Television would have us believe it’s falling in love and wanting to spend the rest of their lives with ‘the one’ that prompts a proposal but Richard Fitzpatrick learns it can be far less romantic
PRINCE HARRY, Britain’s most eligible bachelor, caused a stir last week when he let slip that he’s thinking about getting married. He’s been casting an envious eye across at his brother and says he wouldn’t mind having “kids right now” and someone alongside him “to share the pressure”.
Harry is 30 years of age now after all. He can’t magic it into being straightaway, however. “There’s a process one has to go through,” he said, sounding a bit like a production line manager at the old Rover car company.
Men want to get married for all kinds of reasons. Their mother — or grandmother in Harry’s case, perhaps — might be at them and it’ll impress the boss at work. It seems that love, though, is far down the list. Why did you get married is a question that Tony Moore, a counsellor with Relationship Ireland, regularly asks his male clients.
“I can honestly tell you ‘because we loved each other’ comes about number six or seven out of 10. Very often, men will shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Well, we’d been together seven or eight years and thought we’re mid-30s now, we may as well.’ That’s the most common answer: ‘We’ve been together a long time; now is the time.’
“Family pressures, women wanting a baby pressures are other common ones. And this is exclusively about men — and I know this because I’ve worked for private companies, American commercial companies — if you are a man and you are, say, 40, and you are not married, alarm bells go off in the HR department. Why is he not married?
“Political correctness stops people asking these questions but you can be sure as eggs are eggs that is going through someone’s head. Why the hell is this guy not married? Either there is something going on … he can say, ‘I’m interested in my career.’ Mmmh, OK? It’s a very big driver for a lot of men — to be seen to be married and to have kids, to seem normal.”
Times have changed. Sex isn’t as big a driver as it was a generation ago. Since contraception was fully legalised in 1985 it’s easier for men to get the leg over without having to get married first.
“Years ago men used to get married, in Ireland especially, ‘for access’ shall we say,” says comedian and Today FM presenter, Neil Delamere. “I’ve an older relative — he’s dead now — who left no doubt in my mind; after a few drinks and playing cards one night the reason he got married — and it was very successful marriage — was to ‘open the door’. I know another lad who got married because himself and his girlfriend wouldn’t have had the neck to live together out of wedlock — because of their supervisory, hawk-like parents.
“Things have changed immensely in the last 20 years. Men are getting married older. Men who are under 40 in particular want to live their lives. Marriage is part of their lives, but it’s on the back burner a little bit. A year in Australia or in Canada or travelling, for example — no Irishman did a year’s travelling in the 1950s: ‘I’m just going to go abroad and maybe dig railways in the UK and find myself on a gap year’.”
Men are living longer, too. The life expectancy for the average Irish male is 78 years, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office. This means the Irish man can push out the day of reckoning with a would-be life partner.
Moore cites a desire to put some meaning on life as a critical driver in the urge to get married. Women experience the same feelings, although they usually kick in earlier; men tend to be about five years behind women in maturing, he says.
“Loneliness, too. If you’re 35 to 40, you’re a bit too old for the nightclubs you go home on your own. You go, ‘I want to care for someone.’ Men feel this as well as women. It’s about age and the stage of life we are at.”
Delamere, who got hitched in 2013, says culture also plays a part in conditioning our perspective. “There is no stereotype of a ‘Groomzilla’ for example, but we have the ‘Bridezilla’. There’s no stereotype of a lad imagining at 19 the suit he’s going to wear when he gets married; they may not harbour that dream.”
He adds it is a fallacy men are always shuffled towards the alter, it’s still not cool for guys to admit they get broody, but it may well come into fashion. “Men usually brag about conquests they’ve had. No lad ever goes, ‘Yeah, I got married at 27 and I’ve had a very happy and stable relationship since then with three kids I really love.’ No Irish man is going to brag in that regard. And actually they probably should do.”
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