In the Q&A following a conference presentation the other evening, I received an interesting question from a 37-year-old man who asked, “It seems that the women I encounter sign off on never-married men who are on the plus side of 35. Do you find that social stigmas and stereotypes surrounding bachelors still persist and, if so, are they on the rise?”
I am glad this question was raised because many singles grapple with the age issue despite evidence that 1) fewer people are getting married, 2) they are doing so at a later age and 3) many are parenting children without taking vows. In fact, unmarried American adults have been a majority as of 2006.
While much of the focus still tends to be on women, men are starting to make headlines. In fact, the average age of first time marriages among American males is now 28, which is up five full years since 1997. In some states, like Texas, those numbers are higher still: 33.5 years for men and 31.1 for women in 2007, according to the Texas Department of Public Health.
Why the delay? For one thing, single men are increasingly embracing their independence and are becoming entrenched in their communities through group sports, volunteer activities and networking events. Research indicates that more single men are putting marriage plans on pause because they are holding out for the ideal “’til death do us part” relationship. Indeed, according to a survey by Zoosk, 66 percent of men responded that they have not yet met their soul mate and are waiting for the right one to come along. And whether we women agree with this one or not, social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Kathleen Vohs make a very interesting, albeit controversial, claim that the rise in men’s “market value” is directly proportional to the resources they accrue with age i.e. financial security, emotional maturity etc.
There may have been a time when women were concerned that a never-married single man in mid-life may have commitment issues, but age is becoming less of a barometer. If we sum up our research, how men are measured by the women they meet depends on (1) where they live, (2) how they live and (3) how evolved you are as an individual. Do keep in mind that as a result of these societal shifts, the bar has been elevated and even though a man’s single status may still come into question the “times they are a changing” as women increasingly are not factoring out men at the prime age of 37-years-old.
Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that the right relationship comes at a different time for everyone, regardless of age. The good news is that men are comfortable admitting that they want and are willing to wait for the right marriage partner to come along, and so are women.