The New York Times published a Guest Essay entitled, “Why Aren’t More People Marrying? Ask Women What Dating Is Like.

It doesn’t take a particularly keen observer to spot profound deterioration in the mating world. Many who grew up with the traditional goals of marriage and family have instead painfully discovered themselves swirling in a global downward spiral that makes “business as usual” increasingly unlikely.

Rather than point fingers, maybe we should all step back and consider another possibility. Are we collectively doing something that creates an atmosphere for misunderstanding and estrangement between men and women, causing them to retreat defensively into their own natures?

If so, can we bridge the gap, and perhaps tap unsuspected rewards by re-engineering our loving exchanges? Might Synergy lovemaking be worth an honest try? We may be ignoring a key to enhanced wellbeing, serene feelings of wholeness, increased harmony and heightened spiritual awareness.

Here are some excerpts from from the essay, followed by some reader responses:

Nov. 11, 2023
By Anna Louie Sussman

…an array of columnists and authors … have argued for the promotion and prioritizing of marriage, sometimes for the sake of overall happiness but more often for the sake of children’s well-being.

… But harping on people to marry from high up in the ivory tower fails to engage with the reality on the ground that heterosexual women from many walks of life confront: the state of men today. …

On the rare occasions that women are actually asked about their experiences with relationships, the answers are rarely what anyone wants to hear. In the late 1990s, the sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas interviewed 162 low-income single mothers in Camden, N.J., and Philadelphia to understand why they had children without being married. “Money is seldom the primary reason” mothers say they are no longer with their children’s fathers. Instead, mothers point to far more serious offenses, Dr. Edin and Dr. Kefalas, write. “It is the drug and alcohol abuse, the criminal behavior and consequent incarceration, the repeated infidelity and the patterns of intimate violence that are the villains looming largest in poor mothers’ accounts of relational failure.”

But it doesn’t take behavior this harmful to discourage marriage; often, simple compatibility or constancy can be elusive. Ms. Camino, for her part, has dabbled in dating since her partner left but hasn’t yet met anyone who shares her values, someone who is funny and — she hesitates to use the word “feminist” — won’t just roll his eyes and say something about being on her period whenever she voices an opinion. …

For as long as people have been promoting marriage, they have also been observing that a good man is hard to find. (See: William Julius Wilson or early Nora Ephron.) But what was once dismissed as the complaint of picky women is now supported by a raft of data. The same pundits plugging marriage also bemoan the crisis among men and boys, what has come to be known as male drift — men turning away from college, dropping out of the work force or failing to look after their health. Ms. Kearney, for example, acknowledges that improving the economic position of men, especially those without college degrees, is an important step toward making them more attractive partners.

But even this nod ignores the qualitative aspect of the dating experience — the part that’s hard to cover in surveys or address with policy. Daniel Cox, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who recently surveyed more than 5,000 Americans about dating and relationships, found that nearly half of college-educated women said they were single because they had trouble finding someone who meets their expectations, versus one-third of men. The in-depth interviews, he said, “were even more dispiriting.” For a variety of reasons — mixed messages from the broader culture about toughness and vulnerability, the activity-oriented nature of male friendships — it seems that by the time men begin dating, they are relatively “limited in their ability and willingness to be fully emotionally present and available,” he said.

Navigating interpersonal relationships in a time of evolving gender norms and expectations “requires a level of emotional sensitivity that I think some men probably just lack, or they don’t have the experience,” he added. …

One such friend of mine, with whom I went to college, would like nothing more than to be married. She’s beautiful and successful and not, as far as I can tell, overly picky. She has had long-term relationships and cherishes the intimacy and stability they provide. To that end, she keeps a Post-it note on a bulletin board. On it, she has drawn 10 lines of 10 circles each. Every time she goes on a date with someone new, she fills in a circle. She’s committed to going on at least a hundred dates as she searches for a male partner with whom she can have a family. In two years, she’s filled in nearly half of the circles, and she’s still single. It’s like an SAT form on which every answer is incorrect. When she asks her male friends to set her up with their friends, they consistently tell her that no one they know would be good enough for her. “It’s like, how bad are you guys?” she marvels.

To be sure, many men are fantastic people and partners, and I’m sure many women are loathsome, creepy or otherwise disrespectful. Many of us know these terrific men — they’re our friends, our relatives, our colleagues — and would love to meet someone similar. Relationships are an important part of life; companionship is lovely and a natural human desire. But rather than chiding people (mostly women, mostly single moms) to marry for the children, how about a little empathy that we’re living through a juncture where various forces at play have made meaningful companionship hard to find?…


Here are some responses by readers discussing the guest essay about why many women are not getting married. Dec. 3, 2023

Sharp Views on Dating and Marriage Today

To the Editor:

Re “Why Aren’t More People Marrying? Ask Women What Dating Is Like,” by Anna Louie Sussman (Opinion guest essay, Nov. 25): After reading this essay, I came away with a feeling that too often today, our society promotes victimhood. Women (and men) today should not blame the opposite sex for their decision not to get married.

As a man who has been married for 45 years to the same woman, I would tell your readers a few things: Nobody is perfect, life is full of surprises (good and bad), and quitting is your last option, not your first, so take a chance and work at it.

