Why Won’t Men Commit to Marriage?

The Spectator has a new article that claims Commitment-phobic men are the real reason women are having children later. Is this true?

We are becoming a nation of older mothers. The average age at which a woman has her first child is now 30, a fifth reach 45 without having a baby and the usual busybodies are in a flap. The government, which had anyway decided on compulsory relationship classes, thinks the answer lies in more of the same. If we only explain to 11-year-olds how hard it is to conceive at 40, the creep towards geriatric motherhood can be reversed.

Teaching women about the fertility window seems wise. How are people wanting to teach children about reality “busy bodies”?

I’m all for sparing future generations this sort of expensive angst, but the more I look about, the more I’m sure the government has it quite wrong about the causes of late motherhood. Girls aren’t clueless about biology. The very same study (by the Fertility Education Initiative) that set off the fuss, also reported that most young people, nine out of ten of them, are already well aware that it’s trickier to conceive over 30.

Well, that’s a relief. So if they know, why are women waiting?

Nor do I buy the usual millennial complaint that they don’t earn enough to support a family. That FEI study found that most women, whatever their income, are keen to have kids before they turn 30.

Again, that’s good news. So why aren’t they?

I have several female friends in their early thirties who’ve wanted a baby for a while. Ninety-five per cent of girls do, says the FEI. The trouble for them hasn’t been the cost of childcare or a demanding career. The trouble has been finding a man who’s even halfway keen to settle down.

Why would this be?

All my pals looking for Mr Right report identical patterns of behaviour. Dating is now all online. So they scroll through endless profiles and eventually make contact with a promising guy. Cue weeks of pointless text-ing followed eventually by an actual date. The evening often goes well. There might be a snog, more texting and another date arranged. After that: nothing. The promising man, who’s caught wind of a woman with family plans, submerges back into the internet to scroll through the options again.

This rings true. Next, the author speculates as to the reason.

Why commit when Kate Moss might be beckoning from behind the next screen? It’s so much easier to imagine someone’s perfect when you haven’t yet met them. If online dating turns more men into commitment-phobes, I don’t see why anyone should be surprised.

I don’t believe this for an instant. Not being a perfect 10 is not the reason why a woman can’t get a man to stay with her. While I’m sure on-line dating has helped make it easier for men to find women willing to “hook up”, that isn’t the main reason men aren’t committing.

It’s women for the most part who feel the urge to nest and breed — as we all once quite freely acknowledged before gender became a choice. Most men don’t feel the same need to play house.

This too is untrue. While men may not feel the same need to have children, they do enjoy being in a stable relationship, if that relationship is good.

It took the threat of public shame, fear of God and the censorious tutting of mutual friends to chivy a man towards family life. Online, dating strangers, who’s to see or care?

And shaming is no longer working on men. Why would that be? From this point, the author goes on a long diatribe about how men are commitment phobic narcissists, as if male nature has fundamentally changed. But has it?

Instead of pointing fingers, women should ask themselves what has changed. Why did men in the past marry? They didn’t do it because they were shamed into it, at least not many of them. Generally, a man will enter into a contract because he sees that the benefit to him is worth the cost. Have the benefits of being married decreased? Have the costs to men increased? I would say yes on both counts. While I don’t agree that men are the only, or even the primary, cause of women having children later in life, if you want men to commit, you have to give them something worth committing to.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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