The most common explanation for a guy’s being unwilling to commit is “He’s just not that into you.” Fair enough. It’s maddening, but many of us have had the experience of being told a guy doesn’t want a relationship, only to watch as he commits to someone new within weeks. But let’s face it, there are guys who don’t commit, period. They date, they string girlfriends along, but they never seem to settle down. They’re not the marrying kind.
Market researcher and author John Molloy was doing research for his book Why Men Marry Some Women and Not Others when an assistant told him she thought it had everything to do with the men themselves, not the women they were dating:
“You reinforce the myth that the reason men don’t commit is that the women in their lives do something wrong. That’s nonsense. In most cases, it’s the man in a relationship who decides he isn’t ready or doesn’t want to get married, and he makes this decision without any help from the woman.”
The research branched out in a new direction, and they found that there are several factors that determine when – and whether – men will marry. Age, timing and readiness all play a part regardless of the woman. Some men will never marry, and women need to be able to identify those men early on rather than waste years being strung along.
From a male point of view, the journey to marriage is a process with several important filters:
If he’s not ready for lifelong commitment, everything else is moot. Molloy provides some very interesting statistics about the male “Age of Commitment”:
- Most men who graduate from college don’t start considering marriage as a real possibility until age twenty-six.
- When men go to graduate school, it takes them longer to get into the working world, and they’re not ready to get married until a few years after that.
- Ninety percent of men who have graduated from college are ready for the next step between ages twenty-six and thirty-three; this is when they are most likely to consider marriage.
- This period for well-educated men lasts just a bit over five years. The chances men will commit are sightly less when they are thirty-one or thirty-two than when they were between twenty-eight and thirty, but they’re still in a high-commitment phase.
- Once men reach thirty-three or thirty-four, the chances they’ll commit start to diminish, but only slightly. Until men reach thirty-seven, they remain very good prospects.
- After age thirty-eight, the chances they will ever marry drop dramatically.
The Marriageable Mindset
Other than accumulating birthdays, what are the factors that put men in a mindset to consider marriage?
They grow tired of the singles scene.
Going out to bars in hopes of picking up girls gets old. And so do the guys. Many men Molloy spoke with said that after a few years of hanging out in singles bars they realized they were older than many of the people there. Women tend to be wary of older guys in that setting, so they grew to feel first conspicuous, then unsuccessful.
They worry about their biological clocks.
Men don’t need to worry about losing their fertility as they age, but Molloy found that many men want to have kids while they’re still young enough to play with them. Interestingly, these men spoke exclusively about having sons. Molloy:
“They want to be young enough when their sons come along to teach them all the things fathers traditionally teach their sons-to ride a bicycle, to fish, to play ball, and so forth.
The most important reason these men had for marrying was that if they waited much longer, they wouldn’t be able to be active fathers.
So if you meet a man in his forties who tells you he’s eager to have a son so he can do those male-bonding things, know that these things are very important to him, and they’ll dramatically increase his readiness to marry.”
Their buddies are getting married.
Men are far more likely to marry when others in their social circle are doing so. Men who had not seen a good guy friend marry in the last year were 2-3 times more likely to tell researchers they had no intention of marrying anytime soon.
This is a very good reason to judge a man by the company he keeps!
Finding an assortative match.
“Bear in mind that a man is much more likely to marry you if he is from the same socioeconomic background as you are.”
Men who live away from their parents during college and for work are more likely to marry. A man who has his own place is far more likely to marry.
The Confirmed Bachelor Mindset
It’s very important for women to understand the characteristics of men who are unlikely to marry. Remember, you can’t get past the first yellow box with these men – they’re a dead end. Molloy describes the types of men women should avoid in dating.
Men who avoid marriage through their 30s.
Molloy points out that for women in their late-30s who wish to marry, dating men who have already been married is a better strategy than dating men their age who have never tied the knot. Statistically, those men are far more likely to marry than a never-married guy approaching 40. Researchers found that never-married men are likely to mention the joys of living alone and not having to answer to anyone.
Men who string women along.
“He likes having a woman, sleeping with a woman, eating with a woman, possibly sharing his life with a woman without ever making a real commitment.
If you think you may be involved with a stringer, establish a deadline. If he doesn’t commit to you within six months, get rid of him. Pay no attention to his excuses…He is likely to tell you anything that will get you to stick around without his needing to make a commitment. Don’t fall for it.
The chances a stringer will marry are very slim; he is simply not the marrying kind.”
Molloy found that some confirmed bachelors suddenly did a 180 and married after emphatically avoiding marriage for years. What was it about the women who got them to commit? They demanded commitment early and set a deadline. They refused to be strung along.
“There is one surefire way to identify these men-they are usually repeat offenders. If a man had even one long-term relationship with someone else, he’s very likely to be a stringer. If he does not set a firm date, be on your guard.”
Men who dislike and distrust women.
Molloy found that many of the unmarried men over 40 that he spoke with exhibited an adversarial attitude towards women, including suspicion that women are gold diggers.
“When you ask them why they’re not married, they tell you they spent most of their lives building a nest egg, and they’re not about to share it with some “babe.” In our interviews, they often used such derogatory terms when speaking of women. They talked as though a woman’s only interest in a man is what she can get out of him.
The irony is that many of the men who spoke this way really didn’t have all that much anyway.”
The Importance of Personality Traits
Recent research on Personal Traits, Cohabitation and Marriage looked at how physical attractiveness, personality and grooming influence the likelihood of marriage or cohabitation. According to an Atlantic article, interviewers rated the looks, personality and grooming of 9,000 adolescents on a scale of 1-5. The study was longitudinal – the researchers followed the subjects from 1994 to 2009. By the end, the age range was 24-34.
Of the three traits, the only one that predicted marriage was an above average personality score – and that was just for men. However, the higher a person’s score across the board, the more likely they were to marry. The results held for both men and women.
This suggests that attractive, well-groomed people with good personalities are more likely to marry. (None of those misogynist 40 year-olds in this crew!) But it’s also very possible that people can make up a deficit in one area by being especially strong in another. So a great personality can offset not-great looks, or maybe a handsome face can offset poor grooming.
“The marriage ﬁnding was robust in all of the sensitivity tests and is consistent with the notion that these young adults take into account the ‘‘whole package’’ when selecting a marital partner.
Moreover, we found quantitatively similar results for men and women, suggesting an egalitarian trend in mate selection, whereby women and men select mates based on broadly similar personal traits (Whelan, 2006).”
It seems obvious to conclude that women should avoid disagreeable men who live with their mothers and like not having to answer to anyone. But there are perfectly affable, responsible men who just aren’t ready or interested in marrying anytime soon. It’s important to determine early on whether a men is ready for a serious commitment.
How will you know? He’ll tell you. His actions will make clear that he’s over the singles scene, interested in exclusivity, and very willing to commit to the right person. Once a man begins thinking about marriage as a life goal, it’s in his best interest to make that clear to the woman he likes.
Molloy’s stats provide a useful benchmark. Few guys younger than 26 are interested in actively dating with marriage in mind. Remember – that doesn’t mean marrying at 26. It means being open to the possibility that your date might be your wife in a few years. For guys in grad school, you’ll need to add a few years to that.
The most effective strategy is to date guys who are within the Age of Commitment, filtering out any who don’t appear to be serious about dating for keeps. If you can get past that first yellow box, you have a real shot and finding true love.