Marriage rates in the United States are steadily dropping, but cohabitation rates have never been higher. There's a commitment issue in our society, and the blame doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of men.
Women are becoming increasingly complacent in long-term relationships, unwilling to express their desires and expectations for fear of scaring men away. This submission to men’s hesitations to commit typically results in unhappiness for both parties, infidelity, and dead-end relationships.
Why He Won’t Commit
Putting the cart before the horse can lower men’s inclinations to commit. Studies have shown that most Americans now engage in premarital sex. Even by the age of 20, 75% of men and women have been physically intimate with at least one person. This increase in premarital sex correlates both with an increase in cohabitation rates and a decrease in marriage rates. According to a Pew Research study, 59% of adults have lived with an unmarried partner while only 50% of adults have ever been married. If you’re already living together, it can be hard to justify marriage when men are already reaping the benefits without the emotional or financial commitment.
This increase in premarital sex correlates both with an increase in cohabitation rates and a decrease in marriage rates.
Other men simply aren’t willing to give up their bachelor habits. Society, which has largely okayed pornography and the hookup culture, has bred generations who not only see promiscuity as acceptable, but as normal. Statistics show, however, that those who have multiple sexual partners are less likely to get married (and more likely to get divorced if they do end up marrying). Marriage requires fidelity, and that’s something that men struggle with in today’s world.
Finances also inhibit men from popping the question. Financial insecurity (often due to student debt), the benefits of filing taxes individually, and income inequality between partners are all reasons that Americans — especially Millennials — are putting off marriage. While it’s important for a man to feel confident in his ability to provide for his wife and children, wealth is now being prioritized above marriage. Men — and many women — view career advancement and affluence as having greater worth than saying “I do,” which is reflected in the trend of people tying the knot later in life. Ironically, it has been proven that those who marry actually see great benefits to their finances — “income increases of 50 to 100 percent and net wealth increases of about 400 to 600 percent” according to the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project.
Men — and many women — view career advancement and affluence as having greater worth than saying “I do.”
Men also don’t have a biological clock the same as women do, and that can contribute to their tendency to drag their feet to the altar. Unlike women who feel the pressure to marry and have children before a certain age, men are less concerned about this as they can reasonably father children at much older ages. And with the average number of children on a steady decline (now under 2 per family in the U.S.), babies are becoming less and less of a reason to get married.
Women Are Afraid To Ask for Commitment
According to a Gallup poll, only 9% of Americans aged 18 to 34 have never been married and never want to marry. So, despite the rise of anti-marriage viewpoints among Millennials, marriage is still very much desired. Why, then, are women so reluctant to express their wishes for commitment in relationships?
There seems to be a growing fear that if a woman makes her hopes of marriage known, she will scare away suitors left and right. If a ring and a lifelong commitment are truly your aspirations though, why settle for a man who doesn’t feel the same way? Far too many women are ending up stuck in a cycle of casual dating and/or long-term relationships that show no promise of culminating in a walk down the aisle. And far too many women don’t realize that they have the power to break this cultural trend.
Love involves commitment, and, if your man shies away from this, chances are it’s not the kind of love that you’re looking for.
If you’re dating with the hopes of finding a husband, make that intention known immediately. This doesn’t mean telling every first date that you want to marry him, but rather starting relationships with the full disclosure that you are looking for the one. If it comes across as too strong, then he clearly isn’t worth your time. Don’t waste your time dating men who aren’t on the same trajectory as you.
If you find yourself in a relationship with a man who cringes at the mere mention of an engagement ring, it’s time for a serious appraisal of your life with him in the picture. Discuss the matter with him without being held back by any fears of his disapproval or rejection. Even if you’ve been together for many years and swear that he's the right guy, you may find that he really isn’t if he’s unwilling to spend the rest of his life with you. Remember that you should be with someone who wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with him. Research suggests that longer courtships (lasting longer than two years) may actually result in less happy marriages. So, sticking it out in that long long-term relationship may not be the best move. Typically, hesitations to marry signal that it’s just not the right decision.
One practical way to avoid such a dead-end relationship is to continue living in your own place until he’s ready for the full-time commitment of marriage. Moving in together may seem convenient and it may even seem like commitment on his part, but it requires far less obligation than putting a ring on it. Even if you’re splitting rent, he can walk out whenever he wants.
One practical way to avoid such a dead-end relationship is to continue living in your own place until he’s ready for the full-time commitment of marriage.
Cohabitation can lead to less satisfactory and trust-filled relationships. Satisfaction with communication, financial responsibility, trust in a partner’s fidelity, and home life are all higher among those who are married compared to those who are simply cohabitating. Cohabitation before marriage is also associated with economic disadvantage, lower chances of marriage, and increased risk of divorce. So, simply choosing to maintain separate living spaces can reduce your chances of finding yourself stuck with a bare ring finger.
Finally, it can be empowering to remember that being single is far better than being with the wrong person. Love involves commitment, and, if your man shies away from this, chances are it’s not the kind of love that you’re looking for. Women have the power to shift the trend back in our favor. Marriage is on the decline in the United States, but it doesn’t have to remain so if we refuse to settle for less than the best from men. We have the power to elevate men to higher standards. Instead of lamenting the fact that there are “no good guys left,” women should ask the male population to be better! And, ladies, don’t be afraid to let your boyfriend know that, if he likes it, he should put a ring on it.