Recently, like many reality TV show lovers around the country, I began to dig into the fifth season of “Love Is Blind,” which observes if people can fall in love without having seen each other. The show is entertaining to me as background noise, but while watching it, it struck me how much marriage – specifically the path one takes to reach it — has changed. I was always under the impression that I needed to have everything figured out in my twenties, but seeing so many people find their person in their mid-thirties made me wonder if this was still the case. I found that the road to marriage has changed and no longer looks like a set path.
For a long time, it seemed like marriage was an inevitable step in life — go to school, get a job, get married, have kids and live a long, happy life. At least, that was always the goal. But more and more of one’s standard life path has become increasingly varied. Indeed, marriage rates have fallen drastically in the past couple of years as people get married at a later age. But what’s not as often mentioned is the many ways that marriage and finding a partner has changed. Now, in an increasingly virtual world, finding people in an organic way seems harder; in fact, a study by Stanford University found that nearly 40% of couples met online. In my opinion, this makes organically meeting romantic partners a bit harder.
Moreover, it appears that not many people are focusing on finding a partner in college nowadays. College now feels like a place where people let loose, make lifelong friends and work towards a future, and less like a crucial setting to find a long-term partner. Additionally, the debt that college graduates face and the recent need for a four year degree to obtain many jobs sidelines marriage as a goal for college students. Since the late 1900s, women especially focus more on their careers. People still meet their future partners at college, without a doubt, but this seems less commonplace than it has in the past. And for some, marriage is not something they even wish to partake in.
Despite all these changes, I feel that the expectation surrounding when one should find a partner and marry still exists. Society still coaxes people in their 20s to figure out what they want from life while they are still young, whether it be finding a partner or having kids Although dating has changed as the world around us has evolved, we still expect the path to marriage to look like it did decades ago, creating a sense of pressure that surrounds our 20s. But marriage is not the same as it used to be and everyone deserves to take their time as they navigate their romantic lives. We should not be expected — or force ourselves — to have everything figured out so soon.
To truly understand this, we can look back at the popular sitcom, “Friends.” The show begins with characters in their mid-20s and follows them into their 30s. Within the show, we see it takes time for each character to find their footing within their careers and dating lives. Along the way, we see them embrace friendships, take time and struggle. The show makes it evident that taking time to work out the kinks of life is okay. Marriage has changed, and in many ways it has become a choice rather than a guaranteed milestone. Being mindful of that fact may release some of the pressures that often surrounds dating in college.