Post image for Is Single the New Black?

Is Single the New Black?

by Amber on January 3, 2012

in Sex & Relationships

Like many little girls, I grew up dreaming about my wedding day. I had it all planned out. I’d wear a white dress with a lace bodice and matching fingerless gloves. You know, like Madonna in her “Like a Virgin” video, only I’d totally still be one. We’d be married in an elaborate cathedral as hundreds of our closest friends and family looked on. My husband would be rich, of course, and I would never have to work a day in my life. Besides, why would I want to when there were children to birth and raise?

Fast forward 15 years and I found myself being married in a chapel by a preacher with a glass eye, while 75 people wondered if we were serving alcohol at our reception. My husband’s career in law enforcement and my brand new degree in chemistry meant I was unlikely to opt out of the work force, and my white dress was not exactly indicative of my purity. The times and my ideas for my life? They had changed.

My decision to co-habitate before our wedding, to have premarital sex, to plan a quickie ceremony in a chapel — any and all of these would outrage my grandmother’s generation, but there is one choice I am slightly shocked to learn would outrage my own: the decision to get married in my early twenties.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, barely half of U.S. adults are married, a record low. If that figure doesn’t surprise you, let me put this in perspective. In 1960, nearly 70% of American adults were married. In that year, 45% of adults aged 18-24 were married, compared to today’s meager 9% in the same age range.

That is quite a drastic change to an institution many claim is at the heart of our values as a nation in only a couple of generations, don’t you think? You can’t turn on the evening news these days without coming across a soundbite of a politician vowing to protect our right to engage in holy matrimony, but is it a right that our generation even wants?

According to the study, yes. 61% of unmarried people want to be married in the future and even 47% of those who say that “marriage is obsolete” plan on tying the knot at some point just, you know, not right now.

There are those, like Belinda Luscombe, Time’s editor-at-large, who believe marriage is becoming a status symbol. Citing the fact that, in 2010, 64% of college graduates were married compared to 47% of those with high school degrees, Belinda says “marriage is now largely practiced among high-status, college-educated individuals, it may even be becoming more prestigious — the relationship equivalent of owning a luxury car.” I’m less convinced of this theory or, perhaps, if I’m being honest, I don’t like the sound of it.

There are those who might argue that people are putting off marriage simply because life is getting in the way. More and more women are entering college, securing high-paying jobs like their male counterparts, rendering them more independent than generations past, and not at all dependent on a man (with a marriage) to provide for them.

As a 27-year-old woman with a successful career in science, two children, and six years of marriage under my belt, I am having a hard time understanding this argument for putting off matrimony. I have never considered beginning my marriage and beginning a new career to be mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, I believe my husband and I would both be less successful in our careers without the support of one another.

So, single ladies out there, tell me, what are you waiting for? Are there goals you must meet, places you must travel, milestones you must achieve before tying the knot? Your mother and I are all ears.

Amber Doty is the managing editor of Go Mighty, as well as a slightly eccentric wife and mother of two. Her interests include eating meals she had no hand in preparing, making formerly professional business meetings awkward, and perfecting the emotional outburst.  One day she hopes to travel to all seven continents, but for now she lives in North Carolina happily equidistant from the mountains and the beach. You can read more from Amber on her blog, The Daily Doty.

Skups January 3, 2012 at 8:36 am

I’m 28 & I’m not waiting for anything, I’m just enjoying life. Right now marriage isn’t in my plan, but I won’t say it never will be, because things change. As of right now though, I’m happy with my life and I just see a guy complicating things for me.

Keri January 3, 2012 at 9:24 am

I’m 38 and single simply because no one has ever wanted to marry me. Sounds depressing when I say it like that, but that’s the truth of the matter. I just haven’t found the right one.

