Why Do Men Have Such Unrealistic Ideas About Marriage?

Why Do Men Have Such Unrealistic Ideas About Marriage?

I came across your blog a while ago researching a man’s point of view in dating and relationships. I read your blog religiously, plan on buying your books soon, and am trying to figure out a way to hire you as my dating coach. I appreciate your candor and approach when “giving it straight” and talk about you all the time and even refer to you as the “big brother” I wish I had.

That being said I am a 37 year old woman, who has never been married…and I think I may have stumbled across why.

It’s been my experience in dating that in having conversations with the men I date, a lot of times hypothetical scenarios come up (which I find fascinating by the way)…that I rely on to help me determine their level of maturity and readiness for a serious LTR. Most times I am left feeling cold beads of sweat run down my back with their depictions of ideal situations, glossy perfect home life that reflect none of the messy burdens of real life that marriage often comes with. I feel confident that I have a truer sense of what marriage really calls for, based on candid conversations and experiences I have had and dealt with from friends and family members who are married.

I keep thinking that I will eventually find a man who is mature enough and wise enough who knows marriage is more than having a wife who prances around in her underwear, gives bj’s on demand and cooks gourmet meals after working her 9-5. So far I am batting zero. If I sound a little cynical, I apologize but this is something I keep running into time and time again. Am I just fishing in the wrong “ice holes” or is there something I need to adjust in terms of expectations?

Thank you for reading,


Dear Michelle,

If you change the gender and the stereotypes in your last paragraph, this email could easily be written by a man, describing women and their unrealistic expectations.

Alas, you date men. Therefore, men seem to be the ones with unrealistic expectations. If you dated women, you’d realize that this is not a gender-based observation. One of the primary reasons that there are 100 million single Americans is because everyone’s expectations are a bit out-of-whack.

Men seem to be the ones with unrealistic expectations. If you dated women, you’d realize that this is not a gender-based observation.

At the same time, I think your email is much ado about nothing. Semantics, if you will. I mean, just think about it:

If you ask a woman to describe her ideal marriage, do you think it would involve watching a man get heavy, suffer from a mid-life crisis, manage stress associated with money and children, and muddle through decades of poor marital communication built on emulating bad parental relationships? Of course not.

Why SHOULD anyone talk about this stuff, even if it’s inevitable? If you’re on a date, if you’re in a relationship, you probably want to lay out the best case scenario.

For women it probably sounds like, “We wake up in each others’ arms. We have time to work out in the morning. The nanny has the kids ready and we join them for breakfast. I go to my fulfilling job in my home office. My husband goes to his. I pick up the kids from school at 3pm. My husband is home at 5pm. We play with the kids together, cook dinner together, put them to sleep together, and then make love each night, before starting all over the next day.”

Here’s the not-so-shocking part: men have largely the same marital vision, even if you’re a little thinner and orally fixated in our fantasies.

My philosophy is that good relationships are easy. If they’re not easy, they’re not that good.

Here’s the more shocking part: this fantasy is somewhat achievable.

This is why I do this job. I’m living that fantasy life. My wife is living that fantasy life. And I’m going to continue to do my part to get people to strive for that fantasy life, instead of selling them on the virtues of suffering.

Will all men be able to make it out of work at 5? Of course not. Will all households have support in raising their children? No way. But the fantasy I described should be the backbone of what we’re all trying to achieve – a north star for people to aim for when reality gets a little bit messy.

My philosophy is that good relationships are easy. If they’re not easy, they’re not that good. With the right partner, all of this is nearly achievable. And if it means he has to make some sacrifices to get home at a reasonable hour and you have to give an extra blowjob per week, I’d say it’s all worth it.


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  1. 31

    Congratulations on getting married Fusee – I had a suspicion you did recently. Along with Karmic Equation I’ve always thought you write the finest comments here. I know your primary motivation is to help women gainer a better insight on understanding men, and how to avoid men like me, but ironically I have learnt a great deal from reading all your comments.
    I look forward to reading them into the foreseeable future 🙂
    I agree with your stance that happiness comes almost entirely from within and not from without.

  2. 32
    Sparkling Emerald

    As far as cancelling “BJ’s on demand”, how about going for “BJ’s on request” ?  Who wants to have sex of any kind when it is demanded ? 
    And I don’t care what anyone says, newly wed sex and married for 5 years, 10 years and 40 years  sex are going to vary.  Brain chemistry, aging, and major life events, being what they are, will effect a couple’s sex life, both in frequency, style,  & intensity.  I think someone (male or female) who can’t handle the ebb & flow of sex (and the ebb & flow of other aspects of marriage) probably shouldn’t get married.  I don’t think that’s gloomy, that’s being realistic. 
    However, I wouldn’t recommend asking questions such as “You’ve been married for 5 years, your wife delivered your second child the day before, so intercourse is out of the question  —  What do you do ?  Demand a BJ or go take a cold shower ? ” 
    I agree with EMK, it is better to get most of the answers form long term observation, not interrogation.

