Waiting to take the plunge

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Royal engagement mirrors real life relationship habits

Iryn Tushabe
News Writer

They met in 2001, started dating in 2003, split up briefly in 2007, and got engaged in 2010. They will be married in the spring of 2011.

What can we learn from Prince William and Kate Middleton’s eight-year relationship? Possibly that giving a relationship time and space to breathe will only make the bond stronger between partners.

Dr. Alison Hayford, a professor in the department of sociology and social studies at the University of Regina, explained why there is this new trend of long relationships before marriage. In her opinion, it’s because there is less pressure on young people to marry than many times in the past – for a variety of reasons.

“Women as well as men are able to support themselves. Thus neither sex needs to marry for economic survival. [There is] even childbearing outside of marriage.”

Hayford says that even though there are fewer pressures towards marriage than there were historically, marriage rates remain high because people still place value on weddings as public events, and on marriage itself as an institution.

“There is some evidence that common law relationships and marriages that follow upon long common law relationships are less stable than more ‘traditional’ marriages, but I think we need to see what the future will bring, since attitudes and practices of common law relationships seem to be changing,” she explained.

“Historically, in many parts of western Europe, average ages at marriage were in the late 20s for women and early 30s for men. Only the very wealthy could afford to marry at younger ages. In historical terms, the relatively low average ages of marriage that characterized mid-20th century Canada and US were anomalies. Perhaps those of us of European descent are just returning to the practices of our ancestors,” she continued.

There were pressures involved in William’s decision to get married, even after waiting. For one, William, unlike his dad, is certain to become Britain’s future king, and the country will need a queen and, eventually, an heir. Secondly, their breakup early in 2007 is rumoured to have been caused by the Prince’s failure to propose to Middleton. At the time, it’s said he felt he was too young to be tied down and Middleton was frustrated by a relationship that seemed to be going nowhere.

And there was, of course, the infamous British press that any future princess would have to deal with. Hayford said the fact that Kate is the same age as her partner and more educated than Diana was might help her be better prepared for the media frenzy that caused princess Diana a great deal of detriment.

“But on the other hand, look at what happened to the well-educated young woman who married the Crown Prince of Japan – not a happy story,” she added.

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