• SumoMe

Is the fear of divorce, rather than commitment, the reason for men's reluctance to marriage?

A new article on the Huffington Post investigated the question of why young men tend to avoid marriage. The traditional explanation is that men fear the commitment to one person. However, Vicki Larson’s article suggests an alternative answer:

Daryl Motte and Seth Conger have got a lot going for them. They’re young, attractive, smart, employed, single, funny, down-to-earth, slightly old-fashioned and curious — the kind of guys who’d make perfect husbands.

Except that Daryl, 31, and Seth, 28 … are just not there yet when it comes to marriage. And a big part of that is the fear of the D-word: Divorce.

It’s a valid fear. Daryl and Seth’s generations — Daryl’s a Gen-Xer, Seth’s a Millennial — are already divorcing at surprising rates. Of those who married in 2009, 43.9 percent were men in their age group, 25 to 34, according to the Census Bureau’s “Marital Events of Americas: 2009,” while of those divorcing, 23.7 percent — more than half — were ages 25 to 34. For men ages 15 to 24, 19.5 percent married and 3.8 percent divorced.

Men Daryl and Seth’s age are “in that stage of life where they are building their income, their economic independence. The worst thing would be if they were to lose it all,” says David Popenoe, who headed the National Marriage Project at Rutgers …

For Daryl, that is a very real possibility: “I don’t see marriage as an option until the (divorce) laws are equal. They’re heavily weighed against men,” says Daryl, who adds it’s just too easy for people to walk away.

This struck me as interesting. While this study is by no means indicative of the views of all men (nor is any study), I found the proposition that men are scared of commitment ending more than beginning very intriguing. Does this signal a fundamental shift in the sincerity of marriage vows, or does it illustrate a growing tendency to protect individual wealth? Answering this question is really the same as answering whether the proverbial glass is half-full or half-empty.

However, whichever answer you choose is ultimately beneficial. If the sincerity of marriage vows is increasing, that not only strengthens the bonds of marriage, but it increases the likelihood of children getting raised in unbroken homes (which in theory is better than the alternative). If your answer is the pessimistic choice, that men are more apt to hold on to their wealth instead of splitting it all in half, that could signal economic strength in the future–liquid assets are a sign of strength and flexibility in economies, and the more men (consumers) save, the more likely they are to contribute to a recovery (also, in theory).

Whatever the reasoning is, it seems beneficial for men to have concern (rather than apathy) towards divorce. A gentleman should always honor his promises, marriage vows included, and this article is encouraging in that men are thinking about the ramifications of their promises, rather than producing empty vows.