If you like it, put a ring on it

Posted Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Divorce and Marriage, Law and Culture, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public

Within popular culture, the viewpoint on marriage is that it’s something women intensely desire and something men have to be dragged into reluctantly. In this mindset, marriage enables women to raise children with a stable helpmate and source of income while men give up their “freedom” and money while being forced into a life of monogamy, then monotony, then celibacy.

While the culture of marriage has changed over the past fifty years–single motherhood less vilified; men more willing to handle household and parenting tasks (although still rarely on an equal basis); women earning a greater share of the couple’s total income–it is still almost solely men doing the proposing and women doing the accepting (or rejecting). The question “when is he going to ask her [to marry him]?” is commonly heard. I’ve yet to hear anyone ask, “when is she going to ask him?”

Yet, as a great moral philosopher Jane Austin noted two centuries ago, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”  Myriad social science studies demonstrate that marriage is a tremendous boon for men.   This is one of the few things that both liberal and conservative media and sociologists agree upon. For men, marriage means bigger income, better health, less depression and substance abuse, greater longevity, and more and better sex. For women, not so much. Yet the cultural belief continues to be the opposite.

One advantage of marriage for men is so obvious that it is rarely noted: a man who is married to the mother of his children is likely to interact with his children on a daily basis. I’ve previously written about why women are more likely to get custody. However men who have lived with their children since birth are much better candidates for custody–and if they don’t get custody, are much better candidates for very generous visitation–than men who did not. A sizable portion of my unmarried male custody clients complain about settling on a 30-70, or even 46-54, division of custodial time. However it’s hard to get them more time when the child is more closely bonded to the mother–a normal consequence of the child primarily living with the mother during infancy. To these men I quote a great contemporary moral philosopher Beyoncé, “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.”

It’s time to stop treating marriage as something men should enter warily and as a boon to women. As most happily married men know, we get the better end of the marriage bargain. On this Valentine’s Day I urge all my single male friends, if you like it, put a ring on it.

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