Pop culture lavishes attention on young single men, but it ignores young married men. "Indeed, the young husband has virtually disappeared as a cultural figure or a social type," says the new State of Our Unions report, issued annually by the National Marriage Project at Rutgers. In real life, though, marriage remains the norm. So, what are today's young husbands like? To shed some light on that question, the project surveyed heterosexual men (married or single) age 25-34.
Despite popular jests, few young husbands feel they were fitted involuntarily with the proverbial ball and chain. "Only 15 percent agreed with the statement 'you got married sooner than you wanted because your wife was pushing for it.' " (As the text drily notes, "Of course, this finding does not tell us whether or not pressure was actually exerted.") Many men see marriage as a function of their stage in life: 81 percent of the husbands agreed that they "decided to marry because it was the right time in your life to settle down." They're in no rush to be fathers, though: Just 35 percent wed because they were "ready to have children." Ready or not, 70 percent live in households with kids. This helps explain why 75 percent "specifically looked for someone who would be a good mother" when they were choosing a wife.
If men are slower than women to feel their marital time has come, maybe it's because marriage is a bigger change in their lives. Women are fairly civilized even when single; young single men are notoriously unruly, making marriage more of a "transformative event" for them. "When men marry, they begin to lead healthier and more productive lives. They work harder, and do better financially than men who are not married. They are less likely to hang out in bars, to abuse alcohol or drugs or to engage in illegal activities." But it's not totally dullsville: 73 percent said "their sex life is better since getting married." Anyhow, it's not as if men instantly mature when they wed. "Compared to earlier generations of men, young men today are less likely to equate marriage with becoming an adult," partly because they don't see kids as an essential part of the deal.
Since women are more eager than men to get married (and to have kids), you'd expect wives to be generally more pleased with marriage than husbands are. But they aren't. The report cites decades of survey data from the General Social Survey (conducted by the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago) that show men more likely than women to say their marriages are "very happy." The all-too- obvious explanation for this gender gap: It's more satisfying to have a wife than to have a husband.