Single and Glad of It

Pity the young woman who seeks a mate from the ranks of today’s young men. The lads are an unpromising bunch for the roles of husband and father. Unlike the men themselves, this conclusion becomes irresistible as one reads the latest “State of Our Unions” report from the National Marriage Project, housed at Rutgers University. Based on new focus-group research among never-married heterosexual men age 25-33, plus data from other sources, the report says these guys “express a desire to marry and have children sometime in their lives, but they are in no hurry.” It’s telling that “none of these men expressed a burning desire for children, a view that would likely have been different if the study participants had been childless unmarried women of similar age and background.” Nor are they being pushed toward the altar by the “traditional pressures” from church, employers and society. In any case, the single life seems too good a deal, since “the sexual revolution and the trend toward cohabitation offer them some of the benefits of marriage without its obligations.” Men often say they view cohabitation as a way to “test compatibility for marriage,” but it also makes unmarried life more convenient for them. After all, they “can avoid the time-consuming effort of searching for a sex partner when they have one living at home.” But, you might ask, aren’t men revealing a romantic side when they engage in monogamous cohabitation? The report suggests another factor is also at work: “Men believe they can dispense with condoms if they are in a monogamous living-together relationship.” All of this helps explain why the median age for first marriages has climbed to 27 for men and 25 for women, the highest in U.S. history. It’s no bad thing, of course, if fewer people wed at a too-tender age. But this trend also means men are apt to become deeply habituated to the single life. And the last thing they want is for women to remold them into a more domestic shape: “More than a few men expressed resentment at women who try to change them.”