Back in secondary school, one of the texts we had to study for English was Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The first line of this book is pretty famous. It - ironically - dictates:
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
It just so happens that 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of P&P, and it seems no irony has been lost in these two centuries: men simply don't want to commit.
Now, before I get hate-mail from a barrage of single men desperate to find a lucky lady, let me explain myself. I have a theory, that if you are a man over the age of 18, you have a fear of commitment. Humour me by casting your mind back to ye olde age of innocence, when things were simple, and you and your teenage boyfriend/girlfriend planned out your wedding and picked baby names together, and you thought everything would last forever... But it didn't though, did it. Now, while you ladies have moved on and had subsequent relationships with other people, my theory is that your teenage boyfriend still bears scars from your breakup - scars that can result an inability to commit fully to another person, because they don't ever want to go through the hurt, disappointment, and/or rejection that they went through the first time round. I can hear the sound of masculine indignation right about now, but bear with me and hear me out.
I have a friend, who, by his own admission, "cannot commit to a sandwich" - and, in my experience, he's not alone. After splitting with my boyfriend of 3 years at 20, I have had precisely three relationships worth noting - two of which have ended because the guy was scared of committing. Now, perhaps these have just been easy excuses to get out of a situation that was slowly killing them (HA.), but IF we take them for their word (and trust me, it took them quite a while to admit this was the reason), then we're left with the question: If guys are scared of committing, why do they get into a relationship? Well, ladies and gents, I have a theory for this too. I have another friend who, like myself, is currently in his final year at university. In the past three years, his choice of post-university career path has changed from spy, to lawyer, to pilot, and I now believe he is currently planning on going into banking. He likes to determine his future on what sounds cool at parties. Now, I'm the first to admit that I don't know what precisely what I'm going to do after university, but my point is that I believe guys have a similar attitude when it comes to relationships: they like the sound of 'having a girlfriend' - just not necessarily the practicality.
Now before you palm me off as some kind of psycho who pictures herself waltzing down the aisle with every guy she meets, I don't believe 'commitment' in a relationship necessarily equals marriage. For me, it simply means putting some sort of effort into being there for another person. The truth is, girls love again and again, without fear or hesitation. I don't believe the same can be said about men - at least between the ages of 18 and 30. You only need to look at the countless relationships that are sustained through the legwork of one half: the women. Granted, the initial 'chase' does come, more often than not, from the guys, but after that, they tend to start treading water rather than swim - and it's left to their girlfriends to pull the relationship along. One argument is that it's just not natural for men to commit to another human being at this age, or even, at all. After all, the male species is not designed to be tied down to one partner - it's all about 'mass-production'; sowing your wild oats as far and wide as possible. If that's the case, how come there are so many (seemingly) happy marriages? Or marriage at all? We've all heard the - proven - theory that men mature mentally slower than women. If so, maybe that explains why the 'trauma' of their first failed relationship affects them so deeply. Perhaps guys just take longer to get over disappointment than women. That's not any knock on your masculinity, male readers, it's just scientific theory.
Curious to know if anyone thinks the same, or if I'm just a bitter old witch, I asked a couple of friends:
"Do you think guys, on the whole, are scared of commitment?"
"I think they are at first. But if they really care about a girl they forget about their fears. At the end of the day, men are designed to protect and help women."
"I think that it really does depend on the individual. Different people want different things at different stages in their lives. On the whole though, if we're looking at the 18-24 Thomas Cook Holidays target age group, I'd say a majority of them don't like commitment. Not scared of it per se, but worry in the back of their mind that while they're young and more or less free they might not have seen all there is to see, and good old FOMO (of a sort) kicks in. It's not all cynicism though - perhaps some guys might not be thinking a whole leap into the future, so when the topic comes up or their significant other starts hinting at things beyond his current scope of interest, he might feel like he isn't reciprocating those feelings. Not wanting to feel like that's unfair and wanting to avoid a disagreement or say something daft he backs off. "
"A lot of guys our age don't want commitment but I'd say so are just as many girls - as a rough law of averages. In short, to adhere to the line 'On the whole', guys, are just as 'scared' of commitment as girls are, I wouldn't say one particular gender are less likely to commit than another. But I would say is that, yes - and this has been the case since (liberal/non marital)relationships began in society/civilisation - young men have been scared of commitment - perhaps famously more than young women. Yet I think both sexes probably equally 'scared' of commitment. Women are now able to express their desires to sample to the same extent men have done for over two millennia."
"I think they give in to temptation too easily if it comes their way. Some are good guys, they're loyal to their other halves but even if they do cheat doesn't mean they are scared of committment, it just means they don't have much self control. Our generation is more liberal than it used to be, along with the fact there's no presure in getting married so young anymore. Therefore guys to take advantage of that and it has become 'cool' to sleep around. It doesn't however mean they are scared of committment, it just means they are able to put it off a few years longer than our parents may have."
Obviously there are exceptions to the rule. I know couples that have had previous serious relationships and are still wholeheartedly committed to one another - but there is a large proportion of men who just aren't ready...yet. I guess the only thing to do is to play the guys at their own game: go out, be young, and have a good time. Prince Charming will come a-knockin' when he's good and ready.