The days are gone when women made financial clout the top requisite for serious interest in a man. No longer economically second-class (if not financially whole, or at least with more earning potential — and hope — than before), women are asking something different from men. They are beginning to insist that their love object actively nurture the identity and personhood they’ve struggled so hard to achieve.
How do I know? Letters from my readers. Since its inception, my advice column has become a lightning rod for the unmarried community. For many years, women have confided to me their skittishness about commitment. (It’s much safer to say it on paper than speak it aloud, much less act on it.) But now statistics are proving the point. According to census data, the median age for an individual’s first marriage has been steadily increasing. In 2018, the median age for first marriage in this country was nearly 30 for men and 28 for women — up from 23 for men and 21 for women in 1970. In addition to putting off nuptials, millennials are more likely to be single “with no steady partner.” (Data from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago shows that more than 50% of 18- to 34-year-olds don’t have a steady partner, and only 28% are married.)
This translates to? A record population of young singles in the United States. Want to take a moment (or two or three) to let that sink in? (It took me longer than that!)
As much as women want the love of a good man — and I know they do — they are truly worried that their newfound independence (in Deitz jargon, “Undependence,” wholeness) will conflict with it, because the only kind of loving they know asks for the surrender of selfhood … and they’ve come too far to take two steps backward now — even in the name of Love!
That dilemma has surfaced as women’s No. 1 fear, the last hurdle to romantic love. It has shipwrecked countless relationships and has men totally at sea about the goals and intentions of the women in their life. (Let’s face it: It is the woman who defines a relationship, the woman who sets its limits and its tone.) And as we head into the future, it will be women’s needs for nurturance that cause another major shift in man-woman relating. Out of her dread of being drowned in a man’s needs — and returning to second-class status as his accessory — is being born this new shape of romance: Love Partnership. Sounds good to me.
More on this next time!
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