There are many different reasons why people delay committing to marriage and a family. In most cases, decisions to remain single are purposeful and revolve around reaching certain life objectives. Pursuing specific educational, career, or financial goals are among the reasons people will wait before getting married.
While the average age of a first marriage is on the rise―currently 28.2 years for men and 26.1 years for young women―the vast majority of young adults in the U.S. marry by the time they reach their mid-thirties. The current ages for a first marriage are on average six years higher than they were for people getting married in the 1960s.
One highly significant statistic, however, is the percentage of Americans overall who are married. While in 1960, 72% of all Americans 18 years and older were married, just 50 years later in 2011 this number had dropped to just 51%. Experts say the percentage of married individuals decreased by 5% in just one year, from 2010 to 2011. Just as these ages and percentages are shifting, the reasons for being single or remaining single are shifting as well.
1. No One Wanted Me
In earlier generations there was a certain stigma for those individuals who weren’t married off by the time they reached 40, a number that generally denotes the beginning of middle age. Women in this category were viewed mostly negatively and were referred to as spinsters or old maids. Single men were looked at somewhat differently; some considered to be oddities, others a bit queer or funny.
2. Men Are Still Vital at 40
Single men at 40 were definitely not viewed as negatively. Men were always in the driver’s seat; they did the asking and proposing. Women, on the other hand, might be withering on the vine while waiting to be asked for their hands by eligible men. Men had much more of a choice and marriage with a much younger partner was always a consideration for men who had reached the advanced age of 40.
3. I’m a Woman and No One Asked Me
In the 21st century, women can do the asking out and eventually the proposing just as handily as the men folk can.
4. I Don’t Have to Get Married for a While
Probably the biggest reason that 40 year-olds haven’t married today is that they haven’t wanted to, believing that they still have the major portion of their lives ahead of them. American culture promotes youth and vigor. Along with our seriously increased lifespan, general health, and vitality, Americans can remain footloose and fancy free far longer than ever before. Forty has become the new twenty in many social circles.
5. I Don’t Have to Get Married Because I’m Pregnant
While the majority of Americans still favor having children within the confines of a marriage and a two-parent home, the social stigma associated with being born out of wedlock has mostly vanished. During the Victorian age and well into the 20th century, unmarried pregnant women were forced into marrying the father of their child or any other convenient male to cover up their sin.
If a pregnant single woman didn’t agree to marry, or no suitable man was available, the young woman would often be sent away to have her baby. Children born out of wedlock were either put up for adoption or raised by distant family members as their own. The young woman, once she returned to her family, might be considered unmarriageable, tainted, or damaged goods
In this day and age, the term “bastard” is no longer casually flung at those whose parents weren’t married at the time of their birth, and single moms raise kids all the time. In many cases, so do single dads.
6. I Don’t Have to Get Married at All
Living together, formerly called shacking up, is a choice that many couples prefer to make as opposed to forming a legal bond in a civil or religious marriage. As with the other options mentioned in this article, living together provides couples with more open-ended relationship options and fewer legal penalties if things don’t work out. There are also tax advantages for couples who choose to remain single.
7. I Haven’t Found the Right Person
The thought of an ideal match, finding a soul mate, or entering into a lasting relationship with one’s own true love pervades the consciousness of most TV and movie watching, romance novel-reading Americans. Certainly, no one wants to marry someone that they mildly dislike or even hate, but the notion that there is only one satisfactory person on the planet and I won’t budge until I find that person isn’t realistic or practical.
Many older singles who claim they want nothing more than to be married and have a family of their own fall back on this basic premise. I just haven’t met my match or found the person of my dreams. Humans are generally not built to spend a lifetime alone. Most folks believe that there is any number of possible matches for anyone truly interested in a life partner. So stop complaining and start looking for Miss or Mr. Acceptable instead of Mr. or Miss Perfect.
8. I Don’t Have to Get Married to Have a Child
Today, remaining single is a viable and reasonable option for both men and women. If an unmarried woman wants to fulfill her maternal instincts, she may adopt a child or conceive a child of her own through in-vitro fertilization or through the use of a surrogate or sperm donor.
9. I’m Gay or I’m a Lesbian and the Law Won’t Allow Me to Marry
Even this is changing in the 21st century, and for the better. Enough said!