WHERE'S THE HITCH?; Analysis : Marriage Is on the Wane in Era of the Career Woman

Article excerpt

Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

OUTDATED institution or optional extra after the career, car and baby - what do the findings of a new report reveal about the modern marriage?

MARRIAGE is a great institution, but who wants to live in an institution, as Groucho Marx once pondered?

In the era of unmarried couples living together and career women putting babies on the back burner in favour of a fat salary and a fast car, Groucho's view is finding some support.

But do most of us think of marriage as no more than an optional extra in a relationship?

A report drawing on research involving nearly 2,000 young people aged from 11 to 16 years old reveals that, for many, marriage is seen as a "choice rather than a must".

The most popular option was the prospect of living with a partner with the possibility of marriage, according to the study by the National Children's Bureau.

Many youngsters particularly women, expressed a desire to fulfil ambitions such as completing their education or travelling the world before committing themselves to a long-term relationship.

Others believed that it was important to have financial stability before getting married, and a small minority of women felt there was no point in getting married at all.

These days, 28 is the average age of a woman to walk down the aisle. In our grandparents' day, a woman of the same age would have been branded an old spinster, like a character in a Jane Austen novel, her biggest goal in life to catch a good man.

But a lot has changed. Women are not reliant on husbands to keep them in the manner to which they are accustomed and now earn their own cash and independence.

So what does the average 28-year-old woman from South Wales make of it all?

"Although I see a lot of people getting married, most of my close friends who are in their late 20s and early 30s have chosen to just live with their partners rather than get married, " says financial communications secretary Sue Nicholas.

The Newport career girl has been with partner Andy for 17 months and living with him for four. She does believe in marriage, but would opt for a nonreligious ceremony.

"It's better to wait until you are older to get married - I just think of the people I could have married if I hadn't waited a while, " Sue points out.

"It would be strange to expect to have the same things in common with your partner years down the line. At least when you are older you are more established in terms of likes, dislikes and ambitions."

Sarah Webb, 28, has also chosen to live with her long-term boyfriend rather than get married.

"My parents were happily married, as are my sisters, " she explains.

"I agree with the commitment aspect but the thought of going through the fuss, pomp and expense of a wedding ceremony does not appeal to me at all."

Working as a full-time administrative assistant for Gwent Police, Sarah lives with Ian, her partner of 10 years, in Newport. …