I think there are other factors at play here too, that were not mentioned in the article. While it’s true that we no longer need men to support us, we also don’t need marriage to have children. I may not be married, but I DO have a 12 year old son, which is not really frowned upon anymore. My Mother’s generation didn’t really have as many options as ours does either. You were more or less expected to graduate highschool, get married, and have kid’s. You needed a husband to have a child. You needed a husband to live in a knife house and drive a nice car. You needed a husband to not be seen as some sad-sap “old maid” if you were still unmarried at the ripe old age of 27. How often did that translate to “settling” for women? My mom has been married 5 times. Do not tell me that is because she has fallen madly in love with 5 different men. She is simply unable to be alone. She doesn’t know how. So she’ll take whoever comes her way and be happy to have him whereas I want more.

I’m usually okay with the idea of possibly not EVER finding “the one”. But I’ll also admit there are times where settling does have a certain appeal. It’s hard to do it ALL alone. Am I capable? Of course! But sometimes it would be nice to have someone else there to share the responsibility.

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm

What I find fascinating after reading many of the comments here are the number of women mentioning that they don’t want to settle.

It kind of makes me wonder how many women, if they answered honestly, from older generations feel like they settled for their husbands.

keri January 4, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I don’t really know that “settled” was a part of the vocabulary back then. It seems to me they found a nice guy who could provide for them and got married. What other option did they have? No one was telling them to go to college and have a career, and if they DID work they were teachers or nurses. I realize this doesn’t apply to EVERYONE, but I think it was just what they DID back then. We have more options and choices. And maybe this isn’t always a good thing……

Jill January 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

I’m 28 and single. I got married in 2008 to a guy I thought I’d be with forever. He didn;t have the same idea, though…so as of this past september, we are divorced – after a 3 year separation.

I’m not really single by choice, but it’s looking like I’ll be single for awhile…since I never really knew how to date.

A lot of my friends are getting married around now…I have 2 good female friends who are not married, but both of them are in very commited relationships. My female cousins, who are my age, aren’t married either. One is in a relationship, and another is single.

For me, I’d really like to find love again, and eventually get married. But for now, after being burned by it in the not too distant past, I’m in no hurry. The only thing that worries me (if that’s even the right word) is babies. I want them…and I don’t want to have them too late in life…so….yeah.

SwingCheese January 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

My parents were 19 and 21 when they got married, back in 1971. Both of them impressed upon me the importance of being my own person, emotionally, and being independent and being able to support myself, financially. I always got the impression that getting married in my early 20s would have disappointed them. I was lucky enough to find my husband pretty early on (we met just before I turned 23), but the idea of marriage just seemed like something grown-ups did, and although we lived together, we were clearly not “grown-ups”. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine got married (while still in grad school) that I began to think of marriage as something to look into, and we ended up getting married when I was 27 and he was 32.

Erin January 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

Umm…do I have a sibling I don’t know about? My parents were 19 and 21 when they got married. In 1971. And they always stressed that I needed to be my own person, whoever that was. They always pushed me to make my own decisions and do what I wanted to do, to make the choices I wanted or needed to make.

Crystal January 3, 2012 at 10:18 am

This kinda goes hand and hand with my my article about having kids at a young age. Im 23 and I have been looking for the right guy to marry. I was engaged at 19 but the relationship fell apart. When I start dating a guy, one of the first things I do is see if I can picture us getting married. Can I visualize him standing at the alter waiting for me to walk down the aisle? If I can, I’ll be more willing to invest serious effort into the relationship if I can picture a future.

Maybe it’s crazy, but I think not getting married because someone wants to “secure a career” is a stupid thing. Having a spouse who is super supportive can help in a new career. I see no point in waiting if you think you found the right person.

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I also don’t understand waiting to get married for the purpose of focusing on career and I suspected there was a lot more to it. That’s kind of what got me into writing this article.

The discussion has been enlightening!

Jennifer January 3, 2012 at 10:47 am

I got married at 18, and we will celebrate 22 years in July. I went to college and had/have a great career all while married. I hope that people really don’t think being married bars you from those other options. If anything I thought it was great to have that constant support when I came home. I knew that no matter what was going on he was always there to hold me up. That’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm

That’s awesome, Jennifer! I hope I can say the same in the coming years!

