If my girlfriends aren’t getting a divorce, they’re actively trying to find someone to marry and are frustrated with their lack of luck in that department. Some of them are so fixated on getting down the aisle, they talk about single-hood as if it’s a disease. When asked what the source of their urgency is, the most common answer is a culmination of “I need to be married and have a kid by 30. I have a biological clock. 30 is the ideal age. Marriage is the next life step. When you’re 30, you’re supposed to have everything together and moving on to that stage of your life.” Instead of considering their emotional, mental and financial preparedness for marriage, young adults are focused on being the ‘ideal age.’ I can’t tell you why 20-somethings put so much value on 30; hell, I put a lot of value on 30. I put a lot of value on 25. For some reason, when you’re in your 20’s, goal timelines are shaped around a specific age. This age-contingent goal setting may be one of the things that make the quarter-life crisis a crisis. 20-somethings are very hard on themselves when it comes to goals. Everything is about success and failure. These feelings in application to marriage are only exacerbated by external/societal pressures and expectations, such as a nagging parent wondering “when are you going to settle down?” or others asking “why are you single?” Societal expectations are particularly impacting on women; a woman’s value is so measured by her marital status, “that’s why you don’t have a man” is used as and deemed an insult.
For 20-somethings lost at sea, a marriage or a committed relationship is subconsciously a great distraction as it gives the confused and stressed something seemingly fun and sexy to pour all of their energy into. In the midst, some hope that their potential mate may complete, rescue or motivate them, or be someone to relate to. At minimum, a mate can keep them entertained. “I’m bored when I’m not in a relationship,” says another friend, which brings me to the aforementioned about friends moving away or having time-consuming lives. Graduating from college means a reduction in a social life for many 20-somethings as employment pursuits can absorb free-time and take friends across the country; meanwhile, making like-minded new friends in the workplace is sometimes not as easy or feasible. The sudden crash in what was once a vivacious social life leaves some 20-somethings feeling lonely and bored, and who better to cure all that than a partner designed to be a constant companion? So, now we’ve got discombobulated, bored and lonely people, jaded from all the failed attempts at romance and broken from all of their other personal obstacles, entering a situation with emotional complexities that requires stability for all the wrong reasons. Perfect.
All of these wrong reasons can fester, boil and rise up to be the demise of the relationship or marriage, especially if the romance was subconsciously a way to feel stable or keep distracted. When 20-somethings find themselves in this quandary, they either divorce or breakup, have a kid to try and fix it (which also doesn’t work), or remain unhappily married because they have children or to try to save face. Some walk to the altar on a hope and a prayer to begin with, ignoring their instincts. If you’re 20-something and your goal is marriage, realllllllllllly marinate on why you want to get married, why you love your mate and if you truly are ready for a lifetime commitment. You can’t prepare yourself for everything that’s in store with married life beforehand, but looking long and hard in the mirror will give you a leg up.