As little girls, we dressed up in white dresses and held make-believe weddings. We dreamed of a future on Prince Charming's arm every Valentine's Day, and assumed happily-ever-afters included marriage.
Forget that! All grown up now, increasingly more women are trading their childhood dreams for a new, marriage-free future. Whatever you want to call the cause--independence, a love for cats, or just thinking outside the engagement ring box -- the U.S. marriage rate is its lowest in more than a century -- and down 60 percent just from 1970, according to a 2013 study by Bowling Green State University's National Center for Marriage and Family Research. Meanwhile, women are marrying later than ever before, at the ripe old age of 27. OK, that's really not that ripe -- or old -- but our grandmothers would sure say otherwise!
So who isn't getting hitched this Valentine's Day? Is it women in their later years who are going through perimenopause or menopause? In actuality, it's just the average woman who either hasn't found love -- or who has, but just isn't interested in all of the trappings of marriage. Maybe that includes you.
A Nearlywed Nation
This fall, Glamour ran an article about the "Nearlywed" trend: The movement of increasingly more people living in committed, but not married, relationships. Harking back to 1983, when Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn coupled up (they happily still haven't tied the knot, by the way!) the piece discusses the soaring number of women who are living in marriage-like relationships (the joint credit cards, the shared mortgage, the in-laws, the kids), but without any official paperwork backing it up. In fact, from 1995 to 2010 the percentage of women who have never married rose from 33 percent to 38 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Why doesn't marriage hold any appeal to these women? 28-year-old Carrie, for one, thinks marriage (or specifically, the wedding ceremony) has lost much of its real meaning. "Getting married has become too much about everyone else when it's just supposed to be about the two of you," Carrie says. "Otherwise, why spend $100,000 on a single day? Why invite everyone you've ever met? And why plaster it online to be justified by 'likes' and 'favorites'?"
Divorcées Say "Not Again"
"A trip to the altar is not so appealing for those who have been there before," reports a recent study from the Pew Research Center. Its findings show that only 29 percent of divorced adults say they want to remarry, and women are more likely than men to say they don't want another marriage in their future.
For many women, the stresses simply outweigh the hypothetical benefits. "I love male companionship, but I feel it would be too complicated to marry, given financial issues, combining families, and so forth," says 70-year-old post-menopausal Nancy, who has been divorced for the past 20 years. "I am very independent. I like my freedom."
More women are expected to join Nancy in post-marriage living. Today, 15 percent of women are either separated or divorced, and fewer of them are likely to remarry, according to Dr. Susan Brown, Ph.D., co-director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.
'Till Death Do We Part
Among widowed men and women, only 8 percent want to get married again, according to the Pew Research Center. And no, that's not just because they are old and set in their ways! In fact, the average age of first-time widowhood among Black men and women is 54, while the average age among white men and women is 61, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
At that age, many women are either battling the hormonal throes of perimenopause or are already in full-fledged menopause. Menopause symptoms, including mood swings, painful intercourse and fatigue can all sap a woman's desire to date again. Learn how to reclaim your sexual empowerment during menopause.
Also, apart from the same considerations divorcées have to make in terms of blending families and lives, widows have lost their husbands due to death, not loss of love.
"My husband was ill for five years. I was a wife and a nurse," says Susan, a widow who is 54 years old. "I am not at all interested in getting married again. Why would I? I have grown children, and I am a grandmother. However, I do want love and intimacy again in my life."
What's Your Take?
In the end, your relationships have to be yours. So while I certainly don't wish women not to get married if that's what they want -- after all, I love being married to my husband, David -- I'm just ecstatic that so many women (married and single alike) are defining love and life on their own terms, especially if they are going through perimenopause or menopause!
What about you? When do you think the perks of single life outweigh the benefits of marriage?
Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!
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Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women's health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.
After struggling through the silence that surrounds menopause, Ellen resolved to help women reach out and end the confusion, embarrassment, and less-than-lovely symptoms that come with "the change." Her passion to be a "sister" to all women fueled Ellen's book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of her women's wellness journey, and in response to the overwhelming thirst of her ever-expanding audience for empowering information, Ellen's weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM was born.
Menopause MondaysTM allows Ellen an expansive platform from which she broadens her discussion of menopause, women's health, and life as a menopausal woman. Her weekly newsletter provides a one-stop shop for the latest menopause and women's health news and research, allowing women the access and know-how needed to take charge of their health and happiness. In addition to Ellen's ever-growing social media presence, EllenDolgen.com has fast become "the place" on the web for informative and entertaining women's menopause and wellness engagement. Ellen is #1 on Dr. Oz Sharecare.com Top 10 Social HealthMakers on Menopause. In 2012 and 2013 EllenDolgen.com was named first on the list of the "Best Menopause Blogs" by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women's health blogs. Her motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!
Ellen has appeared on the "TODAY Show," "The Katie Show," "NBC Nightly News", the "Rachael Ray Show," "The Doctors," Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, NPR's "Tell Me More," Doctor Radio, and dozens of regional and national media outlets. In 2011 she appeared in a sold-out, San Diego production of "The Vagina Monologues." Ellen was one of the first regular contributors to debut on The Huffington Post's, Huff/Post50, which targets 116 million Americans over the age of 50.