Times, they are a-changing – and the institution of marriage is no exception. With more women turning their backs on the traditional order of relationship milestones the dating landscape is looking a LOT different, and it’s all down to timeline decline.
Marriage. House. Baby.
For the longest of time those three words – crucially in that order – was the only acceptable timeline for a woman in a relationship. It’s ingrained in pop culture, our psyche, our assumptions (“you’ve been married for a year now, when can we expect bubs!”; “you’re bringing up a baby in a rented house? I don’t know how you’re doing it!” et al).
While we can still feel pressure to follow the established order of things and the traditional relationship timelines, for a lot of us this line of thinking is mostly in the past and only rears its nosy head courtesy of boomer rellies who don’t think before they open their mouths at Christmas dinner. For 29-year-old Danielle, who lives in the central North Island, it’s a pressure she still lives with, thanks to her conservative, religious family who are expecting her to settle down and start on the traditional trifecta as soon as possible.
However, she’s firm in her decision that she’ll never marry.
“I’ve seen so many marriages not work out,” she tells Capsule. “All of my family is Catholic so divorce is a big no-no and half of my family are trapped in unhappy marriages they can’t get out of. Plus, there’s a growing trend and understanding that monogamy is not a natural thing like Clementine Ford’s I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage. I’d love a serious relationship but I’m sure as hell not going to sign a bit of paper and chuck on a white dress. My God, I can’t even bring myself to imagine the absolute scenes of what a wedding for me would look like…”
Danielle is one of many women who are fuelling the timeline decline – refusing to adhere to the traditional timelines and milestones that have, for a long time, dominated relationships. According to Bumble’s recent user survey, one in three (31%) women saying they are no longer focused on adhering to traditional timelines and milestones.
But here’s the stat that SHOCKED us – while almost three in four (72%) of women are looking for a serious relationship like Danielle, only one in five (23%) are looking for marriage.
Is marriage dead? Well maybe not quite, says Bumble APAC Communications Director Lucille McCart – but things are most definitely changing when it comes to what women truly want.
“It’s a massive, massive shift. It really shows the change in priority towards the quality of a relationship, rather than just the idea of having a husband or wife or getting married. We’re really focussed on the connection and the relationship, not the label – and whether or not that relationship ends up in marriage or not isn’t as important anymore.”
Bumble APAC Communications Director Lucille McCart
So why is the timeline decline trending so hard in 2024? Well, apart from being sick of society’s shit on the whole (you feel me) women are also far more comfortable talking about what they actually want out of their relationships, with many of us feeling empowered to talk through our desires and goals with potential partners far earlier on in the relationship – and even as soon as the initial chat on apps like Bumble, where users are able to specify on their profiles as to what they’re looking for.
“There used to be a lot of shame around asking these kinds of questions too early in dating because it would make you seem ‘too keen’ or a bit intense or all of those labels. But people are pushing back on that, because you want to know if you’re on the same page about what you want. You don’t want to spend six months with someone only to find you want very different futures,” says Lucille.
“So we’re rejecting of the old timelines and being more open minded about when and how you want to do things, and part of that is having the conversations around it.”
It’s a welcome change from the old narrative of a ‘needy’ woman who openly discusses her goals for the future, and as society fragments away from picket fences and nuclear families, the way we structure our relationship goals naturally changes too.
Rises in polyamory and ethical non-monogamy and the weakening of the patriarchy are testament to society’s more open-minded position, as is the sheer number of women who are no longer aiming for marriage.
“I think a mind shift is happening,” nods Lucille. “When it comes to women thinking about dating and having these ‘serious’ conversations early, if the men run for the door when you talk about wanting a relationship that’s a POSITIVE thing because you’re not going to find a relationship if they run for the hills at the very mention of one! Don’t worry about scaring men off. You should scare the shit out of them and let the ones that can’t handle it head for the exit.”
Danielle, who uses Bumble, says she’s had plenty of great chats with matches, most of whom are fine with figuring out if the big stuff like life goals and future plans match before the conversation goes on too long.
“Most people now want to talk about goals and what they want out of life because who has time to muck around these days?” she tells. “I certainly don’t and I’ve also found that a lot of guys aren’t that fussed on marriage as the end goal, which is cool.
“Eventually telling my parents there’ll be no white wedding… well that’s another conversation. Pray for me, I guess!”