Why do men get married?
March 19, 2006 10:03 PM   Subscribe

As I look at the strewn wreckage of my past relationships and think about why the ones that seemed like "the one" never quite turned into the one, I wonder what is it that makes a man decide he wants to get married. Do men start thinking I want something more serious this time? Or does it hit them like a meteor out of the blue? Or is it (as they often claim on the 1st or 39th date) a slow slow burn (get to know ya and then 7 years later, lets move in)? Please explain the male psyche to me.
posted by zia to Human Relations (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Huh? Sorry if you've been misled, but men want to get married when we're with someone we are in love with and want to raise children and grow old with. If we're sure after a week, great. If it takes seven years, OK. We don't have biological clocks, and we don't have this free-floating ambient "why aren't I married?" neurosis that plagues women in, let me guess, their thirties. (Happily single 40-year-old, generalizing wildly from my own experience.)
posted by nicwolff at 10:29 PM on March 19, 2006

"It Depends" -- which you're probably tired of hearing by now, but that's the only answer.

It depends on the guy. Some guys, like me, tend to have a lot of short, albiet rushed, relationships. After a few weeks, and after the first few bumps are over, I'm perfectly alright sleeping together most nights, staying over at each other's houses, and even sleeping with each other at my relatives' houses. I consider us to be together. That's a binary state with me; once we're past dating, we're together. Once I'm happy being with someone, and we've got all the details ironed out and are happier than we've ever been in our lives? ... then it'll be time for me to get married.

That's a point that I've never reached, but it's a constant evaluation. Can I live with this person in the long-term? Can I depend on her? Will she always be interested in me, and I always in her? Can we grow old together and build a deep long lasting friendship? That's what *I* ask.

I can tell you that the cliches about playing the games to get the ring -- those are not true. If you play games like cutting off sex until he asks you to marry him, the guy will skedaddle every time.

I can't speak for most guys. I know I'm not typical. I spend a lot more time navel-gazing and second-guessing. I need a lot more verbal communication in a relationship than most guys. I've got so many fewer grey areas. And I don't do that well in relationships... the 'strewn wreckage' part really speaks to me. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 10:37 PM on March 19, 2006

Please explain the male psyche to me.

There is no such thing. I can explain my psyche to you, but that probably wouldn't help with figuring out what particular psyche caused you to post this question. I suppose you can generalize if you get enough accounts from different males, so the best I can do is answer the question "what is it that makes a man decide he wants to get married." For me, I suppose it will be when I find a woman who (a) I love and trust (b) is compatible with me in the 'long, long-term relationship' sense (c) I want to have children with.

These are also contingent on me (a) being at the point where I'm ready to be in a long, long-term relationship (b) actually wanting to have, put up with, support children (c) putting all the doubts and questions out of my mind and just acting on it.

Everyone has a slightly different idea of what love is, and some people probably don't marry for love, or what have you. I'm sure there are plenty of people I am compatible with, but is it selfish to turn down someone I meet in search of someone who might be better? I don't know. It seems evolutionary and natural to me, just like feelings of attraction. Some men probably look at it as a cost-benefit analysis in terms of gains versus inconveniences, whereas others may act purely on the strength of their feeling, while others may strike a balance somewhere between. And assume they all have varying time-tables for decision-making and a variety of other factors and you have a really impossible thing to model.

By the same token, what does it take to get a woman to accept a marriage proposal? Perhaps the best way to find an answer to that question, and to yours, is to ask the person you want to know the answer for directly.
posted by tweak at 10:52 PM on March 19, 2006

Does it have to involve babies/spawning?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 11:30 PM on March 19, 2006

Advice I've heard: give it a year. If after a year you're still not sure whether she's the one, then she's not, and you'll just be wasting your time (and hers).
posted by russilwvong at 12:47 AM on March 20, 2006

There may be an issue with you picking the same type of personality to go out with in the first place, thus it becomes a self-fulfilling process. All men seem the same and non-commital because you are only choosing to date men who fit that profile.

There was a time when I was finding myself only in relationships with women who turned out to have the same kinds of negative issues. Turned out (after much reflection) it was because I was attracted to that, ultimately, negative type of person. It all seemed great at the beginning, and was, but they soon broke down into the same kind of dysfunction.

Perhaps you need to look at this from the other side and see what you are doing to put yourself into relationships that seem good but ultimately go south regarding your long-term needs. Based just on your post, I would hazard to guess that you are creating your own misery.
posted by qwip at 2:48 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Please explain the male psyche to me."
posted by zia to human relations (5 comments total) [!]

