Marriage rates are declining throughout the world

More people are disregarding marriage and are choosing to stay single. Source: OECD, Marriage and divorce rates.

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Josh Wright
Influence
November 21, 2020 6:09 pm

Xinhua News Agency said in an article last year that marriage in China had been on the decline for 5 years in a row. The reasons included delaying the age at which one got married or giving up on the idea altogether. I believe China is a society that’s struggling with holding onto some of its traditional cultural practices as it undertakes a period of startling technological and economic progress.

I attended a lecture about society in China a few years ago. The lecture was given by a journalist (Roseann Lake) who wanted to learn more about the concept of ‘leftover women’; women over the age of 27 who are unmarried. An interesting aspect of society there is that the accommodation of the bachelor is used to judge worth – perhaps it’s a good indication of the man’s income earning ability. The higher the house is, the better.

Now because many adults of a marriageable age still need financial support from their parents, the parents often help with funding the man’s home. This imposes a condition, however. The parents now have a say in whether the woman a man chooses is acceptable. Parents in China tend to be very proactive in getting their children married. Parks are often used as places where parents can match their children. A mother will go to a local park holding up pieces of cardboard with information about the son; name, qualifications and job. If a parent even sees a woman who they think is suitable for their son, they may even invite the woman to see his home! Some potential marriages have even broken down because the woman’s property is bigger than the man’s. The man’s parents can be ashamed of this and won’t allow the marriage to proceed.

Perhaps the pressure to get married is in itself a deterrent. With access to the world at our fingertips, people in China can see a more individualistic approach in other countries. I was watching a mini documentary about ‘leftover women’ by the NY Times. A woman is having an argument with her parents because the parents are shouting at her to get married. Phrases such as “You should think about your future” or “I am very worried” are thrown at the woman, who is then accused of bringing unhappiness to the family. People watching this from a Western perspective struggle to understand this. Are the parents suggesting that the woman get married and be unhappy just so the parents can be satisfied? When the woman says she’s happy to stay single for the time being, she’s berated by her family.

But this is the struggle that I believe Chinese society is going through. The pressure to get married is so high, many gay men and women come to an agreement to have a ‘show’ marriage. There’s estimated to be around 16 million of these cases. On one side, there’s a struggle to choose what one wants as an individual, but the case above shows the extent to which people will go to please their parents. There is also an understanding that it’s better to get married, and then get divorced, instead of not getting married at all.

Fabian Bosiger
Potential
November 20, 2020 11:44 pm

I visited Morocco two years ago and it’s a country where marriage is in decline. Many societies are transitioning, holding onto some aspects of traditional society but also adopting new norms. During my visit I spoke to a tour guide about this. Traditionally marriages in Morocco had a lot of involvement from parents, but new technologies such as Tinder are changing that 🙂

Traditionally the Hammam (public bath) is a place where marriages were facilitated. A bachelor would tell his mother of his desire to get married. The mother would then go to a hammam to scope out potential brides. Once a potential bride was selected, the mother could speak to the owner of the hammam to learn about the woman’s family; asking questions about the family’s status and reputation. The hammam would also be a place where the mother could do a more thorough check of the woman’s physical characteristics; given it’s a place where they’d be wearing no clothes!

Once the criteria were met, and the mother conveyed this to her son, the bachelor would pay a visit to the woman’s household to offer his hand in marriage. The hammam doesn’t serve this function as much these days. Perhaps the decline in marriage can in part be attributed to a cultural practice that often included one’s parents but now requires more individual initiative.

hammam.jpg
Last edited 1 year ago by Fabian Bosiger
Carly Sembre
Potential
November 22, 2020 5:48 pm

Sometimes I feel that marriage is becoming an outdated concept. Divorce rates have been increasing worldwide, though there has been a slow down in the increase simply because marriages have been decreasing. A study from the University of California at Irvine found that globally the divorce rate more than doubled between 1970 – 2008.

It makes me question why there’s such an emphasis on young women to get married when very often the result is unhappiness and a feeling of being trapped. An interesting quote that I heard is that divorce is a “story of love.” What this refers to is that a partner loves themselves enough to walk away from a marriage that is making them unhappy.