Erin January 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

I’m 26 and not married. Not even ANYWHERE close to being married..

I have days where I think that’s what I want, and am frustrated that I’m so far from being married…and I have days that I’m grateful I’m not..because I can be my own person and do what I want and am free to make decisions and choices for me..instead of for me and whoever else.

I’m not close to being married because I haven’t found a person I want to be married to. I decided a while ago that I’m not willing to settle..and every guy I meet seems to either be a complete disaster, almost psychopath or make me want to stab myself in the eyes. Or, at the very least..they have one big strike against them..they have something that I know will drive me insane in six month and make me miserable….so I don’t see what the point is.

Maybe I have too many ‘must haves’ for my small town….maybe I need to branch outside of it..but I’m still not willing to settle.

I also feel like I want to work on ME and who *I* am and figuring out my mind and making me into the person I want to be..before I try and do that with a serious relationship…because I don’t know how I can expect someone to want to be with me forever, love me forever..when I haven’t even figured out how to do that yet.

There are a lot of reasons why I’m waiting…and after watching almost all of my good friends from university get married (or be in the process of getting married) I’m kind of okay with being the single one for now. Some days it sucks…and some days I look at them and want someone to bring me flowers or kiss me goodnight…but I’ll take being single over regretting your marriage after less than a year, marrying someone who isn’t so nice to you once the vows are said, marrying someone who disappears and leaves you with tens of thousands of dollars of their secret debt or being married and divorced before 20..(all things which have happened to people whose weddings I’ve went to)

I take marriage and relationships pretty seriously..and know that they are real and challenging and fulfilling and a million things all in one…and after watching my parents marriage..and other marriages around me..I’d rather wait it out and do it right (or never do it at all) then rush into something with reckless abandon that I can’t handle or am ready for..that’s not right for me.

PS – Sorry I was so rambly. My fingers got away from me.

Elizabeth L. January 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Don’t apologize for being rambly because you said all the things I was going to say! I am also 26 and still single. I have one (seriously, just one) friend who isn’t married, engaged, or about to get engaged. I do live in Alabama which has a lot to do with it, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ve dated a few guys that I could have potentially married, but it would have been settling. Maybe I would have learned to love them and the life we created together, but that isn’t enough for me.

I refuse to settle. I want (to quote Carrie Bradshaw) “real love”, the fairy tale. I know it exists because I’ve seen it – my best friend has it. It’s amazing to see and I want that as well. I won’t settle for anything else, and why should I when I know it’s out there. I would rather be a single mother than in a relationship or marriage that I settled for just so I could get married.

Now who’s rambly? :)

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm

What I’m learning from reading all the comments is that women feel more secure in holding out for someone they truly feel is their life partner. Perhaps, earlier generations were inclined or felt pressure to marry early and so they didn’t do as much dating as today’s generation?

Interesting theory.

keri January 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

I also think in earlier generations it was okay to “date around”. Unless you were “going steady” with someone (which didn’t happen for a while into the relationship) you were free to go out with whoever asked you out that Friday night. If you do that now (especially in high school) you’d be seen as some sort of “slut”. I kind of wish they would bring back the concept of dating. The old-fashioned, go on dates with different people to see what’s out there and what you like, don’t get tied down too quickly, and go slow on the sex, dating. Kids now a days go out with someone once, change their facebook statuses, and are locked into that one person. How helpful is THAT when you’re young? To not go out there and experience different kinds of people?? To see what appeals to you and what doesn’t? How can you know what you want if you haven’t dated more than 3 people??

Melissa January 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I am a 21 year old Business Management major , currently in my junior year of college and I am terrified of marriage. I know I am younger than most of the woman commenting on this article, so obviously I do not have a lot of dating experience. I do not plan on getting married anytime soon, but I do have an opinion on the subject of marriage. I believe it is hard for a woman in this generation to find a man that is even considering marriage. I have found that the men I have met in college and in past relationships are just living the ‘bachelor’ life. Maybe it is just the men I have met, but most of them are just looking to drink, play video games, and sleep with whomever fits their standards for physical attraction. Our generation of men files marriage in the unwanted section because why settle for one woman when they could just live the bachelor life? My question is where are all the good men hiding?

