The Death of Companionate Marriage

In the Modern era, there was never much thought in choosing a partner to marry. Basically, if someone was financially stable and willing to marry you, they were the “the one.” Companionate marriages are marriages between two people that are very functional in the way that they get along fine, but their standards are at a bare minimum. As long as their partner could provide themselves and their family, then the marriage would be lasting, regardless of whether or not there was a true love connection between the two people.

Companionate marriages started to lessen when the concept of “emerging adulthood” became commonly accepted. Emerging adulthood is a newer life stage that exists between the transition of being a teenager and an adult. This is a time where someone moves outside of where they grew up, moves away from their parents, they travel, they go to college, and they meet new people. This is a life stage that most people in the Modern era didn’t experience, especially women. For women, marriage at 20 or 21 was most common, and higher education wasn’t widely accepted for them, so this life stage was virtually nonexistent. In Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, Ansari spoke to married seniors in New York City and found that most of the women he spoke to wish that they hadn’t gotten married so young, so that they could experience their lives outside of their parents and their partner. The emerging adulthood stage of life now gives women a chance to grow and learn who they are without the disruption of others.

In addition to “emerging adulthood,” technology continues to get more and more advanced and in turn, we become increasingly globalized and interconnected with people from all over the world. The first big advance towards online dating was the invention of texting. Texting allows people to communicate in an entirely new way and it has shaped millenials. Overwhelmingly, people under 30 prefer texting over phone calls. Many see texting as much easier, but also it gives way to the possibility of communicating with those you’re not extremely familiar with, such as people you may meet online.

Companionate marriages have always been about settling given the options one has based on geographical location. People would marry their neighbor, classmate, or a family friend. There wasn’t much thought put into the whole process because that’s just what people did. Now, singles are looking for their soulmate, not just anyone to settle down with. Online dating has made people realize that you can virtually find anyone, even your ideal match. Your ideal match could be thousands of miles away, too, and without online dating you would’ve never known they existed. Websites like OkCupid, where you answer questions about yourself and what you’re looking for, make it possible for someone to narrow down their options heavily. OkCupid will tell you, despite geographical location, what percent you are alike to someone and what percent you are “an enemy” to someone. Based on that algorithm, if people are looking for someone extremely similar to themselves, they can find their tailored soulmate easily. Now we don’t have to go on online dating websites to find someone to settle with, instead we can find someone that fits everything that we would ideally like in a life partner.

Whether online dating works, I’m not sure. Over 1/3 of married couples in the U.S. met online from 2005–2012, and that number is only growing. What I am positive about is that we no longer have to settle in marriages that make us unhappy; we can now find love, financial stability, and a soul mate if we put in the effort. Companionate marriages still exist but will steadily lessen as time goes on. Online dating isn’t a phenomenon that seems to be fading away, instead we are getting more and more options, which arguably increases the possiblity of each of us finding our perfect soul mate.

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