It’s no surprise to single sisters that men are dragging their feet down the aisle. The National Marriage Project at New Jersey’s Rutgers University recently came out with a list of the top-ten reasons. But does the study of 25-to-33-year-old men truly reflect what’s going on with our bachelor brothers? We asked three Black men who are relationship experts how the following factors affect marriage in our community, and what sisters can do.
Reason #1: Men can get sex without marriage more easily than before. “Absolutely true,”says William July, author of the new book The Hidden Lover: What Women Need to Know That Men Can’t Tell Them (Doubleday). “There was a time when women could get men to commit by holding out on sex. But today a marriageable brother can take advantage of the fact that he’s a rarity and choose from among a variety of women. He may have a ‘go to’girl available at a moment’s notice.”
Bottom line: Don’t use sex in a power play. “With so much available, it can become devalued,”says July. “Women should seek out the man who views sex as a component of a multidimensional and monogamous relationship-the man who has grown beyond the games and is ready for real love.”
Reason #2: Men can enjoy the benefits of having a wife by cohabiting. “Men are quite frugal when it comes to commitment,”says couples therapist and minister Ronn Elmore, Ph.D. “They typically offer a woman only as much commitment as they perceive necessary to have her. A woman who fears she may scare a man off by insisting on marriage may accept cohabitation. If you’ll take less for it, he’ll offer less for it.”
Bottom line: Don’t assume that living together will get you closer to the altar. “In a relationship that’s getting serious, it’s always best to state clearly, without apology, that your objective is marriage,”Elmore advises. “Then, unless you’re willing to wait indefinitely, ask him to be clear about what he wants. If he says that his objective is living together, when what you really want is a husband, say so and then move on.”
Reason #3: They want to avoid divorce and its financial risks. “Many men can hardly afford to live by themselves and may be reluctant to get into a relationship that could eventually destroy them financially,”observes Rozario Slack, director of fathering and urban initiatives for First Things First, an organization in Chattanooga that promotes marriage and family. Many men have never seen a healthy marriage, so they may view their odds of having one as slim to none, he adds. “Others wish to avoid passing on to their children their own experience of having an absent father,”he says. “Illogically, these men avoid marrying their children’s mother for fear that the union will eventually end in divorce.”
Bottom line: Strive to become financially independent. “A man can relax when he knows he doesn’t have to bear the full load,”Slack says. “A woman also needs to reassure her mate that he is irreplaceable and that, in her eyes, divorce is not an option.”