Cohabiting couples ‘put off marriage by symbolism’

Family|March 23rd 2015

Cohabiting couples who refuse to marry are often put off by marital traditions and symbolism according to new report.

Professor Alison Hatch of Armstrong State University in George interviewed 45 “committed unmarried heterosexual couples” living in the United States about their attitudes to wedlock. Aged between 23 and 70, they had all been together for more than a year.

Many of the respondents expressed unease with the traditional meanings and symbolisms associated with marriage, such as the father of the bride walking her down the aisle. This has been interpreted by some as meaning the woman is property to be given by her father to her new husband.

Others were concerned by the possibility of the relationship changing if they married. Some said had been unhappy with the expectations placed upon them in previous marriages and so resisted tying the knot a second time.

Still others, meanwhile, highlighted the fact that marriage is not available to gay people in large parts of the world and therefore saw avoiding it as an act of “civil disobedience

One respondent explained:

“I wouldn’t sit at a segregated lunch counter. I’m not gonna get married if it’s not legal for everybody.”

Some respondents simply believed that marriage was meaningless and would not bring anything to their relationship. Others believed weddings were too commercial while some feared exacerbating family tensions at the ceremony, citing relatives prone to arguing and others opposed to civil rather than religious ceremonies.

The study, entitled Saying “I Don’t” to Matrimony An Investigation of Why Long-Term Heterosexual Cohabitors Choose Not to Marry, will be published in the Journal of Family Issues.

Photo by Bev Sykes via Flickr.

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