What’s love got to do with it? Tina Turner struck a nerve with that question, and statistics are showing that many young women today don’t view love as an automatic gateway to marriage. Fewer American women are marrying, and women who choose to marry are living single longer.
The year 2009 stands out as a landmark in the connection between love and marriage. That was the year that the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. By 2009, the median age of first marriages had climbed to 27; the median first-marriage age held firm between 20 and 22 for almost a century between 1890 and 1980. Today only 20 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 are married, compared to 60 percent in 1960.
Those are important statistics for Rebecca Traister, who says the question isn’t whether women decide to wed or to live single. The fact that women are able to make that choice is the focus of her new book, “All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation”. The latest book from the author of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was published this week, and it’s been getting a lot of attention from NPR to Elle to The New York Times and CBS This Morning.
Despite evidence that women are living independently, our country does not offer social and economic policies to support their independence, says Traister. She calls for policies aimed at recognizing and bolstering independence so that women can move away from dependence on men.
Do you feel that you are still a child when you go home at Thanksgiving and the family treats your younger but married sister as more of a grownup? Traister has a message for you. Whether you are in your 20s, 30s or40s, you are an adult no matter what your married status. “…your life is valid. This is not a practice round for adulthood because you’re not married… You are an adult woman with…successes and failures and hopes and disappointments and commitments and responsibilities and goals and fears. That is your full adult life, married or not,” she said at an Elle forum.
Traister says declining marriage rates reflect more about the choices available to women today than attitudes about the institution of marriage. She doesn’t see the choice not to marry as a conscious rejection of marriage. “It is the ability to live singly if an appealing marriage option doesn’t come along,” she has said in other interviews. She adds that it can also mean, “I haven’t met someone who I feel is going to improve on the life that I am building and making on my own.”
Living as a single lady doesn’t mean you have not fallen in love madly, deeply, passionately with the man of your dreams. It does not mean you don’t have love in your life. It simply means that today love and marriage don’t necessarily and automatically go hand in hand.