If you are having sessions with a Dating & Relationship Coach, or taking part in any of the online dating courses that we offer, one of the first things we talk about is your Headline and being open and honest about it. Your Headline is quite simply your end goal from a relationship and the assumption is, perhaps certainly from men, that all women want to march them up the aisle. However marriage for many women is no longer their headline, in fact more and more women today are not interested in marriage. Yes, they want a happy, loving, fulfilling and committed relationship but marriage is not necessarily a part of that.
When a lot of women talk about marriage they picture the proposal, the ring, their engagement story. They imagine what the perfect dress will look like, and the look on her partner’s face as he spots her in it for the first time. The exchanging of vows, the taking his name. The lifetime together, having children, raising a family, creating a life together. All picturesque, romantic and wonderful. But that’s not what marriage used to look like.
The concept and the roots of uniting two people legally began thousands of years ago and was quite the opposite of the romantic idealisation that we have today. It was designed to tie together two families and create strategic alliances. It was a means of forging diplomatic and trade ties, and, as society became more established and some families created more wealth than others, it was a way of ensuring the wealth stayed within the same socio-economic groups.
The idea of consent didn’t even enter into the picture until the 12th century – before that, simply turning up (or being forced to turn up) was proof of consent. Now they were required to give verbal consent and consummate their union. Prior to that, families could marry off their children without the children having any say in it whatsoever, further solidifying the belief that it was nothing more than an exchange of properties and wealth. Another key element of marriage was binding the woman to her husband and thus ensuring any offspring was biologically his.
Jump forward a few hundred years and the church becomes involved, with the Roman Catholic church deeming marriage a sacrament in the mid 16th century. Interestingly, the marriage vows still used in English churches today date back around 500 years and the phrases such as “to have and to hold, for better, for worse, from this day forward” remain remarkably unchanged.
However it wasn’t until around the mediaeval period, or even later, the Victorian era in England depending on which source you use, that marriage started to make the move towards a loving union rather than a business arrangement, with Queen Victoria herself leading the way with what has been described numerous times throughout history as a true love match. Whilst perhaps now marrying for reasons other than to prevent two great families from starting a war with each other, women were still taking their husbands names, which nowadays is usually seen as further commitment of the union and for the benefits of any family unit, but its origins are a little less romantic, shall we say. Dating back as far as the Norman times, this undoubtedly patriarchal ritual came about when the Normans introduced their law of coverture here in the UK – essentially this meant that once married, a woman was “covered” by her husband, they became one person and her identity was erased. Husbands controlled their wives legally and financially and they couldn’t own property in their own right.
Whilst this law fell out of favour and disappeared over the centuries, and there was no legal expectation for a woman to take her husband’s name, even as recently as 50 years ago control was still exerted over women through preventing them getting a driving licence, passport or even registering to vote unless it was in their husband’s name!
We’ve come a long way – thankfully – since then. Today, marriage is about creating a loving union, telling the world that you’re making a commitment to this person. It’s about forging a team, creating a unit, raising a family if you choose. But nowadays, marriage isn’t required to do any of these things. It is every woman’s choice. Marriage is for some, and it isn’t for others but the end goal, the headline of long term commitment, love and partnership can remain exactly the same.
This is why your Headline is so important – just as you don’t want to waste time dating someone for six months to then find out that they are opposed to marriage when it’s the one thing you want, it’s just as crucial that you don’t spend six months dating someone whose Headline is marriage. Be open and honest right from the start. Many women are afraid to say their end goal is marriage in case the man they’re on a first date with assumes she is saying she wants to marry them. Similarly, many women don’t want to admit to not wanting marriage as it still remains so much a societal expectation, but long term committed happy relationships aren’t dependent on a legal document.
So whether you choose I Do, or I Don’t simply go for open honesty from the start to lead you down your own personal path to your Happy Ever After.