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Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commitby RM Johnson
R.M. Johnson, #1 Essence bestselling author of The Million Dollar Divorce offers an enlightening perspective to the question that has baffled millions of women for decades.
Johnson’s fiction writing has been described as "powerful and bold…from the heart, thought-provoking, and life-changing" (Eric Jerome Dickey), and he/b>/i>/i>
R.M. Johnson, #1 Essence bestselling author of The Million Dollar Divorce offers an enlightening perspective to the question that has baffled millions of women for decades.
Johnson’s fiction writing has been described as "powerful and bold…from the heart, thought-provoking, and life-changing" (Eric Jerome Dickey), and he expertly allows female readers access to the male perspective. Now, in Why Men Fear Marriage, his first foray into nonfiction, his insight illuminates a topic that has increased in intensity and relevance in recent decades.
Why Men Fear Marriage sheds important light on several issues behind men’s inability to commit. Johnson explains why men cling to their single status and offers tips for identifying whether or not a man is truly interested in marriage. This helpful guide equips women with the tools to distinguish between someone who is Mr. Right, as opposed to Mr. Right Now, and helps women to see situations the way that men often see them. Informative and engaging, Why Men Fear Marriage is a bold and much-needed discussion of an issue that deeply touches millions of people, regardless of race or gender.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Read an Excerpt
Our parents' marriage, for us, is supposed to be the example of what a good marriage is, right? When we watch our mother and father, how they relate as a married couple, this is supposed to be the blueprint for how we're supposed to behave when we grow old enough to marry.
That is the way it's supposed to work, and believe it or not, it does work that way.
Think about your close friends whose parents are still married. Are those friends married now? Many of them probably are.
Now think about your close friends whose parents are divorced, or who were raised by a single parent. How many of them are married today? Most likely not as many.
As kids, if we see that the two people raising us, a mother and father who are in love, get along, treasure their time together, and are happy, we will one day want the same for ourselves.
If we had a happy childhood, one that we knew was created and supervised by our parents, we know we have them to thank for that, and we will look forward to the opportunity to one day give our children the same.
What is interesting is that as children, we don't always have to be happy to later want marriage. Once we are old enough, we understand that it's natural that our parents weren't happy twenty-four hours of the day, either.
Here is where the model is important.
Parents are going to argue. There are going to be disagreements.
My parents are divorced. That happened when I was eight years old.
Building up to that point, they argued a lot. They experienced conflicts they could not resolve. There was a lot of tension between the two of them, which ultimately led to divorce.
Because of their arguing, and their subsequent separation, the message I took away from the experience was, if I get married, and if problems occur, the way to resolve them is to leave. But in doing that, I'd know that the same way my father hurt me with his departure, I will hurt my children. So to avoid that from happening, I told myself that it might be best if I never marry.
But what about the parents who argued but never got divorced? The parents who disagreed and raised their voices sometimes, but then calmed down, talked things out, and resolved their issues? What do the children of those couples believe?
They understand that arguing and the occasional spat is part of marriage, or any worthwhile relationship. But what they also learn is that compromise and understanding is part of that as well. They learned this from hearing the arguments their parents waged, then seeing them resolve those problems. They've seen what years of determination and dedication to a marriage can bring, as opposed to what so many other men see -- the failure of their parents' marriage, then their mother and father walking along separate paths, many of them dating for the rest of their lives, but never marrying again.
Guess what kind of effect that has on the average man? How many of us do you believe would be rushing to the altar to find ourselves in the exact same situation as our fathers? That is, even if we knew our fathers.
I don't believe people appreciate just how important fathers are. I often say, if there was no father, there would be no Tiger Woods, just some guy named Eldrick Woods. That's not to say he wouldn't have been a great banker, or cable technician, or Walmart associate. I'm just giving an example of how much influence a father can have on his son's life.
Keeping with Tiger Woods for a moment, he married before he was even thirty years old. That goes against most of what I say in this book. But, then again, I'm speaking from the point of view of a boy who grew up without a father.
