Researcher Nancy Smith-Hefner was chatting to university students in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, when she noticed a trend. In a country with near “universal marriage,” where only 2% of women in their late 40s are estimated to have never married, young women were saying they wanted to finish their education and embark on fulfilling careers before getting hitched.
Smith-Hefner was struck by some problems faced by those following that path. The young women were trying to fit so much into a small window of opportunity that it sometimes seemed impossible. Having concentrated on graduating and working hard, they ended up wondering how to find a partner with whom to start a family. Sometimes, this state went on and on, becoming a source of stress and disappointment. They worried: Is it just me?
It’s not just them. In fact, Yogyakarta’s young people are experiencing a phenomenon that’s being felt across the globe, from Brooklyn to Paris, Rwanda to Japan. It’s called “waithood”; and it might be leading to a fundamental change in the way we think about love and partnership.