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They want kids, houses and sex. And they want women, too -- but not in the form of wives. Not until they're older.
So says the latest study to probe the minds of America's young men, aged 25 to 33. The study found 10 reasons men won't commit -- from the ease of finding sex partners to the desire to avoid financial risks of divorce.
Men do want to marry and have children eventually, the study found, and men greatly value the institution of marriage. But they love their single life and experience few of the traditional pressures from church, employers or society that once encouraged them to marry. Then, too, living together gives men many of the benefits of marriage without the obligations, the study said. And society accepts cohabitation.
The authors of the study, called The State of Our Unions, said they were puzzled by their findings, based on face-to-face group interviews with 60 heterosexual men in Chicago, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Houston. The majority of the men are employed full-time with reported annual incomes between $21,000 and $35,000. Most have had some college or hold a BA. None of the men were married; three had children.
"Marriage is a fundamental social institution. It is central to the nurture and raising of children... and the 'social glue' that reliably attaches fathers to children," noted the authors in their 32-page report. "[Marriage] contributes to the physical, emotional and economic health of men, women and children, and thus to the nation as a whole."
Reason 1: Men can get sex without marriage more easily than in times past. The men reported that meeting women is easy: at bars, through friends, at work, and on the Internet. Though men want to become friends with a woman before becoming seriously involved, casual sex, they said, is easy to come by.
Reason 2: Men can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting rather than marrying. Men think living together is a good way to test out a marriage prospect. They also view living together as less risky than marriage. At the same time, the men in the study like the convenience of having a regular sex partner. And several said they appreciate the domestic benefits of cohabitation, and the ability to share expenses, but thought marriage unnecessary at this point in life.
Reason 3: Men want to avoid divorce and its financial risks. Men feel that their financial assets are better protected if they cohabit rather than marry. They also fear that an ex-wife will take financial advantage during settlement proceedings.
Reason 4: Men want to wait until they are older to have children. Although men understand that women worry about their biological clocks, they say they don't have to. And they don't want to be pressured into marriage by women who want marriage in order to have children.
Reason 5: Men fear that marriage will require too many changes and compromises. The men savor their freedom to enjoy hobbies, late nights out and freedom from extra financial burdens. They want to postpone absorbing extra responsibilities until they are on extra-solid footing in a number of areas.
Reason 6: Men are waiting for the perfect soul mate and she hasn't yet appeared. A soul mate, the men said, is a woman who accepts them just as they are and won't try to change them. The men said they don't want to settle for second-best. In some cases, the men even said they were living with a woman who was their version of a second-best partner. These men are continuing to hunt for the perfect soul mate.
Reason 7: Men face few social pressures to marry. Today's young men encounter few traditional pressures from religion, employers or society to marry. Some said they have been mildly teased from parents who want grandchildren, but most of the men said their parents are willing to help support them -- and even allow them to move back home -- until they are ready to marry.
Reason 8: Men are reluctant to marry a woman who already has children. Men said they feel badly if they establish a relationship with the children of a woman and then break up with the mother. They also want to avoid competition and conflict with the children's biological father. One man says that it is easier to date a woman with children if the father is entirely out of the picture.
Reason 9: They want to own a house before they get a wife. Men want to be financially "set" before they marry. For many men, this means home ownership should come before marriage. Most of the men interviewed are living with a parent, relative, roommates or girlfriends.
Reason 10: Men want to enjoy a single life as long as they can. Men fear losing their solitary pleasures by marrying, the study found. And they become accustomed to their own space and routines. They enjoy the freedom of not having to be responsible to anyone else.
The study also reached some additional conclusions. Among them:
Here's the reaction we've received from men nationwide.
"You should have an article on why divorced men will not marry again. The responses would be very interesting. For example:
I'm not bitter, just realistic."
"It is no surprise that young men are unwilling to commit to marry when their partners are willing to live with them and provide sexual and domestic services. The old and crude adage is still true: 'Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?'"
"First, let me say that the problem exists for both men and women. The single life has its challenges at any age (I'm 50), and I have had trouble meeting 'Ms. Right.' In the old European days, we had the infamous 'match maker' and now we have dating services, Internet dating, and of course 'Have I got a friend for you!' In all cases, it's a roll of the dice and requires a great deal of luck. It's a sad reflection on our society that there are so many of us out there, trying every possible way to meet the person that will fill that void."
"I'm tired of the b.s. that it takes to even try to find a good woman. In 90% of my prior relationships, I gave 110% to trying to forge a marriage. But that was only good for some half-hearted affection that soon disappears after the ring is brought forth. Then it's all about what she needs, or worse yet -- what her children need. I'm tired of trying to weed through the predatory women. It costs too much to the kind man's heart. So I quit."
"Most of the guys I know have watched their friends get married and see all the problems, arguments, and b.s. that married men go through. And then they see the divorce, alimony, and child support. Case in point is my own situation. I'll never marry again."
"You forgot this reason: Getting raked over the coals for child support should divorce occur. The current system does not judge each circumstance on a case-by-case basis, and guys usually end up having their financial lives destroyed. In my opinion, men should refuse to marry until the insanity of the legal system is removed."
"The article on single males slow to commit was straight on. My reasons are the same as the men you interviewed: I still believe my destined girl is out there; I do not want to deal with another man's children; and I am afraid of the financial impact of divorce."
American women have strong feelings on the issue as well. Here's what they had to say.
"Am I the only woman for whom a husband is not a badge of honor? I have noticed the looks on faces of my more traditional friends when I say that I do not have to be married. I have been married, and it was not what they talk about in Hallmark cards. Fortunately, my current beau is a gorgeous and fun divorcee who is also marriage-shy. This may be the most in sync I have ever been with a man!"
"I have lived with my boyfriend for eight years. We share everything, but he will not take that last step and get married. If something was to happen to him today, I would be out in the cold. I have helped him establish a home, fixed it up, and take care of it, but my name is nowhere on anything."
"The article 'Afraid to Commit: Young Men Want to Wait on Marriage' makes all women sound like they are desperate to "hook" a man! It insinuates that this is all women live for and men have total reign over this. Please get with the times! "