Postponing the Proposal

The institution of marriage has changed drastically over the years.

Today, more and more men and women are waiting to head to the altar.

Marriage once seemed the natural step after high school or college and for some it still is.

But now, many more are opting to focus on their careers and use their 20s and 30s as a time for self-examination and independence.

Laura Simpson is 24-years-old, holds a public relations degree and recruits and trains volunteers for Junior Achievement.

"I feel fortunate that I did get a chance to go to college, graduate and then luck into a great job and start off on my career--get that rolling and establish myself as an independent working woman," said Laura, who is program manager for Junior Achievement.

She is one of a number of young women who are delaying marriage to focus on her career.

"It gives me a chance to financially establish myself, and take care of the things that I need, and plan for the future," Laura admitted.

Many young women are choosing to hold off on marriage.

"Like a lot of girls that go to college you think you will find your husband in college and do it all at once--career, family, extra-curricular's and church," said Rachel Manning, asst. director of WKU event planning.

Life doesn't always work out that way though and for most, it provides opportunities for growth and self-examination.

"And so when you graduate and that's not you, you paint yourself a new picture," Rachel added.

"Women who have the option are really enjoying growing into a sense of independence--having a career and establishing themselves that way can give them a greater sense of self before they get married," explained Dorothea Browder, a WKU History professor.

Browder said one reason women are waiting to get married is they're not ready to become mothers yet.

"They want to build a career before they have children so that they can negotiate things like maternity leave and set up daycare and be more financially stable," she added.

Womens' roles have drastically changed in the past few decades.

"I think because we're finally seeing a trend of women leaders in the political world and the business world, that it's teaching women you can do anything you want to do," Laura said.

Pop culture has embraced the idea.

The television series, "Sex and the City," profiled four successful 30 and 40-something women who chose singlehood well into adulthood.

It's not always for career purposes that marriage gets pushed back.

Some pursue graduate school first.

Experts say women who do delay marriage for career are often divided by economic lines.

"I do want to emphasize it's more of a middle-class educated phenomenon with women who have the option of doing that," assured Professor Browder.

And while society is more accepting, there's still pressure on young women to tie the knot.

"My girlfriends and I definitely talk about when it's going to happen for everybody and you get the question, 'Are you married yet?' 'Why not?' and 'When are you going to?'" Laura said.

"I don't think that's the measure of a person and when the time is right people will hopefully be afforded that opportunity, but I'm happy to be where I am," Rachel assured.

While a number of women are delaying marriage, it doesn't mean they're staying single forever.

Professor Browder says 90-percent of women will still marry.


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