I and other bloggers have touched on this general issue before, but it strikes me that I haven’t seen the full extent of this addressed directly. Conventional wisdom is that women want commitment and men want to avoid it. All too often the reality is that women want commitment from men, but desperately want to avoid reciprocating.
A comment on Solomon II’s recent post on text game (NSFW) had me thinking about this more. Solomon was able to convince a 23 year old woman to send him a partially nude picture of herself. Commenter Lisa found this troubling:
Classy. Why do I even bother dating. How could I compete with this, being 39 with a child, even if I wanted to?
Solomon II replied:
Yes, this gets male attention, but so do plenty of other qualities that you likely have. Most importantly, this is not what it takes to get long term male commitment.
But unless she is a widow, a former nun who experienced immaculate conception, or divorced with legitimate cause or against her will, why should we assume a 39 year old single mother wants commitment? She has had over 20 years to enter into commitment if she so chose.
The conventional wisdom may be the dynamic for a very small percentage of alphas and a larger percentage of more traditional women, but the reality of the changes we have seen in dating and marriage have been just the opposite. Men have been the ones reacting to women’s lack of commitment and responding in kind.
Example: Shift from LTRs to hookups.
Early in the sexual revolution there was some level of stability for serial monogamy. This was because there was still some inertia keeping women from feeling comfortable hopping from man to man. But over time women have felt more and more free to enter and exit sexual relationships at will.
In reality, what exactly differentiates a LTR from a hookup? Is it fair for a man or a woman to have an expectation that their “Long Term Relationship” will be in tact an hour from now, tomorrow, or next week? Is either party judged for deciding at any moment in the relationship that it no longer exists? If either party can terminate the relationship at will simply by voicing their preference, where exactly is the commitment?
Long Term Relationships actually have no term and no commitment. The only way you can violate the agreement is if you get involved with someone else without a courtesy call to the other party first. Tell me if I’m getting this wrong.
Men are consciously or unconsciously starting to recognize this and acting accordingly. The hookup culture is really just men finally adjusting to the rules women have been playing by for quite some time. Now both will get what they want from the “relationship” for so long as it pleases them, and then end it when they wish. The only question is if it pleases them for an hour, a night, a month, a year, or a decade. As men become wise to the lack of commitment they are in turn withdrawing their investment.
Behold: hookup culture.
What clouds this issue is the near total denial of the reality of the situation. Even in the manosphere I’m not sure the true reality that women are the ones who fear commitment is really universally accepted. The pretty lie is that women do want commitment, but only sort of commitment. Intuitively this is an attractive idea. Why not have your cake and eat it too? But commitment turns out to be much like being pregnant. One can’t be a little bit of either one. But the lie persists. This is perhaps the most important message we need to send young men. Don’t fall for the sort of committed idea women and society would sell you. Don’t mistake having sex with a woman, eating dinner with her, living with her, going on vacations, or a long history with a woman to mean anything but she was horny, hungry, she needed a roommate, she wanted to go on vacation, or she didn’t see another option which struck her fancy. It doesn’t mean anything else. It can’t. Even if you are in love. Once a man understands this and truly internalizes it he can act accordingly.
It doesn’t matter if you like the new rules or not. They are here, and the only wise choice is to stop denying it. My wife’s mother told her when she started dating to not expect any commitment from a man unless she was married or at the very least both were actively and openly planning to marry; You could sleep with him and he would be perfectly justified in leaving you the next day.
We need to start telling our sons the same thing. They should feel no obligation whatsoever to a woman they are not either married to or engaged to, no matter how long they have been with her or what their shared history is. And they should absolutely expect her to act the same way.
Example: Marriage 2.0
We see the same thing regarding marriage. I think there is a federal law requiring that whenever I write a post about divorce that at least one woman loudly worries that women will be “trapped in marriage”.
And by trapped, they of course mean committed.
Marriage 2.0 is just the legal formalization of this kind of thinking. Men’s commitment is legally enforced, while women can no longer even be morally judged for deciding they no longer wish to honor it. Even churches have been cowed into not making moral judgments about those who decide to end their marriage for any reason. As J shared in her comment on my post about the devastating effect divorce has on children:
I think that the reasons religious institutions of various denominations don’t tackle the issue as directly as you would advocate is that they don’t want to be seen as mixing in inappropriately and alienating people. My own congregation has no stated policy on divorce, but efforts are made to support both parties and keep them involved in the congregation and guidance is given to those who seek it. Efforts NOT to take sides are made. I think divorce is a minefield for clergy.
To be fair to J she was only sharing what she had observed, and this sentiment is extremely common when I see divorce discussed even on Christian blogs. If anything her church should be commended for being honest about what its policy is regarding divorce. Most churches speak like Christ and act like Oprah when it comes to divorce.
A fellow blogger (whom I respect greatly) OneSTDV expressed a similar sentiment in a post back in August Eat, Pray, Love: What About the Husband? OneSTDV took issue with a post from Welmer on the Spearhead where Welmer (another blogger I respect greatly) asserted that the author had wronged her first husband by divorcing him without cause. OneSTDV felt that she had harmed society at large by doing this, but that it was taking it too far to say that she had wronged her husband personally when she decided not to keep her marriage vows to him:
Welmer’s “victim” carping assumes this man had a right to be loved, that he was actually worthy of anyone’s ardor. He knows nothing of this man’s venerable or disreputable attributes, yet Welmer presumes Ms. Gilbert’s wronged him in some manner:
like being abandoned by a spouse
If Ms. Gilbert felt as despondent as the novel claims, then she’s justified in ending the marriage. Do I advocate divorce and the attendant idea that marriage is a whimsical decision? Of course not, but sometimes, things don’t work out. Ms. Gilbert did not victimize Mr. Gilbert by not reciprocating his affections; one’s personal emotions (from men and women) are offered as a gift, bestowed upon those we deem worthy. If one parsimoniously refuses to extend such warmth, then too bad. A victim exists if unjustifiably imposed upon by some immoral act or actor, i.e. Madoff. You’re not a victim simply because your wife no longer loves you.
I bring up OneSTDV’s comments only to make it clear how universal this view is. Men need to stop automatically assuming that a woman will feel any moral obligation to him to keep her wedding vows. Society no longer sees it that way, even when it recognizes the moral cost to society and children caused by divorce in general.
Men’s eventual rational response to the reality of the widespread lack of commitment from women will be to stop being confused by the term Long Term Relationship and also to choose not to marry. I think the former can’t happen too soon, but I have mixed feelings about the latter. I personally still advise (beta) men to marry, but only if the woman can demonstrate an exceptional power within herself to keep her end of the commitment. While I mourn the continuing destruction of the institution of marriage, I am also troubled that large numbers of men are marrying women who don’t deserve the honor.
So far we aren’t seeing a marriage strike, but we are seeing a remarriage strike. We are also seeing a change in popular opinion about marrying a woman in her 30s. The fact that the change in attitudes is happening first on the margins makes sense. As this understanding continues to grow we should expect it to eventually impact lifetime first marriage rates as well.