(A little while back, I posted a piece summarizing a lot of the recent literature, as well as my own opinions, on why dating has become such an impossible chore in recent years. The article received some thoughtful comments and posts, both here, and on the HG Facebook page. The article was focused on the perspective of women, because that is all that been written about lately, but one comment that appeared frequently was: “What about the men?”
In response to this, I present to you, dear readers, some insights about the troubles with dating, but from the men’s perspective. Incidentally, I have a full length feature version of this that is much more in-depth that I am trying to shop around… If you have some contacts in the magazine biz, would love some help.)
The Trouble With Dating Today – The Men’s Perspective
So much has been written about the difficulties of succeeding in the dating market, but every single article out there only mentions the difficulties for women. These articles make it seem like the dating world for men is utopian, where all a guy has to do to snag a quality woman is update his Facebook status to “Single”, put on some deodorant, trim his hipster beard, and walk out the front door (and the trimming is optional).
But something doesn’t seem to add up. If it really was the case that every guy could have his pick of the litter, they would be pairing up. But, instead, we are witnessing a bizarre situation where guys can pick whoever they want, but they still choose not to. Some guys say they don’t want to be tied down, others say their career takes priority, and most say they “just want to have fun”.
The question is: Could there be some deeper reason why men are shying away from relationships? Is there something other than the typical clichés that is affecting their behavior?
There have been a couple of recent academic papers that review the changing viewpoint of men and women regarding relationships over the past years. One paper explores the contrarian effects of women’s income and marriage sustainability. Over the past three decades, women have been making huge strides, while men have largely remained stagnant. The author’s write: “Within a marriage market, when a randomly chosen woman becomes more likely to earn more than a randomly chosen man, the marriage rate declines “. In other words, the belief that men should earn more than women is still engrained in the mindset of society, and as women continue to thrive, relationships suffer.
I emailed with Mark Manson (author, self-help guru, and former Pick Up Artist) about this, wondering how this anomaly affects the dating world. He said: “Men definitely still have a bias against women who are more successful than them. But the biggest misconception is that men are macho or misogynist about this bias, where really, from what I’ve seen, it’s simply insecurity and feelings of unworthiness. ‘She’s beautiful AND she makes more money than me? What could I possibly say to her?’ Rather than confront those feelings of inadequacy, they’d rather just write the woman off”. It seems like lingering gender identities that men hold about income and status make them shy away from relationships.
Another paper reviews changing perspectives regarding relationships in general. Back in the 80’s, the views of both men and women were largely stereotypical: Girls were Girls and Men were Men. Men made the big decisions and the big bucks, while women were in the back seat, seeking out status and wealth in a possible mate. Over the years, women changed their perspectives on what they look for in a relationship. Today, women are interested in what is called “relationship support”, and are less interested (but still somewhat interested) in how much a guy makes or what car he drives. Women are seeking out mates who are attentive, affectionate, kind, and caring (and have nicely trimmed hipster beards). But guess what, men haven’t changed their perspectives at all. Womanhood is paving the way for new norms regarding relationships, but men are obstinately lagging behind.
Both of these examples fall under the broader category of the “Paradox of Masculinity”, where men feel power over women as a group, but feel powerless on an individual level. Single men are roughly in the same position they were three decades ago, which, when coupled with changing perspectives of women, triggers a certain inferiority complex. It could be that men simply don’t know how to handle their feelings of inadequacy toward the needs of modern relationships, and they choose to opt out entirely (as Mason suggests). Therefore, they go back to hooking up or casually dating, which is where they still feel powerful and in control.
So should we feel bad for single men and their inability to mature? Well, that depends… The difficulties that women face in dating are much more pronounced than the difficulties that men date. Men only have to work on themselves, while women have to work against society at large. But it is unfair to assume that all the problems with dating, and its subsequent solutions, are one sided. Single men and women are intertwined in this dance, and they are both affected by each other, and by all the demographic, economic, and social changes going on around them. If there is going to be a debate about who suffers the most in the dating scene, it should at least incorporate input from both sides.
Featured Image via How To Find a Date UK