Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Men, women, and commitment


Men and women tend to have very different views on relationships and commitment. This is a source of problems when combined with the common human failure (particularly common among women) to consider that different people have different perspectives, want different things from life, get enjoyment from different things, have different needs, etc.

While this article focuses on the problems caused by lack of understanding for the men’s view in women, it should be noted that a better understanding for the women’s view in men would also be beneficial (e.g. by leading to less conflict, better handling of an unwelcome “Talk”, or the ability to identify and address misunderstandings at an earlier stage of a relationship).

The one-sided view of women’s vs. men’s situation

Women tend to have a very one-sided way of looking at relationships. In particular, they often think that there is something wrong (one way or the other) with a man who does not want to “commit”—a typical reason is too claim that he is lacking in maturity (unlike, by implication, the complaining woman). This is obviously very unfair: There are many good reasons for a man to not want to take a relationship further than it has already gone. Notably, for many (most?) men, the balance between positive and negative in a relationship tend to be the best in a relatively casual state; whereas women often have a balance that is more positive in a deeper relationship. (Cf. e.g. a discussion of maturity.)

Reasons why men do go deeper into relationships are pressure from others (including the girl-friend and societal norms), naivete, love, and wish for a family. (Please let me know if other reasons occur to you, so I can improve my analysis.) The first two are simply stupid. As for love: That a man does not love a woman enough to want to deepen their relationship, is not a sign of immaturity—although I can understand if the woman wants to hide the truth from herself. This leaves the wish for a family: Here there can be a correlation (not causality) with maturity, because many men are more prone to settle down as they grow older (e.g. feeling that they have sown enough oats, wanting to enter a new phase of their life, or hearing the male version of the biological clock)—at which time they are also more mature. OTOH, many others go through a period of wish for family when they are young, and later move on from it. Speaking for myself, ever since my late teens I have seen myself married in another 5–10 years—with that time moving ahead at the same rate as I grow older. Further, my current interest in getting married at all is far lower with 35 than at 25 (let alone 15, when I viewed an eventual marriage as a given; I make no speculation concerning my feelings when I reach 45).

The female view is the less mature

If anything, it is the female tendency to press for too deep a commitment too soon that is a sign of immaturity (although their greater urgency is easy to understand from a biological POV). In my readings of relationship forums, I have seen countless versions of “I am 24 and have been with my boy-friend for five years. I keep telling him to propose, but he just claims that he is not ready. Should I give an ultimatum and threaten to leave him, unless he proposes?”. Yet, the truth is simply that most people with that kind of history and in that age bracket will not form lasting marriages—the boy-friend is simply showing a higher degree of insight and maturity than the girl-friend. (Cf. a discussion of marriage and extortion.)

(As an aside: The idea of one partner telling the other to propose is so obviously absurd that I have problems understanding how women can fail to see the absurdity.)

Commitment issues (or lack thereof) in men

It is true that many men do have commitment issues (I was one myself in my twenties); this, however, is also not a sign of immaturity, but of emotional damage and/or insecurity. Further, at least in my case, the problem was not inherent to commitment, but to trust, confidence in the other party, and similar issues. Joining this to commitment can even create a red herring, leading the man to artificially try to overcome a preference for non-commitment together with the trust issues. This was, at least partially, the case with me, and the simple realization that I did not want commitment at that particular stage of my life (as opposed to fearing it) helped me focus on and deal with the trust issues.