When you're not the marrying kind

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As we grow up, we wonder what the future will hold for us. Travel, career, marriage, babies, not necessarily in any order: whether it’s a passing whim or a long-standing desire, it can be exciting to daydream about the endless and varying scenarios we are yet to experience.

Then, in the blink of an eye, we are all grown up. Suddenly we are living the life we spent all those years imagining – or are we?

Recently a friend of mine began questioning her life choices. Now in her late 30s, she spent her 20s building a successful career in finance. Since then her life has been a whirlwind of high pressure work demands, adventurous travel, and relationships with several very different, yet alluring, men. 

I assumed she loved her life as much as I loved living vicariously through it, but a recent casual encounter clouded her perception.

While rushing through the city to get back to work after a Friday lunch meeting, she ran into an old school friend she hadn’t seen since graduating some twenty years earlier. They exchanged pleasantries and then gave each other a snapshot of their respective lives from school until their chance meeting.

Having shared a friendship and similar life aspirations during high school, neither could believe how vastly different their lives had become. My friend is a single, corporate woman living in an inner city apartment. Her school friend fell in love with a boy she met at university, married him in her early 20s and now lives in country Victoria raising their four children.

As they joked about how different yet fulfilling both their lives were, the school friend commented that she wasn’t surprised my friend hadn’t married, as she never saw her as the marrying kind.

While my friend initially thought very little of the comment (it was true she had never been particularly interested in marriage), by the time she reached my place for a coffee that afternoon she was openly offended. She then proceeded to question every relationship she’s ever had and wondered why they never ended in a trip down the aisle.

As we sat dissecting her previous relationships, I asked her why her friend’s flippant observation had affected her so much. Many of her friends, including me, are married, but spending time in our company had never prompted her to question her choices.

Eventually she admitted that, for the first time, she was questioning whether not marrying was, in the long term, something she’d regret. She made the decision, many years earlier, that she didn’t want to have children and while has always been open to a long term committed relationship, marriage is something she gave little thought to. Now as she approached 40, she was noticing more people, including friends, family and co-workers commenting on her single lifestyle and she was often left with the impression they disapproved.

My friend is not alone in her belief that you don’t need to be married to enjoy a successful long term relationship or have a family. A recent study undertaken by RSVP State of the Nation found that only 41 per cent of single Australian adults would like to marry. Yet the younger generation, it appears, is still tied to the belief everyone should find a soul mate and marry – with 67 percent of Gen Y respondents wanting to head down the aisle.

RSVP's resident relationship expert and psychologist John Aiken confirms what many women are feeling. He says, after analysing the results of the study, "singles still place social importance on marriage and many are feeling the pressure – especially women."

But clearly not everyone agrees with Aiken. As Kate Bolick, 39, famously wrote in The Atlantic, “Modern women are at best ambivalent about the idea of marriage and babies.”

The response to her claim - that due to technological advances in assisted reproduction, the gains of the women’s movement and the relative economic decline of men more women are choosing to remain single - was noteworthy, with many applauding Bolick’s choice to stay single.

But, like my friend, Bolick isn’t anti-marriage, nor is she ruling out the traditional happy-ever-after ending for herself. She is simply embracing the ability to make her own career and relationship decisions, in her own time.

As my friend and I continued chatting about the multitude of life options she was yet to explore, her phone rang. It was a man she’d met at the lunch meeting that day, just before her fateful encounter with the past. He explained he had thoroughly enjoyed her company and wondered if she would care to have dinner with him.

Smiling at the incongruity of his timing she accepted his invitation and as she departed, her familiar smile etched firmly across her face, we reiterated the irrelevance of her school friend’s comment.

“One of the best things about life,” she said, hugging me goodbye, “is that each of us have different dreams and the opportunity to pursue them.”

As she got into her car and drove away to meet her date, I had no doubt she would make her dreams come true. Whatever they may be.

Daily Life would like your help to curate a list of Australia’s 20 most influential female voices of 2012. Click here to nominate -- you'll also be entered into the draw to win an iPad Mini. 

37 comments

  • Maybe more people would be considered the "marrying kind" if it was an equal establishment. I know that my long term boyfriend and I would be more inclined if it wasn't so extensively bogged down in old world traditions.

    Commenter
    Mas
    Location
    Tumut
    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 8:48AM
    • So what you want is something that isn't marriage? But you still would want to call it marriage?
      Its like wanting ice cream. But, wanting it to taste like frozen yogurt - which is what you have now. Ice cream will never be frozen yogurt.

      Commenter
      Zahra
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 11:23AM
    • Good God, marriage is an old world tradition. If you don't want to get married then don't. Who the hell cares????

      Commenter
      Nicola
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 1:02PM
  • What an awesome article, embrace your dreams, don't be another sheep...Don't follow other people's expectations, stay true to your self and what you want, after all this is your life.

    Commenter
    mimi
    Date and time
    December 04, 2012, 8:55AM
    • Please some consistency!
      The entirely reasonable commentary here is far removed from condemnation of men who think its OK not to marry as 'players' or immature never grown up etc. - as it was very recently on your (virtual) pages.
      If it makes you feel better, the feeling of leaving-it-too-late and 'all my friends are getting married' is something I have a serious case of, and i'm a guy.

      Commenter
      gabe
      Location
      fitz
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 9:27AM
      • I couldn't give a toss if guys don't want to get married and would rather be players. In the old days, they'd probably be the ones with mistresses anyway since that was probably more socially acceptable for a man than not getting married. Each to their own preference. I just didn't like the way that Venker was trying to blame women for what is effectively giving men more choice too - they can choose to expect women to play the traditional roles, but they shouldn't whine when the pool gets smaller and smaller because the majority of men have moved on and prefer equal partners. I don't get how people can't see that feminism gives everyone more choice and options in life. How can that not be a good thing?

        Commenter
        cher
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        December 04, 2012, 5:07PM
    • Honestly it is fate, really if you are meant to meet the right one you will. Personal choice, some come to regret. Not just women regretting but good looking men thinking they have the field and end up with the wrong one at the end of it all. Relationships you have to work at regardless if you are married or not if it is one sided forget it. Sometimes you have to put aside what you want to be with someone its a simple word. "Sharing".

      Commenter
      Pickled Herring
      Location
      Frankston
      Date and time
      December 04, 2012, 9:50AM
      • "the relative economic decline of men more women are choosing to remain single"

        Which says to me though women say they don't care if the man doesn't earn more than they do is a porky. They do care they just won't admit they want to marry up.

        Commenter
        Bev
        Date and time
        December 04, 2012, 10:07AM
        • Women who declare that money isnt important when selecting a partner should be taken with the same pinch of salt reserved for men who say that what they really want is a woman with a "great sense of humour".

          Commenter
          mint slice
          Location
          sydney
          Date and time
          December 04, 2012, 11:05AM
        • Very true.

          Commenter
          Bev
          Date and time
          December 04, 2012, 11:38AM

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