Challenging Preconceptions of ‘Traditional’ Marriage, One Generation at a Time

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Today when students hear the word ‘marriage’ we pawn it off as something which may happen way down the line. Perhaps we even shudder at the thoughts of being tied down for the rest of our days. We tell ourselves that we’re still young and currently too busy planning on what country or continent we’ll backpack through next. Or more importantly how we’ll manage to pull off getting the money together to pay for it. We want to travel, meet new people, perhaps relocate to a new city and that’s not even taking into consideration trying to break into the increasingly competitive workforce and nab our dream job. The very last thing on the minds of most students right now is marriage.

Here lies a slight problem because when you look back about forty or fifty years, an era which is completely alien to us, and compare how young adults viewed marriage at that time, it’s completely different. Marriage was to them what travelling and education is to us, it was quite simply ‘The status quo’. As they reached the latter end of their teenager years, they were most likely already being interrogated by inquisitive family members about when they were planning on tying the knot. It was quite common to settle down with your first love and start building your life together from as young as 18. When we were 18, we’d rather starve than attempt using the kitchen appliances before mam came home, never mind running an entire household. Of course it’s comforting to see how standards have completely transformed and we are no longer expected to settle down so soon. Instead we’re encouraged to pursue whatever it is we love to do. However, that’s not to say we can’t do both and there is definitely something to be said for considering marriage a little earlier on in life.

A recent study on marriage by Pew Research indicated the percentage of adults in the U.S who have never been married is at a record high of 20%. It also showed the longer that people waited to tie the knot, the less likely marriage became. This is largely due to the fact ‘marriage’ is slowly sliding down young adult’s lists of priorities. In fact, more and more couples are choosing the route of living together and having children, without the paperwork from the state and the big fancy wedding that is sure to cost them an arm and a leg. I’m sure we’ve even heard the phrase ‘sure, it’s just a piece of paper’ being thrown around a few times.

The importance of marriage has been cast aside with its purpose becoming increasingly debatable. Perhaps this is from sheer doubt, it’s possible that we’ve seen so many cases which put us off the idea altogether, whether it was a parent’s difficult divorce or eavesdropping on a bitter married couple arguing behind us in the queue at the supermarket. ‘Well I hope I never end up like them’ is what most of us are thinking, but marriage can be a fantastic experience where we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to that one person with whom we’re willing to share our life with. It’s not about waiting around for the one we’re 100% positive we want to spend the rest of our lives with. That’s one of the reasons less and less of us are willing to make the leap. We’re scrutinising aspects of our relationship which we believe may end in tears after years of marriage. We say we’ll wait around until we’re completely sure. If you ask most of your parents or grandparents were they certain they were making the right choice walking down the aisle, I’m sure they’d say they had their doubts, but they were happy at the time and willing to try. Marriage shouldn’t be about perfection, but about building your relationship along the way.

‘The LGBT+ community had to put up a long and inequitable fight to exercise their right to marry their loved ones’.

I’m sure many of you voted Yes last summer in the marriage equality referendum. The LGBT+ community had to put up a long and inequitable fight to exercise their right to marry their loved ones. Their determination can only be admired and the majority of Ireland were delighted to see our country finally become a nation of equals. What was most refreshing was the abundance of teenage and young adult campaigners out on the streets campaigning for their right to marry. I feel that this goes to show marriage is not just a topic of discussion for the over 30s, but an incredible aspect of life which those who are denied it are willing to fight for. I realise it’s a long way down the line for most of us right now, we’re trying to juggle exams, classes, family, friends and in some cases a part time job.

‘You can travel the world with your husband or wife and build your careers together. Your life can still be as adventurous as it ever was when you were a singleton’.

We barely get a moment to stop and think about what our plans are for the next day, never mind what we’ll be doing in ten years time. But we shouldn’t just retain the old fashioned idea of marriage which has been ingrained in us since childhood. Marriage isn’t settling down, getting a mortgage and living in boredom for the rest of your days. You can travel the world with your husband or wife and build your careers together. Your life can still be as adventurous as it ever was when you were a singleton. With that in mind, it’s my hope that ‘marriage’ takes on a new meaning with our generation. Last year we voted Yes to re-define marriage as including partners of all sexuality, so there’s nothing stopping our generation each re-defining marriage the way we want it to be.

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Laura Addie |  Features Writer

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