The Institute for American Values did a very interesting talk titled “The Mating/Marriage Dance: Is the Prolonged Search for a Mate by Young College Graduates a Problem for American Society?” with Kay S Hymowitz and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. If you want to watch it, you may do so here.
Here are my notes:
Kay Hymowitz wrote her book after she noticed romantic discontent and despair, amongst education 20-something females. That’s when women start to feel really anxious about finding a good man to marry. They were great catches, so why were they worried? For women, the romantic despair comes from not knowing.
In doing research for the book she found that there was an upheaval in the system of courtship that had been in place for certuries. In its place came the “relationship system”. We went from romantic courtship with a clear destination to marriage to some call “relationships”.
The differences are huge. In the romantic courtship system (RCS), the population that is involved almost exclusively is young, never married men and women. The destination is marriage. The relationship system includes just about anybody under the sun who is looking for a partner (young, old, single, divorced, married people who want “something on the side”). With the RCS, there’s a series of clearly defined steps, the “ladder of commitment”. In the relationship system, people are constantly moving in and out of relationships which are of varying duration and commitment.
Young women go through many of these relationships that have no destination in mind.
Now we have a new stage in development, pre-adulthood. This lasts from early 20s to mid 30s. It has lead to a different set of problems for men than from women.
Women have a clock in the back of their heads going “tick-tock tick-tock”. Even if they haven’t decided by 25 whether they want to get married and have kids, they know that the decision needs to be made within the next few years. Men don’t have this same sense and when they do think about that same decision, it’s typically way down the line. They don’t see a problem with waiting until 35 or 40. So women hit 25, 27, are ready to get married but men are in no rush to commit. Disillusioned, women assumed it would unfold naturally.
We have the reverse problem today than previous generations. It used to be easy to pair off during college while the career path (for women) was harder to discern. But today it’s hard to find someone who wants to commitment but easy to find a career path. How do you meet the right man to marry? This is a great puzzle for women today.
Growing up, men were taught that women could do anything men could do and that women should be treated with respect. Gender-neutral society was the ideal. But they found that women didn’t like that when it came to dating. The complaint of the nice guy was that they treat women well but then they go for the jerks instead.
The loss of the script, no one knows how you’re supposed to behave, unless you naturally have a great deal of social skill, you’re going to have a hard time. A lot of guys don’t get what you’re supposed to be doing.
Women respond to confidence but these guys had no idea how to project confidence.
With the loss of the classic courtship model, we’ve lost a lot of male initiative. In fact, in order to get married, the burden is on the woman to push the guy that she’s been in a long-term relationship with to get there. She sees her job as turning a live-in boyfriend into a husband.
If females and males are equals as we have been told since childhood, then why is it up to the guy to take initiative to ask women out? So they don’t, and women become frustrated.
Who pays for dinner? A lot of single, childless women make more than men, but then still want men to pay for the meal.
Institutions are no longer vested in getting people to meet each other and get married. Onus used to fall on families, schools, religious institutions. On a larger scale, today young people are not rooted anywhere; they live their lives very autonomously.
Young women, 5-10 years out of college and having had a few relationships that ended badly tend to become suspicious, leery of men and romance. (Harden their hearts). It adds to the gender conflict.
For a few of these women, they are not going to be able to overcome this; they will chose to have children alone. A number of women are going to remain single and a number of men as well. They will be disconnected from family life. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge social problem. It’s the people without a college education (read: lower classes) that are not getting married. Most college-educated people in America get married (about 80%).
There is no prescription by Kay S Hymowitz and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead to help create a modern courtship script; that is something that will have to develop naturally.