Marriage used to be a given for most heterosexual people, but a new survey in Canada showed that couples there are less interested in tying the knot than ever before.
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online poll of more than 1,500 people to understand the changing attitudes towards marriage across Canada. Fifty-three per cent of participants said it's not necessary for couples to tie the knot if they want to spend the rest of their lives together, and one in six participants said they're not interested in the milestone at all.
The institute found correlations between the participants' own marriage status and opinion. For instance, the majority of those in common-law relationships (68 per cent) saw marriage as not important.
According to Shachi Kurl, the institute's executive director, one of the reasons for this changing attitude is the fact that living with a partner while unmarried has become socially acceptable.
"A generation ago, the idea of living together — but not married — was living in sin," she explained to The Star Vancouver. "The social taboo associated with being together and unmarried has all been but erased."
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The poll found that millennials and baby boomers were most likely to say that marriage is irrelevant, while the youngest (aged 18 to 24) and oldest (aged 65+) participants said marriage was either very or somewhat important.
And when children were added to the equation, the majority of participants maintained that marriage is not important for couples who plan to stay together.
The belief that marriage is no longer a necessary milestone is reflected across the country. According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 one-fifth of couples were living as common law, which is three times the rate in 1981. More people are choosing to live alone as well, and in 2016, one-person households became the most common type for the first time, ahead of couples living with children.
"You see really significant numbers of people across those age demographics who are not convinced of the importance of marriage, whether it is civil or religious, who are not convinced of its relevance, and who are not convinced of its necessity or relevance even when there's a child involved," Kurl said, according to the National Post.
"We're now of an age where you see Baby Boomers of Gen Xers telling their children or their nieces and nephews, 'It's not that important.'"
This attitude "could be a result of a shift from more traditional values, like marriage, to values such as education and careers," the institute noted. Women no longer need marriage for financial stability, and many people are starting their careers later, which causes them to hold off on marriage.
"Other issues, including finances and the cost of weddings, are also concerns for millennials that may lead to putting off or rejecting marriage altogether," the report noted.
Nora Spinks, of the Vanier Institute of the Family, agrees with the report's idea that changing values has affected people's attitudes on marriage. Spinks previously told The Toronto Star that factors that influenced couples to marry in the past, such as religious beliefs, financial necessity and the societal taboo of having sex outside of marriage, are no longer as relevant today.
But Canadians aren't the only ones who are changing their views on marriage. A 2014 Pew Research report showed that fewer people are getting married in the U.S. too, although for different reasons.
According to Pew, in 2012, one in five U.S. adults aged 25 and up had never been married, which is an increase from 1960 where one in 10 adults were not married.
But despite this, report author Kim Parker noted, "Marriage hasn't fallen out of favour, but financial constraints and imbalances in the marriage market may be holding people back from taking the plunge."
The institute's poll found this to be true among Canadians, too, with 61 per cent believing "more people would get married if weddings weren't so expensive and stressful". This could be why the average age of newlyweds has increased over the years, from 28.5 for men and 25.9 for women in 1950 to 31 and 28, respectively, in 2011.
Canadians also view common-law relationships and marriage similarly from a legal perspective, but say that marriage is still a bigger commitment.