“Appreciating the Complex World of Bachelors” is written by Dr. Charles Waehler, an associate professor of Counseling Psychology at Akron University and a Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology. Dr. Waehler presents the major findings from his intensive research examining the emotions and motivations of 30 unmarried, heterosexual men over the age of 40, who had remained single rather than become married. Using interview and assessment data, Dr. Waehler describes how these men had structured their lives and relationships, and outlines three distinct patterns: Flexible and Satisfied, Entrenched and Satisfied, and Conflicted and Dissatisfied. Challenging simplistic stereotypes, Dr. Waehler’s article is an interesting read for men, psychotherapists, and women who want to better appreciate and understand the varied emotional worlds of an intensively studied group of unmarried men over forty.
On Opening the Men's Room
Here at MySingleSpace we have wondered what’s on the web for single men? Many more websites and research are devoted to the experience and needs of single women, as well as blogs that attempt to understand “how the single man thinks”- mostly as a guide for women who are looking for a relationship.But there isn’t as much for men.Do the challenges men and women face as singles differ? Or are they the same?
We are not alone in our wonderings. Bella DePaulo describes how difficult it is to find intensive studies and scholarly research on the lives of single men. In Singled Out, DePaulo has a chapter entitled Myths About Single Men: "You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible, and you are the scary criminals. Or, you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous, and gay."Who are these single men? And do they need women to “straighten” them out?
Often people assume that there are many more single women than men, and that single men are contented or indeed happy to have avoided the knot (or noose) of marriage. Stereotypes might suggest that single men are happier than single women. Are they? But what do we know?
In 2003, “Solo Living AcrossAcross the Adult Life Course,” research conducted at The Centre for Research on Families and Relationships of the University of Edinburgh by Professors Jamieson, Wasoff, and Smith, found that “solo living” was a growing social trend in Scotland , where nearly 18% (and in England nearly 15%) of adults between the ages of 30-74 were living on their own. Urban areas were especially popular among singles, perhaps because of more plentiful jobs and the draw of a metropolitan lifestyle.
Surprisingly, the researchers also foundthat there were twice as many men (14%) single and living alone in the 25-44 age bracket than single women (7%), and that men below the age of retirement were 5% more likely to live on their own compared to women. In a flurry of similarly titled newspaper reports reporting this research, the Guardian proclaimed:
Forget the lovelorn self-obsession of Bridget Jones; today's thirtysomething singleton is more likely to be a Daniel Cleaver - male, alone by choice, and happy to stay that way.
(See “Covers lifted on a singular truth” in Kirsty Scott The Guardian, Monday November 8, 2004 )
And on this side of the Atlantic, Carl Weisman’s book, “So Why Have You Never Been Married?:10 insights into why he hasn't wed" recently made a huge splash. Citing the changing demographics in the US (in 1980, 6% of men in their early 40’s had never married, compared to the current 17%), Weisman wanted to understand why some smart, successful men opt for the single life. From an online survey of 1533 heterosexual men (and a brief telephone interview of33 subjects), he found that there are three groups of bachelors -- about 8 percent who never want to marry, 30 percent who aren’t sure whether they want to marry or not, and finally 62 percent who want to marry but of which half won't settle for anything less than perfection.
He concluded that many of the men were not so afraid of marriage per se, but fearful that they would marry the wrong partner or fail at making marriage work. Weisman wondered if such fears are an outgrowth of having grown up in an era of increased divorce. Nonetheless, Weisman was impressed and surprised at how many of these men were content being single.They had created lives full of career, friends, and ambitions. And many were not especially concerned about not being married.
So what we know is that there are a lot of men living solo. Yet, just as with singles in general, it is important to get beyond overgeneralizations about the “single man.” There may be those men who are contented and fulfilled living single, others open to partnership at some point, and still others, actively seeking intimate partnership. Even with some of these differences in mind, how do men live their lives single? What are the pleasures, and what are the challenges? What are the aspects of being single and male that differ from being single and female?
An Evening with Arthur
To get a perspective on these questions, we decided to spend an evening talking to one of our very thoughtful single male friends about his life.In his mid fifties, Arthur lives alone in his own condo, has a solid “day job”, and devotes himself to his passions- music and writing. He has solid relationships with his elderly widowed mother (for whom he is the primary caretaker, splitting his time between his place and hers), and good relationships with his siblings and their children. He has a variety of friends and a spiritual life. He has contributed time and energy to causes that are important to him. He dates women when he meets someone that interests him. All in all, he has a full and engaged life. So where does “being single” fit in?
Actually, Arthur doesn’t think about it much. He grew up in a family where being single was legitimate (several aunts and uncles from both sides of the family were single), and from what he saw of marriage, it didn’t appear to him to be the only road to building a fulfilling life. He loves children, yet never has had a burning desire for them. He has dated and had romantic relationships through the years, but hasn’t married. He isn’t closed to marriage, but doesn’t live his life with marriage as a priority. As with most single people he knows, he values friendships highly, acknowledging the necessity of working to maintain them.It seems to him that one or both people in some marriages may get along without strong friendships outside their primary relationship. Singles, however, are well advised to nurture friendships.
Arthur did note some challenges in being single, and tries to deal with them creatively. “Sometimes it’s hard to do everything yourself”. He joked, “It would be nice to have someone there to help with silly things like putting that extra leaf in the dining room table! More seriously, there is no “built in” partner with whom to share responsibility for scheduling time with friends, and to guard against too much aloneness, in his view, always a potential problem for single people. While he has several male and female friends whom he can call to confide in, sometimes he misses having someone consistently there to fall back on.
How about being male and single? Arthur imagines that some things, especially emotionally and socially may be easier for single women. He notes how socially active women are, even in old age. “Many of us grew up with fathers, who after a long work week, would typically leave the social arrangements to their wives”. He has several male friends, both married and single, who tend to talk about interests and “things” rather than feelings. Men can be more cautious and competitive, he observes, likely inhibiting their ability to socialize and communicate during times of fear, worry, depression, or disappointment.He reminisced with us about his youthful boys’ club, in which to be invited into the treehouse, you had to identify yourself as “friend or foe!” He noted that perhaps it is harder for men to share emotional experiences. Through both formal and informal “men’s work” he has connected with men who are willing and able to move beyond those emotional limits.
Towards the end of the evening, we discussed E. Kay Trimberger’s paper Single Women over Forty Create the Good Life, and wondered if the Six Pillars of fulfillment and satisfaction for women, was analagous for men? The Six Pillars are: 1)Make a home, 2)Find work that is economically sustaining and personally fulfilling, without being workaholic, 3)Create a network of friends and extended family, 4)Develop a community, 5)Find a connection to the next generation, 6)Acceptance of ones sexuality.
In general, Arthur could relate to all of them, and additionally noted the enjoyment he experiences in his relationship with wilderness, “wildness”, and nature, deriving deep satisfaction from time out of doors. He experiences pleasure in creating “things” and engaging in projects. It is also important, he feels, to connect with the next generation by teaching and mentoring younger people when appropriate.
The evening wound down and we had to catch our train, but we were left with the sense that there is a lot more to be shared about being single and male. So it is in the spirit of inquiry and sharing that we are pleased to open the Men’s Room on MySingleSpace.Welcoming insights, perspective, and research on what it means to be single and male