Despite claims about the Tinder generation, figures show marriage is on the rise here again. Why are couples starting to ring the love-life changes, asks Deirdre Reynolds.
LOVED up since their teens, Sarah Kiely and her boyfriend Michael, who live together in Dublin, couldn’t be more committed.
Since getting engaged eight months ago, however, the bride-to-be says there’s something different about their decade-long relationship, even if she can’t quite put her ring finger on it.
“We were living together for five years before Michael proposed so I never really thought about it too much,” says Sarah.
“It was more after we got engaged, I just felt more at ease with where we were going.
“I don’t know if that’s something that happens as you get older as a woman, or it’s just something that I felt personally, but I felt very calm after we got engaged.”
At 29, the managing director of Sadie’s Kitchen, is a full four years younger than the average Irish woman walking down the aisle for the first time.
But she’s not the only member of the Tinder generation defying modern convention by settling down.
After nose-diving during the recession, recent figures show how marriage is slowly on the rise again in Ireland.
The budget is getting bigger too, up 6% from last year to €22,531 on average.
For Sarah and her fiancé, who are planning a small, civil ceremony, it’s about stability — not spectacle.
“Marriage is important to the two of us,” she says.
“We’re completely not into the idea of a church wedding, or anything like that, so it’s more just very much for ourselves.
“If we were to start a family down the line, we both believe in that structure.
“At the moment, we’re just kind of enjoying that little bubble of not having to make any plans around a wedding. We’re very content with the commitment.”
Amid much hand-wringing at the rise of hookup culture, exemplified by the four-year-old dating app Tinder, it’s a commitment that more and more millennials are ironically making.
In 2014, there were 22,045 marriages in Ireland, according to the CSO, an increase of 1,365 on the previous year, and almost 5% on 2011.
So ahead of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in 2019, why are 20 and 30-somethings here seemingly sacrificing the free love their parents fought so hard for for old-fashioned monogamy?
“Many people explore various short-term relationships but after a period of ‘playing the field’ can feel dissatisfied, used, tired of the old chat-up routines, and lack of commitment,” says Terence Herron, a Dublin-based counsellor and psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience.
“Some people develop a dependency on the buzz of the new, intense ‘falling in love rush’ and then need to move on to someone [new] to re-experience it again and again. Over time I see both men and women get very disillusioned by this cycle.
“I think as people move through their 20s, there’s an increasing desire for a secure attachment and a reciprocal sense of being nurtured and supported while having fun too,” he says.
“The fact that almost 30% of all marriages are now in registry offices may make it easier for some to avoid the pomp and the historical associations with a religious church wedding.
“Also there are many divorced people who are remarrying, which is adding to the numbers, as well as the addition of same-sex marriage.”
Ireland’s typical brides and grooms may be older than ever before at 33 and 35, respectively, but they haven’t fallen out of love with the institution, according to the experts.
Nor are they saying ‘I do’ to tradition altogether by waiting to ‘settle down’ before starting a family, with the average Irish woman now welcoming her first child three years earlier at 30.
“There is still a huge romance about getting married,” says Susan Gallagher of wedding website, One Fab Day.
“The symbolism of commitment and love and pledging to stay with someone forever is just as strong as it ever was.
“We hear again and again from couples how delighted they are to commit to their ‘best friend’. The fact there is no [societal] pressure to get married, to live together, or have children has not affected this at all.”
Two months after wedding long-term love Robert in a fairytale ceremony, Kaz Lynas from Belfast still hasn’t stopped beaming.
“I’m an old-fashioned romantic at heart,” admits the PR account manager.
“For me, marriage is important as it’s a true sign of trust, commitment, and being prepared to work at something for the rest of your life.
“I didn’t feel pressure, as I know many who chose not to marry in relationships and are equally content.
“I think it’s perhaps more the case of women wanting realness now,” says the 32-year-old.
“An online account can sometimes be so filtered you don’t know where the head ends and neck starts. Swiping right or left over a glass of wine might be a giggle with the girls on a Friday night — but nothing beats seeing the whites of a man’s eyes. Then you’ll soon know how ‘real’ they are.”
Around 50m people worldwide — an estimated 30% of whom are already married — still swipe left or right a billion times a day on Tinder.
Now though, a million of them are reportedly hoping to put the ‘one’ back into ‘one-night stand’ after signing up to a new-paid version of the Tinder app, which enables users to undo swipes and search outside their geographic region, among other features.
Meanwhile, a counter generation of dating apps such as SuperDate and Happn — based on more traditional values such as shared interests above looks — has also emerged.
“Monogamy and genuine partnership is still the holy grail,” reckons Rena Maycock of dating agency www.Intro.ie
“Very few of our members in their 20s and 30s say they don’t want marriage or children.
“In our experience, interest in casual flings has a shelf life and around the mid- to late 20s, both men and women lose patience with the transience [of apps like Tinder] and crave the stability of having a person to share their life with.
“Admittedly it takes a little longer for men to tire of the footloose and fancy-free lifestyle, usually around 28, while women gravitate away from dating apps much faster.
“People have changed their view of marriage,” says the matchmaker, who also runs www.Arealkeeper.ie
“Marriage used to be seen as a union in the eyes of God and was intrinsically tied to faith. Now it is seen as a concrete confirmation of commitment.
“To get married is to say, ‘I’m prepared to share myself with you and I don’t see an end to our relationship’. Certainly, in our experience, men and women have not lost interest in marriage at all.”
Despite being painted as the most promiscuous generation yet, one recent study by Florida Atlantic University revealed how those born after contraception became legal in Ireland (1979) are actually having less sex than their parents, with 15% of 20-24 year-olds not hooking up with anyone since turning 18, compared to just 6% of those born in the ’60s.
“This study really contradicts the widespread notion that millennials are the ‘hookup’ generation, which is popularised by dating apps like Tinder and others, suggesting they are just looking for quick relationships and frequent casual sex,” says study co-author Dr Ryne Sherman.
“While attitudes about premarital sex have become more permissive over time, rise in individualism allows young adults to have permissive attitudes without feeling the pressure to conform in their own behaviour.”
Happily, those in long-term relationships are likely to have a better sex life, according to psycho-sexual and relationship therapist June Clyne of Sextherapyireland.com.
“People are definitely yearning for a more intimate connection.
"I know that men and women become very dissatisfied with hook-ups or one-night stands — and that lifestyle is relatively short-lived once the person comes naturally to the conclusion that this type of coupling is very short-term satisfaction, if satisfying at all.
“I believe that sex would be more satisfying in a long-term or committed relationship than a one-night stand,” says the Westmeath-based therapist.
“The chances of intimacy, connection, or sensuality are probably quite slim in a one-night stand.
“How can a one-night stand offer either party a chance to know the other’s body — what their likes or dislikes are, what turns them on and so on?”
Currently saving for a house before setting the date, bride-to-be Sarah confessed she can’t wait until she’s officially off the market.
“I’m the first of the group out of all the girls to get engaged,” she says.
“But I’ve never heard any of my friends saying they don’t believe in getting married. It’s very much ‘one day’.
“Everyone is looking for someone to have a life with, to have shared experiences with, whether it’s a wedding now or in ten years’ time.”
Keeping the spark alive
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