Tiger Woods's father was around. He was married to Tiger Woods's mother, and he was present in his son's life.
I imagine that, as a child, just about every morning when Tiger Woods sat himself at the breakfast table, he'd see his parents there. And just about every day, he'd see them interact. But what also happened is what happens with all the other little girls and boys whose fathers are in the home -- those children will spend time with their fathers. Those children will learn from their fathers; they will be loved by their fathers. And for little boys, this is especially important -- that they will be taught by their fathers.
As the boy grows into a teenager and starts to date, the father will tell his son about the importance of relationships, and soon guide him, tell him what to expect from marriage, how much that union can improve his life. There will be no question as to whether the son will want to get married, for the same reason that children of parents who have gone to college are more likely to go, or that the children of parents who are readers will probably develop a love for reading as well.
But what happens to the little boys when there is no father in the home? How do we grow up, and what will our opinions of marriage be?
Boys without a father in the home will wake up and sit at the table and eat breakfast with their mother, or alone with their siblings because their mother is off to work. Boys without a father present will have to rely on their mother to tell them about "the birds and the bees." But really, what mother wants to have that conversation with her son? And nowadays, do mothers even know at what age to have it?
When I was young, the average age a boy started thinking about, or actually having, sex was sixteen. Do you really think your son is waiting that long today? And if he hasn't lost his virginity by sixteen, considering the Internet, and raunchy music videos, and cable television porn, he probably knows more about sex than you do.
But getting back to the little boy growing up without a father, if there are "father and son" activities in school (which most schools don't even conduct anymore because so many fathers are absent), he won't participate in them.
There will be no father-and-son time around the house -- the time when, as boys, we will look up to our father, try to emulate him, desire to be just like him when we grow into men. At this point in a boy's life, we will create our own definition of what father means, purely by the example we witness. But if there is no father there...
When we start to desire the attention of girls, we'll find a way to get that attention, and we'll find a place to give them our attention, whether in our mother's basement, in the backseat of our cars, or even behind the school.
Boys will use girls only to fulfill our sexual needs, and at that age, be it fifteen or sixteen years old, determine that girls have no other real importance.
After graduation from high school, when we go to college or start working a job, we will see women the same way. Why would we have a reason to change our minds? There was no father there to tell us, or teach us, about marriage. And no, I'm not saying that you, as the mother, could not inform your child, try to positively persuade him. But when the father is in the home, married to the mother, and speaks to his child about it, it's more than a suggestion. It becomes an endorsement, because the father is practicing what he preaches, living what he speaks. But if there is no father there, like there has not been for so many of the men who are of marrying age today, why would we want to marry? It certainly wouldn't be based on what we've seen. You might say that if we grow to love a woman, then we should want to marry her. But a man can love a woman for the rest of his life and still feel no need to marry her if he doesn't know the benefits, doesn't understand the reasoning behind it.
This is something that may cause us to move very slowly when considering taking steps in that direction, or leave us frozen.
So, does that mean that all is lost, that the generation of boys today will have just as much trepidation as the men of today because of the absence of their fathers? Yes, it could very well mean that. Or there could be something that you, as mothers, could do to eliminate that possibility.
If you're a single mother, how will your son find out about marriage?
If you're divorced, what's your son's opinion of marriage now? Did you know it while you were still married?
If you're happily married, your son is being raised by you and your husband. He sees the two of you every day, and if he's still a young boy, when he gets old enough to wonder, most likely there will be discussion as to how the two of you got married, and why.
But what if you have a son and you're not married? There will be no man to wonder about, to ask questions about, so there will be no discussion about marriage.
So how will he ever find out? Will you tell him about marriage?
You should. Believe it or not, by default, it is your responsibility.
Ask yourself, as a single mother, how often do you promote marriage to your son? Have you even discussed it, ever given him the definition of marriage? Ever felt the need to? Probably not.
Single women, be they those who have never been married or those who, for whatever reason, have gotten divorced, probably don't feel like breaking into song all of a sudden about the joys of marriage. If it was so great, you wouldn't have to promote it. You'd be married, and the promotion would take care of itself, the way it's supposed to. Right?
