Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Can Men Be Shamed Into Marriage?

Can society get men back in line?

The United States Census Bureau found that  in 2008  16% of American men between 40 and 44 had never been married, an increase of 150% over 1980 numbers.   Dr. Carl Weisman, author of "So Why Have You Never Been Married", says these confirmed bachelors are being stigmatized by society as being a "playboy, loser, commitment-phobe, fussy, damaged goods, plain weird" or, like in the famous "Seinfeld" episode, are labelled as a closeted homosexual, whether or not they are actually gay ( with the recurring disclaimer "not that there's anything wrong with it").  Katie Hahn, author of "The Stigma of the Unmarried Man", says that many women actually hope a middle age date is divorced rather than never married. She says never-married  thirty and forty something men have a hard time explaining their life history toward wary potential partners, like an ex-con accounting for those missing years on his resume: "If you ask a guy in his late thirties or early forties why he isn't married, he'll have his answer- you could call it his defense- ready."

 The 150% increase in never married men ages 40-44  over the last three decades  indicates that the societal shaming mentioned above isn't working. Pierce College social scientist and lecturer John Fergus argues that because half of all marriages end in divorce, the popular knowledge of this grim statistic has had a "chilling effect" on single adults, making them fearful of relationships. A survey by Ohio University and Scripps Howard News Service confirmed this increasing public pessimism of successful matrimony due to the apparent recent changes in the way men and women relate to one another. Seeing the failure of so many marriages, many single men are refusing to even try it, regardless of a disapproving culture.

Education, rather than shame, is the answer if society wants to increase the number of husbands in America. If men can learn how to date and mate in a healthy manner, they would find relational success that would lead to happy, long-lasting heterosexual unions. Their bachelor friends would then be intrigued instead of fearful of marriage.  

Men and women must become enlightened to the fact that the central conflict in the war between the sexes is not about sexual attraction and charm but compatibility. Their mission as they date should be to determine if they possess enough similar interests, values and goals to share a life together. They must also decide if their personalities are compatible. Finally, they must ascertain if they can they flesh out complementary and supporting roles  as a couple. This is a judgement that must be made with minds cleared from the intoxicating fumes of infatuation. A disciplined decision can spare men and women from a future flawed relationship.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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