We hear often that men are afraid of commitment. Perhaps he doesn’t want to give up his freedom, he may like playing the field, or maybe he’s selfish and immature.
Of course, most men eventually do marry. Anecdotally I’d say that men are slower to commit, and I’d caution that just because a man is unwilling to commit in a particular relationship doesn’t mean he’s unwilling to commit in general. Men are more willing to engage in casual sex, but when it comes to marriage men are far more selective. (Compare these Youtube pranks where women ask men for sex and men ask women for sex.)
Men are wise to be selective. Women, regardless of whether they’re heterosexual or lesbian, are twice as likely as men to leave a long-term relationship. Women file two-thirds of divorces, and lesbians dissolve civil unions and marriages at twice the rate of gay men in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom (the government document is here), and Sweden.
As popular as it is to blame men, lesbians being equally likely to walk as heterosexual women shows that the pattern has to do with women, not men. Put another way, men on average wait longer to marry for the first time, but men are also more likely to stick with the commitment once made.
The dynamics of the dating scene change with age, and this works in men’s favour. Women in their 20s who are at least of average attractiveness have access to a larger pool of potential dates than anyone else, while older women have the fewest choices. Young women often complain that there are no good men, but this is because they’re focused on quality not quantity. On the other hand, a man who is serious also is focused on quality, but that doesn’t mean he will see her as meeting his quality standards.
The supply and demand aspect of dating and relationships can be difficult. I remember being in my mid-20s and having a job that closely involved the gay community. Being low paid I found it very challenging to compete in the heterosexual dating scene, and mostly dated women a decade older than me. But I had plenty of gay men asking me out. I realized that if I were gay, finding a date would be easy and would require little effort on my part. Finding a good relationship, however, wouldn’t be any easier. It occurred to me that this is what it’s like for women in their 20s, but they lacked perspective because they didn’t have to work as hard as I did as a man, nor did these women have to face nearly as much rejection as men do.
During this time I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour. She was pushing 40 and had never been married. She liked going to the clubs and picking up guys for one night stands. She told me, “I just realized that it’s a lot harder for men. I know I’ll come home with someone, but most guys won’t”. I looked at her like she had just realized the sky is blue. She explained that because she was getting older it was becoming hard to compete with women ten or fifteen years younger, and now she actually had to work at it.
She said her epiphany came when she met a man who came to her office for a presentation. She asked him out, because now she’d decided to settle down. But he said no. She was devastated. She went to a male colleague for sympathy, but got none. He told her that every man, starting in his teenage years, has to face this kind of rejection, and women rarely offer sympathy. What he didn’t say, though it was obvious, is it’s doubtful that a man looking for a quality relationship would be interested in her because she’s easy come, easy go.
Middle age women do have a much rougher time in the dating scene. It feels unfair because some of these women may feel entitled to the privileged positions they once held a decade or two ago, but to middle age men who found it hard to compete in their twenties or even thirties the situation feels like the playing field has finally been levelled.
I know a couple guys, each of whom remarried around age 50 after having been divorced for several years. They were typical commitment-phobes, but it isn’t what you might think. After divorce a man often finds himself strapped with a mortgage for a home he no longer lives in, child support, etc. Being financially devastated by a female initiated divorce makes men cautious. Further, middle age men have the relationship experience to spot red flags more quickly than young men.
Both men wanted to date women close to their ages. While middle age women can’t physically compete with young women, there’s a greater number of middle age women who are head and shoulders above young women when it comes to personality and relationship skills.
But that doesn’t mean all middle age women have adequate relationship skills. There’s a significant number of bitter middle age women who blame men for their problems while lacking the self-awareness to realize that the women themselves are the problem. It’s the female version of the nice guy rant.
Each man broke it off with several women before remarrying. Knowing the consequences of divorce, and knowing that many women would be less committed in the long-term, these men knew they had to choose carefully.