When I was younger, adults would thrust the concept of marriage upon me. They would say things like, “When you meet the one you want to spend your life with…” or, “When you get married one day…” While I was lukewarm to the idea at the time, I admit that my present desire to marry in the future has grown much deeper — with an emphasis on ‘future.’ 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that marriage has become a prevalent topic of discussion among my generation. Knowing that marriage is under the microscope, I predict that Gen Z will either embrace the aisle or ditch it completely — attaching the badge of “married” or “unmarried” onto themselves as a social signal — based on a more practical risk assessment, instead of on obligation.

Gen Z’s case against marriage

According to a new survey from the Centre of Psychology, two in five young adults say marriage is an outdated tradition

From how I see it, Gen Z — those born between 1997–2012 — is generally risk averse. Studies demonstrate that we are getting our driver’s licenses later in life and that we aren’t engaging in risky behaviours as much as our predecessors. I believe that this aversion to risk will seep into Gen Z delaying or outright avoiding saying “I do.” 

Gen Z is already overwhelmed with the inconsistency of online dating and social media. Putting all your certainty into a union that has a 38 per cent divorce rate doesn’t sound like a safe bet geared toward a cautious audience. 

I imagine that the cautious, “unmarried” faction of Gen Z will attempt to find meaning in other pursuits instead of risking being stuck in an abusive or unhealthy marriage. Although it’s been statistically shown that marriage makes people happier, there are many ways one can be fulfilled without having a spousal relationship. Meaning can be found through one’s experiences, friendships, pets, hobbies, religious community, career, and charity work. Marriage is not for everyone, and even those who want to get married may not end up doing so. 

Considering that carrying the title of “husband” or “wife” is a status symbol, I also predict that we will increasingly see people distinguish themselves using the “unmarried” label.

In recent years, online creators have been dedicating their platforms to discussing the advantages they perceive to have gained from being unmarried. Just recently, a woman under the handle @pmdpod went viral for speaking about her Friday night seeing Beyoncé and her Saturday sleeping in and making Shakshuka. She boasted that being unmarried gave her the luxury of time to enjoy what she wants. Being 29, this woman is not a part of Gen Z, but her sentiments echo a prevalent Gen Z perspective. 

Gen Z’s case for marriage

There is also a faction of Gen Z that anticipate marriage for the stability that can come from it. A lot of us do not want a short-term relationship, but a long, meaningful one that isn’t fickle or shallow. Simply based on chats with my friends, I know that we’re already tired of the dating culture of swiping left and right and that we crave real commitment. Although one can have a meaningful relationship without involving it, marriage can provide comfort and legal privileges that are not accessible in its absence.

When I brought up to my traditionalist dad how financial status deters marriage, I recall him saying that I would be waiting until my 50s to get my optimal salary. Essentially, he implied that even if you manage to get a relatively stable job in your late twenties, you will only make more money as you grow within that career. On the other hand, you may only have one chance to marry the right person while you are young — with opportunistic timing in your favour. 

I see him viewing the emotional abundance that marriage gives him as worthwhile — despite the financial burden.

Given how @pmdpod’s TikTok sparked online conversation, I believe it will be interesting to observe the polarity between the two competing sides of Gen Z rejecting and reviving marriage. Maybe being unmarried will become more than an individualistic alternative lifestyle choice for Gen Z, but a chic, en-vogue lifestyle. 

Then again, what do I know — I’ve never been married.

Alia Ginevra is a third-year student in the Faculty of Music at UTSG studying music and political science.