Mens' Attitude To Marriage

I'm a married man these days. Shocking as that may be to some people due to the content of this site, it was even more shocking to me when it happened. I had always understood that "getting married" was something that happened at a certain point in a person's life, but for me it had always seemed so far off into the distant future. Even when my girlfriend became my fiancée, the reality of the situation that there was going to be a wedding didn't actually hit until the day of the wedding. I'd like to think I handled it pretty well - being the centre of attention means you have to be on your best behaviour, after all!

My wife and I have laughed frequently about how we don't "feel" married. I suppose we both imagined it would be some kind of earth-shattering event that would change our lives in an instant, but at the end of the day, neither of us really felt the need to suddenly have an epiphany. There has been talk of children, but since that's a little ways off for now, not much has changed for the two of us. About the only thing I've started to notice is that more of our friends are married now. We were both the youngest in our respective social circles to get engaged and then married, so for a while we were on our own in that respect, but that's starting to change. I guess our friends figured they'd see if we would self-destruct, and if it was safe they'd give it a shot. *grin*

Both social conservatives and liberals - particularly from the baby boomer generation - have spent a lot of time hyperventilating over the state of marriage of late. For the social conservatives, "marriage isn't what it used to be", and for the liberals the rise in unmarried mothers is a sign of women's newfound independence. I think marriage has changed a lot less than either side would care to admit.

Where's My Luggage?!

My wife and I returned to her home country for a family reunion recently, and on the trip back the airline was kind enough to leave my luggage behind. In fact, they were kind enough to leave behind the luggage of 47 of the passengers on that flight (*sigh*). Tempers were running a bit short as the flight arrived back at two in the morning, but the shared experience of frustration at an airport is enough to provide a point of conversation between strangers. With nothing better to do, I decided to approach a fairly intellectual looking guy a few years younger than myself.

His luggage had also been left behind, and after the prequisite wisecracks about airline stupidity ("why didn't they just leave everyone's luggage behind? Then we could have all shown up again tomorrow just for the hell of it!"), the two of us - realising we'd be waiting a while to fill out all the paperwork - sat down for a chat. Jeff told me he was completing his final year at University, and his wife Lucy worked at a local boutique store. I politely enquired as to why they had been visiting Singapore.

"Oh, Lucy is from there. She's Singaporean!"

That became self-evident a moment later as Lucy rushed up to her husband and planted a kiss on his lips.

"My shoes! My god, what will I do without my shoes!" said Lucy melodramatically, following it up with a quick laugh. "They're saying it will be another half an hour before they can get to us. Ugh!

Lucy looked over at me enquiringly.

"Who's your friend, sweetie?"

Jeff spent a few minutes introducing me to Lucy, and we eventually got around to the topic of my relationship status.

"So do you have a girlfriend?" asked Lucy with genuine enthusiasm. My wife had stayed behind overseas to spend a few extra days with her family and friends. This meant I was travelling alone and probably had the appearance of a young single guy, so it wasn't an unexpected question.

"Nope! I'm married!", I beamed

"Wow! Really? You're pretty young to be married. Is she from here as well?"

I laughed. "Oh god no! She's Sinagporean too. I wouldn't have it any other way. And if I'm not mistaken, you guys are younger than I am!

Jeff looked faintly embarrassed for a moment. "Well, to be honest, it was the only way Lucy could stay here, and we couldn't stand being separated all the time. So we just figured we should go ahead and get married. We, er... haven't been able to afford a ceremony just yet, but we're legally married."

"Hey, you don't have to justify it to me. I think it's great!"

Jeff looked a little relieved and then conversation moved on to other topics, but we agreed that once Mito returned, we'd all meet up some place. I was also sure that meeting a new friend who had also grown up in Singapore would help to alleviate the loneliness she'd been feeling before we'd left for the reunion.

Meeting Up

A few weeks later, Jeff and I arranged to catch up at a restaurant in town that had a reputation for good food and a social atmosphere. They arrived pretty late, but made up for it by being the best night out my wife and I had had in a long time. Jeff and I had a great time comparing our Anime favourites, and I was delighted that he'd heard of my all-time favourite, Robotech. Lucy and Mito were talking in Mandarin, with Lucy stopping every so often to add hand gestures and raucous laughter.

"So what do you think of the girls over here?" asked Jeff

"Well, I married a Singaporean girl, so..."

Jeff grinned. "So did I. I don't understand why the girls over here keep trying to find ways to wear less and less clothing. It's not attractive at all."

"I can't stand it!" chimed in Lucy. "For god's sake put some clothes on! I don't want to see your tits; I've got my own!"

Everyone chuckled at that. Lucy definitely wasn't above using vulgarities to express herself.

As the night went on, I began to get more of a picture of Jeff and his wife. Lucy had all the external characteristics of the much celebrated "modern woman". She would swear when she felt like it, was clearly happy to drink more than was good for her, and was very outspoken about what she thought of people. Jeff was quiet and thoughtful, but at the same time warm and approachable. He worked hard - working two part time jobs while finishing his final year - and was a good balance for Lucy. Still, something really struck me about the two of them. Lucy had married her husband about a year previous, when he was still, literally, in the middle of his studies. She was supporting him with her income. In fact, they still lived with Jeff's parents to try and make sure they didn't overextend their finances. Jeff found the behaviour and dressing of many of the local girls his age unattractive at best, and their behaviour immature and irresponsible. They were, essentially, a traditional couple. Jeff's wife was supporting him while he worked to build them a future together, sacrificing for the sake of their long-term prospects, and Jeff was looking for a woman who was stable and committed, and who wouldn't run around flaunting her body to everyone.

Men Never Change

Every time one of the guys in my social circle has gotten married lately, the conversation inevitably turns to the character of the woman he is marrying. It has almost always come down to some variation of "Well, I wanted a girl I could marry". I could be wrong, but I suspect that what most men mean by that, is that they don't want to marry a girl whose life consists of going out to parties every week, and whose greatest ambition is to pay off her credit card. A guy might be content to date a girl like that for a while, but no man is going his stake his long-term happiness on the way the wind is blowing today.

The things men look for in the women they marry haven't changed one iota in the last 60 years despite the finger-wagging of the feminist movement. What has changed is the proportion of women available who might actually make suitable marriage partners. Women have been encouraged to behave any way they want, regardless of consequences, and have been told they are being "empowered" by it. What's more, don't you even dare to try and hold a woman responsible for her actions, because if you do, you're a sexist dinosaur who just wants to hold women back.

This is not to say that I am endorsing the conservative view of marriage either. Men and women who hold an idealised view of marriage, either because of glorification of the institution by social conservatives or malignment by liberal media and academic portrayals, are being set up to fail. Marriage is ultimately a practical affair, and much more of a business-like arrangement than either group would like to let on. A man will either consciously or subconciously weigh the pros and cons of marrying a particular woman, and if his mental balance sheet is in the red, he's simply not going to go there.

The result of all of this "empowerment" is that less and less men are opting to marry. Worse, attempts to classify co-habiting couples who are not married as de-facto spouses by various state and national governments is sure to backfire once more men start to catch on that they actually hold the legal status of a married man without having first consented to it. Fundamentally, men are slow to change. We tend to stick with what works. Most still want a wife who will be able to hold up her end of the arrangement (whatever that may mean to them) and can be relied upon to be faithful and reliable - they just don't come out and say it anymore for fear of being ostracised.


"By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher." -- Socrates

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