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Does marriage make the man?

Is a picket fence necessary for a boy to become a man?

Is a picket fence necessary for a boy to become a man?

Every man needs a wife before he hits 30 to save him from himself.”

So my (married, straight) mate believes. The balls of my eyes rolled circles at his full stop. But he stood fast.

Ok then, how many men do you know in their 30s who still behave like boys? And how many of them are single?”

He may have a point. But is a lack of spouse to blame?

Herewith, the word according to Friend. Males don’t see themselves as ‘men’ unless they have the trappings of a man’s life as portrayed in popular culture, ie: job, wife, children, house, sic ad nauseum. In other words, men aren’t men unless they are made, and the marriage goes a long way to that making.

Though he offered up several case studies from his social circle, my mate put himself forward as the prime example. Regularly, he would be seen at wild parties, drinking and cavorting to excess with other blokes who were just like him, shirking personal responsibility and shagging whoever they liked. My friend was living life exactly as he desired because he was the only one who mattered in it, and because he had no reason to be better. If that meant eating crappy food, blowing his money on trivial things and damning duty so be it.

Then he met a nice girl, got married and had a baby. Would he get bored? Would he miss his old life? These thoughts crossed his mind. But as he settled into married life, and watched his baby girl take her first steps, my mate realised how much he’d grown. That is to say he realised how much he had ‘grown up’.

As I listened to his story, my mind sifted through a range of marriages close to me. What had these husbands been like as bachelors? Had marriage improved their lives? Had marriage perhaps improved their lives more than it did for the women they married?

A summary article published late last year in the academic journal Sex Roles presented numerous studies consistently showing that when it comes to marriage, men derive more benefit than women. Authors Joan Monin and Margaret Clark list various contributing factors; men are less harmed by marital conflict, men receive greater social support from their wives than vice versa, and men have to worry about household hassles less because their wives do the bulk of domestic chores.

There’s also the idea men benefit from marriage more than their wives because they have less intimate relationships outside of marriage than women do. Monin and Clark point to research, including their own, that found women rely on the marriage for personal support less than men do – husbands ‘need’ more emotional support, so wives ‘give’ more than they get.

But while all this points to marriage being ‘good’ for man, can we say it ‘makes’ the man? Of course not, in my opinion. Not all males will get married, not all males want to get married; indeed, not all males can (even if they want to). So to perpetuate the idea that marriage somehow makes all boys grow into men – and better men for that matter – is wrong. It sets up a false, ‘fix-all’ reality.

That’s not to say marriage improves some blokes, and some ladies for that matter. Just like children can be exactly what some folk need to figure out that life works better when shared, not shared around, slapdash. I believe a lot of it comes down to individual (and community) expectations; if you grew up thinking marriage was for grown-ups, and if that message was culturally reinforced, it’s probably true the ring will bring out the adult in you.

Which leads us to another question; if society generally supports the idea marriage makes the man, and if marriage rates are declining, does this, in part, account for the so-called ‘Man-Boy’ dilemma of this modern milieu?   

What do you think.

Does marriage make the man, and if so, what happens to the boys who never say I Do?

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kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

258 comments so far

  • NO, marriage does not make the man, what a stupid suggestion.
    Marriage, sometimes, traps a man into an unwanted corner.

    A trustworthy woman will bring harmony to his life, a cheater will bring destruction.

    Commenter
    cheater's ex
    Date and time
    May 18, 2012, 7:50AM
    • I sense ye speak from personal experience...

      Commenter
      CK
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 9:59AM
    • You can pick the guys that will get married early. They eat toast for dinner, have zero domestic skills and not too many interests other than getting drunk on the weekend.

      They of course are not looking for a wife, but a mother. Marriage doesn't make them more of a man but lets them stay a child.

      Commenter
      Flingebunt
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 10:03AM
    • yes, sadly.
      Now I’m more conscious of behavior and always on the lookout for the “little white lies”.

      Commenter
      cheater's ex
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 10:15AM
    • @Flingebunt, you know that is complete crap. Women are not stupid, they can see right through a guy like that.

      Look around you and see who does get married. It is n't the men-children of the world who do nuffink. The ones that manage to 'secure' a decent partnership (obviously not Cheater's Ex) are the ones who makes good dads and good husbands.

      Commenter
      Mazz
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 11:43AM
    • Statistics lesson. 78 comments. 1 pro marriage.

      My old man has been married for 44 years. He tells me that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Then he says of the 50% that stay together how many are happy? 1 in 78 from today's blog.

      Commenter
      iluvthesmellofnapalm
      Location
      nam
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 12:02PM
    • Well yeah, the ones who are married are busy working and getting on with it. The unhappy ones of course love to share with their insights and their pain, usually while on work time. The happy ones are the guys who take responsibility for being happy, who respect their other and their choices in life and develop appropriate communication skills.

      Most of these things are only possible if you aren't a man child.

      By the way it's 12pm and I'm on lunch break.

      Commenter
      Mazz
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 12:06PM
    • @Mazz, I must disagree. From observation, some women are clearly attracted to those man-child qualities, and some of those attractions progress to (often disastrous) marriage, although it helps a lot if the man-child is very wealthy.

      Assuming it's not just the money, maybe it fills a void of self-worth by making the women feel needed or having achieved something in snaring an undomesticated player. Some people also just feel better being able to always claim that they are hard done by (including a few, male and female, regular posters).

      Partners who possess self-worth, can appreciate one another and can give, share and compromise are obviously better prepared for successful marriages, but unless they're very lucky, I observe that these matches tend to occur later in life.

      Commenter
      CaptainFlash
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 12:22PM
    • Marriage? Life isnt a bar with only one brand of beer. I'm a female in a long-term open relationship with a remarkable guy who wasnt pushed out of the nest when he was young, he leapt!

      Not to avoid any problems at home - it would have been so comfortable to stay - but he wanted to GROW daily, to savour life, be a sought-after lover (!) and be highly functional in both the mundane and creative sides of his life ....and, of course, to show genuine empathy for others.

      Life is a journey, not a rest stop. Pre-fab, socially polished and sanctioned relationship solutions like marriage might work for some but they are lazy. A movement from one social stereotype to another.

      And people wonder why it kills the energy and intensity of sex and living life itself. Every day, every moment should be unique and fresh and an opportunity to grow. Doesnt sound like marriage to me. Life and living passionately is the solution.

      And does this mean there is a risk of growing apart from your current partner or partners, where you live, what you know? This supposed great fear. Of course, but thats life itself. Change. Hopefully growth too.

      We owe it to ourselves to find security in insecurity.

      You werent under the impression you arent going to die?

      Commenter
      tantriclens
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 1:45PM
    • Marriage is obsolete, outsource the breeding to India, they are globalised specialists in that. Get plastic surgery from Thailand. Hormones and stuff to keep you in your 20's until you're 70. Then go on drugs.

      Commenter
      .bg
      Date and time
      May 22, 2012, 11:15AM

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