Chelsea January 3, 2012 at 11:51 am

I will turn 28 in March and marry my 30-year old fiance in June. His college friends have all married in the last 2-3 years; my older sister just got engaged, and my two closest friends (26 and 30 years old) are in long-term relationships and plan to marry their significant others at some point in the future.

I can’t pinpoint a single reason that explains why all of us put off marriage until our late 20s. I didn’t start dating until I was 22, so that’s probably the biggest factor influencing my “delay” :)

I know this is all anecdotal evidence, but I think that some of the general feelings among others my age are that 1) we don’t feel ready to “settle down” at 20 or 21 or 22; 2) that we want a little more financial security than we might have at 20 or 21 or 22 before we make big life changes; and 3) many of us watched parents/family members/family friends get divorced when we were young, and I think we want to make sure that our relationships are solid before we rush into married.

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I totally get the deterrent of watching a parent’s failed marriage. I’m a child of divorce, too.

I don’t really understand the pursuit of financial security though. Wouldn’t getting married give you more financial security not less? Unless you marry someone with a lot of debt or that doesn’t remain employed.

Not a criticism, just curious.

Chelsea January 4, 2012 at 10:44 pm

For some people, marriage certainly gives you more financial security. For others–married couples who don’t combine finances, for example, or those who marry spouses whose line of work is hit hard by economic recessions–it might not be as beneficial. I think it depends on the couple, and for me, the road to being financially secure started long before I met my fiance.

Jojo January 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

As people have mentioned previously, not all marriages last. Divorces happen. I’m 26 and have no plans on getting married anytime soon. I want to have a career set first, develop my skills, and be financially independent. My grandfather left my grandmother with 6 kids all under 12 years old. She had no education. She struggled working whatever job she could and my dad (the oldest) started working as soon as he could to help out. My friends who are married have a more realistic view of marriage: the odds are against them of lasting forever. We’ve seen people married and divorced by 24. Very few of my friend’s marriages are still going on (3 years is the longest so far). I, and my friends, want to make sure that we are and can be financially independent in case of divorce or just never getting married.

The Blaqnite January 3, 2012 at 4:30 pm

“There are those. . . .who believe marriage is becoming a status symbol. Citing the fact that, in 2010, 64% of college graduates were married compared to 47% of those with high school degrees, Belinda says “marriage is now largely practiced among high-status, college-educated individuals, it may even be becoming more prestigious — the relationship equivalent of owning a luxury car.” ”

As much as I hate to admit that, I can see how that philosophy is coming to fruition. Our societal values have and are continually diminishing with each passing generation. Our belief, faith and worship of God, likewise, is also diminishing with each successive year and/or generation!

2 Timothy 3 reads:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.

Therefore, it should be completely understandable that there will be a continual reduction in those that believe in the covenant of marriage. God created it solely for his purposes, but mankind has tainted marriage in an effort to less the sanctity of it. This can be evidenced by the fact that, while heterosexuals continue to turn away from the institution of marriage, gay and lesbian “couples” are now waging a war to become apart of the institution of marriage in an effort to legitimize their relationship and for recognition as being an acceptable and/or “holy” sanctioned union, where it is not.

As such, marriage between heterosexuals will become more of a status symbol, and less about the holy union that God intended for it to be.

Angie January 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

While trying not to get into a discussion about the sanctity of religious marriage (as I am not a religious person and speaking as such would be irresponsible of me), I’d like to ask why shouldn’t a marriage covenant in civil terms be legal, no matter the gender of the people?

If marriage is that important to Christian beliefs, as you’ve indicated, why not allow for any adult, regardless of sexuality, to enter into the civil covenant? The decision of allowing the religious ceremony of a religious marriage would then be up to the churches or allow or not and not the government.

I gained from your comment that you believe the more people who are married, the better the world would be. Why not allow for anyone who wants to get married to do so in order to better the world?

