The generally held view I think is that young people are less bothered about being married than their grandparents were. They are more focussed on money and, for some, careers, than walking up the aisle young and starting a family. Those things may come later on in life or they are as likely to happily cohabit than say “I do” in a big (expensive) wedding.
But a new survey has exploded this accepted wisdom. Researchers have found a huge correlation between the views of young people in deciding their life priorities and those over 55 looking back at the choices they made. For many young people it seems that marriage is now the “gold standard” that they aspire to.
The poll of 4,000 people for care home charity group Friends of the Elderly, concludes that, regardless of age, a long-lasting marriage and raising a family are more worthy than material possessions or an upwardly mobile career. They are seen as the greatest goals to which younger generations can aspire, and the greatest achievement of those who have survived the ups and downs of long-term relationships.
The survey found that eight out of 10 over-55s were happy with their lives, with a long-lasting marriage coming out top in their list of achievements. Raising children was a close second. A lasting marriage emerged as the leading aspiration for 18-24s, with a vote of 26 per cent. Thereafter they said they wanted to have children and then see them through important stages in their lives.
There is hope for us yet then. Too often it seems marriage is devalued. From mixed messages coming from the Government – tax breaks for married couples one minute to giving unmarried couples the same rights as those married the next – to statistics showing more couples are simply living together and not tying the knot. Personally, I do think marriage should be aspirational and “the norm”. It still is – just.
At the same time, I appreciate it is not for everybody and we should try to ensure people are not penalised for taking a different view of life. As a service provider, we can offer solutions to people whatever their situation, from those unmarried couples wanting to draw up living together agreements to formalise how their affairs would be handled in a the event of a break-up, to parenting agreements for married couples splitting up but wanting to agree on how they will behave for the sake of the children.
We live in times where the norm is less clear than it once was. However, I think it is heartening that young people still recognise the appeal of marriage; the romance, the big celebration of their love and the legal security that saying “I do” to a lifelong partner can bring.