My wife and I got married young, and with the birth of our first son, who was born with disabilities, we both worked hard at marriage and still do.

Life is not easy for most people, and taking a chance is part of living life. Postponing or not committing to marriage because of the uncertainty of finding the “perfect” partner, financial security, etc., creates its own problems, just as partnering with someone who is not perfect does. Sometimes I feel that women need to stop blaming men for the problems in the world. For as long as men and women have been on earth, both sexes have had to put up with each other’s differences, and there are endless examples of successful partnerships.

Take a chance, with the understanding that no one is perfect, forgive and forget, and work hard at marriage — it is worth it.

Jim Strauss
Waukee, Iowa

To the Editor:

Anna Louie Sussman candidly describes the situation of modern-day single women in the U.S. I spent my 20s in a relationship that was supposed to culminate in marriage. When the romance + marriage + kids equation did not work out, I found myself single and seeking.

By the time I reached my late 30s with my biological clock ticking, I encountered two barriers: Most nevermarried men my age were now looking for someone younger, with the promise of greater fertility, and then there were men in their early- to mid-40s, emerging from difficult separations, divorces and custody battles.

I tried to fit the mold of future wife and potential stepmother, but perhaps failed by being both overzealous and never quite getting it — parenting is a rite of passage that cannot be understood secondhand. At 38 I decided to become a single mother by choice and spent my 40s with all the usual preoccupations of middle-class parenting; the difference was that I did it alone.

Now in my early 50s, I am back in the dating pool and discovering that the odds are still stacked against me: Am I overeducated and “too” successful (I have a Ph.D.)? Am I not thin enough? Am I not “active” enough when everybody online seems to hike, bike, run and ski? Is being “never married” a blot against me? Is it that I am an Indian immigrant?

It is a minefield of potential deal breakers to which I will never know the answers, but what I know is this: My generation of women will perhaps be the first with such a large percentage to have never married, and it hasn’t always been out of choice.

Rajika Bhandari
Irvington, N.Y.

To the Editor:

This article gave a very good analysis of the gender roles and sociological perspectives of modern relationships. A key factor in the success of my 45-year marriage was that my wife married a feminist.

Women should openly and explicitly date “feminists” and not be someone who “hesitates to use the word.” They would then know that their prospective partner actively supports women’s rights and an egalitarian relationship.

As an active feminist spouse, I perform child care duties, do domestic work (laundry and washing dishes), and appreciate the economic contributions my wife makes to the family unit (she is a working professional with two master’s degrees). A true feminist encourages intellectual and career advancement in a dating partner or spouse and is not threatened.

Mark Ondrake

To the Editor:

This is a fantastic article! As a 38-year-old single woman, I am so happy to see someone speaking out and validating my experiences and reasoning for taking a step back from the social pressure of the expectation to get married and have a family to qualify as a happy, healthy member of society.

White male privilege and an overall lack of willingness to commit are so prevalent in the dating world that it just left me jaded and happy to remain single. I don’t need a man to be happy, or to be a good parent.

I only hope men will read the article and learn something, too.

Kristen Snow
Monticello, Ark.

To the Editor:

The research showing that children do better in two-parent families is conflating correlation and causation. Children of married couples are not better off because of the marriage. They are better off because the men are worth marrying.

Marrying a man who is abusive, does not hold a job or uses drugs does not improve the lives of children. Marrying a man who stands by you and supports his kids is what improves the lives of kids. And if the children have that kind of father, they will be better off, whether or not the couple is married. It is not the marriage, it is the man — whether you exchange rings or not.

When I had my son, who is severely disabled and medically fragile, his father and I were not married. We had not planned to live together, but planned to share in the child care in two households. When our son was born, it was clear that he was going to need a great deal of care. His father immediately moved in, and we took turns holding him while he cried for hours.

We did not marry for many years. When we did, it was for health insurance. Love and commitment had been there for years by the time we changed our tax status.

Michelle Noris

To the Editor:

Anna Louie Sussman didn’t mention the illusion of infinite choice that both men and women find on dating sites. People are less inclined to compromise because they think there’s always another prospect right behind this one. And another. And another. It’s a pernicious psychology.

Bruce Sheiman
New York

To the Editor:

Thank you for this article. Because of our cultural conditioning, many women (at least I) wonder: Is it just me? Is this my fault? I’m 45 years old, have a master’s degree and have been in therapy for many years. The men I’ve dated have seemed like good catches at first (smart, motivated, respectful), only to later reveal their issues. These range from mild alcoholism, bouncing from job to job, lack of purpose, vaccine conspiracy theories, inability to commit, condescension and an inability to lean in when things get hard.

This article is a helpful reminder that while I have my own issues to work through, my dating challenges are part of a trend in which men in this country are lacking in social supports early in life to develop the emotional skills needed to thrive later in life.

E. Ramos
Santa Fe, N.M.

To the Editor:

The author freely uses negative stereotypes about men that would cause outrage if the roles were reversed. Can you imagine a guest essay being published in which men complained about dating because of various misogynistic tropes?

Tony Bozanich
New York