Pressures To Get Married Before 30
As we venture into our 20s, adulting and concerns regarding financial stability will undoubtedly begin to rise. However, women tend to be faced with an additional burden at this age as well — the pressure to get married before turning 30.
Whether it’s due to parental expectations or old-school mindsets in society, progression of female empowerment can sometimes feel like a case of going one step forward and two steps back. We spoke to 7 girls in Singapore to find out what are the causes behind these expectations to get married and how they deal with them.
1. “In my close circle of friends, I am the only single one”
Image courtesy of Jia Yi
“I’m single and while growing up, my mum always emphasised that she got married at 25 and gave birth to me when she was 26. These were subtle hints that my parents wanted me to settle down in my mid-20s.
As many of my cousins around my age have settled down, I think my parents are getting more worried and have been pressuring me more. Whenever I am heading out, they would ask if I would be out with male or female friends as though it makes a difference.
In my close circle of friends, I am the only single one, while the rest of them have applied for BTO with their partners and are looking to get married within the next few years. At times, I do wonder if there’s something wrong with myself that I am not having the same “life experiences” as my friends. But at the same time, I came to realise that if I am not the best version of myself, I shouldn’t be with someone to fill in the gap that I lack.
The worst thoughts I’ve had were “do I even know what love is?” or “maybe I am unworthy to find someone that I will truly love”. But now, I spend more time focusing on being a better person. I pick up new hobbies, prioritise my mental health and also focus on my career.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “You don’t have to conform to society’s expectations. The right one will come along when you least expect it.”
— Yeow Jia Yi, 26
2. “The pressures relate to giving birth to a healthy child at a prime age”
Image courtesy of Christine
“As I’m attached, the expectation to get married has increased greatly in recent years. The main sources of these pressures are from my grandparents, relatives and friends.
I feel that the older generation feel the urgency of getting married early due to their upbringing and how their age of marriage was much lower back in the day. I definitely think that the pressures also relate to giving birth to a healthy child at a prime age and the need to move out and start a family.
I believe in doing things in my own time. I’ve only started earning money and becoming independent, so I should be allowed to focus on myself and grow as a person holistically at this age. I’m very thankful that my partner and I share the same sentiments and have aligned our goals.
My experience living overseas alone has also really broadened my mindset and allowed me to take the time to focus on what I need and the steps needed to get there. Marriage, to us, is not a priority and can come slightly later on. If we’re going to be together forever, what’s the rush?”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “Focus on yourself and what you want. Life should conform to your needs, not the other way round.”
— Christine, 25
3. “Netflix dramas and movies have played a part for my mindset”
Image courtesy of Jou Teng
“Growing up, getting married before 30 felt like it was the “right” path for me to follow — finish school, get a job and then marry someone that I love. Maybe it is how I grew up with that mindset, and also the media has played a part through Netflix dramas and movies.
Now that I am closer to hitting 30, I do feel the expectations from my parents more, particularly from my mum. I think it comes from how she wants me to find someone to grow old with even though it’s fine to be alone.
Honestly speaking, I tend to put these expectations away in my mind because I am the one living my life and no one can tell me what to do. I wouldn’t personally put in more effort to try and find a partner just to fulfil those expectations. But rather, I take things easy because I believe everyone has their own timing. Perhaps for me, it might be after 30 or even never.
I believe the trend of getting married later is also rising because of money. You have to think about the costs of a wedding, house and children, so it sort of delays the entire marriage plan. At the same time, some prefer to stay single or might just want to have a casual relationship without committing.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “Take it easy because it is your life and you are the one who gets to decide what you want. If it is really unbearable to a certain extent, talk to whoever is causing you the pressure and tell them to back off in a nice manner.”
— Tan Jou Teng, 28
4. “Society dictates what you should be achieving by a certain age”
Image courtesy of Q
“While I’m single, I grew up with the mindset that marriage is a rite of passage, and that I wouldn’t have really ‘lived’ without going through it. Now that I’m 23, these expectations have only gotten more intense. My parents are not open to understanding and accepting generational shifts in values.
Other than the biological clock, I feel that society dictates what you should be achieving by a certain age. This is especially when it comes to graduation, BTO and marriage. If you don’t conform to this timeline, you’re seen as a misfit and judged terribly.
Males my age have much less pressure due to the well-known cliche that men get more valuable with age while women are depreciating assets. These expectations make me feel ashamed and embarrassed, as if there’s something I’m not doing right in life.
Singapore’s culture is still very traditional, as many people still want to get married and have babies. Not many people have the courage to defy their parents’ expectations, be the oddball in the family and seen as the one left on the shelf.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “Social constructs are nonsense. Try your best to ignore the pressure and just live life according to your own standards and timelines.”
— Q, 23
5. “People want me to get married and have kids so I won’t be alone in the future”
“When I was younger, the pressure was on getting a boyfriend. It is only lately that relatives are starting to bring up marriage. But I’ve made it clear with my mum that I want to be financially secure and travel the world. She knows that I don’t really care much about getting married and don’t see myself having kids in the future, but I think she hopes I’ll change my mind.
People want me to get married and have kids so I won’t be alone in the future. Also, it means there will be someone to take care of me in old age. But at 23, I’m more concerned about becoming financially stable. I also want to focus on myself first. I don’t want to enter a relationship, have kids and then project my issues on them.
These expectations to get married makes me feel small, as if anything I accomplish won’t matter if I don’t become a wife and a mum. I graduated from a good university, yet I was told by two older women in my family that I should marry a certain man for his money. Naturally, I was pissed. They shouldn’t have let me study at a good university if my hard work would be ignored at the end.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “Don’t rush into marriage just because of external pressure. You’re not incomplete, incapable or selfish if you’re comfortable and secure in your own company.”
— Lyla, 23
6. “The preference for younger females by older males makes the pressure greater as we age”
Image courtesy of Cindy
“Nobody would ask when I would get into a relationship and settle down when I was younger, but nowadays, many relatives from my extended family would ask my parents this. For females, our body’s biological clock is ticking. The stereotype and preference of younger females for older males in a relationship makes the pressure greater as we age.
Males don’t face the same pressure as much since they can get together with a younger female. They actually have more options as they age. I ignore these expectations as this is my life and my choices. My direct family doesn’t give me such pressures, so I just laugh and act blur when other people ask me.
Women face these common expectations because of society’s stereotype to start a family and have kids, coupled with women’s ability to have kids dwindling as we age. Even if a woman works, she must still take care of the kids and be a good wife. Despite that, more people are also marrying later or not getting married at all.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “You do you! Don’t bother about what other people think or say.”
— Cindy, 23
7. “I think I put this pressure on myself due to the fear of missing out”
“I face expectations to get married from my parents because my siblings got married early. I think I put this pressure on myself due to the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) as well.
I do feel low about myself when the main topics discussed among friends are about marriage. While left out, I’m also glad that I wouldn’t have to worry as much. It reaffirmed myself and my own beliefs soon after, and I was able to just ignore it.
Other girls my age experience the pressure to BTO and have children — all of which are related to marriage and starting a family. More people are marrying later now and the culture is alright as long as people are not forced to do what they do not want.”
Advice to other girls experiencing the same pressures: “Just ignore them, do what you want and believe in yourself.”
— Winy, 23
Girls Share Their Pressures To Get Married & How They Deal With Them
From unrealistic expectations from K-dramas to family pressure to have kids, these girls have shown us that we should never conform to external expectations. At the end of the day, a woman’s worth isn’t determined by their age and marriage. It’s high time for society to wake up and acknowledge that as well.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
All images courtesy of interviewees.