is beneficial to navigating a life in which marriage is no longer the rule.


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Emily Van Devender is a writer and Colorado native who writes about pop culture, news and relationship advice. She is interested in politics, feminism, and psychology and enjoys photography and outdoor activities in her spare time.​