Ne di Venere Ne di Marte non si sposa ne si parte! – Neither marriage nor war will go away once you start! – Italian saying
Why marry? That is a question…
The saying above, without a slightest doubt, once upon a time was meant to convey the idea that the marriage is meant to last forever. Or, at least, for a life time. And, of course, it had an extremely positive connotation.
Today, the connotation of this saying has changed its aspect to negative. This gives us a clue to understanding why marriage in Italy is getting out of fashion. Moreover, nowadays most young as well as middle aged Italians regard marriage as a cultural artefact of the past. Both, Italian women and, especially, Italian men are increasingly either delaying marriage for decades, or opting out altogether.
Does it, or does it not, literally means that most of Italians are single? Or do modern Italian people just prefer other types of relationships? Less formal, con less commitment or even free love? We’ll get to that later.
As for now, let’s explore the main reasons why nowadays Italians are not even bothering to get married. Let alone having children. At least, till they awake right in time to catch a last bus. In fact, the average age at which Italian women give birth to their first child is 32. The average age of Italian men by time their first child is born is even higher. Needless to say, that the first time often becomes “one and only”. Hence the birth rate in Italy is falling dawn, and has been doing so for the last 8 years.
Four Reasons Why Italians are Not Getting Married
According to statistics released by ISTAT (Italy’s national statistics bureau) decline in marriages is unusually uniform all over Italy. It is rather a curious fact since Italy is a country, which sees large regional cultural differences between North and South, as we have seen in my previous post. So, we’ve got a kind of general tendency here embracing all of Italy. It is quite a curious fact, since Southern Italy has maintained traditional, religious and family values to much greater extent than its Northern counterpart.
The reluctance of Italian people to marry can mainly be seen in a decline of first marriages, especially among people under 35. In fact, the average age of Italian fiancé is…50! What does that mean?
Lots of things that make an intrinsic part of modern Italian life style. From Peter Pan complex to phobia of assuming responsibility to in-depth self excuses of unfavourable economic conditions. Here is the moment to introduce a new yet ever increasing category of Italian men: the mammone.
1. The “mammone”
Originally, the word “mammone” was used to describe an adult man who was too much attached to his mother. Like if he was still a kid. The term itself derives from the word “mamma” (Mum). And the suffix -one gives word a meaning of “oversized”. Told you, Italian language is wonderful! It’s deservedly is one of the major Italian allures due to its capacity to form keen neologisms able to convey even the slightest shadows of meaning!
Till recently this term was regarded as disapproving, and even offensive. Whilst today it is often employed by the very mammone to describe his life situation. And a personal standpoint. Did you know that in Italy about 81% of relatively young men (20-35) are still living in their parents’ home? With their parents? Of course, Italy’s precarious work situation and high apartment rent prices, despite the recent economic crisis, has contributed to young people staying in their parents’ home. Yet, most use it as an excuse. The thing is the mammone just loves living with his mother.
Windmill and Sancho Panza
The mother for the mammone is the first and only he trusts. She’s the only person whose advice he can rely on. And often, mother is the only person he talks about. Thinks about. Cares about. Mammone literally worships his mother. No wonder, his mother treats him with love and care; she does everything for him and cuddles him as if he still was a child. Hence his girlfriend unwillingness to understand that she is the second women in his life often represents an obstacle for him to go further in their relationship.
With all due respect to Italian family concept and mother-son inner connection, it’s not difficult to understand that this kind of “mother cult” is often regarded as an obstacle to have a sane relationship by most of Italian women. This is the reason why many initially promising and happy relationships end up after a while, before even being transformed to marriage. Exasperated and tired to wait that her man will finally turn into adult, his girlfriend gives up on him. Appears, it is impossible to beat with a windmill. With a “windmill” being not “the mother”, but the core mentality of mammone. And no woman wants to be Sancho Panza. Take that for the first reason why Italians don’t get married much.
According to the statistics, today about 70% of Italian ladies under 30 also live with their parents. What should they do on the other hand, if the opposite sex, which supposed to be the strongest one out of two… Increasingly reveals itself ever weaker? And ever useless? If not for just having sex…
2. Peter Pan Complex
The mammone, as we have seen, is an Italian cultural phenomenon. To further complicate matters, most of Italian men even after leaving their parents home and finding their own place, remain somewhat “attached to their mother by umbilical cord”. The thing is, if till the age of 35 the mammone lived with his parents, it’s because he felt good there for so many reasons. No secret, that most of Italian Peter Pans visit their parents on every day basis. Twice a day. Almost every day. Not just for sentimental, but mostly for practical reasons. Like homemade lunch or dinner for, example.
You see, even if Peter Pan has moved to his own place, his mother still cooks for him and takes care of him. Of course, his mother has the keys of his place. Since she does his laundry and all domestic works. His mother makes the delivery as well: of homemade food or whatever he may need. They call it: “help”. Personally, I highly doubt the word choice is correct. All this situation makes him feel comfortable, relax and protected. It’s like if the time wasn’t passing. As if his mother was seizing the moment for him. The precious moment of his childhood, and his youth. No wonder that in Italy forty-year-old men still call and feel themselves as “ragazzi” (boys).
