So many of the women I speak to are overwhelmed with anxiety if they're single beyond the age of 25, and they're so fixated on finding a husband that they neglect their professional dreams and personal growth.
Take Lauren, for example. She came to me reporting depression and anxiety. At 31, she was a semester shy of getting her nursing degree. She was doing very well in her classes, had a strong social network, and worked part-time as a personal trainer.
Yet, despite her obvious intelligence, drive, and charisma, Lauren perceived herself to be a failure only because she was unmarried. She often referenced her "biological clock" and her fear of being “an old maid." Lauren saw each passing day as another day she'd failed as a woman.
Unknowingly, we all perpetuate this cycle. We continue to create (and watch) rom coms in which the "happy ending" is a wedding. We ask couples when they're going to the altar. We consider cohabitation relationships to be less legitimate than married ones.
Relationships are natural and we are programmed to desire connection. Marriage, on the other hand, is a cultural norm. It's not biological.
I believe if we can change marriage from a norm to a choice, we can liberate and empower those who perceive themselves to be lesser because they're not a "Mrs."
In order for us to understand how to make this shift, let me briefly explain social role theory (SRT): SRT suggests we follow norms because we believe they're part of our role — in this case, the role of a woman.
So how do we change the norms we perceive to be integral to our gender? We break the cycle. We tell different stories, we have different conversations, and we act differently. We shift the norm of marriage being an expectation to marriage being a benign matter of preference.