Wednesday, April 06, 2011

An Unmarried Man – Oh, the Horror!

I recognize that the personal dynamic between a mother and son is a little different than the overall cultural attitude towards unmarried men in general. But the former got me started on the latter in what I wrote below. PROTECTIVE MOM IN OHIO wrote in to Dear Abby:

My son "Marshall" is 36. He's handsome, has a great job, is a wonderful son and would be a tremendous "catch." The problem is Marshall has no interest in marriage or even dating.
That he has no interest in marriage isn't abnormal or a problem. As far as dating – he isn't dating that you know about. He could be a Category 2. He could be a Category 4, and you would never know that he's doing women in their apartments and retiring home for a good night's sleep.

He was in a relationship six or seven years ago that ended badly.
Most "romantic" relationships do. Very few end with dignity, civility, and both people feeling great about the situation. Very few lead to a lasting, happy marriage.

Since then, he has decided he doesn't want any woman getting close to him. He hasn't been on a date since.
He must be saving time and money like crazy! Again, a man doesn't need to go on a date to "get close" to a woman. It's called "booty call". He could also have close platonic female friends, especially since he doesn't have a girlfriend or wife who would demand an end to such a "threat".

Marshall spends his time hunting, fishing and playing/watching sports with his single and divorced friends.
Sounds like a great life. Good for him! I'm a married father, and generally happy about that. But have almost no time to enjoy my lifelong hobbies and I get to spend even less time with my friends. (I tend to blog when I have to wait for something and I'm not around my family.)

It doesn't help that the divorced friends tell him he's doing the right thing by staying single, and how they wish they had done the same thing.
They are speaking from their experiences. Don’t like it? Talk to your "sisters" about how they treat men.

Every time I raise the subject, he tells me he's happy with his life and doesn't want to change.
So what's the problem? Would you rather he be married and miserable? Is he your only child? Become foster parents if you really are so intent on being grandparents.

How do I get through to him? My husband says we should let him do what he wants because it's his life.
How do you treat your husband? Are you as annoying to him as you are to your adult son? Perhaps your son doesn't like the marriage model that was provided for him. That thought would hurt, wouldn't it?

But I have trouble accepting that my son wants to stay single the rest of his life.
Then go blow money on a therapist. Maybe your son gay; gay in the homosexual sense, or gay in the classic sense in that he likes his life the way it is and sees no reason to sacrifice, compromise, and legally obligate himself to someone else. He could even be one of those rare people who are asexual in the sense of not having a sex drive.

Dear Abby responded:

You come from a generation in which marriage was the norm. However, in the decades since you were married there has been a slow (but steady) erosion in the percentage of Americans who think marriage is important.
Actually, the overwhelming number of people do get married.

So trust him, love him, and don't push him. Marriage, when it's a good one, is wonderful. But it is no longer a must, and more and more people are concluding it isn't for everyone.

I can understand parents wanting their children to marry and give them grandchildren. And situations like this one prompt people who have been married for fifty years to pipe up and talk about how important and great it is. But things have changed a lot in the last fifty years, in the law, in the courts, and in the social scene. Fewer women are willing to be good wives or even have a clue how to be a good wife. Fewer women are willing to raise their own kids, or would respect a husband who stayed home to do so. Even "liberated" career women want to marry a man who earns more than they do; the majority marry men who do.

Then there are the social commentators and others who are in a kind of panic that there are actually men out there who are happy being unmarried. They assert that all of these men are 1) immature; 2) not really happy; 3) neglecting their obligations, and 4) a threat. You see, as long as there is some unmarried woman out there who claims she wants a husband, then it is supposedly some sort of sin that men haven't lined up to legally obligate themselves to her. And unmarried men are a threat because they might have sex with your daughter, your sister, your mother, or your wife! (As if married men never do such things.) They're a threat because they might give miserable married men an example of a life to dream about. And perhaps my favorite is the notion that unmarried men will go out and commit crime because they're unmarried. Everyone knows about the high crime rates around monasteries.

I, on the other hand, being a happily married man, maintain that a man can be unmarried, childless, and still be a responsible, mature man and good citizen. It is of no concern to me if a man is unmarried and childless as long as he's: not committing serious crimes; isn't behaving in a way that puts other, unconsenting people at risk; isn't getting handouts from the government. A man who takes care of his responsibilities is mature.

And let's not ignore the blindingly obvious fact that there are many immature, irresponsible guys who are or have been married and spawned children. It isn't immaturity in men that is causing the bulk of the marriage delay or marriage strike. Rather, immature men are more likely to go ahead and marry the wrong woman or before they are ready to be husbands because they aren't mature enough to avoid making those mistakes when pressured to, or because they are immature and want a maid and cook. If more men were mature, the marriage rates would actually drop more, because more men would hold out for one of the increasingly rare women who are quality wife-and-mother material.

Never-married, childless men who don't have a girlfriend are viewed with suspicion by so many people, including in church, in the workplace, and in politics. But they may actually be the person in the room who is the most responsible and mature.


  1. I would bet that this woman is more concerned about her own ambition to have grand-kids than her son's future happiness (mothers usually are). I loved the husband's diplomatic comment. Probably too scared to say what he really thinks!

  2. Curiepoint5:30 PM

    I would bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in yours that Peter is right. This woman may love her son, but she likely loves the idea of grand-children even more.

    Even if this were not true, one immutable fact remains:

    Loving mother or not, she is still a woman, and a single man appears as something frightful and threatening. She won't be able to keep tabs on him forever, so she needs a daughter-in-law to tag team keeping him under a constant, watchful eye.

  3. I don't seems most overbearing mothers certainly don't want their sons to get married...they want to control them, and a man is truly in the middle when he tries to make his controlling mama happy, and please his new wife.

    I agree that a man who is single, and without children is generally a very responsible man. I married my responsible husband when he was just about 30..everyone except him began wondering if he'd ever marry..he knew God just hadn't brought his wife yet.

    Anyway, great post!

  4. curiepoint4:54 PM

    An additional thought...

    This concerned mother is indeed over-bearing and nosy, and so she wants her son to meet and marry a woman just like her.

    I am quite sure that she knows lots of "very nice girls", whether it's the gal behind the cash register at the local supermart, or the daughter/grand daughter of one of her Mahh Johngg partners. It frustrates her that her son is not inclined to date any of them. Who the hell wants to date a woman that was hand-picked by mom?


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