In fact, in Italy nowadays-thirty-year-old-men are somewhat equivalent to the men in their twenties of one time. The new “40” have become an old “30”. And, consequently, the new “50” an old “40”. Or maybe 35. So, if you meet an Italian guy who is 20 years old… My advice, think twice! Maybe he’ll behave as if he’s still in a kindergarten. It’s not like Italian men refuse to get old, they refuse to get adult!
Therefore, most of Italian men are phobic of any kind of personal responsibility. They don’t want any. Moreover, they reject the mere possibility to assume it. Also because they are not used to have responsibilities. But to seize the moment! You see, Italian men are so stressed out by work, gym and football matches, that they can’t afford themselves to have any more responsibility than that. And marriage is no longer a priority. So, the second reason why Italians don’t get married is that Italian men actually don’t want to get married! They have nothing to gain from that, but to lose.
3. Better sex
Let alone Peter Pan complex, all-embracing mother’s love and convenience. Let alone the spare time to pass as one wants to. And whoever he wants with. From girlfriend/s to friends to family members to God-only-knows. Let alone reluctance to have duties and responsibilities… No secret, in Italy, love and sexual relationships are increasingly regarded as pleasure and enjoyment only. Why ruin with marriage, or else, things that are supposed to be entertaining?
Once upon a time, in the Western world, in order to have sex people had to get married. Reason that no longer exists since ‘70s, when Sexual Revolution has hit the Mediterranean countries hard. On the contrary, today, in the Western world, people manage to have more sex (both in qualitative and quantitative terms) until they get married. It’s paradox, yet true. The reasons are multiple, well-known and common to humankind all over the world. From kids to “too-much-stress-at-work” to “loundary-must-do” to just getting bored and annoyed. So take good and sophisticated sex as a third reason of not wanting to get married.
4. Low morality
A part from above mentioned reasons, which can be regarded as purely selfish and somewhat shallow, there’s one more phobia, Let’s call it learning from the other’s experience. In fact, marriages in Italy tend to end in separation after 16 years and in divorce after 19 years. In age terms that mean that Italians tend to separate at 47 for men and 44 for women. Hence the age at which divorces occur in Italy is 49 for men and 46, respectively. Yet, more recent marriages tend to end up even faster. Sometime they don’t last long enough to experience the “seven-year crisis”.
So, if what that in traditional Italian mentality supposed to be a life-time commitment, in real life has it expiration date of 16 or even less years… Then why marry in the first place?
De facto unions
Therefore, most Italian couples have a really long time of dating period. It can last from a few to seven or more years. This, by many aspects, uncertain, though most romantic period for many couples is usually followed by “cohabitation”. True, that before getting married most of Western couples move in together. It became a common practice and must-do before getting married. Both, because they can’t help staying together day and night, and, pragmatically speaking, to try if it all will actually function.
In Italy, though “cohabitation” union may last forever, since both realize it may end up one day. First, this way Italian people feel freer to split up if something goes wrong. The intrinsic desire to maintain at least a part of the proper freedom and the phobia to find out one day that “he/she may be not the right person” are persistent factors in Italian mentality. Second, the uncertainty note makes Italians care more about their relationship. Third, to get a divorce is quite an issue in Italy. It takes lot of time and lots of resources. Therefore, why marry? That is how, meanwhile, Italian groom turns fifty. On average…
Ever increasing numbers of “de facto unions” before marriage is hence the forth reason of low marriage rate within modern Italy.
As for Italian Women
The situation where she asks him to finally marry her, sounds early familiar. Especially in the recent decades, since men became ever more reluctant to get marry. For all above mentioned reasons.
But even this situation is getting out of fashion… Since Italian women are no longer interested in marriage, if not for kids (which yet remains a delicate aspect). Why should they, after all?
The good news is that life expectancy in Italy is increasing. In 2016 Italian men lived for an average of 80 years while women lived on average until they are 87 years old. Is that due to young people staying in their parents’ home till their mid-thirties and mutual care between parents and sons? Or is that due to Peter Pan complex and rejection of any additional responsibility? Perhaps, that’s due to Italian life cult and ability to seize the moments? Or maybe it’s due to the children coming up in the second part of the life course? Is that due to Italian women further emancipation and not being obsessed with marriage any longer? Or better, is there any connection between life expectancy increasing and marriage rate declining?
Well, all above mentioned factors can be both: the key-answers to improve and get a long life and the excuses from a generation of Peter Pans for delaying a marriage. But eventually even an Italian Peter Pan will be willing to mature. When he will find the right person.
So, the real good news is that Italians, or at least most of them, are still in love with love. They believe in romantic love, flirting and seduction, and they are world famous for their passion! So, there is a hope that marriage as well as the future of Italian nation will survive!
Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts on the topic…