Is Marriage Going Out of Fashion?
According to the most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, the married population in the UK is expected to drop to just 41 per cent in 20 years, compared with 49 per cent now.
The average groom in Britain is for the first time now the same age as his bride. In the 1960s, men were typically two years older than the women they married. But around one in ten marriages are now between couples of the same age, which is more common than any other age difference.
The age gap has largely been eliminated as an increasing number of women marry men closer in age to them or are younger.
A growth in female independence has led to marriage becoming more of an equal partnership, instead of women being dependent on a man’s career. In 1963, only 15 per cent of marriages involved a woman older than her new husband.
Now 26 per cent of brides have a younger groom. Like 29-year-old Kate Middleton, who is five months older than William, 28, more women are marrying younger men and choosing to do so after following similar life paths such as going to university.
There has also been an increase in the prominence of ‘cougar’ women who have relationships with younger ‘toyboys’.
This phenomenon has been fuelled by growing numbers of financially independent older professional women who marry or date much younger men, including Ann Summers boss Jacqueline Gold, 50, whose second husband Dan Cunningham is 17 years her junior.
Anastasia de Waal, deputy director of think tank Civitas said: ‘A lot of people meet future spouses at university or work, they become friends, so the relationship is more likely to be more equal as it is within your peer group.
‘Deciding on future spouses seems to be more about companionship developing into romance.
‘We should move away from thinking of marriage as a career move in itself.
‘For many women, marriage was their identity, you were a wife.
‘Now it’s much more about partnership.’
The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the number of women who are five years older than their husbands has doubled in the past forty years, from one per cent in 1963 to two per cent in 2003, with nine per cent of marriages being between couples of the same age.
ONS researcher Professor Ruth Hancock, said: ‘Biological age has become less of a defining factor in social identity and therefore larger age gaps may be more acceptable to the partners themselves and to society.
‘Our findings suggest that in England and Wales people’s reasons for marrying may be becoming less concerned with social status and more with fulfilment of individual goals.’
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