Marriage & Life Partners

Marriage-Averse Cities? A New Study Examines How Where You Live Affects Your Chances of Marrying

My clinical experience with patients confirms this data, up to a point. In order to marry, first you need to want it. It’s not an easy step to take if you’re not sure it’s a good idea, or at least that’s it very important. Those that think that marriage is crucial to having a happy life are more likely to invest the time and energy necessary to get there. Almost no one actually enjoys dating. People do it in order to be able to stop doing it — i.e. find a long-term partner. And choosing to marry also entails being able to be flexible and forgiving. You need to be able to overcome ambivalence (which is universal) and live with your partner’s flaws (also universal, no matter what you might think at first.)

In a way, this resembles what psychologists describe as an “approach/avoidance conflict.” Think of gradients that go in different directions on a graph. You have motivations to want something, but are also motivated to avoid it.

The gradient, (i.e. motivation) that is steepest (most powerful) will win.

Viewing the problem this way puts power back in the hands of the individual. If you live in one of the marriage-adverse areas, examine your attitudes and whatever bias you may have against looking for a partner. Even those who think they don’t have one may discover that they are not as motivated as they thought, and in fact, may be allowing themselves to get discouraged too easily.

I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of discouraging things about looking for a mate (guess where I grew up? New York City). But you have to want it enough to be willing to risk boring or bad dates, men who are not your type, and lots of rejection. The person who has not experienced rejection probably isn’t looking hard enough, in my opinion.

The problem with statistics is that they, by design, must generalize and that means they are describing a group more accurately than an individual. An example is a line from the movie Sleepless in Seattle: “It’s easier to get killed by a terrorist than to get married after 40.”  This urban legend came from a 1986 Newsweek cover story, based on an unpublished study, claiming that by age forty, a single, educated career woman is more likely to be “killed by a terrorist” than to ever get married. Supposedly they had a 2.6% chance of getting married.

It turned out that the study was completely inaccurate, not to mention the fact that the comparison is not only absurd, but after 9/11, strange. One woman joked that “now that I’m so afraid of terrorists maybe that means my chances of getting married are higher.” But a huge number of women have continued to believe that if you don’t marry early you may as well give up.

I have frequently argued against this by pointing out that while even if this statistic were true, it applies to the group as a whole, and no one is a prototype. An educated career woman who has not married has the statistically greatest chance of being in the middle of the group in terms desirable characteristics. Furthermore, she may have some attributes that are “above average.” Most of the women I have talked to about this were very intelligent, successful, attractive, and had winning personalities, yet they only could see the negative side of the statistics. In my view, they were more likely to be on the highest end rather than the lowest, but they couldn’t see it.

Of course, you do need to want it. If you are in a marriage-averse city, and think you want to get married, examine your attitudes and prejudices and ask if you are working at it hard enough. Do not use this study as an excuse. Some cities are notorious for having a higher ratio of women to men, like New York, but you must remember that you may find a higher percentage of like-minded men (i.e. educated, career-oriented) than you would elsewhere. I have known women who have talked of moving to Alaska, where there are lots more men than women. But if you are willing to move to bolster your chances of marrying, make sure it is a place where you will find men who appeal to you. And remember: you don’t have to settle, but you do need to compromise.

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  • Mary F April 19, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Regarding women talking of moving to Alaska, there is a sayingi in Alaska that “the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”