I’d also like to say that I don’t believe a “war” is being waged by homosexuals and supporters; the “war” being waged is by those who want to prevent rights from being granted.

Linda January 3, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Right. Because heterosexuals have done SUCH a good job of keeping up the holiness of marriage.

Allison January 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

HA! Exactly.

And there is no war being waged. That is like saying that black people were waging a war when they wanted to have equal rights. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER. Period.

Great post, Amber!

Erin January 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm

My parents were 20 & 24 when they got married in 1960 & are still happily married to each other. When I was in my 20′s all I wanted to do was get married & have kids, just like my parents did. However, I never found “the one” while in my 20′s, so it was not to be. And you know what? I’m glad!

I am so much happier with the person I am today vs. the person I was back then, which was a painfully shy girl with zero self esteem (which is likely why I was always single). I’m sure if I had gotten married back then, it probably wouldn’t have lasted. As I grew older, I came out of my shell, overcame a lot of fears, & began to actually love myself for who I am, curves & all. After dating several men who just weren’t right for me, & seriously doubting that “the one” actually existed, I finally found him when I was 38. We’ve been together for almost 3 years & while we’re not married yet, we do plan to get married some day.

Our main obstacle with getting married is the fact that we have to pay for the wedding ourselves. While neither of us want a huge, fancy wedding, we don’t want a bare bones one, either. We want something small, but nice. I was severely injured last year & am still recovering & paying off the medical bills, so I’m not sure when we’ll actually be able to tie the knot. I waited 38 years to find this wonderful man. I can wait a little longer to marry him.

Amber January 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Aw! I am so glad things worked out for you. I think everyone deserves to have a wedding day they treasure, Erin.

Natalie January 3, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I’m 34. Not married, not dating. Was engaged, I called it off. I wan’t ready for the whole “happily ever after” scenario and wanted to begin my career. I live alone, have a great job and I think I just really like being alone surrounded by amazing friends.
Yes, I do miss date nite and having the “one” person to cuddle with, but I just haven’t found him and I’m in no hurry to look for him.
Eventually I do want to meet someone, I don’t want to die alone, but I don’t know where to find this person. I don’t like to go out, I have a demanding job that leaves me tired after working 10hours and all I want to do is go home to my glass of pinot grigio.

Allison January 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

You’ll find him in the most unexpected place, I bet :)

The Blaqnite January 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm

If you’re not careful though, Pinot Grigio, will be your cuddle buddy and your date for the evening, every evening! I get the career thing, just not the fact that you’re mid 30′s, so it probably won’t be long before 4 – 0 is staring you in the face. At that point, effectively you will have made your decision about the “white picket fence and 2 1/3 kids” scenario.

Kelly January 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Wow, that was really rude.

keri January 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

It was but I kind of see her point. I wasted a lot of my late 20′s/early 30′s thinking I had all this “time”. I didn’t need to find someone rightnow because I already had a child, so that was already crossed off my list of things I need to be in a hurry for. But now, at almost 39, there are just less people to choose from. Guys my age are either fresh off divorces (stay away!!) or have never been married and want kids (I don’t want to start over with babies). Older guys want girls who are 25 and never married, or they have several failed marriages and lots of baggage. The older I get the harder it is to meet people too. Bars don’t hold their appeal, and all my friends are married. I’ve tried the online dating and HATE it, so that’s not really an option either. So yeah, in a way I DO agree with The Blaqnite. You really DON’T have as much time as you think you do. You don’t necessarily need to start an all-out hunt for Mr. Right – but definitely do put yourself out there a little and keep your eyes open.

