Why Women Wait to Wed

Are women waiting to get married? Are they defying the custom we believe to be truth–snaring reluctant bachelors into wedlock? Are they now the ones saying, Not Yet?  Yes. Long thought to be the ones pushing those balky bachelors, women are no longer doing so.

For years I’ve been hearing about the “delay” in marriage insisted on by many women, who are simply not as eager as they once were to be wives. For one thing, these young women have greater resources. For another, they don’t have the time, nor feel as inclined as they once might have, to put their all into  intimate relationships. As one 23-year-old guest on my local television show, “The Love Goddess Show,” put it,  “I don’t want to be the one in charge of maintaining relationship. I’m too busy. So right now, I’m lying low.”

Not wanting to be caretakers of intimacy is one reason young women want to wait. Young women  like her may not have experienced the thud of depression that hits so many new wives; nor the clunk of outrage at hitting the glass ceiling in their careers. (You know the stats: depression afflicts three times more wives than single women; and,  a mere 15 % of corporate top positions are women; and, of 190 heads of state, just nine are women; etc.). But they’re not denying the sad fact  that these stats might one day include them.

They know, too, that it’s possible, just possible, that their marriages, like their parents’, might not last forever. I don’t say this facetiously: Years ago, whenever I asked a group of young men and women whether they thought they’d ever get a divorce, they inevitably said no–even if their own parents had divorced. Forever was what they planned on, and they couldn’t imagine things otherwise.

So, my young guest is simply anticipating the default position for women, the serious possibility of working the infamous double shift; the serious possibility of having to choose between love and work; love and self-growth and expansion. She is rightfully afraid. The numbers–of depressed wives; of women leaving relationships–support her anxiety. And so, like so many of her friends, she’s skittish about getting involved. Would she be able to have her own life–and not  “be the only one maintaining the relationship”? Men have been baffled for several years. “Why are women acting so weird?” they ask me. “I thought they wanted intimacy.”

My young guest does want intimacy.  And she also wants to expand in her own right.She knows the price of not having both has put women before her at risk for a mysterious depression call “erotic silence” and sent them racing out of their marriages, desperate for the selves they lost. So wanting to wait, she feels, is wanting to get the combination of love and self-expansion that she seeks.

So for now, women’s ambivalence and skittishness and hanging back is good news.

They  shouldn’t be afraid of being called commitmentphobic, overentitled, unlikable or–the big one–selfish, or any other of the words used against them . Many want to shake them back into the role of eager wives-to-be , a role that the culture is so used to.  Thankfully, women aren’t buckling.

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