I’ve never been particularly controversial. I’m that way on purpose. I like to get along with everyone.
But I brushed as close to controversy as I ever have this week when I published my first post on the topic of ageism and dating.
And by “ageism and dating,” I really just mean I question the long-term romantic compatibility of people too far apart in age.
There are people with two decades separating them and everyone involved seems content and satisfied with the relationship. Great! Happiness (long-term contentment and inner peace, actually) should be the thing we strive to achieve most in this human life.
I would never ask two people in love to sacrifice their happiness. But for the purposes of this discussion, I’d equate it to winning the lottery. Some people do it! But it’s a shitty save-for-retirement strategy. Most of the time, lotto-ticket purchases are the equivalent of burning money.
I wanted to get into this a little more because my previous post was written off by at least one person whose opinion I very much respect as “an immature view of adult relationships.”
And maybe it is. I’m not the brightest. But I’m happy to explain how I arrive at my conclusions.
The Dating Math and its Impact on Marriage
In the previous post, I wrote:
“In the Department of Overgeneralizations, you’ll discover a few laws of human nature (that I’m totally making up on the fly because I believe them to be generally true and the furthest thing from actual law.)
Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted. Which is often several.
Girls and young women are constantly hoping to find someone who will fall in love with and marry them, frequently misinterpreting sexual interest as potential love interest and ultimately spawning the “Boys are Mean™” and “Men are Pigs™” movements.”
I want to clarify my position, and reinforce that I believe (quite strongly) that all of this is generally true. Perhaps 85-percent of the time if I had to attach a number to it. There have always been, and will always be, exceptions to every rule. And I think my observations on life are a far cry from being “rules.”
On “Boys and young men are constantly hoping to, or actively trying to, have sex with the girls in their life to whom they’re attracted.”:
Aside from being grammatically incorrect (‘life’ should have been ‘lives’), I stand by this statement.
And it does NOT mean I think all young men are trolling to con some unsuspecting girl or young women into having sex under false pretenses and then ditching them afterward.
There are millions—billions, hopefully—of good men out there. But they all want to have sex with the people they’re attracted to. Every one of them. It’s a mammal thing. And I think boys and young men are motivated romantically by their desire to have sex.
I also believe love is a choice.
I believe it as much as I’ve ever believed anything. Boys—and men—while motivated by sex are absolutely capable of love. And when they figure that out, and choose it, they put all of their energy into the person they want to be with forever. That happens when they find the partner they want to stay with.
And I think girls and young women are different. GENERALLY. Generally, I think girls are interested in the love part upfront. I think women often want to recreate the safety and security they felt living with their fathers growing up. And I think women want to experience the romantic love they see on television. Prince Charming. The knight in shining armor. The passionate kiss during the cliché ending of another romantic comedy. Because that stuff makes people feel good.
Because males and females are different (and because people are impossibly shitty at communicating with one another—myself included) the wires are always getting crossed in our youth.
The boys are thinking about sex all the time, and because they know no different, assume the girls are, too. (And some are!)
The girls are thinking about love all the time, and because they know no different, assume the boys showing all this interest in them has romantic, Prince Charming-like intentions at its core. But really, the boys are most interested in exploring their sexuality with them.
I think this general misunderstanding causes a lot of hurt feelings for young people not mature enough to understand the psychological and spiritual ramifications of acting like adults, sexually.
We live. We learn.
I went on to write about the 20-30 age range, because I think this is the window of our lives (please keep in mind I’m a heterosexual American male, and don’t have a sense of how much this applies elsewhere or to people dissimilar from me) when the majority of people get married.
I think many girls (Not all! Just most!) dream of their wedding day throughout much of their teenage years.
I think falling in love and getting married, at least during my lifetime, has been the No. 1 goal of the majority of females.
And I’m not sure I believe that’s true of men. I think most men want to. But boys tend to dream of being a pro football player, or an astronaut, or the front man for a rock band, or whatever. The dream tends to be career-oriented.
I think most boys assume they will grow up to get married and have kids because that must be “the way” since that’s what their grandparents and parents did.
It’s not so much a goal as it is an inevitable eventuality.
So, we’re in our 20s.
And the girls our age are generally much more emotionally mature than we are. I estimate about five years’ worth.
They want a husband. Crave stability and security. Their friends are getting engaged. Some even have kids and they’re sooooooo happy!!! We’re not getting any younger! And commitment and feeling safe is so important to them. So, either very directly, or more subtly, they begin to hint at and apply marriage pressure to their boyfriends.
But their boyfriends aren’t ready.
They’re only 22! Just got out of school! Just started their career! What’s the rush!?
He probably even thinks about all the women he can’t date or hook up with now because of his girlfriend. It’s worth it, he’ll tell you, because she’s a keeper. And it might even be true. But he still feels the call of the wild, so to speak. He’s a boy. Boys feel that.
If said boy doesn’t want to lose this girl, he has to make assurances. She’s in a hurry!!!
She doesn’t know he’s a child. She doesn’t know he has so much more growing to do on the inside. She thinks he’s just a little undisciplined because he’s still bro-ing it up once in a while like he did in college.
He’ll settle down! He’ll grow up!
And he will.
He will settle down. He will grow up.
It’s just that it’s going to take longer than she thinks. Not in all circumstances. Just in most.
I think very few men under 30 are ready to marry.
To give what it takes to stay married. To understand that that’s part of the formula for making it successful.
To give, give, give.
Because if you’re not giving more than you take in a marriage, it’s DOOMED. If it doesn’t end, it will be unhappy.
There are no cheats. No hacks. No workarounds.
Two people give themselves to one another without reservation. Both give more to one another than they take from one another.
Anything less, and it’s either shitty, or it ends.
Marriage is important to me. It affects 95 percent of us. That’s damn near everybody.
And I think the dynamics of dating that occur during our prime marriage years (20-30) are a HUGE factor in why so many of us divorce 5-10 years later.
It’s a tragedy.
And I know we can do better.
And I think being just a bit more discriminatory and whole lot better at communicating can be an important part of the solution.