Al_Pal January 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

My husband and I ‘finally’ got married a couple months ago, after dating for ten years–I’m almost 35 & he’s 37.5…we love [a quiet version of] city life, going to rock concerts and ballgames…our circle of friends tends to be very late-marriage and late-kids; there are tons of “Peter Pan complex” folks living out this way.
His parents married & divorced young, and I was never a marriage-dreamer, so it took us longer to get to the place where marriage was desired…for us, it’s even better and more meaningful because we waited.
We had already lived together for years, so daily life routines didn’t change much, but we do feel emotionally changed, and go out of our way, even more often than before, to say sweet things to one another. ;p

K January 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm

I’m 21 and consider myself “engaged to be engaged” with my boyfriend. We met just weeks before I started my second year of college/first year a new school, while he had graduated a year before. While I feel pretty confident in the relationship we have, there’s a sort of uncomfortable imbalance in the fact that he has made decisions about his life trajectory (such as not continuing to pursue grad school) with our relationship in mind, whereas in most major respects I’m doing exactly what I would have been doing had I never met him. After I graduate, I think that will be a tremendous opportunity to strengthen the relationship because at that point I will have to make decisions that take him into account. Also, by that point we will have been together nearly four years and I think our social circles will be better able to take an engagement announcement in stride.

I feel getting married at 23 or 24 would be on the younger side, but I’m not worried about that per se because my mom got married to my stepdad when she was 22 and they are still together (18 years this August). I don’t feel like getting married would restrict me any more than being in a nonmarried relationship does, and although I sometimes miss the freedom of being totally unattached, I’m getting used to it. Having kids, on the other hand, would definitely tie us down more than we are, and we’re hoping to have the time and money to travel before that happens, as well as increasing our income and (my hope, he doesn’t think this is realistic) to find a sense of job stability. I guess I see marriage as a formality – and a social ritual to turn into a party, for sure – but the real big steps are 1) getting involved in a serious relationship in the first place, which you can’t really plan for, and 2) kids, which are definitely not welcome yet.

AmazingGreis January 4, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I’m 33, single, childless and never been married. I picture myself being married some day, but I’ve also accepted the fact that I might not be. At this point who knows.

I wouldn’t say that I’m purposefully single. I’ve just never really dated or found the “one” that I could/should spend the rest of my life with and frankly Justin Timberlake never asked!! :)

I have hope that one day I will find him, but at this rate I’m not holding my breath. If it happens it happens, if it doesn’t, well then I’ll be the single old lady down the street.

Amy January 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm

We’re alike in that I’ve never dated much either. Also, I really don’t know if I’ll ever be in a proper relationship let alone a marriage. However, there’s no harm in hoping… Just keep on doing things that make you happy and living life as best as you can. Maybe love happens when you least expect it! Wish you all the best!

Dianna January 5, 2012 at 2:07 pm

All of us single women should get together and have our own “date” nights. At 36 I am definitely hearing the bells to settle in and settle down. Truth is I haven’t found that right combination of friend and lover and he hasn’t found me either :(

Anna January 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm

It’s so nice to hear that there are other single women in their 30s out there! Most of my friends are married, and many are on their second or even third children. I hate to admit it, but I’m often envious. The clock is tickin’ and sometimes I feel “behind” in life. Of course, that’s not really the case. We all have our own paths. I like to remind myself that I love having my apartment the way I want it and can stretch out all I want in bed. And, two of my closest friends are already getting divorced- they, too, are on paths they didn’t expect, even though they had what seemed to be “perfect.” I may not have found my friend and lover, but maybe that’s ok.

Amy January 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm

I’m not waiting for and am not interested in marriage. I haven’t been since I was a teenager. However, that does not mean that I don’t want love or to love someone. I’ve also changed my views a little since I turned 30 and now at 32 I can say that I am not eager for marriage because I have not met a man that would make me want to get married. You get married because you love someone, not for the sake of marriage itself. Marriage after all is work and with the right person can be a blessing, but with the wrong it can leave you torn apart. Plus, we live in a time where we’ve got the luxury of chosing to be married or remaining single, obviously not all over the world, but in Western nations it’s easier to be single and remain single. If I do get married it’ll be because I want to make that life-long commitment with the man that I love and feel is right for me, not because I should get married.

Katoli March 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I’m not waiting…I can’t seem to find any men in my age range that have a brain, a job and actually think a curvy girl is sexy.

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