By Gigi Hume
A couple months ago I went over to my grandma’s house to have dinner after marathoning How I Met Your Mother for hours on end and annotating my copy of Romeo and Juliet for my freshmen English class. Needless to say, the topic of love, romance, and the quest for “The One,” was definitely on my mind, leading me to ask my grandma the age-old question, “How did you and grandpa fall in love?” She went on to tell me this whirlwind tale of my grandpa and grandma’s love story complete with the classic “girl next door” and “going from friends to so much more” rhetoric, sprinkled with a few shrieks of “THAT’S SO CUTE!” and “AW!” on my part here and there. But one aspect of this adorable story she made adamantly apparent was the fact my grandparents grew up in a small town where there were only a handful of kids their own age in the dating pool and if they had lived in a bigger city, my grandpa and grandma may have never crossed paths. This of course made my mind wander aways until I came to the realization that romance has evolved greatly since my grandparents generation what with the rapid growth in population and the availability of dating sites like Tinder, making it easy to find soul mates at the swipe of a finger. All of these accommodations of modern life have completely altered the field of romance and how our society goes about pursuing the quest towards true love.
Soul-mate marriage vs. Companionate marriage
At the time my grandparents made the decision to go through life together in sickness and in health the year was 1956 and they were both at the tender age of 23. While in modern times a marriage at this young an age is considered a rarity, even sometimes frowned upon, it wasn’t so out of the ordinary in the 50s. Women were expected to be married before they could leave their parents’ house and more broadly women were expected to be married period. Subsequently, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, most women got married around 20 years old and men at about 23, a stark, seven-year contrast from the 2014 statistic of men marrying at 30 and women at 27. Mainly this was due to the fact marriage was in a sense a ticking time bomb–people often rushing into it with someone they don’t truly love and creating what is called a companionate marriage. This type of marriage is solely done for the purpose of having a companion and mode of support, not really for the reason of deep love and affection now more commonly associated with the modern definition of marriage, a soul-mate marriage, a marriage in which two people marry because they are deeply in love and have had the time to really get to know each other.
Women’s Liberation and The Divorce Revolution
The two main reasons for this evolution in marriage lie within the ideological effects of Women’s Liberation Movement and The Divorce Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. These individual movements changed people’s, particularly women’s, view on the principles of marriage. For one thing, the Women’s Liberation
Movement revolutionized the way in which women go about their lives, enabling the opportunities to pursue higher education, have access to birth control, and not conform to patriarchal standards. There was no longer this societal pressure to rush into the marriage and family life. Women could now develop careers, have casual sex without the worry of getting pregnant, and actually enjoy their 20s, the decade of selfishness, before having to concern themselves with a family life, or even, *gasp*, not have one at all.
At the same time this revolution was happening just outside, a new revolution concerning the lives and family dynamics inside homes nationwide came to light. People were being awakened to the fact they weren’t truly happy within their marriages and did just as anyone today would do if they were no longer satisfied with their marriage–they got a divorce. This started to happen more and more across the U.S. until it reach its peak in the 70s, creating a Divorce Revolution, and leaving people the freedom to either enjoy the single life or pursue love with whoever they pleased.
And “whoever they pleased” took on a whole new meaning. Up until that point, people thought being gay, bi, trans, or essentially anything besides straight, was a disease and that people who identified as such should be harassed, jailed, or even killed, forcing some to marry someone there weren’t attracted to. That all changed with the 1967 induction of the Sexual Offences Bill accompanied by the revolutionary Stonewall Riots, and thus the LGBT+ Liberation movement reached new heights and shifted public opinion towards more forward-thinking rhetoric. With that shift, more LGBT+ people were slowly, but surely making headway toward both public acceptance and the redefinition of what it is to be a couple from a man and a woman to whatever strikes one’s fancy.
Now we are back to the present. Since the 2007 release of the first-ever iPhone, the use and advancement of technology has only been going only been going one way–up. With that rise, comes the rise of helpful applications and within those helpful apps, there are ones specifically targeted towards dating and companionship. Tinder, eHarmony, and Match have become the ideal way to meet people and test the “relationship waters” if you will. And best part–they actually work. We have all seen
those commercials focusing on couples who have found relationship “success” through those means, and they put the money where their mouth is in that regard with roughly 5% of the US population of finding their significant other through an app, within just a mere few years and it shows no sign of slowing down.
All of these societal strides toward a collective forward-thinking mindset have undoubtedly impacted the scope of love and romance in the modern world. People are happier and better-suited to their significant others now more than ever. As we move to new places, meet new people, and discover who we are through experimentation and experience, our preferences change and now we have more freedom and more methods of doing so, far more than our grandparents, or even our parents. So I ask you reader, maybe have a discussion with your parents about how they met, the circumstances behind it, and how those circumstances differ from today, you never know, the answer may surprise you (or make you incessantly squeal with delight over the cuteness of it all).
For more info on this topic, check out Aziz Ansari’s book, Modern Romance