But for your son, it's a bad thing that you haven't had this discussion, that you haven't told him how wonderful a marriage union can be, even if yours flopped.
Think about how you were first introduced to marriage. If your parents are together, or at least were together, then you found out about it from them. But if you were raised by your mother alone, or even by just your dad, you probably were first introduced to the idea of marriage and weddings and two people falling in love by a cartoon, a children's book, or maybe a fairy tale, where the princess marries the prince at the end.
Later, your girlfriends talked about it, how they were going to marry their favorite teen idol. Girls look through wedding magazines and fantasize about the day they will one day be brides.
Boys don't think about stuff like that. Marriage, baby dolls, weddings -- none of those things are promoted to boys. As kids, we're more interested in monsters than marriage, race cars than wedding rings.
I'm not faulting my mother, but I believe that if she were to have at least once sat me down and told me all the benefits there are to being married, how wonderful an institution it is, and that I should make it a goal in my life, just as she pushed me to get an education and follow my career dreams, I think I might be married now.
But ladies, know that it's never too late. If you're single and raising a son, or a daughter, for that matter, or if you've gotten divorced and your son is seventeen and about to leave the nest, or even if he's thirty years old and has been on his own for some time, schedule a mother-son talk with him. (Pick a day and sit him down and promote marriage as if it's the best thing since free cell phone long-distance calling.)
If you haven't done it already, do it. You owe him at least that, considering the damage you may have done him in the past without even knowing.
You're a single mom, so you're divorced, or for some reason you chose not to marry the father of your child. It could be because of something you did, or something he did, or it was just his decision not to take you as his wife, or at least stick around to raise his son.
He says his reasons were good ones. "I didn't know I'd have to be here all the time just to raise a kid," or, "If you told me you wanted to get married before I got you pregnant, I never would've had sex with you."
"Yeah, right!" you say.
But because of your child's father's departure, you have certain feelings about him, and maybe they are not pleasant feelings.
If that's the case, know that those feelings should always be kept to yourself. Never let your child in on them. If you look into your son's eyes and tell yourself he has eyes just like his good-for-nothing, lying, cheap, cheating scoundrel of a father, that might tempt you to say those things aloud. Don't do that.
If we know our father -- and most times even if we don't (seeing a photo, or just knowing he's out there) -- many of us boys still worship him. Although bashing him might make you feel good, it makes your son feel awful.
Your son will not only see the anger that's in you, but hear it, and feel it. Even though that anger is not directed at him, he'll tell himself he would never want to make you that angry at him. He'll also tell himself that he never wants anyone else to be that angry. To avoid that, he may tell himself he'll avoid what his father has done -- having a child.
And if he tells himself he doesn't want children, and if he still believes that marriage comes first, that couples marry so that they can have children, he may tell himself that if he has no plan for kids, then there's no need for marriage.
Speaking badly about his father doesn't even make you feel good, does it?
All it does is make your son feel bad, and, believe it or not, makes you look bad.
And if you tell yourself you'll take that hit, knowing that at least you're informing your kids of what kind of rotten man they have as a father, abandon that theory, because it's not necessarily true.
My mother never said a negative word about my father, but his actions alone, before their divorce and after, always let me know he wasn't as good a man as he could've been and should've been.
But there's something else that you do that can make your sons less likely to want to marry.
I know. You're a single mom, and you've been raising your son for the last two years, and you haven't had a date since. You're so wired that every time the sixty-five-year-old mailman drops off your letters, you wonder if he'd be down for ditching his bag and stepping inside for a quickie.
Your sole existence isn't just about being a mother, you tell yourself. You're a woman. You want a life, too!
The same goes if you've been married and now you're divorced. There's a point when you feel you want and need to get back out there and reacquaint yourself with the woman you once were. But you have that two-year-old at home, or that ten-year-old, or your twins who are twelve. Whatever the age, you've got kids, but not every guy should be introduced to them.