As human beings, we do seek some from of partnership and union. This is natural to us. But the idea of marriage feels like a societal construct that is fast becoming an act that is completed in order to please others and meet their expectations of you. And of course there’s always an age-related element to it. Once you pass a specific age, then it’s all the more urgent that you get married. The expectation among the older generation for their children and grandchildren to get married puts enormous pressure on those who aren’t quite ready yet. It is utterly frustrating how the older generation can’t grasp the changes happening in society and yet they still look through their outdated lens.

Tyler Mendoza
Influence
November 22, 2020 12:23 am

I do think that technology is hampering our social skills, which affects people’s ability to develop relationships. How do people date these days? Dating apps are so widespread these days and you’ll often get that answer when you ask a couple how they met.

But the problem isn’t necessarily dating apps themselves, although interestingly almost everyone I know who uses them tends to have a negative opinion of them 😂 But it’s the dominance of technology in our lives. People spend hours and hours on their mobile phones every day, and less time conversing with other people. Communication is overwhelmingly virtual, and this was the case before Zoom and video conferencing in general have taken off since the Covid19 pandemic. People communicate with a few short lines on Facebook messenger. Maybe a like on someone’s post to let them know you’re still alive – a perfect way to communicate with someone when you can’t be bothered to talk to them or even string a few words together 🤣 How many of us can remember the last time we wrote a long email?

We’re losing a fundamental part of what makes us human – our face to face communication. And it’s likely one of the reasons getting into relationships which lead to marriage is on the decline. This reminds me of a situation I read about in Upheaval, a book by Jared Diamond. He talks about seeing two people at a table on what appears to be a date. Both people, however, have their heads bowed and are looking at their phones. It then dawns on Diamond that the two people sitting at the table are communicating by texting beacuse they both feel too socially awkward to actually speak to each other!

Camille Lansac
Potential
March 22, 2021 10:33 am

I have a few friends who are unsure about getting married. They were more receptive to it when they were younger but once they settled into their careers and feel like they know themselves better, they have several reasons for not getting married.

1) The feeling of being tied down. Some people feel that marriage is the next step towards a stronger union between a couple, but others feel like it traps them. More people are open to the concept of polyamory – having consensual relationships with more than one partner. Getting married takes away from the freedom to have polyamorous relationships.

2) Money. There’s always the possibility that things might not work out in a marriage, and when divorce is on the cards, people’s financial assets are at risk. Some people want to keep their finances to themselves and not have to worry about taking on a partner’s obligations. As it happens, prenuptial agreements are on the rise. No one wants to have what they’ve worked so hard for taken away because of a breakdown in a marriage.

3) What’s the point? If you’ve been with someone for several years, why do you need a piece of paper to prove that you’re committed?

4) I’m too busy enjoying life. Some people are very independent and decide to take a trip around the world without a minute’s thought. You may lose this independence if you were married.

5) Fighting sexism. This one comes from an understanding that people judge a woman’s worth depending on whether she’s married. By getting married, I’d be giving in to the judgement that society holds against me. Instead if you want to judge me, then judge me on my kindness, intelligence, productivity – overall as a person. Not just on a label I hold.

Yufei Yan
Potential
March 20, 2021 11:59 pm

In China, marriage rates have been declining. Marriage is quite complicated because it’s not just about two individuals but two families. Parents’ opinions matter a lot. Of course, you can still pick the person you like, but I did hear some couples broke up just because their parents said no. Also, when young people reach a certain age and are still single, usually around 25, their parents will get worried and start to arrange blind dates for them. However, it’s a big country, so I cannot speak for all, but Chinese parents often have a say in their kids’ marriage.

This is because It’s never easy to be independent in China. Some young people may go to big cities to work and move out, living alone. But usually they still receive financial support from their parents. And for those who work in their hometown, they can never find a good reason to move 😄 Chinese parents are often more attached to their adult child, and young people are used to being close to their parents, physically and emotionally. It’s part of our culture. So being independent is not the most important thing for young people until they have to be.

That said, I think things are slowly changing nowadays with more people moving out to pursue a different life outside of their families. In such cases there may be less pressure to get married from parents because you are supporting yourself.