Why are people taking longer to marry?

What you need to know:

With more education, a number of people do not have to depend on the land as a source of income. Their sources of income give them leisure to marry when they want or when they find the love they are looking for

A few decades ago, society expected our parents to get married as soon as they became adults (18 years). However, today, people in their 20s and 30s are not in a hurry to commit, with many of them preferring extended courtship of up to seven years and more. 

Harrison Musoke, a relationship counsellor, says to understand the current status quo, one needs to understand the difference between the circumstances now and then.

Why do people marry?

Many people in their 50s and 60s married because society expected that when a girl got to a certain age, they had to get married.

“If they did not do what was expected of them, they were ostracised,” he says. 

Additionally, many survived on what they grew on their farms or the animals they reared, so, they needed labour, which was usually supplied by the members of the household. Therefore, it was prudent to have as many children as possible and as early as possible to supply the required labour.

However, today, sources of livelihoods have diversified. With more education, a number of people do not have to depend on the land as a source of income. Their sources of income give them leisure to marry when they want or when they find the love they are looking for.

“Since there is no one standard of love, preferences keep changing and qualities needed in a partner keep becoming more specific, which makes them take much longer looking for that perfect mate,” Musoke says.

How do they marry?

When someone at 21 says they want to get married today, their parents think they are still too young. However, Musoke says, many of our parents were given in marriage at an even younger age.

“When you are younger, you do not have much say but you just go with what your parents say,” he says.

However, when you are older, as is common today, children can easily stand up to their parents in case they try to arrange marriages for them.

Ambitions have changed especially for women. Back then, girls were groomed for motherhood and wifely duties. For the modern woman, many confess to want to have a career, before starting a family.

“Today, girls have different ambitions and several options to choose from. Marriage usually comes much later after education and career,” Musoke says.

Women emancipation has also made women, who are often bullied into marriage, realise they can do very many things such as building a career, earning lots of money, and making investments. Unfortunately, for some, these things have become more central to life than marriage.

“Marriage then comes in when they feel they have ticked off all accomplishments,” Musoke says.

The financial implications of marriages too have changed. Marriages are now more of a business transaction than a union of two people. Bride price has shot through the roof and the ceremonies are extravagant.  All these factors are forcing people to stay single for longer as they generate more income.

“The parents are not helping the situation either as their expectations from their children become more and more. To meet these expectations, both partners often have to pool resources,” he says.

From an affair that was primarily witnessed by family, marriage ceremonies are now about pomp and circumstance. As such, some have shelved marriage until such a time when they have enough resources to impress their relatives and friends.

Dennis Twambale

Short of my near imperfections, it is a little harder to find that perfect person, even when I have in the previous past because girls today are in a rush. They never take time to prepare themselves for the person they desire to get married to. That is not to say that I am not willing to work with them on the journey. The issue is they feel ready owing to age and societal pressures rather than looking at what they are bringing to the marriage. I have met those on my journey so I choose to wait for someone willing to prepare for this journey. My view about marriage is we have to work on ourselves for one another.

Priscilla Lamwaka

Marriage requires one to have made up their mind and is willing to endure whatever comes. I do not think I am ready for that at 24. I am looking at developing myself so I can help my parents and siblings financially.  I will not be able to take care of my parents when I am married as my priorities will be divided between them and my own family. I am also not yet ready to change my lifestyle because networking helps me acquire more opportunities.

Assumpta Nalubowa

I think we are just more sensitive to everything around us. We question everything. We have been given that freedom. Our parents married for security, for example, more so women and I do not have that limitation. Therefore, I am more conscious of taking that step. I also know there is a spiritual depth of intimacy in the institution. I know that marriage can be fulfilling, that if done right, is a powerful support towards my wellbeing, towards my joy. However, I am conscious of the fact that there is a certain amount of internal (spiritual) work, I have to do in preparation for such an institution. So, I wait.

David Muyomba

There is a mind-set change among younger and more educated men and women, who are delaying marriage to accomplish personal goals and to find the right match. Buying land, building house take a while to achieve.

There is also competition among young people about organising high cost weddings. In order to please the woman as well as her parents, a young man will need a lot of money hence the delay to jump into the marriage circle.

The cause

 “The trend to delay marriage lies less with young people than their parents, whose ideas about marrying changed as they obtained advanced educational degrees and progressed in their careers.

Parents now advise children to complete their education, begin their careers and get financial independence before contemplating marriage. As a result, young people have developed a sense that marrying young may be foolish, even ‘socially harmful’,” says Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin