Paul Murray recently made a comment which fits with a theory of mine on how men and women decide when to get married:
PA is reading the situation at work completely wrong. I guarantee you that when one of the girls at PA’s work gets engaged, they all will.
First: women control relationships with betas, not the betas. If they are not married, it’s because they (the women) don’t want to be.
Second, they are herd creatures. These discussions about how the guys are not popping the question are actually discussion amongst themselves as to whether it’s time for them all to stop playing musical chairs and all sit down with the ones they have.
When the girls as a group decide that its wedding time, then all the various guys will be issued their ultimatums and most will fall into line. Until then, the guys will carry on in blissful ignorance.
(oh: and they’ll all get their divorces at around the same time, too)
His last statement is of course backed up by science. I experienced something similar to what he is describing right around the time I graduated from college. In this case however the women didn’t know each other, yet they all seemed to be triggered to start pushing for marriage around the same time.
My PUA roommate was surprisingly the first to get married. We all thought he was joking when he brought his latest girlfriend home and announced not only that he was in love (as he always did), but that he was going to get married. In retrospect it probably would have been nicer of us not to laugh when he told us this, or at least to have waited until his fiancée was out of the room. Likewise for starting up the betting pool for how long before he found another woman. I honestly thought it was a practical joke, as we were constantly playing jokes on each other. It wasn’t a joke and I later took my then girlfriend/now wife to their wedding. True to form he hit on my now wife as he greeted us in the line of guests making our way into the church for the ceremony.
Not too long before this I had a girlfriend for a short while who was treating me with the kind of contempt reserved for a boyfriend who has become too beta. I had within the previous few years just gone from not being able to get a date to save my life to having the odd girlfriend. Given this and her obvious contempt for me, marriage was the last thing on my mind. Yet she actually raised the issue of us getting married. I was incredulous. As with my roommate announcing his decision to marry, I admit I shouldn’t have laughed.
I remember around the same time a girl I met at a bar who I called a day or so later. We hung out for a little bit and she made it clear that she was looking for a husband. I had just met her. At a bar. This really surprised me. No laughter this time, but it was still bizarre. Along the way other friends of mine married within a year after we graduated. None of us had planned it this way.
My wife was four years younger than the other women in the pattern, but I do think that me graduating college was a signal that caused women to suddenly see me as marriage material. Likewise I think seeing friends of mine start to marry or at least be in relationships which seemed headed towards marriage had primed me to change my thinking on the issue over a fairly short period of time. My wife was also in an entirely different category as well. Since she was a beautiful young woman who hadn’t been with another man and had fallen for me as hard as I had for her, her broaching the topic had a very different feel to it.
While I think it is a bit more complex than Paul describes, I do think that men and women both tend to respond to the actions of others in their peer group as well as those just a few years older than them. If a woman starts to see other women her age marry this seems to cause her to pursue marriage with newfound urgency. In this sense I think we pay too much attention to whatever the proximate milestone is (graduating, turning a specific age, etc). These milestones play a role, but the specific trigger strikes me as being more about what others in their peer group are doing. As proof of this see the continuing delay in the median age of marriage.
I also agree with Paul that women are generally the ones who are driving this. In my experience the women were always the ones to bring up the issue first. I have always thought that only a fool would propose to a woman if he didn’t already know this was what she wanted with him. The same goes only to a slightly lesser degree for even discussing marriage in the abstract. If she isn’t the one driving this the mechanics are all wrong.
The reason I think all of this is so important is I think the bubble of white women* in the US in their 20s and early 30s delaying marriage are greatly weakening the signal to prepare for marriage that the cohort of men they would traditionally expect to marry are receiving. I’ve shared this chart before, but it serves to describe the cohort of women whom I’m referring to:
These women aren’t just delaying marriage; they are collectively weakening the signal which in past generations has told men to prepare for marriage both mentally and professionally. I haven’t seen hard stats on the number of Peter Pan men** who are coasting professionally while playing video games with their buddies, but to the extent that this is in fact occurring the missing/weakened signal strikes me as a significant cause for this. Men in their 20s are now seeing far fewer of their peers getting married or even involved in “serious relationship” LTRs. These things are of course still happening since not all women of this cohort are delaying marriage, but the strength of the signal is much weaker. The specific peer group a man is in will make a big difference here, but overall large numbers of men are receiving much weaker signals indicating that they should begin preparing for marriage.
The problem here for those women hoping to only delay marriage is there is generally a limited window for young men if they are going to become candidates for marriage. A man who spent his 20s coasting instead of developing his professional skills can’t immediately make up for that lost time, even if he wants to. At the same time, there is a window of opportunity when men are most interested in marriage. As Solomon II pointed out fairly crassly in his post The Marriage Zone, the changing fortunes of young men and women in the Sexual Market Place (SMP) as they age creates a limited window when men are most likely to be eager to try to “lock in” a woman who shows interest in marriage.
All of this is of course assuming that the unmarried women in question are only trying to delay marriage and haven’t decided that they don’t need a man. If they truly don’t feel the need for the commitment and investment which women can receive only in marriage, the limited prospects they will likely face for husbands in the future won’t be an issue.
*I haven’t run this data for other races, but marriage rates vary greatly by race so the normal practice of averaging all races together can be very misleading. If you have this data charted out and published for other races please let me know so I can include a link here.
**I use the term “Peter Pan men” to reference the hysterics coming from the Where have all the good men gone? crowd. As I’ve written previously women had the right to change the rules, but men have every right to decide how they want to respond.