5 Signs Your Parents Raised You Not To Prioritize Marriage

Every so often, I find myself incredibly grateful that my parents raised me not to prioritize marriage. Although perpetual singledom does make scrolling through Facebook particularly painful during engagement and wedding season — i.e., every season — I've never regretted my life goals, which have remained essentially the same since the '90s: Write a bestselling novel, find an audience for my girl power rants, and learn to swim so well that I'm adopted by a pod of dolphins and say a fond farewell to life on land. Getting married sounds like a nice time, but lifelong commitment to another person doesn't exactly afford total freedom to pursue your own goals, especially if children factor into the equation.

Of course, there's absolutely nothing with putting marriage first; in fact, if that's what makes you happy, marriage is a totally feminist act. After all, feminism is about freedom for all genders, and that includes the freedom to prioritize things like marriage. However, the important bit here is whether it makes you happy. Women traditionally face more pressure to get married and have children, even though neither of these life goals are for everyone. That's why raising children to be independent is so important — and why rigid gender norms ultimately hurt everyone. Rather than pushing our own priorities on children, it's generally better to let them decide for themselves.

That's exactly why I've always been thankful for my upbringing, which emphasized independence above all else. This is perhaps best illustrated by the one time I joked with my sister about marrying rich: Seemingly deep in conversation across the room, my mother somehow heard me, whipped her head around, and gave me a look of such thunderous disappointment that I haven't made a joke like that ever since. Obviously, everyone's childhood is different, but if your parents also raised you not to prioritize marriage, you'll probably recognize the following experiences.

1. Wedding Fantasies Weren't A Big Deal

There's nothing wrong with dreaming about your wedding, especially in a culture that encourages it from childhood. If your parents emphasized independence, however, they probably didn't spend much time encouraging fantasies about walking down the aisle.

2. Your Parents Asked About Your Goals

Traditionally, girls are encouraged to fantasize about their dream wedding, as if marrying a fairy tale prince or princess is the most important part of someone's life. In contrast, boys are encouraged to dream about future careers and adventures. Needless to say, this serves to teach girls that their only value lies in romance; at the same time, it implies that boys shouldn't worry about feminine subjects like marriage. The ideal solution, of course, is to allow girls and boys to dream whatever they like — and some parents make an effort to do so.

3. They Emphasized Empowering Media

Unfortunately, most children's media tends to follow heteronormative gender roles, in which the female characters are usually "rewarded" with marriage to the hero at the end of the story. If your parents steered you away from Sleeping Beauty and toward more empowering fare like Mulan, they probably wanted you to have a wide range of goals.

4. Nobody Interrogated You About Dating

One of the oldest sitcom tropes is the pushy family member who interrogates you about dating. If you're single, they try to set you up with someone. If you're dating, they ask when you're getting married. If you're married, they're dying to know when you're having children. Unfortunately, this is often a reflection of real life... unless you have awesome parents who leave your dating life up to you.

5. They Taught You Not To Rely On Others

Although marriage doesn't spell the end of a woman's independence, growing up expecting to be supported by your future partner isn't exactly a solid career plan. In fact, the case could be made that a healthy sense of independence is important to long-lasting marriage if you ever decide it's a priority. And if you don't, your parents taught you to rely on yourself anyway. It's a win-win!

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