Why women need to be financially independent before marriage?
Women typically marry younger than men all around the world. According to research (Allendorf et al.) in 2017, women are accepted to marry starting at the age of 20, while men at 23. Meanwhile, young adults start to be financially independent (not dependent on their parents and not living together with their parents) at the age of 22 or after they graduate from college (Barroso et al., 2019). Yet again, most men are financially independent earlier than women, especially when they start to think about marriage (ibid). This is because society expects them to be the providers in a marriage. Even if the situation is slightly different in each country, one thing common to the phenomenon is that some women do not even have a chance to be independent before they marry. They do not have the experience of what it feels like to be completely in charge of their lives without any second opinion.
Being independent means that you are free from the influence or control of other parties, such as parents or your providers. This can be divided into being financially independent and freedom in deciding one’s own identity. Financially independent means that you are responsible for your finances, such as paying your bills from your own money that you earn. When you are a young adult, this can be difficult, especially for people who are not used to working. In some countries, working a part-time job while studying is just not the norm. This, sometimes, can be the reason why some women want to get married early. They miss their parents, who always provide for them. However, being independent financially gives you the freedom to manage your own money and decide what you want to do with it. This will help you to direct yourself into the life that you have always dreamed of.
Being financially independent as an individual is an important stage in someone’s journey. This will happen in early young adulthood. When a woman misses this stage by getting married (often the husband will be provided by her father), they will lack some important skills in their life, especially when it comes to managing money and appreciating it because you earn it with your hard work. There are many possibilities in terms of financial issues in a marriage. There is also a possibility that women will learn to manage money in a marriage. However, managing money in a marriage is different from managing money as an individual. When you are single, your money focus will be on your future. When you want to spend your own money, you will not consider other parties’ happiness and needs. Your main focus is on you. This gives you the freedom to shape your future and happiness without any limitations.
Learning to manage money in a marriage will be different from learning it when you are single. Even though both are important, the focus of money in a marriage will be on the family that you build. It will be harder to spend it on your own free will. The freedom to spend the money however you want will not exist, especially when you have children. Let alone the weak bargaining power women have in marriage during conflicts when they do not contribute any money to the household.
Chaos for women will also happen if a sudden withdrawal from the provider occurs, such as a divorce or a spouse’s death. Some women will go back to their families if they are lucky. This is why we have a stigma about widowers because, somehow, they are seen to be a burden for the family. It is possible that women can also come out of this situation amazingly. It is just harder to do when you’ve been dependent financially your whole life and you need to start it all over again when you are not young anymore.
In their early 20s, young adults learn to find out who they are without the influence of their parents. This is the time when separation occurs with their parents. Some start to move out, some because of college and work, and others for other reasons. They start to experience life without the existence and guidance of their parents. They also get exposed to many kinds of different perspectives on life from the new people they meet or the events they might experience without the shield of parents.
In the absence of their primary guide, a young adult reevaluates who they are and makes an effort to determine precisely what they want in this world.
It is not forbidden to get through this process in a marriage with your partner. However, in an early marriage where women skip this process of self-discovery by themselves, they will not know who they are as an individual in this world. Their existence is always linked with others, such as a wife or a mother. This will cause a delay in self-discovery. The delay of self-discovery does not always mean bad news. It is just that you need to expect a “different you” in the future when you are old enough and have many strings attached. However, society will not expect that. In some cases, it will result in judgment from them. Then, it will be harder for women to grieve when they face separation from their partners. The separation can be a divorce or death. It is because they never know who they are without being called “daughter” or “wife.” For their whole life, they are always linked to someone else. This can cause an existential crisis for them.
Finally, life is not about black and white. Humans are adaptive and life is dynamic. There is no right way to live your life. This article is just some possibilities and comparisons of why women need to be independent before they marry. There are also possibilities that you will find out who you are in a marriage or that you will achieve financial independence with your partner. Even if it is harder, it does not mean impossible. What is certain is that life is all about consequences. What you choose now will reflect the result in the future.
Allendorf, K., Thornton, A., Mitchell, C., Young-DeMarco, L., & Ghimire, D. (2017). Early Women, Late Men: Timing Attitudes and Gender Differences in Marriage. Journal Of Marriage And Family, 79(5), 1478-1496. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12426
Barroso, A., Parker, K., & Fry, R. (2019). Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children. Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. Retrieved 29 June 2022, from https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/10/23/majority-of-americans-say-parents-are-doing-too-much-for-their-young-adult-children/.
Views expressed are author’s own.
About The Author
Intan T. Ilaiha
Intan is an independent woman who lives alone by herself. She is a journalist by profession and she is interested in the issues of politics, international relations, and feminism.
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