Moving Through and Out of Single Space:Differences for Women & Men
Like many people my age, I’ve had the good fortune to have experienced many permutations of the world of relationships.After many unmarried years, I am approaching my second marriage with some trepidation and much more awareness than I used to have about the meanings of formal commitment.I am also much more aware of how the culture we live in views me differently depending on whether or not I’m married.I am finding myself uncomfortable with some of the approval that is coming our way, because some of the approval seems to be based on all of the wrong reasons.
One clue about these reasons is that our engagement evoked very different reactions depending on which of us broke the news.We have lived together in an unofficially committed relationship for a long time and the typical response to my partner, a man, was “Why now?” or “You really blew it.You had the perfect situation.”People were much more positive to me, a woman, but often with the edge of one question I was asked, “How’d you finally get him to do it?”The assumption seemed to be that marriage bettered my situation and seriously dented my partner’s or that it was something I wanted more than him.Like he had finally “made me an honest woman.”
I’m surprised how much our culture still seems to view marriage as nurturing to women and restraining to men.I know sometimes people are joking, but the jokes still show the stereotype’s power and hold.Financial and demographic disparities probably contribute to this viewpoint.Women still tend to make less money for equivalent work than men and with differences in life expectancy and ages in marriages, there tend to be many more unmarried women than men.So men may be seen as contributing more to the couple in monetary terms and men may be seen as more valuable in the simple economy of couples’ supply and demand.
Beyond these numerical biases are much more complex emotional realities.Men don’t seem to need relationships less than women, despite that frequent portrayal.For instance, many studies find widowhood to be more difficult for men than women.My subjective sense is that men and women struggle with very different issues both when they try to connect and when they try to manage life independently.Each combination of people making each decision is affected by myriads of interacting forces.Assuming anything is very dangerous.
So I approach this marriage hoping that the two of us benefit from it differently, not more or less.And I’m hoping we can be seen as partners deciding something together and walking out of single space carrying some of the best of what we’ve learned there.