I would, but John T. Molloy has already done it at greater length, and on some kind of sociologically valid research footing.
posted by paulsc at 3:05 AM on March 20, 2006

No such thing as a specific male psyche, just like there's no such thing as a specific female psyche. Everyone is different. Some guys will have been screwed over by women in the past, causing them to shun all serious relationships. Some guys are commitment-a-holics, rushing into serious relationships with everyone they date. Some men take it slow, some go fast. Unfortunately, in the dating world, there are no easy answers! :)
posted by antifuse at 3:24 AM on March 20, 2006

My friends all suddenly started to get married around the 30-31 year-old mark, to their long-term girlfriends.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 3:49 AM on March 20, 2006

I got married because I love her and I was ready to get married. To me it seemed like a natural next step, and not really any more of a huge thing than moving in together. Of course it's a risk but I don't know that there's really a lot to be gained by analyzing the thing much more than that. I never believed in "The One" or anything like that.
posted by teleskiving at 4:45 AM on March 20, 2006

I suspect a lot of men get married because they've dated someone for a specific length of time, they feel like they're about the right age to get married, they're getting a lot of pressure to get married from family and girlfriend, and they think, all right, it's time. I actually think women have the same experience, but with some additional pressures, such as the pressure to have children before a certain age.

I also suspect that quite a few of these men are unhappy with their marriage. In truth, of my dozen or so friends who have gotten married, it's never seemed like a good idea to me. So far, my five-year relationship with my girlfriend, in which we have mutually decided that we're not especially interested in marriage, has been better and outlasted the marriages of at least six of those friends.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:48 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

The "one" really was different for me, or maybe I was different by the time I found him. We'd both been in lots of relationships, we'd both misunderstood what love is supposed to feel like if you listen to popular music and read books (it doesn't hurt! it doesn't distract you in a stomach-wrenching way! you actually don't loathe and desire the love object at the same time!). When finally I was so weary of being in bad relationships that I revealed who I was to him when things first got romantic, instead of guarding the bits I thought he may not like or may feel threatened by. And he didn't run or flinch. Sex was even better as a result. Conversations were more open and things moved ahead much more quickly and honestly. Suddenly, I got it: Love is grand, love is healthy, and having someone to love makes you feel good, not clingy or needy or freaked out. It's an old saw but try liking yourself, warts and all, first. Then you walk into relationships strong and whole, not warily or negatively. It's not about men's psyches-- it's about yours first.
posted by eve harrington at 6:05 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think part of the marriage thing is that it's time when it happens by itself. There'd be a lot fewer marriages if it wasn't forced... and the great part about this day and age is that it doesn't need to be. When it's just the logical next progression, and *everyone's* comfortable with it, it should work. If there's pressure ... well, it probably won't.
posted by SpecialK at 6:44 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I can't speak for guys in general, but my experience validates what eve harrington said.

There are two kinds of love. The kind that love songs are about, which lasts for about 3 months and is incredibly intense. It's what everyone thinks of when they use the word "love." It's very easy, and very enjoyable.

Then there's the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. It is much less intrusive on your life, but is as intense in a very different way. It's more closely related to your love of your family - it's a fundamental part of you. The first kind of love cannot support a marriage. The second kind is necessary to support a marriage.

So how can you identify the second kind of love? In my experience it feels like intense friendship, where you don't have to hide anything from the person. You really know each other. They know your faults and don't judge you for them, and you know theirs and don't judge them. Life feels better when you can share it with them, and not in the hyperintense "I-want-to-spend-every-waking-minute-with-you" kind of way that the 3 month love makes you want to share things.

The hard part is knowing when the first kind is going to segue into the second kind. When you're in the flush of the first kind, you just can't tell. That's why they way you feel after 6 months is the most important metric. At that point you're either in the right place, or you're coasting and have been coasting. If you're coasting, then don't marry.

(I believe that the second kind of love is the basis of good arranged marriages, and is the reason they often work. Your family knows you and stands a better chance of identifying someone who fits you well than you are when you're high on the first kind of love.)
posted by Pliskie at 6:55 AM on March 20, 2006 [3 favorites]

Oh, and one other thing I've found useful to know. People whose parents divorced think very differently about relationships than people whose parents never divorced. Those different ways of thinking are all focused on how a marriage should work, and they're very hard to reconcile.
posted by Pliskie at 6:58 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I would say that in broad terms a man's attitude toward marriage is no different from a woman's except that there is no deadline for them. Women are more worried over it because a)they are considered much less attractive after a certain age, whereas older men are often still considered good looking and b)they can't have children after a certain age while men are fertile up to the end. An unmarried 40-year old man can still have a totally traditional marriage and life in the future, if he wants. An unmarried 40 year old woman generally can't.

In personal situations, this may translate to women having their minds focused toward the goal earlier than men. I don't think there are other factors that affect the attitude across the board.
posted by mdn at 8:17 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

People whose parents divorced think very differently about relationships than people whose parents never divorced. Those different ways of thinking are all focused on how a marriage should work, and they're very hard to reconcile.

