6/11/2012 11:32 AM
A new survey shows that men are surprisingly likely to say they’d commit to a person they’re not in love with.
When did guys become so desperate to settle down?
Jessica Bennett reports: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/02/21/why-men-are-settling-for-mrs-good-enough.html
Two days after a devastating breakup, I had lunch with the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, the person who probably knows more about the science of romance and long-term love than anyone else on the planet. Our meeting wasn’t a ploy for tips on how to win him back—though, did you know that sex kicks the attachment hormone into overdrive?—but to discuss herlatest study. It was about singles in America, conducted in conjunction with match.com—and I was, begrudgingly, again part of this demographic.
But after nearly eight years off the market, it seemed I had a lot to learn about the dating scene in 2012. Fisher’s study unearthed some startling tidbits about sex, romance, and hooking up among the 6,000 men and women surveyed: among them, that Republicans, apparently, have more orgasms; that gay men are more romantic; and ambitious women turn men on. But the biggest surprise? Certain gender roles appear to have flipped since the days of “The Rules” and He’s Just Not That Into You.
Rather than living up to the stereotype of commitment-phobic bachelors, modern men reported that they fell in love just as often as women, were just as likely to believe that marriage is “forever,” and scarcely bit when asked whether they'd prefer to “just date a lot of people.” But most shocking was how many of the single men wanted to settle down—and how willing they were to lower their standards to make that happen. A whopping 31 percent of adult men said they’d commit to a person they were not in love with—as long as as she had all the other attributes they were looking for in a mate—and 21 percent said they'd commit under those same circumstances to somebody they weren't sexually attracted to. The equivalent numbers for women were far lower.
“Give me a friend I get along with, have good sex with, and is willing to compromise, and I’ll build the love over time,” one man, a Colorado computer instructor, told me. It was as if he was echoing the advice given to many-a-young-bride by the village matchmaker.
This man was in his 40s, but lest we write off these statistics as a symptom of the old (read: divorcees, or dudes with decreased sex drive), the percentage of men saying "yes" to imperfect committment was actually highest among men in their 20s, almost 40 percent of whom said they'd commit without love (compared with 22 percent of women). The gap narrowed as men and women entered their 30s, and widened again past 40. Yet regardless of age, men’s willingness to answer in the affirmative to both questions was significantly higher across the board.
Fisher, a research professor at Rutgers University, explains it this way. "We have a stereotype in this culture that it's men who are the ones who don't want to commit, who don't want to settle down, who are the scarce resources. But in fact, it's the opposite." As one married man in his 40s old her: "My wife isn’t perfect. She isn’t the best I’ve had in bed. But she’s a wonderful mother to our daughter, she’s very helpful in our business life, and we get along very well."
How very … utilitarian.
But more than simple utility, it's a stance that's reminiscent of the now-infamous argument for settling in Lori Gottlieb’s Atlantic article turned bestseller, Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. In it, Gottlieb counseled gals to forget the search for a soulmate and nab the next nice nebbish they could find (lest they end up, like Gottlieb herself, alone and regretful at 40). “Wouldn’t it have been wiser to settle for a higher caliber of ‘not Mr. Right’ while my marital value was at its peak?” Gottlieb wrote. “My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection … overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.”
Though Gottlieb’s take was provocative, it was hardly new—“settling” is a trope that women have struggled with for ages. You know the old adage: a woman who can’t find a man is a spinster; a man who doesn’t want a wife is the envy of all his friends. Historically, of course, women needed marriage in a way that men simply didn’t: a woman without a husband wasn’t just lonely, she was broke, outcast, shunned. And so the modern marriage debates—the case for settling versus the case for singledom—have largely been written by and for women.