- Men stereotypically avoid commitment in relationships.
- Married men are happier, healthier and wealthier than single men.
- Men often don't plan to marry but generally do. Women expect to marry but often don't.
"Marriage is an institution. If you want to spend the rest of your life in an institution, go right ahead." —Father to his son on his wedding day.
The stereotype in our culture is that marriage is an institution that benefits women but costs men, so women try to entrap men into marriage, and men try to stay single for as long as possible, holding onto the freedom they believe women want to take from them.
These cultural stereotypes persist despite evidence that marriage serves men much more than women in almost every way. Married men are better off than single men; they are healthier, wealthier, and happier. Single women, however, are better off than married women. Married men are happier than married women, and unmarried women are happier than unmarried men. Divorced men and married women have the highest rates of suicide.
Men’s obsession with not being controlled by women is the strongest evidence of their fear of being controlled. A woman writer for the men’s magazine Muscle and Fitness offered men 10 signs that they might be “whipped.” Some of these signs are things that should be a legitimate concern for anyone in a relationship, like indications that your partner may be having an affair. However, some of what the author suggests that men watch out for seems to advocate an almost paranoid hypervigilance about any sign of “losing control” in a relationship. For example, she cautions men against allowing women to straighten their hair, make suggestions about clothing, or ask them to hold their purses while shopping.
The only way marriage serves women is financial. Men's and women’s financial status tends to improve when they marry, but men’s financial status tends to remain relatively unchanged following divorce, whereas women experience sizable drops in their household income, per capita income, and income-to-need ratios post-divorce. As a result, many women, especially mothers, fall into poverty following divorce.
Despite the evidence, marriage initially seems like a good idea to most women. Two-thirds of college-educated women in their twenties say they plan to marry, and women initiate two-thirds of the committed heterosexual relationships. Men, on the other hand, often seem to be oblivious to the advantages bestowed on them by marriage and unaware of their own dependency needs that are most likely to drive them toward marriage. Two-thirds of college-educated men in their twenties say they do not plan to marry, even though over 80 percent of them eventually will.
Changing economic conditions are making things even worse. Men traditionally could afford to delay marriage, knowing that they would likely have their pick of partners because men have traditionally married women who were less economically advantaged. As wealth is increasingly concentrated in an increasingly smaller group of people and women’s earning power grows, there are fewer men who have the financial resources to make themselves attractive as marriage partners. Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women.
Taken together, it looks like marriage is a system more designed to keep women entrapped in a marriage than men.
Excerpted from Hidden in Plain Sight: How Men's Fears of Women Shape Their Intimate Relationships. (Weiss, 2021)
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