Hrmm... an interesting theory, but one that doesn't stand up to my personal experiences. My parents are divorced, and from past experience of my girlfriends, I've had ones whose parents were still together that had the same perspective on marriage as myself, and ones whose parents were divorced who had completely opposite perspectives on marriage from me. And vice versa. I've really seen very-little-if-any correlation between those views and the relationship status of parents.
posted by antifuse at 8:17 AM on March 20, 2006

I believe in monogamy and commitment, because it generally makes me feel good. But I go step by step, very slowly. Building a relationship means lots of little steps: exclusivity, seeing friends as a couple, organizing our days together, moving in, buying things together, and so on. When I was young and wildly romantic, I just jumped in without really understanding what I was committing to, but eventually I learned to stop at each stage and ask myself how I feel about it. If I feel good, I can take another step. If I feel doubt, then I wait and see if the doubt goes away as I learn to trust the other person more. If I feel flat out worried by the idea, then the relationship is just not working.

On the other hand, the whole concept of marriage is a mystery to me, for lots of reasons. I don't believe at all in the idea of "The One". I don't like the idea of making long-term plans in life. I appreciate being with someone because we agree that we still want to be together, not because we made a commitment and the commitment is more important than how we actually feel about each other. I prefer the honesty of a long-term relationship where we both admit that over time we might grow in different directions. I'm not interested in having children, either.

So maybe I have no way to understand how you feel, but I can't help but think that you're asking the wrong question. The people who say you'll get a different answer depending on which man you ask are right. I wish you had given us some more details that could help answer these questions: What is your idea of marriage and why is it so important? What are you expecting from someone when you think they might be The One? Is the explanation in The Way That Men Are or in the choices you've made? What happened when you wanted to get married and your previous partners didn't? And, most importantly, what were they thinking, as specific men and not representatives of their gender?
posted by fuzz at 9:09 AM on March 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

...because I want to be with my wife for the rest of my life

...because i want her to be the mother of my children; she'll be a marvellous mother

...because she (still) puts up with me


teleskiving said: To me it seemed like a natural next step, and not really any more of a huge thing than moving in together

I have a different view on this. My wife and I lived and worked together for the second, third and fourth years we dated each other. The step from that arrangement to committing to each other, body and soul, FOREVER definitely has taken our relationship to a whole new level.

to each his/her own.

as tweak said: Perhaps the best way to find an answer to that question, and to yours, is to ask the person you want to know the answer for directly.
posted by iurodivii at 10:01 AM on March 20, 2006

I find that, culture, religion and life experience tends to trump gender in this sort of thing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:12 AM on March 20, 2006

It has been said that women give sex to get love, men give love to get sex.

But, as noted above, trying to fit all males into one psyche is foolish, as it is with women. So the initial statement doesn't hold true for everyone... myself for example.
posted by edgeways at 10:23 AM on March 20, 2006

Hey fuzz,

Thanks for your thoughtful questions. I think part of my question came from having lots of male friends who are happily married, but having never really experienced such intent eirther personally or through girlfriends.

Literally what we (my girlfirends and I) see is that the guys we meet are just not serious at all about relationships. So my question came out of my own experience and the experience of my social group (which is pretty spread out geographically). And even though I have lots of married friends, it remains a mystery to me what makes people decide to take that step.

My question was really about what was the state of mind someone had when they decided to take that step.

As for me, I've had some wonderful relationships with great guys, but for whatever the few guys I would have liked to take that step with, never felt quite comfortable doing so.

Sometimes I feel there is an anti marriage tilt to the posts on MeFi and while I'm not (altho it may seem that way) focused on getting a ring on my finger, I believe a deep meaning ful relationship with a partner and having kids is pretty much the most fulfulling thing you can do in life. While it may not be pc, because it seems unfair to those singletons or folks who choose not have kids, I think there are ways that people grow when they take on making a family that are just not available to people who don't. My question about marriage was kind of a proxy for this urge for this kind of relationship, a short hand if you will.

I'm not asking anyone to understand or go into or to analyse my choices. To question of the previous partners and NOT getting married, I think it was kind of like a highway we just didn't take - we ended up driving in a different direction for avariety of reasons. Its hard to get into anyone's head and figure out what people are thinking, sometimes I think its impossible to understand a relationship from the outside and even harder from the inside. And in some way, I could make lots of guesses as to what my partner was thinking at the time, but I'm not sure they themselves knew. To look back now and draw the threads in to a coherent story feels like a fallacy because I'm not sure there was a coherent story ever (or that there ever is). But thats just me and my navel gazing. My questions was really to understand how other people think about it.
posted by zia at 10:52 AM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Zia, I have been asking similar questions lately. I have dated a long string of really nice guys, for a year here, four years there, two years here, and on and on until now. I finally just gave up. I find it too hard to keep putting myself out there.

I don't really have any answers, though.

And NicWolff, you sound mighty defensive coming right in with that "Huh?".
posted by Maisie Jay at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2006

Thanks Maisie, Good to have company in this journey. I'm close to giving up myself.
posted by zia at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2006

I gave up on finding anyone last year. Then I found my current partner in a pub.
posted by badlydubbedboy at 11:36 AM on March 20, 2006

Well personally, after about a year I felt like I couldn't live without my partner, and we were talking as if we were going to have a long term future together, so it made sense at the time.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:08 PM on March 20, 2006

I think that's the feeling that you're looking for -- when you can't live without each other.
posted by SpecialK at 3:11 PM on March 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

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