  3. 33

    @Tom10 #32: I find your comments very interesting as well! It’s been fascinating for me to hear about your goals and experiences.
    Clarification: I’m not trying to motivate women to avoid men like you, I’m trying to motivate women who are interested in eventually building a marriage to avoid men who are casually-minded and/or uncompatible from the get-go. If a female friend of mine were interested in dating casually, then I would totally be happy for them to date someone like you : )
    @Sparkling Emerald #31: “A relationship can’t make a basically miserable person happy, but a bad relationship can eventually wear down the happiest person on earth.”
    I totally agree! That’s why it’s critical to start happy first, and while dating, evaluate compatibility, relationship skills, and character. I did not do any of these things when I was younger, and therefore never had a really good, happy, healthy relationship despite always attracting and keeping commitment-minded men. I had to become happy, and develop marriage-related character qualities. Similarly I spent lot of time observing how my guy deals with disappointments, conflicts, and how skilled he is at collective decision-making. He nevers blames me for his negative feelings, he is always willing to reconsider his opinions, and he is very motivated in resolving conflicts fairly and quickly. This is a man I will be able to go through crap with : )

  4. 34
    Sparkling Emerald

    Fusee #34 –
    I am so happy for you, sounds like you found a real gem of a man. !

  5. 35

    Congtatulations and best wishes to you!
    Out of curiosity, how did you manage to “start happy first”?
    I have been married way too long to remember exactly how I felt before I met my husband, but I roughly remember I was miserable because the ex-boyfriend had dumped me; either way it is too late for me to change that.  But I do have  a sister and many female friends,  who are single in their late 30s/early 40s, and the absense of a love partner makes them so miserable… it seems to be a huge reason for life dissatisfaction. 
    So, your recipe would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance. 

  6. 36

    Hi kiki #36:
    I just digged into my old emails as I remembered an acquaintance asking me the same question a few years ago. She had known me as pretty unhappy and wondered what I did to reach a much higher level of satisfaction and functioning a few years later. Here is a summary of what I wrote to her back then:
    1. It takes reaching a personal rock-bottom to end up having to make a serious change of thinking and functioning. It also takes a commitment to become happy and work at it.
    2. Create change. Whatever, but something to mark the new beginning. For me, it was radical as I decided to immigrate to the USA. I left everything behing but two suitcases. It could be more simple though: a move, a make-over, starting a new activity,…
    3. Studying the Enneagram: enneagraminstitute.com
    4. Starting a practice that has the breath as main focus: yoga, meditation, internal martial art,…
    5. Limit toxics in food, water, air, but even more importantly in what we watch, read, and the company we keep. We become what we put in our minds. Simple.
    6. Write a gratitude journal: every morning before even standing up, write three things we are grateful for. Same at night. We are not entitled to anything, certainly not a partner. Practice radical gratitude for what we do have, it’s a lot.
    7. Discover or rediscover a passion: what makes you tick? What makes you curious? What makes you feel joyful? Do it!
    8. Invest in friendships with happy, healthy, and good-hearted women. Find and nurture friendships with supportive women who will listen to our venting but who will not tolerate chronic negativity. Spend an evening with a nice woman, go on a trip with another single lady, or a married woman whose husband could use some guy time alone at home.
    9. Serve your community. My personal unhappiness was directly correlated to how self-absorbed I was. Investing time just to serve others is a good practice. It gives perspective, a sense of accomplishment, opportunity to learn about less fortunate populations, and a chance for new friendships.
    10. Spend time in communities where the focus is in collectivity. Could be a spiritual organization or any group that has a higher purpose than personal gain.
    11. Never give up the basics of good sleep, adequate diet, breathing clean air, exercise. Keep a sustainable schedule and good work-life balance.
    12. Practice looking at life as a piece of art that we create little by little. There is no perfection to reach. There are many ways of making life fulfilling, and it can definitely start by a few years of singledom.
    This being said, it took me a few years to practice all of this and I’m still struggling with the basics (#11) especially exercising. I started with a few things and added as I progressed. I would start with #11, 5, 6, and 8. Then add #4, 7, and 9. Also I have to add the disclaimer that although I was unhappy for various reasons, I had not experienced trauma. I would suggest that people who have to overcome trauma would get professional guidance as well.
    Good luck to your sister and friends!

