Marriage is not something that I witnessed happening a lot in my family. Most of our family households are led by unmarried women. And seeing women lead so powerfully and make it look effortless influenced my view on marriage and whether I need it for myself. These women know how to fix appliances when they fuse without hesitation, and school pick-ups and drop-offs are handled like pros. I’ve always been fond of being independent, focused on achieving my goals and living my life without wanting to conform to the norms that society places on us, women.

As I approach the halfway mark of my 20s, I smile at the life I continue to curate for myself, but I can’t say my views have not been altered to see the importance and beauty of such solid companionship in the long run. However, that being said, I feel that marriage’s love, support and stability can be present in any defined relationship. Therefore, marriage is only a bonus and shouldn’t be a prioritised occurrence.

I sat down with my aunts Mam’Kholeka and Ous’Lesego, two of the few married women in my family. Both have been married for more than ten years. They shared some insight on why they decided to get married: “Growing up where I did, it was frowned upon to have children and not get married, so I felt pressured,” said Mam’Kholeka. For Ous’Lesego, it was a childhood dream of hers: “I loved the idea of being with someone I loved and could be of support to me,” she said.

They both felt that youth today were shifting away from marriage. “What I’m seeing from my daughter is that she doesn’t care much for marriage. She wants to live her life before even thinking of committing to someone on that level,” said Mam’Kholeka. Ous’Lesego added, “You young people are very driven now; you don’t compromise on what you believe in and where you see yourself in the future. And, of course, you are seeing issues of GBV and divorces, which may influence that.”

How do younger people feel about marriage? I spoke to a few of my friends. Sisanda (24) from Khayelitsha said, “Nowadays, women love being independent. Whereas, in a traditional marriage, society views women as needing to be dependent on the man.” Reflecting on her personal life, she said, “As a young person, I have never fantasised about getting married. I love being independent, and I strongly believe I cannot meet the standards that society has when it comes to marriages.”

Media intern Zodwa (22) said, “Many of today’s youth seem to prioritise their careers and personal development over traditional notions of marriage. This shift may stem from their observations of less-than-ideal marital experiences often witnessed within their families.” She continued, “I am indeed looking into getting married someday. I value sharing my life with someone and having a companion to navigate the journey together. But I wouldn’t say it’s a priority.”

University of Stellenbosch Medicine student Liyabona (20) explained, “Many people are more focused on their career, being independent and doing things on their own. Our view of society has changed; this generation of women are go-getters. And won’t fit into stereotypes and boxing ourselves.”

Also standing firm on independence and being self-driven, my colleague Tennille’s daughter shared, “My focus is on my education, career, financial independence, and ability to travel the world. I will eventually get to that point where I would like to have a life partner if it happens, but I do not see the need for a marriage certificate to validate that partnership.”

The drive for personal growth, coupled with everything happening around us, doesn’t place marriage at the forefront of many of our lives right now. This doesn’t reject the prospect of marriage but allows it to unfold on its timing, without pressure. And that I think is great!

Tell us. What are your thoughts on getting married in the future? Why or why not?