You understand all that stuff. But you still would love to have a conversation about something other than Sesame Street, and drink something harder than imaginary tea from your kid's plastic teacups.
So you meet a guy, go out on a date. You tell yourself you'll take it slow, and not invite the guy in and risk exposing your kid to him too soon. But eventually, he grows on you. You've been dating him for six months, and you tell yourself your son will like him.
You make the introductions. The guy starts spending nights at your place. Your son starts bumping into him in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom. The guy is walking around your house in his underwear and tube socks like your son's father used to do, and, unbeknownst to you, your five-year-old son is like, "What the f*&% is going on?!"
One day, your new guy finally shows his true colors -- does something unforgivable -- and you end it, only to have to start all over again with someone else. Three months later, you're introducing your son to your new "friend," who'll eventually walk around the apartment in his underwear.
You have to know this is sending the wrong message to your son. And if you're trying in any way to promote marriage to him, this is the exact opposite of how it should be done.
When your son sees this guy, the guy you're dressing up for, cooking dinner for, giggling with and kissing on the cheek, the first thing he'll do is think about his father. He will tell himself that you put his dad out for this clown. But what's worse, rather than going through all the pain his father went through after the divorce, which all came from being married, your son will decide to just date women. As he would've witnessed by your example, he'll see that he'll receive all the benefits that a married man receives, but doesn't have to go through all the drama of a potential divorce.
So what do you do?
There's something you should always remember in regard to men. It's a blanket statement that pretty much covers all of us, and you can apply it to practically any situation. Make it your new golden rule.
If a man is interested, he'll let you know.
There it is. Now let me tell you how it applies to your dating issues.
Some men don't date women with children. If you're dating a guy now, he most likely isn't one of those guys, because you have kids and he's dating you, right? Then again, some of those guys make exceptions to their rule because of a specific interest they may take in you.
If you happen to have a guy who doesn't like kids, you'll eventually know it, because even though he's interested in you, he hasn't all of a sudden started loving children.
They know you have kids, but you'll find that they never ask about them. For Christmas, they will give you a gift, but will act as though your kid doesn't even exist. Your guy will never ask about your child, never want to spend time with him or her, and eventually you'll realize that, truly, his only interest is in you.
But you really like him, and you decide that you will introduce him to your kid anyway, and hope that something positive happens.
That's the worst mistake you can make.
Your guy will allow this to happen, because he knows he can't say, "I haven't asked about the little crumb snatcher, so I don't give a hog's balls about him." But that's what he wants to say. Remember the rule: "If a man is interested, he'll let you know."
You arrange the meeting. Your kid smiles, your man groans, then fakes a smile. Then, not long after that, everything goes right back to the way it was, only now your kid is tagging along in the backseat of his car everywhere the two of you go.
That man's opinion has not changed. He still doesn't like children, and isn't even trying to put up a front.
You're smiling ear-to-ear in the front seat, thinking how wonderful this is, when your child is in the back, knowing, sensing correctly, that this guy practically hates his six-year-old guts.
That doesn't mean that you can't ever introduce a man you're interested in to your kids. You just have to allow him to show an interest in a meeting first, and then you can decide if and when a meeting should happen.
If you've been dating a man for six months, or even three months, and he hasn't at least inquired about your kid, maybe asked when he could meet him, you should probably let that guy go.
If a guy you've been dating for only a month says he loves kids and he can't wait to meet your son, consider him a possible good catch. But most likely you should still make him wait, because you hardly know him yourself.
What I'm saying is, keep the number of guys you're interviewing for the "dad" position to a minimum. All it will do is confuse your son, and start to devalue the significance of relationships and marriage in his eyes. And you really don't want to do that, because marriage already gets so much of a bum rap from everyone else.
Women gossip, but men impart knowledge. At least that's what we believe.
Men tell other men -- our friends, our male family members, as well as our coworkers, or even the guy sitting next to us at the barbershop -- things, give them information, in hopes that they will listen to what is told to them, learn from it, and maybe not make the same mistakes that we have made.
