Late marriage causes family discord

By Kim Ngan, Minh Trang   September 3, 2023 | 02:00 am PT
Huu Thuan's mother thinks he is gay because he remains unmarried at age 30.

Many young people in Vietnam have to deal with regular questions and complaints from families as they hit an age traditionally considered to be inappropriate to still be single.

Thuan, of Hanoi, said he has gotten used to his mother complaining about him being single. His mother has cried and cried, and she has even threatened to disown him.

"We’ve argued many times," he says. "There was this one time when my mother cried and said I must have been gay for being single at this age."

Thuan eventually decided to move out to avoid pressure from his family. He rented a room and now lives on his own.

But his parents have not given up. They constantly call him, and even drop by his workplace, urging him to get married.

"Arguments have only dropped by, say, 80% in terms of frequency," he says. "My parents still call and even drop by my workplace to tell me what they want me to do."

When asked why he resists married life, Thuan says he believes in the benefits of a marriage-free lifestyle. According to him, he does not have to take care of his wife’s family during public holidays or special family occasions.

He reserves the right to have kids when he wants to, not when dictated by social statutes. He dates, but if scenarios turn bad, relationships can end without complicated legal procedures.

Getting married later in life is increasingly popular throughout the world, including Vietnam. Photo illustration by Freepik

Getting married later in life is increasingly popular throughout the world, including Vietnam. Photo illustration by Freepik

Dr. Tran Tuyet Anh, head of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Family Department, says getting married later in life is increasingly popular throughout the world, including Vietnam.

Data provided by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam shows that the mean Vietnamese marriage age has consistently increased over the past decades.

Getting married later in life is most observed in the southeast region and other metropolitan areas. Recent studies have also shown that the average age of first-time spouses in HCMC has reached almost 30.

One of the most common reasons cited by single urban residents for not settling down is the high cost of living.

Thanh Linh, 27, of Hanoi, says she’s not thinking about getting married because she does not feel financially prepared for it.

"I think both men and women have to achieve financial independence before marriage," she says, explaining that she feels that most divorce cases in Vietnam are the result of arguments over financial issues.

"I told my father I would only get married when I had VND6 billion ($250,000) in my bank account," she says. "That amount is for my kids’ potential hospital expenses and tuition fees."

Because of her reasoning, she has gotten into many arguments with her father.

"Every time I say so when my father urges me to get married, and then we argue," she says. "I’m really tired of that."

Similarly, Ngoc Chien, 30, of Hanoi’s neighboring province of Vinh Phuc, says he is not even able to date, not to mention get married, as he spends the majority of his time working to achieve a better financial capacity.

"I want to work hard when I’m still young," he says. "If I can’t earn as much as my friends, I want to at least get half of what they have."

Because of that, he already foresees the future if he gets into a romantic relationship.

"Couples hang out with each other on public holidays or special anniversaries," he says. "But I will still be busy working on those days."

However, there is evidence that getting married later in life is not necessarily a negative thing.

According to Anh, many people often achieve stability in their mindset, careers, financial abilities, and knowledge later in life. Thus, getting married at the corresponding life phase means they’ll be better able to thoroughly consider their choices and are less likely to make wrong decisions.

But a late marriage also comes with its disadvantages.

Biologically speaking, people aged over 35, especially women, are likely to suffer from physical and mental challenges. The older a woman gets, the more likely she will have a difficult birth or disabled offspring.

That explains many parents’ anxiety when their children don’t consider marriage after reaching certain ages.

To solve this clash in perspectives, psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam suggests that both sides sit down and exchange their views.

According to the specialist, children should clearly demonstrate their thoughts and plans for their future to their parents. Meanwhile, parents had better advise or guide their children instead of trying to force them to behave in certain ways.

"It would be best if parents can show that they respect their children’s thoughts while explaining their own reasoning," she says.

Regardless of whether the two sides can overcome the discord, the younger generation finds it hard to compromise.

"We only have one time to live," Thuan says. "So, I want to fulfill my desires instead of serving others’ needs and benefits."

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