When it comes to marriage, most of us have a pretty clear picture of what we want from an early age. Some of us think that we’ll definitely be married with two kids by age 28—because when you’re seven, anything over 25 is, like, really old—or we’ve already decided that marriage will never be for us. And when we’re young, it seems so clear and so concrete that it’s hard to believe we’ll ever change our minds. And yet, some of us do change. But what makes someone who’s never wanted to get married suddenly (or not so suddenly) have a change of heart?
As it turns out, a variety of reasons play a role. For some it’s practical, for some it’s meeting the right person, and for some, it’s a change in themselves. But looking at these reasons provides insight into what marriage itself means to all of these people; you get to see what was strong enough to sway them when they thought marriage is something they’d never want. For the modern bride, marriage can mean a lot of different things—which reminds us to keep our minds open, because life can lead you in some pretty unexpected directions.
Meeting the Right Person
For some, it’s ripped right out of a rom-com script. They believed they didn’t want to get married, but when they met someone they actually could see themselves with in the long term, that changed. “I had no desire to get married until I'd been dating my now-husband for several months—and we just celebrated our second wedding anniversary,” says Sarah, whose views didn’t shift until her 30s. Although it may be more complicated than you see in movies (“I remember a somewhat heated convo over who got to propose,” Sarah adds), for some, it really is about the person. And if you’ve ever had a string of difficult partners, you can understand why.
Being in the Right Relationship
For others, it’s more about the kind of relationship they are in rather than the person. It’s a subtle difference but one that speaks to those who have only ever experienced flings or destructive partners. “Being in a stable, loving, and committed relationship, the prospect of marriage doesn’t seem like such a big step when it might have before,” says Helen, age 32. “There’s something nice about having a day to celebrate what you have with your partner, and the longer we’re together, the more I can see that.” It’s hard to imagine yourself getting married when every relationship you’ve had hasn’t made it that far—often for good reason. When the relationship feels natural, it’s easier to see the future.
A Change in Themselves
But the change doesn’t always have to do with other people. It’s naive to think that we know everything we’re going to want out of life when we’re 15, so, perhaps unsurprisingly, some women just find that they are the thing that changes. Many women expressed experiencing a shift—either they felt that they weren’t marriage material until they gained some self-confidence or realized that family was more important to them than they had originally realized. It’s important to remember that despite the Hollywood narrative, marriage isn’t about someone sweeping in and changing your life. It’s about your own choices and desire as much as anyone else’s. So if you change, you may find your attitude toward marriage changing, too, and you may be more likely to want it (or you may even want it less).
The Not-So-Romantic Reasons
Sometimes the reasons aren’t romantic at all. Tax breaks, health insurance, and visas all play a role in the decisions of some modern brides. But, interestingly, some found that having to consider marriage for practical purposes made them think about it in a new light. “Honestly, I never thought I’d be into getting married until I needed a visa,” says Zoe, 29. “But even though I was only thinking about it for the visa at first, I actually found that considering it as a real possibility made me want to do it more generally. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it.” That being said, for some, the reasons were strictly practical. In fact, some women who wanted to get married said that having to say I do's earlier than planned because of visas took the romance out of the whole experience.
The reasons to get married are always going to be just as varied as the women doing the marrying, because marriage means something different to everyone—for better and for worse. Just because you think you’ll always know how you feel, this may not be the case—you never know where life is going to take you.