The sad thing is, some of the advice guys give other guys is stuff like, "You're so lucky to be single. I wish I never got married! And if you're considering it, think again."
Why would they say such a thing?
Maybe because they hate their marriage, and believe that by warning their friends, those guys might avoid what one guy believes to be the nightmare he can never wake up from.
You might say, okay, so one guy tells a friend or two never to get married. That shouldn't have that much of an effect on all the other guys who are considering doing it. No, it wouldn't if it was just one or two, or even two hundred, guys saying negative things about marriage. But it's so many more than that.
You're probably thinking, why would men listen to something like that?
Understand, sometimes it's not just our friends giving the warning. Many of our parents are divorced, men and women. If a guy still has a close relationship with his father after his divorce, depending on the experience the father had in the marriage (which, since he's divorced, we should assume was a negative one), he may tell his son that he might want to think twice about doing the same thing. Or even if his father doesn't say exactly those words, he may never again get married.
After divorcing my mother, my father never remarried, but continues to live with the same woman for decades. What kind of message do you think that sends to me and men like me?
Men listen, even if it is to the old guys at the barbershop, speaking to no one in particular about how evil and selfish their wives are. Single men have to deal with being told every day by married men how lucky they are to still be single, and that if the married guys could do it all over again, they'd never get married.
Now, don't get me wrong. All the guys I just mentioned who are still married probably love much that comes with marriage, possibly even most of it. But like I said before, men aren't quick to tell other men about things like that.
When was the last time you were on the bus or in the park and overheard a conversation between two men that went something like this:
"Aw, gee, I just adore my wife and love being married to her. Love and marriage are such wonderful things."
The other guy asks, "How long you two been hitched?"
"Ten great years," the first man says. "You really ought to do it. You don't know what you're missing."
"No, buddy, I do know. All my male friends say how fantastic they feel each morning they wake up, knowing they're married."
Most guys have never heard anything like that from another man. I'm forty years old, and I've never heard anything remotely close.
But what we do hear from almost every guy who's been divorced is that he's never going to get married again. Or we hear how the woman he used to be married to took everything he had, married some guy ten years younger than him, and that they are living in the house the husband had built with his own hands.
Men are told by other men -- by our friends, our brothers, our fathers -- men we respect and trust -- not to go marching down that aisle with you...or else.
Sure, some of us, probably most of us, don't allow a few cautionary tales spoken by obviously hurt men to stop us from going ahead with our decision to one day get married.
But if those words don't ultimately stop us, they definitely cause us to pause, stop, and think. They might even have us question that if all, or most, or even a few, of the men whom we trust most in this world tell us that marriage is worse than any torture man can ever imagine and to avoid it at all cost, maybe we should consider doing what they say.
Copyright © 2009 by R. Marcus Johnson
Meet the Author
R.M. Johnson is the author of eight novels, including the bestselling The Harris Family and The Million Dollar Divorce. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Chicago State University and is a native of Chicago, where he currently resides.
R.M. Johnson is the author of nine novels, including bestsellers The Harris Family and The Million Dollar Divorce. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Karen Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, a celebrated radio talk-show host, and coauthor of numerous New York Times bestsellers, including Confessions of a Video Vixen, On the Down Low, and Wendy’s Got the Heat. She is also an assistant professor in the Film & Media Department at Hunter College.
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RM is a great fiction writer and he surprised me by being able to pull off such a well-written non-fiction work. If you are a woman trying to figure out what's going on in the psyche of young men these days, read this book. It's full of practical advice and honest confession.
RM Johnson is one of my favorite authors, I've read all of his books! He knows how to draw me in and keep me captivated. I usually will only read novels, but when I heard about Why Men Fear Marriage I decided to give it a try. We've known for a long time that men and woman are from different planets, and we obviously think differently. This book helped me better understand how men think. The detail and examples that he gave were perfect. One of my favorite chapters list the steps to get your man to ask, Will You Marry Me? We all want to hear that ladies! He also talks about the different types of men, now I know exactly the type of man I want. This book is just what I need. Bravo RM, you did it again!