Breaking marital tradition to find ourselves

As we grow up, we are constantly reminded of gender roles especially when it comes to relationships — everything from men having to “make the first move” or being the ones to propose to women having to take their husband’s name.

Foremost, society has imposed a formulaic narrative for women that goes something like this: go to school, graduate college, get a job, find the right guy, settle down, get married, give up your career, have kids. It’s not that there is anything wrong with this way of life. It’s only wrong if women do not choose this life for themselves but rather choose it because they feel as if it’s their only option. With the new wave of feminism, women have been fighting this traditional way of life for over a decade.

While my parents’ marriage looked pretty traditional on the outside, there was a distinctive quality about their relationship which was not. For one, my mom worked. Many wives in my hometown became stay-at-home moms post-marriage. My mom never stopped working. My dad’s job allowed for more flexibility so he was the one driving me to dance class, helping me with my homework and making dinner for my family. I love my family, I saw how seamless my parents’ relationship was and their dynamic became my ideal. From a young age, I was already challenging society’s traditional relationships without a second thought.

Tradition, as per the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.” From family traditions to societal traditions, the fact of the matter is, time changes things. We grow up, we evolve, we make new traditions. And millennials seem to be making more new traditions, or a lack thereof, than any previous generation.

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Twenty five percent of millennials will never get married. If they do, the average age for marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. Many of us would rather, and often do, live with our significant other instead of committing to marriage. Some may argue that this is because of our generation’s commitment issues or fear of labels, but perhaps it’s because of the conventions marriage imposes on us. With marriage comes added career and economic pressure for men while women see themselves giving up their previous lives for a new one filled with childbearing and domestic duties.

Personally, these bleak outcomes are what frightened me most about marriage. My ideal future does not coincide with what society says it should look like. Society’s idea of a future for me unsettles my nerves. What if I don’t want to take my husband’s name, what if I don’t want kids, what if I refuse to sacrifice my career? At the root of all of these questions is will I find a guy who has the right answer to all of my questions?

To be honest, marriage is the farthest thing from my mind. The dating culture at NYU, in my opinion, is nonexistent. Everything from internships to part-time jobs and my grocery list cross my mind on a daily basis. Long term, the things that cross my mind range from where I will be getting my first apartment — SoHo or Brooklyn? — and what job I will have in 5 years. Not who I will be settling down with. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We should be more concerned with our careers, goals and other aspirations. Now is the time to be selfish.

Email Gabriella Bower at [email protected]

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