Being more selective about marriage challenging for women

By Hai Hien   August 26, 2023 | 10:29 pm PT
Being more selective about marriage challenging for women
As women's independence grows, so do their choices, which include whether they want to marry or not. Illustration photo by Pixabay
More single Vietnamese women are waiting for a marriage that meets their increasingly modern cultural standards, but the pressures of traditional society and tensions between ideals and reality loom large.

Thanh Tam, 38, has promised her parents that she will marry someone who fits her standards, and was adamant that she will not "marry just for the sake of it".

The standards that this female translator living in Hanoi have for her partner are that he must be as good as her in every way: intelligent, respectful of women, handy with chores, and ambitious. Tam believes that these standards are normal, but her friends and family said that she was being too demanding.

"My mom once advised me that since I was already at an age that makes pregnancy hard, and because I have a strong personality and only an average appearance, I shouldn’t ask for too much," Tam says.

Though she has explained herself to her mother many times and has proved her independence by having a house in the city, with a good income and a good education, Tam cannot deny the reality that virtually nothing can make up for age.

Hoang Huong, a 35-year-old friend of Thanh Tam who lives in HCMC, says that the reason she is still single is because she is "afraid of marrying the wrong guy".

Three of her friends from university have divorced their husbands, making Huong even more reluctant to marry someone.

She considers marriage a gamble, and one wrong move could ruin her life. Thus, Huong has remained patient and continued to wait for "the one," even with her family urging her to settle down soon.

Women like Hoang Huong and Thanh Tam are not rare in modern day Vietnamese society. According to the Statistic Yearbook of Vietnam published in 2022 by the General Statistics Office, the average age for first-time marriage in the city is 29.8. The average age for first-time marriage in 2019 was 27.5, while in 2020 it was 28, and 29 in 2021. The trend is increasing every year.

Notably, HCMC has the highest average age of first-time marriage in the entire country, 2.9 years higher than the national average.

According to psychology and marriage specialist Trinh Trung Hoa, women nowadays have increasingly more opportunities to receive higher education, and to make money to finance themselves. As their independence grows, so do their choices, which include whether they want to marry or not.

"With that said, many women choose to stay single not because they don’t want a family, but because they haven’t found the right person yet," Hoa said.

In reality, these women desire a perfect marriage. But as time has gone by, they realized that their best years are behind them, and they now face pressure from both their family and society.

Hoang Huong said she always feels like she is being pushed by her family to make the decision.

"Every time I went back to my hometown, they constantly talk my ear off about getting married," she said.

In Huong’s parents’ opinion, no matter how brilliant a woman is, she still needs to find a husband.

On the other hand, Thanh Tam does not despise marriage, but it is because she values love that she hopes to find the right person for her. But as she became older and still hasn’t found anyone that fits her standards, she’s continued to throw herself blindly into the dating scene.

Tam has joined many mixers that yielded little results. There are some men she perceived to have no sense of style. There was one who came to the date with such long nails that it made her queasy. There was even one who was so rude to the wait staff that Tam got turned off completely by his personality.

All of the failed dates have made the 35-year-old woman wary. Tam has become more closed off and socializes with her friends less, partly because her friends are busy with their own families, and partly because of the fact that since she is unmarried, she’s tired of always being asked "why" everywhere she goes.

"Most men who are financially stable are already married. Meanwhile, most of the men I’ve met don’t have enough money yet, so I feel helpless at times," she said.

Tam’s helplessness is a feeling shared by many unmarried women her age.

Trinh Trung Hoa said that most middle-aged women will not marry a man who is "below" them. When they have not found their ideal match, some will actively look, while some have a "go with the flow" mentality and silently wait for "the one" to come to them.

They believe that instead of blindly dating anyone, they should believe in fate. If not, they only need to live life to the fullest.

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam, Director of the Hon Viet Center for Training and Application of Psychology, says that people who know exactly who they are and have "good status" are justified in being fickle.

"After all, exceptional people are always looking for people as exceptional as them," she said.

But she sees red flags when women get "lost in their fantasies."

"They are caught up in chasing an illusion. They want to have a family, but it either doesn’t work out or they don’t find the person for them."

According to Trinh Trung Hoa, whether a woman decides to marry or not, she should always prepare herself beforehand. After all, life is never easy.

"The important thing is that everyone should take control of their own lives and be happy with their decisions," Hoa concluded.

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