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Who wants to get married?


Daisy Dumas

Fewer than half of Australians, according to a new survey, but the picture changes when age is taken into account.

While many older singletons are not keen to marry, the survey found that the majority of Gen Y singles were keen to tie ...

While many older singletons are not keen to marry, the survey found that the majority of Gen Y singles were keen to tie the knot.

We're keen to find life partners but not so interested in marriage, according to a new study that uncovers the nation's dating habits.

The RSVP Date of the Nation report, published this week, has found that while many of us hope to find a life partner, the majority of single adults in Australia are not interested in marrying.

But while just 41 per cent of singles would like to get married, there are marked differences both between the sexes and between generations - and tradition still shapes many young Australians' approach to love lives. Younger generations are keener to tie the knot than older singles.

Sixty-seven per cent of Gen Y respondents said they want to get married, compared to 39 per cent of Gen Xers and just 12 per cent of Baby Booomers.

Overall, 66 per cent of the 3325 survey respondents - weighted to represent the population - told the dating site that they were happy with being single, though 58 per cent revealed that they "would like to spend the rest of their life with the one."

In another category, while just 56 per cent of singles overall see marriage as a "valid and important social institution", 67 per cent  of Gen Y - birthdates falling roughly between 1980 and 2000 - hold the same view, falling to 54 per cent for Gen X (1960 to 1980) and only 44 per cent for Baby Boomers.

We may be becoming more progressive and open to options beyond marriage, but there is one difference between the sexes that appears to uphold every Hollywood stereotype going: women want to get married more than men.

On average, by our calculations, 9.7 per cent more single women than men want to spend the rest of their lives with the one, see marriage as a valid and important institution and want to get married.

As much as many singles may not want to tie the knot, there is still social pressure to do so, with 52 per cent reporting that they feel expected to marry and 55 per cent saying they feel they are expected to have children.

John Aiken, Fairfax-owned RSVP's resident relationship expert and psychologist said that the results show "that singles still place social importance on marriage and that many are feeling the pressure – especially women."

He points out that the priorities of age-groups vary, with younger adults counter-intuitively more likely to be more aligned with those in their 50s.

"They are likely to be more focused on individual pursuits and not as concerned about biological clocks or social conventions. For Gen Y, this comes from an idealism and attitude of ‘it’s all ahead of me’ and for the Boomers, many feel they have ‘been there, done that’."

Relationship and sex expert Jacqueline Hellyer goes one step further, telling Life & Style that she believes the institution of marriage is "good and strong" but that "it is the Baby Boomers who have lost their naivety." Divorce has put many off approaching the aisle again.

"[The popularity of marriage] goes in swings and roundabouts. One of our innate drives is to reproduce and create a fairly stable environment in which to do that."

She said the stats confirm her "belief that when you're younger, marriage is more important to you."

Having a child out of wedlock is taboo-free for many, too, 35 per cent of the surveyed singles would have a child before marriage.

"There's just so much more choice available now and people have more mature attitudes towards their relationships," said Hellyer. "You don't have to get married to have a family but younger people are still looking to marriage as an important option."

For Kylie Dunjey, a counsellor with Relationships Australia, the data reflects what she sees as a change on the continuum of life’s big moments. "The milestones are the same: we have sex, move in, have children and then marriage is inserted around that, in a different place to where it once was."

Still, she says, the figures - and her daily work - show that there is hope amongst single people to find the stability and security of the right person. "Those things are still attractive – if you want to start a family, there is a higher investment in getting married."

Whether built on a youthful idealism or perhaps as a counter-response to Gen X and Baby Boomers’ failed marriages (a theory needing more data at this stage), says Dunjey, "there is definitely still a desire for healthy, long term relationships."

Living in sin may not be as frowned upon as it once was, but neverthless, the church is keen to celebrate the report. 

A spokesperson from the Archdiocese of Sydney said: "In fact the table that shows 41 per cent of all Australian singles want to get married also very clearly shows there is great optimism about marriage with the younger generation than perhaps the often jaded and cynical baby-boomers.

"Despite continuing claims that marriage is a thing of the past, the figures show with Gen Y and Gen X there are many who still [want] a lifelong and exclusive commitment."


  • I find it strange that idealism has blinded the guys to the reality of marriage being a very poor choice for many reasons. They get very little out of it and it costs them a massive amount in time, money, emotional investment, with the risk of being one of the 40% that gets divorced and the shafting that goes along with it.

    John Holmes
    Date and time
    August 09, 2012, 9:40AM
    • LOL,
      Yeah why get married.
      Here just have 60% of everything i own and yell at me for an hour...

      Quicker and easier....

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 10:14AM
    • Pair bonding is older than the human race, and is the most stable family unit for raising children. Marriage is the traditional way the west has recognised these unions, and despite the risks of divorce it isn't going away any time soon, nor should we celebrate its decline should it disappear.

      James Hill
      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 11:06AM
    • In other words, the modern world has made marriage unattractive for men. In order to marry, a man will have to trade his controllable security - property and income - for the insecurity of a wife who might divorce him for frivolous reasons.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 12:03PM
    • But many men live in long term defacto relationships and have children with their partners, and doesn't exactly the same thing happen when defactos break up? Is there actually a financial difference for married vs defacto in the case of splitting up after a number of years with children?

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 12:21PM
    • Pair-bonding is an exclusively human invention. Our closest relatives are either promiscuous (chimps & bonobos) or polygamous (gorillas). Humans tread a very fine line that often moves into either. You can have societies where infants are bought up as part of an extended 'family' (only 100% sure of their mother) or where a male will have as many wives and children as he can (up to 40-50 half-siblings!). Either response reflects the total helplessness of our babies and the investment we have to make in time and resources to raise them.

      Caffetierra Moka
      Sector 7-G
      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 12:37PM
    • Oh right, so it is always the woman who "goes after" the man's money/property etc. Give me a break! I'm not married, I am in a long-term relationship and we may never get married but if we were to ever (heaven forbid) break up we would both take 50% as I earn just as much as him. Quite often women do get more of the assets because they look after children for more/most days of the year and they have been on mat leave which impacts their earning potential.

      The cynicism of some of these comments has ceased to amaze me, I knew before looking here that this is what some idiot would say because they have had a bad experience and therefore every woman is a gold digger.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 1:05PM
    • Financially I would be better off if I was single.

      I see our marriage as a partnership and while his income is small it doesn't mean his contribution to our relationship is any less. They are our assets not mine.

      If your relationship ends you are half the problem.

      Hunting Aliens
      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 1:33PM
    • "Is there actually a financial difference for married vs defacto in the case of splitting up after a number of years with children?"

      No, it makes no difference whether married or de facto. Assets and income are split up in the same manner and custody orders are the same.

      At least in NSW. I think it's the same in Qld and Vic. Can't say anything about the other states/Territories.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 1:35PM
    • Bender August 09, 2012, 1:35PM: Quite right: There is no difference,which is why there is no incentive to even stay with a woman, let alone marry one.
      NSG: No, not every woman is a gold digger. But a sufficient number of them are to make marriage with no-fault divorce a game of financial Russian roulette for men who marry.You yourself said that "women.. get more because they have the children more", which is farcical, because under the marriage contract, the children belong to him, because he paid for them with his pledge of lifelong care, something the law nullifies.

      Date and time
      August 09, 2012, 4:30PM

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