When we are kids, we’re subject to what is around us and have few cognitive abilities to actually reflect on what is put into our brains. Traditions, ‘norms’, stereotypes, and expectations thus have a great impact on our ways of thinking, on our hopes and dreams in the present and future. One of these ‘norms’ or social traditions is to get married at some point and many girls, I don’t know about boys, enjoy picturing their wedding day. Obviously, things have changed over the years: In many parts of this world religion doesn’t dominate anymore and society has become more open and accepting. People are no longer expected to marry their first boy/girlfriend, remain virgins until who-knows-when, and women are no longer expected to become housewives and can have careers and dreams of their own.
Even if some still find it odd if you’re not married by 30 and haven’t given birth by 35, people don’t necessarily get married if they form a family (the marriage rate in the EU declined from 7.9 in 1970 to 4.4. marriages per 1 000 inhabitants in 2000), and others divorce when they’re no longer happy (the divorce rate in the EU has almost doubled from 1 to 1.9 divorces per 1 000 inhabitants) (see here for more statistics). It is understandable then if some people get the feeling that marriages are pointless if almost half of them end in divorce. However, you should note that in earlier days people may simply not have gotten a divorce due to traditions and expectations from society and family, so in that sense, things may not have changed underneath the surface. Furthermore, it might be plausible to assume that many people nowadays get married overhastily for e.g. insurance and tax benefits (this is quite drastic in Germany, for example, as I was told by a German couple).
Fact is that some people get their happy ever after, others don’t, or maybe not with the person that they initially thought they would get it with. Does this make it pointless to get married given that the statistics show high ‘failure rates’ and given that, even if we think something could last forever, we are often wrong so that we might just end up with a bunch of paperwork at the end of the marriage? Obviously, you can never tell for sure whether something will last. As mentioned in a previous post, feelings can change. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t truthfully say ‘yes’ in the present. It’s not like you can make a promise for the unknown future, you’re saying it because you believe and mean it now.
It may be hard to tell whether older people are still together because of love or convenience, but I guess as you age your definition of love may change and other things may become more important. When I look at my grandparents, for example, who have been married for 60-something years, I see that they do still love each other, but they are also still together because that is their life; they are old and enjoy having each other.
As I mentioned before, I know many girls and women who have pictured their wedding day before. I never thought about it in that much detail but if someone asked me I’d say: not a white (wedding) dress (rather one that can be worn again), self-made rings, pot-luck, no professional photographer (instead friends taking photos) – in brief: nice and cost-efficient. I sure wouldn’t want a big, stressful, and way-too-pricey wedding that needs months of planning in advance to leave you with memories of a beautiful day but also an empty bank account. After actually thinking about marriage: I do think it would mean a lot if someone wanted to marry me – it shows your love and commitment and that you believe in your relationship, and it’s kind of a celebration of having found someone who makes your life a whole lot more worthwhile. Personally I can imagine loving someone for a ‘life-time’, I like the idea of knowing someone so well and growing old with them. However, I’m not sure whether I’d wanna be the centre of attention at a wedding. If you want economic benefits, you can just sign papers (On their wedding day, a couple (friends of a friend) simply took two people with them to the registry office, signed the papers and had something to eat afterwards. No big celebration with lots of people, no stress, just a day for the two of them. A year later they had a more official ‘wedding party’.), and if you just want a wedding but don’t care about money, just don’t do the paperwork. Being married might actually just put you into a category and make you feel older (wait until you are older and then it might not matter!?) and ‘boring’. Maybe not being married could keep the excitement alive better. In the end of the day it’s a personal choice, influenced by your partner (and tax benefits etc. 😉 ). Love is something private between you and your significant other and does not depend on a piece of paper or rings on your fingers.