As they say, men are afraid of romantic commitment—that women are desperate for marriage but men always give up the freedom of a bachelor’s life. The dating website eHarmony even offers women advice in dealing with men who avoid commitment.
But is there much truth to this?
In stark contradiction to the stereotype of men as commitment-phobic “players,” Pew Research reports that young adult women and men are equally likely to want to marry and say that having a successful marriage is one of the most important things in their lives as well and to state that love is an important reason to get married too.
However, this is supported by some analysis of the third wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). I find that 82 percent of men and 84 percent of women report that being married someday is “very” or “somewhat” important to them also.
Gender differences also exist among young adults in the Add Health data, but they do not indicate an insurmountable rift between women’s and men’s desired romantic trajectories as well. Actually, women are more likely than men with respect to initiating divorces.
However, the data suggest that commitment, love, and marriage are strongly desired—and good for—both. Undoubtedly, some men do fear or avoid commitment—but so do some women as well.
Why is the stereotype of male commitment phobia so common?
To some extent, this fueled by the double standard of sexuality that encourages men’s sexual expression while penalizing women for equivalent behaviour. In addition, scaremongers often advise women of the difficulties in “securing” a husband, and the dangers of focusing on education and career as well.