The number of women who prefer to marry later in life has increased in recent years in Turkey, according to marriage and divorce statistics for 2011 from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat).
In previous years, many women chose to or were forced to marry at very young ages for various reasons, such as financial problems stemming from the fact that they were not financially independent or to rid themselves of family and social pressure to marry before they got “too old.” However, as the financial status of women has improved and people’s attitudes towards marriage later in life has started to change, more Turkish women prefer to defer marriage until they are older, as revealed by the data.
The average age women marry at is just below 23, according to the Berlin-Institut, while in 1975, 20 was the median age. Although the likelihood of divorce in marriages where the couples’ ages are over 30 is high, there has been a 70 percent increase in marriages between the ages of 30 and 44, according to data from the General Directorate of Civil Registration and Nationality.
On the other hand, people’s views about women marrying when they are older vary to a great extent. Some people regard women choosing to marry later as something favorable, whereas others express that postponing marriage for a long time can have negative consequences.
Supporting marriages later in life, psychologist and family therapist Alanur Özalp said: “The current average marrying age for women should not be considered as late. Rather, we should call marriages which take place later in life healthy marriages. There seem to be fewer financial problems and older couples’ relationships are more stable.”
It is also undeniable that as men and women get older, they have higher expectations of a spouse. Instead of accepting the other side with their faults and imperfections, women try to find the perfect man, while men wish to marry someone who can accept their faults without question. Such things, in turn, cause apprehension on both sides which leads to the postponing of marriage.
When asked their opinions about marriage later in life, many women who left education in order to marry earlier stated that they wished they had married after completing their education. Nurhan Öztürk, a Turk living in Canada, says a woman who was single even at 22 was regarded as having missed “the marriage train” in years gone by. As a result, she left her university education to get married in Canada in 1989, when she was 20.
There are still a great number of women who married before the age of 30 and are satisfied with their marriages. However, all of them emphasized the significance of completing their education before marriage. Nowadays in Turkey, as most women graduate from university at around the age of 22, most women now marry from the age of 22 onwards.
A woman who married at 23, after completing her college education, expressed that she is happy with her husband and pleased she did not wait a long time before marrying. She said her choice to marry at a younger age was because she had already known her husband for a long time before they got married.
A 24-year-old woman named Esra, who has plans to marry within the next year, said: “I wanted to complete my education before marrying and now I have graduated from university and have a job. Still, I do not think someone should wait to marry later in life if they find an appropriate partner [early on].”
A decision to postpone marriage may also be the result of a woman’s pursuit of better job opportunities or career advancement.
Another woman, aged 29, who has worked for the same company for nearly five years, said that because she is still able to live with her family she does not want to marry at an early age. “I think marriage entails certain responsibilities, and I suppose that the later in life one marries, the more one can live in accordance with her own wishes,” she continued.
Older people who got married four or five decades ago mainly feel it was a necessity of their time to marry at an early age. Zahide, a 62-year-old woman who has been married for 42 years, explained that her marriage at 20 was considered quite late. She explained: “Our financial concerns were not as troublesome as those faced by people nowadays. Besides, women generally did not work. So, a girl at age 17 was expected to marry and many girls did not receive an education in those times.”
It seems a great many women who have married men they already knew tend to be of the opinion that people should marry at an earlier age. A 29-year-old designer said she wishes she could have married at an earlier age. “I was not able marry at an earlier age because my fiancé and I had some financial problems, and, although I had already completed my education, I waited to marry. I had already known my husband for many years when we married. So, if people are sufficiently acquainted with their partners, I think they can marry earlier,” she said, adding that financial problems are one of the biggest obstacles people face in getting married.