“I don’t date blindly. Like…if we are not leading up to marriage, what’s the point?” (Irene, 28)
Irene’s idea on love and dating is not by any means unusual. She, like most young women get into romantic relationships with the explicit aim to get married, or at the very least have a committed, life-long partnership. When compared to men, it seems that women are overall more immersed in the idea of long-term commitment.
According to research from Oxford University, women are more invested in their relationships than men and, their happiness and well-being is more dependent upon how things are going in their intimate relationships. The research by Dr. Anna Machin and Professor Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford studied a total of 341 people.
The participants took part in an online psychological research forum, where they answered questions regarding the maintenance, role and value of their best friends and romantic partnerships. Women saw the maintenance of their romantic partnerships as a team sport, involving equal input from both partners with shared goals and beliefs being the key to success. Further, their happiness and contentment were intimately bound up in both their best friendships and romantic partnerships. In contrast, men were found to exist at a greater distance from both of their closest relationships.
Why is this?
Why do women care more about love? And how does it affect how women approach the dating scene?
Is it Biological?
Some would say that this is the natural order of things, that women are naturally predisposed to care more about relationships. The thinking is that women are biologically wired as the nurturers. They’re the ones with the skills to anticipate the needs of their partners, take care of nurturing the relationship and do the problem solving when things go awry.
Certainly, our female ancestors are credited as being the ones who most likely developed language because they stayed in the home taking care of the young, giving them more of an incentive to speak to each other. Therefore the ability to communicate clearly, which is the basis of any solid relationship, generally comes easier to women.
But is this really the reason why women care more? Or is it what we tell ourselves to explain the inordinate amount of importance placed on marriage by women and for women by society?
Questioning the status quo
The more likely reason is that women are taught to centralise romantic relationships and marriage from an early age. I remember being no more than five and having several mock weddings in my parent’s living room, much to my parent’s amusement. From cartoons, to fairytales, marriage is painted as the pinnacle of a woman’s life. The movie always ended with the girl riding into the sunset with her man, never mind what happens once they get out of the car.
Why is it that marriage is the be-all and end-all of a woman’s story?
Well, when you consider the history of marriage, you cannot avoid the question of legitimacy. Historically, an unmarried woman was branded with the scarlet letter of illegitimacy. She was made a pariah in her community and could not take part in daily communal life without constant shaming, even being denied access to communal property. This was not the case for unmarried men. This sexist double standard is a story for another article but the point is, the fear of being ostracised by one’s community is certainly one of the main factors behind women’s almost pathological need for a permanent, legitimate union.
Nothing borne of fear ends well
Now let me just say that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting marriage. The idea of sharing and building a life with a like-minded person is a noble and romantic one. Plus, marriage does have its political, social and economic perks. So, “yay marriage”.
However, is placing marriage at the center of a human life healthy, or even fair to said life?
With this idea of “forever after” at the fore of all we do as women, we fail to live our true authentic lives. A tragedy by any standards. We go about life as somewhat warped versions of ourselves. We don’t live up to our full-potential or even simply as just us. We view being unmarried as akin to living a half-life.
When these anxiety-ridden versions of ourselves then go out to seek life-partners, things only get more complex.
Dating is hard enough without including the urgent need to snag a ring. To be clear, this isn’t that simplistic idea that women shouldn’t act desperate for marriage as a way to get him to propose. That would still be placing marriage at the center of a woman’s existence, which is the problem to begin with. The question here is, how would we approach dating if marriage wasn’t front and center in our lives as women?
Would we be more discerning of the men we date without that looming sense of urgency? Dating a man better suited to our personalities, values and aspirations? Probably.
Would we be more present as partners without constantly worrying about whether or not he is going to make “an honest woman out of you”? This is very likely.
Would we have more fun while dating and probably be happier overall if we decentralised the necessity of marriage in our lives as women? The simple answer is yes.
It then goes that a healthier dating life would be one that isn’t driven solely by the idea of marriage, but rather by a true meeting of minds and spirits and the will to work daily at a relationship.
If you do decide to get married, let it not be as a result of fear, but of critical thought, personal choice and, dare I say it, love.
Until then date light, Sis.
Meet the writer…
Sharon Nyaboe (or Shaz) is a nice-ish aries woman. She is also an editor, writer and content creator who cares about the health, happiness and prosperity of black women, books, music and tea. She collects fountain pens too.
Read more of her coolness at: fibreofherfabric.com
Are women losing out by obsessing about marriage? Share your thoughts, comments below…