Free Scandinavian Marriages and Free Families

Marriages and families in Scandinavian countries are the free unions of independent individuals. “Open unions” are widely accepted in those societies. Men and women in both certified and uncertified marriages have equal rights and responsibilities.

Do Marriages still Exist in Scandinavian Countries?

The frequently asked question among Scandinavians is whether the institution of marriage is disappearing. Social scientists and journalists began to express such concerns in the early 2000s. For instance, Stanley Kurz, an American conservative commentator, wrote in 2004 in the magazine Weekly Standard that “Marriage is slowly dying in Scandinavia.” He believed that “same-sex marriage has undermined the institution of marriage.” How realistic and adequate are such concerns?

The data, on the other hand, indicates that this is not the case at all. According to the Nordic Statistical Yearbook, the number of marriages in the Nordic countries has increased since 1990, albeit with varying trends and shifts in different societies of that region. This trend can be seen throughout all of the Nordic nations (Love and Relationships in Scandinavia, 2015).

In reality, Scandinavian marriages have just become more diverse than before. People take their right to freedom and interdependence for granted, while still respecting their responsibilities.

We should keep in mind that people in the Scandinavian nations can be in either certified or uncertified marriages. The accepted practices of so-called “open unions” have existed in Scandinavia for a very long time. These kinds of de facto unions of partners are widespread and even prevalent. Both partners have rights and responsibilities concerning their property and inheritance. In a case of separation, both men and women have obligations regarding maintenance payments.

As one Finnish woman noted,

“I have been there, done that. To me, getting married just means finding someone to be with and to be loved, and of course, that is something that everyone wants.”

Scandinavians Highly Value Love, Good Relationships, and Parenthood more than Marriages

In Scandinavia, having a delightful, long-term relationship or becoming a parent is very important to many Scandinavians. Many Scandinavian couples choose to live together without getting married, a practice known as “sambo.” Some of these couples eventually decide to get married, largely to celebrate their union with a wedding ceremony and have a big party.

It is true that modern Scandinavians appear to be waiting longer to marry. It is quite normal for a couple to wait until they are in their 30s after finishing their studies before getting married. However, they also wait longer when they decide to divorce.

Longer education, career, or the cost of purchasing the apartment are some of the reasons for a late marriage. In addition to that, weddings in Scandinavia have become increasingly elaborate and costly. Church weddings are expensive. Therefore, many Danish couples now prefer a civil ceremony. Legal marriage is regarded as an important step in life among people living in Scandinavian countries. These steps, however, are secondary in importance after having a loving, long-term relationship or parenthood. As one Swedish woman of 27 years old commented,

“Marriage is a contract and a symbolic commitment to remain together forever. At the same time, it is an expression of love. These ideals of stability, love, and commitment haven’t gone out of style, even in progressive and liberal Scandinavia.”

Maria said this when she was in her late 20s, unmarried, and six-months pregnant.

The Free Scandinavian Families

For many Scandinavians, marriage is no longer a precondition for starting a family. It is not necessary, neither normatively nor legally. A nuclear family is changing its form. About 60% of the parents of first-born children are not married. And a marriage certificate is no longer required in order to obtain housing.

It may appear strange to men and women in other cultures that many Scandinavians wait so long before getting married. They may even already have one or two children before marriage, but in Scandinavian countries, it is a cultural reality. In other words, as Danish social scientist Mogens Nygaard Christoffersen of the National Social Research Institute commented,

“What defines and makes the foundation of the Danish family can be said to have moved from marriage to parenthood.”