  7. 37

    @ Fusee # 30
    Wow!!!  Another ah-ha moment reading your stuff!! Another thing that we women can be unrealistic about is the concept that we can [have] or deserve it all.” So true and such a recipe for dissatisfaction and unhappiness.  “Feminist liberation gave us the power of choice not the entitlement of having everything.”  Great line, so true!
    Congratulations on your marriage and I am glad you will continue to post here.
    Fusee # 37
    Thank you for the list.  It was very interesting to read.  Looking at it I realized that I have been doing some of it already.
    1. I hit bottom with a resounding thud.
    2. I made a change by going back to school and started working out and eating right again
    3. Have no idea what an enneagram is, will have to look that up.
    4. Haven’t done a practice where the main focus is breath.
    5. I limit my toxins and have no toxic relationships.
    6. Love the gratitude journal idea will start that tomorrow morning.
    7. I love learning.  I didn’t know I would love my algebra class so much.
    8. Got this one!!  Love my friends, they are such an amazing group of women!
    9. We have a community dinner in my town once a week and I love to serve at that dinner.
    10. I have a spiritual group.
    11. I am eating right, exercising, doing better on sleep.
    12. Love this one.  Looking at life as a piece of art, and that there is no perfection to reach.  And I have had many years of “singledom”. 🙂

  8. 38
    Cinnamon Girl

    I would love to hear the over 40 year old men’s versions of what they are looking for in a second marriage.  I am by no means expecting fantasy.   I would be greatly pleased with comes home at a reasonable hour 3 days a week and really likes to get it on a couple times a week.  I cannot seem to find a balanced person to date.  The men are either so deeply into their careers that they literally have very little time to get to know a woman… so they hope for sex really early because they only have an hour or two a week for a woman period… or the unemployed with too much time on his hands.
    Any thoughts?  I thought I met someone a couple months ago but he is travelling for work constantly and when he is home he is so tired he falls asleep on my couch after working 15 hour days several days a week.
    I feel really sad I have to dump him… but what relationship?
    Is that really what is out there, he pretended to have time and balance in his life to get me interested and then went back to insane hours as soon as he thought I was going to be his.

  9. 39


    I am sorry your boyfriend misled you. I think that is the core of your post. It is what was “out there” with him, but not everyone.

    You have to carefully observe their character and assess it as early as you can.  You will still have to invest some time and energy into figuring this out.  At least he showed his colors and you figured him out now instead of two years from now after you were married!

    Trust that my ideal (but realistic) vision of a marriage partnership was significantly different from what your bf appears to want. Many good men could describe what they want, but that does not help you except to reassure it exists.  It is your job to identify the men who will give it to you, rather than lead you on with no intention of following through.

  10. 40
    Cinnamon Girl

    Thanks for your encouragement Allen.  I am interested to hear what men want in a 2nd marriage.  Older with kids is a wonderful thing, because we already have children.. is that there is no rush.. no ticking clock and we can really choose to be with each other because we want to be.  
    I was married many years to the wrong guy.  I know there are a lot of men out there who feel they were married to the wrong girl and many of them are probably wonderful guys.
    I am looking to have fun each day with someone.  I like to feel like I am being checked in on and to hear about someone’s day, even if we are apart.  I am very easygoing and looking for someone who is also easygoing.

  11. 41
    Karl R

    Cinnamon Girl said: (#39)
    “he pretended to have time and balance in his life to get me interested and then went back to insane hours as soon as he thought I was going to be his.”
    I don’t know about this particular man, but a lot of people (including me, including my wife, including some ex-girlfriends, including other miscellaneous friends) have jobs that we refer to as “feast or famine.” Work is either too busy or too slow. While there is a happy medium, it never stays there for long.
    Do you think he prefers travelling for work constantly? Do you think he prefers 15 hour work days? Do you think he prefers being so exhausted that he can’t stay awake when he’s with you?
    He’s doing what he thinks is necessary to keep (or succeed at) his job.
    He didn’t pretend to have time. He started dating because his workload had (temporarily) dropped to where he had time to date. Nobody starts dating when they’re working 15 hour days. It’s hard enough to find time to eat and bathe.
    I’m not going to claim that he’s a great catch. I wouldn’t want a relationship with someone who had no time for a relationship. But I’m not going to call it deceitful to have a schedule that’s reasonable one month and insane the next.
    Cinnamon Girl said: (#39)
    “The men are either so deeply into their careers that they literally have very little time to get to know a woman”
    I’ve had months like that. It’s not that I’m that wrapped up in my career. It’s not that I don’t want a balanced life. It’s the nature of my job, and it’s what’s necessary to keep my job. And since this is the best job I’ve had in my life (by a long shot), I’m not willing to ditch it lightly.

  12. 42

    @Karl R 42
    He’s doing what he thinks is necessary to keep (or succeed at) his job.

