Traditionally, dreams of love and marriage have been regarded as woman’s domain. In popular culture throughout the years, representations of women as passive dreamers waiting for a knight in shining armor have prevailed. Fairy tales, children’s songs and movies perpetuate the image of the woman as dreaming about her wedding day since childhood onward, aspiring to get married and raise a family throughout her life. Men, on the other hand, are often perceived and represented as being hesitant about marriage, unwilling to “settle down” and wanting to “sew their wild oats” before committing to a wife and family. I believe these gendered notions about marital expectations are socially-constructed myths; leftover stereotypes from a much older time that no longer reflect the modern man or woman’s ambitions when it comes to love and family life. Recent studies, in fact, show evidence that to the contrary of popular perceptions 21st century men actually desire marriage more than the average 21st century woman.
As a recent online article acknowledges, a survey conducted by the well-known dating website Match.com has found that most modern men are not suffering from the fear of commitment that their reputation suggests, and in fact, “were more likely than women to fall in love at first sight, to want to start a family, and to start a relationship with someone of a different religion or ethnicity than their own.”1
The article also points toward research in Time magazine that suggests that while men desire marriage more than ever and more than women; women, on the other hand, desire marriage less than they had in previous generations. One possibility for this shift in gender roles when it comes to the desire for marriage is the fact that women are more independent than ever before.
In this day and age it is not at all uncommon for women to go to college and pursue a career path. It is socially acceptable for a single woman to live on her own and even raise children without a male provider. But this was not always the case. Just half a century ago, it was a woman’s duty to be a house keeper and a mother; and woman performing work outside of the domestic realm of the home was almost unheard of. That was the traditional domain of men, who were charged with the responsibility of having to provide their dependent wives and children.
The man’s role as provider has also shifted over the last several decades. As a research-based article in the USA Today suggests, "Men are now expressing some traditionally female attitudes” while woman become increasingly independent and career oriented. 2
Possibilities for men expressing more feminine qualities include the de-emphasis of the man’s role as a provider. As 21st century women come to rely less and less upon men for their existence, men are able to step outside of the role of a provider and respond emotionally to subjects such as love and marriage. In addition, more and more men are willing to forgo the traditional masculine image as the distinctions between genders continue to become blurred.
Ultimately, recent surveys and research prove that stereotypes about women wanting marriage more than men are based more in myth than fact and, to the contrary, more men are reporting desiring marriage more than modern women are. The notion that men fear commitment and women want a husband more than anything else in life has been not only debunked, but the current research proves just the opposite. This ultimately goes to show that the perceptions we have about the differences between men and women aren’t always accurate reflections of our differences, but rather, socially-constructed variations that have their roots in perception and culture, not biology or sex. Those commitment-shy men often portrayed in movies and on TV must be regarded for what they truly are - that is works of fiction. Because in all actuality chances take place, it’s the man sitting around and dreaming of Mrs. Right, not the other way.