This is heartbreaking.
Have you noticed? Women and men aren't loving like they used to.
There are two intersecting trends changing the ways men and women live and love. I see these changes in my friends and family and in the clients who come to me for marriage and family counseling. These changes have taken place, for the most part, under the radar of our awareness, but they're changing everything from how we deal with our health to whom we elect as our next president.
According to New York Magazine about Rebecca Traister's book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, while being married by their early 20s was the defining path for women since the late 19th century, as of 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent.
Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was 46 percent (rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade). For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 are wed, compared with nearly 60 percent in 1960.
“It is a radical upheaval, a national reckoning with massive social and political implications,” says Traister. “Across classes, and races, we are seeing a wholesale revision of what female life might entail. We are living through the invention of independent female adulthood as a norm, not an aberration, and the creation of an entirely new population: adult women who are no longer economically, socially, sexually, or reproductively dependent on or defined by the men they marry.”
So, what's the impact of this changing trend for both women ... and men?
Though a sense of independence is increasing for women, a sense of loneliness is increasing for men.
For more than 40 years I have specialized in working with men.
I’m seeing a disturbing trend of increased male irritability and anger, along with a rise in the depression and suicide rates for males. In doing research for my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, I developed a quiz that has now been taken by more than 60,000 men throughout the world.
And the resulting data reveals that more and more men feel disconnected, disrespected, and angry. We see the anger acted out in violent attacks such as the ones we saw at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and also in the rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
We also see it in a rise of male loneliness.
When I speak to large groups of men and women, I ask the women how many have three or more close friends they can talk to about their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and frustrations. Almost all the women raise their hands. But, when I ask the same question of the men, almost none of them raise their hand.
Men’s increasing isolation from others helps account for the fact that men die sooner and live with less health than women. According to social scientist Thomas Joiner, author of Lonely at the Top: The High Cost of Men’s Success, “Males experience higher mortality rates than females at all stages of life from conception to old age.”
According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013 in the United States, 80 percent of suicides were committed by men.
Of one such male suicide, Dr. Joiner reports: “He did not have friends … He did not feel comfortable with other men … He did not trust doctors and would not seek help even though he was aware that he needed help.”
Unfortunately, this is a common experience for an increasing number of men.
Joiner concludes that “Men’s main problem is not self-loathing, stupidity, greed, or any of the legions of other things they’re accused of. The problem, instead, is loneliness; as they age, they gradually lose contact with friends and family, and here’s the important part, they don’t replenish them.”
As women become more independent and self-sufficient they're not willing to settle for a marriage where their needs are not met. They would rather get their social and emotional support from work associates, friends, and family.
As men feel unable to meet women’s needs for economic, emotional, and social support, they feel more inadequate and distance themselves even more, often escaping into pornography, increased alcohol consumption, and compulsive work habits. I hear from many women that “there just aren’t any good men out there to marry” and those women become even more self-sufficient and self-contained. Meanwhile, I hear from men who say, “Women just don’t want intimacy anymore.”
These men become more fearful of reaching out to women and risking rejection.
The result is that like the Republicans and Democrats, men and women increasingly live in different worlds. They distrust each other and are often in conflict. Unlike the Republicans and Democrats (at least for now), I see men and women longing to connect with each other, but feeling increasingly less hopeful about finding real, lasting love in relationship.
The first step in changing things for the better is to acknowledge what's occurring.
What are your thoughts on this shifting trend? Share your comments below or visit MenAlive on Facebook
This article was originally published at MenAlive.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.