The BIG Risk – Saying “I Do”

The recent controversies over gay rights (over their right to marry in California) and the high rate of infidelity among our politicians (including NY Governor Elliot Spitzer and SC congressman Mark Stanford) have helped “getting hitched” become a controversial subject.

Additionally, the high divorce rate in the US (40% of marriages end in divorce, according to a 2008 study) has both men and women scared of ending up with a broken heart.

Like any other risk, marriage comes with the possibility of something positive–an awesome relationship–or something negative–ending up alone again.

Over at The Good Men Project writer Hugo Schwyzer talked yesterday about the reason men don’t settle down. According to him, rather than the typical explanations (men are getting the milk for free, so why buy the cow? Or, that men are intimidated by women’s ambition, sexual aggression or pickiness) he instead proposes that men instead are “waiting to be struck by certainty.”

Certainty that, he says, is unlikely to ever come. “Problem is,” he writes, “it’s damn near impossible to be 100 percent sure about anything. In most ventures in life, we’re 70 percent sure at best.”

Blame Tradition

While the piece sets out to show that many men want the same thing many women want–a long term, committed relationship–instead it only gives one reason a man might wait to get engaged; and that reason applies equally, i think, regardless of gender. Uncertainty holds back many people from taking the plunge and saying “I do.”

As the commentators on Schwyzer’s piece point out, cougars (women seeking younger men) and creepers (men seeking younger women) both represent the same trend of unmarried 40-50 year olds who have held back from commitment (or who have already undergone divorces). The trend isn’t really gender-biased.

I believe Schwyzer’s main point, that many men want marriage just as much as many women do. However, I blame misperception that there is a shortage of marrying men more on tradition (the onus in most cases i still on men to propose), than on a lack of desire on the part of one party or the other.

Role Reversal

While a 2003 proposal survey conducted by Korbel Champagne found that almost one in three (31 percent) Americans know a woman who has proposed marriage to a man, the majority of engagements still involve the man getting down on one knee and popping the question. This may make it easier for women to say they want to be married, without the pressure of having to do anything to show they mean it.

So often women are portrayed as marriage-hungry; but there is a difference between wanting to know your partner wants to marry you and wanting to get married. In truth, if women were as marriage hungry as they are portrayed, I’d expect the rate of women proposing to men to have already surpassed the number of men proposing to women.

Personally, until that happens, I’ll continue to believe women are just as scared of committing to spend the rest of their life with the wrong someone as men are.

Article written by Melissa Breau for Moxy Magazine, February 2011. Image from Wikicommons.

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About Melissa Breau

Publisher of Moxy Magazine, Melissa is a cheesy romantic, who likes long walks on the beach and arguing about comma placement. She is also the editor for a B2B magazine and a freelance writer. For more about her, check out her professional website, www.Melissabreau.com or follow her on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/melissabreau.

10 Responses to “The BIG Risk – Saying “I Do””

  1. Elizabeth says:

    It sounds like its a fear of making the wrong decision. I totally agree with sociologists idea that we as a society find decision-making more difficult, largely due to the increase number of options we are faced with day in and day out. I mean, personally, I hate decisions… you are always wondering if you’d even the other option better.

    Men don’t rely on their intuition in the same way as woman. So while we may “just know” that he’s the one, men are turning to their reasoning-skills to weigh the pros and cons of spending the rest of their lives with this person. (I’m generalizing.)

    It’s kind of in our genetic make-up to respond in these ways, esp those that Dr Helen Fisher would call Directors. Poor poor directors. I’m sure as hell done dating these logical thinkers. :-)

    • I think it’s ironic that you say first that you hate decisions and then follow it up with the generalization that women follow their intuition more than men.

      I think that’s often how the two genders are perceived to behave–but I’m not sure it matches reality. Take yourself as an example–you wonder if the other option would have been better. That’s not blindly following your intuition.

      I think these are just stereotypes we’ve somehow been stuck with. Perhaps once they were once generalizations that were based in fact; but i think today, women are much more likely to rationalize and think through decisions in the same way society says men do.

      Instead I know an increasing number of women who don’t even consider marriage. They’re focused on their careers and on other aspects of their lives. There are still some of them (myself included) for whom the idea of being married someday makes up a big part of their self image; but that doesn’t mean they’ll accept just anyone. They want to be “sure” just as much as men do.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Don’t think that ironic at all, although maybe I should have clarified that I don’t like making logical decisions… What food to eat; what to wear; etc, etc. If the decision connects to emotion, I do follow my intuition. We’re talking about two completely different decision-making processes that are going to connect to different types of decisions for different types of people.

        Woman are more likely to think through decisions rationally. We have been trained to use that part of our brain in order to compete with men in their world, i.e. in business. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily our natural way of thinking. There are a lot of arguments about the influence of hormones and medication that actually changes our brain chemistry to think like this — but that’s a-whole-nother story. :-)

        Some of wait for the right person, some of us just want to get married, but we all “want” to be sure in our decision…

        This is hard to argue without contemplating the influence of kids.

  2. Kim says:

    Ahh, the argument of the typical man/women steretypes versus the increasingly more popular “we’re all just people” gender neutral stance, such fun.
    I’m going with Schwyzer on this one and agreeing that the desire to be “struck by certainty” is typically a more male trait. I know far more women who just want to be married, certainty be damned. And while I have known a few men who felt this way, I can pretty much count them on one hand. And I know a lot of guys 😉
    However, I also agree with Melissa that women tend to hide behind the curtain of tradition, when it comes to proposals especially, allowing them to escape some of the pressures of relationships.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Kim does know a lot of guys!!! :-)

      And I am going to also agree with Melissa; women (notice I didnt say we) tend to hide behind the curtain of tradition… traditions are often created based on natural tendencies…

      annnnd Im spent. Outtie on this topic!

  3. Angela says:

    “So often women are portrayed as marriage-hungry; but there is a difference between wanting to know your partner wants to marry you and wanting to get married.”

    YES, thank you! I’ve been in a long-term relationship for years, and I while I’m more marriage-minded than my partner, I often question whether I really WANT to be married or if my real desire is to know that my partner wants to marry me. Tough distinction. We’re all afraid of making decision we’ll regret.

  4. Shayne says:

    Perfect ideas! I have been looking for something similar to this for some time finally. Regards!

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