    He started dating because his workload had (temporarily) dropped to where he had time to date. Nobody starts dating when they’re working 15 hour days. It’s hard enough to find time to eat and bathe.

    Karl, you can’t possibly know what this man knew or did not know about his job and what he shared or didn’t share with Cinnamon about it.

    Equally speculative, I could say he is unhappy in the relationship and is hiding out from it at work because he does not know how to break it off.  That he is gone for 15 hours a day but doesn’t spend it all at work, or is spending a lot of time surfing web and not working. That his job is always very busy, but he blew off his responsibilities for a while to have time for dating, knowing it couldn’t last.

    I don’t know any of these are true, but they are about as likely as the completely speculative scenario you outline. Nor do we know what he said to Cinnamon about what his typical day looks like, but she did believe it was different than it was. It either never came up (unlikely) or he lied, or he let her speculate. Maybe he didn’t “lead her on” but maybe he did.

    All we know is CG is not getting what she wants out of that relationship.

    @Cinnamon 41
    What men want in a second marriage is as variable as the men themselves, but you seem to want to hear so this is what one man wants. I used to want more children, now I am not so sure.  I wanted someone to bookend my days with, to share and be supportive.  I wanted to cook together sometimes, cook for each other sometimes.  I wanedt to work on some projects together.  I wanted to just be in the same house doing my own thing sometimes and knowing she is near. I wanted someone to do activities with. I wanted hugs and touches for me when I wanted them them, and to give them sometimes when I don’t. 

    I wanted a simple word or short text from time to time after I share something that lets me know what is in my life is important to someone besides me. I am only one man.Your mileage may vary.

    Some men, like Pauline just posted on another thread (read the link below) don’t want marriage. They would rather be alone and date around a little bit. Your job is to know what you want, and talk to and observe the men you date to find out if they will give that to you.

  13. 43

    If he is working 15 hours a day je isn’t available for a relationship.

  14. 44
    Karl R

    AllenB said: (#43)
    “I don’t know any of these are true, but they are about as likely as the completely speculative scenario you outline.”
    Only the scenario with him blowing off work at the beginning of the relationship is about as likely as the scenario I spelled out. The other two don’t explain why he’s exhausted and falling asleep when they spend time together.
    AllenB said: (#43)
    “Maybe he didn’t ‘lead her on’ but maybe he did.”
    Are you familiar with Hanlon’s Razor? It states:
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
    In short, if you have to guess about someone’s motives, it’s highly likely that the motive was stupidity, ignorance, forgetfulness, obliviousness or some other related flaw.
    Cinnamon Girl assumed that her boyfriend deliberately tried to trick her. She automatically assumed that he acted out of “malice”. That kind of assumption is going to get her into trouble in every relationship.
    Rose (#44) is right. If he’s working 15 hours per day, he’s not available for a relationship. And you’re right that she’s not getting what she wants out of the relationship. Cinnamon Girl has adequate reason to leave, but she doesn’t have a reason to assume he ever tried to trick her.
    Every man (or woman) will eventually do something irritating or hurtful to their partner out of stupidity, ignorance, forgetfulness or obliviousness. If you’re going to have a successful relationship, you’re going to have to assume that the act was not deliberate, -AND- your partner has to assume the act was not deliberate when you do something that hurts/irritates them.

    Getting back to unrealistic ideas about marriage:
    Cinnamon Girl believes that the most likely explanation for her boyfriend’s annoying behavior is deliberate deception (an act of malice). That’s not realistic.
    The reality of a marriage is that I can count on doing several annoying things per week. Sometimes she’ll be irritating by accident, sometimes out of poor planning, sometimes because she can only see things from her own point of view. If I get angry and start believing those actions are deliberate, my relationship will go downhill immediately.
    Furthermore, if she’s not equally forgiving about the irritating things I do every week, our relationship will fall apart just as quickly.
    I have a very easygoing relationship with my wife. It’s the kind of easygoing relationship that Cinnamon Girl wants. And one crucial piece of that is that I always assume that my wife’s behavior towards me comes from good intentions (or at least neutral ones).

  15. 45


    Where do women like you exist?!!! lol Wow!!! I need to find out where I can find more of this!!! lol I feel like I’m reading a post by a female version of myself. If more women thought like you most men would not be married and the divorce rate would drop to 0. As you can see from your experience most men don’t really know what they want. They talk a good game and have all the outer trappings of maturity but in reality most aren’t developed internally and are chasing fantasies.

    Reading your comments it looks like you just want a man you respect and haven’t really found that yet. Don’t waste your time dating. Just enjoy your singleness and live your awesome life.
    This way a man whom you’ll respect will come along and you’ll marry.

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