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A DECENT PROPOSAL; Analysis IIT USED to be the woman who wanted a diamond on her wedding finger, a frothy meringue wedding dress and a 12-tiered cake covered in sugared roses. But now men are now more likely than women to want to marry and settle down.

Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

MALE role models including David Beckham and Westlife star Bryan McFadden are leading the way in a role reversal which psychology experts have defined as the "altar ego".

According to recent research, the stereotyped perception that women are keener than men to settle down and have a family is no more.

A survey revealed 44 per cent of men want to settle down between the ages of 20 to 26, compared with just 37 per cent of women. And the culture change has been put down to two discoveries.

First, it seems that male body clocks are currently ticking more strongly than women's.

Second, the growth of television programmes portraying strong, independent women has made it a social "norm" for marriage to be placed on the back burner.

But one Cardiff bachelor has to disagree.

In the last five years, Rob Murphy a 29-yearold business development manager from Cardiff, has been single for just nine months.

He has just come out of a relationship and definitely doesn't "want to settle down just yet".

He says:

"My own, oldfashioned view of a relationship is that marriage is the ultimate commitment. I think it's good to live together before hand as you then know what you are getting.

"Those programmes with strong, independent women are riddled with pretence - these 'thirtysomethings' going through really 'important' traumas are portraying males as simpering, indecisive morons." He adds: "I don't think there has been a culture change at all. It's all media hype making out that blokes are now simpering fools. I will eventually be interested in having kids, definitely. At the moment, however, I can barely look after myself." Before declaring love is dead - for all you die-hard romantics - men of the settling down type are still to be found in Cardiff.

Ian Haines married childhood sweetheart Sue in a church ceremony in Ystrad Mynach on Saturday.

The big day was exactly a year after Ian proposed during a romantic sunshine break in Tenerife.

Ian, a policeman from Cardiff, and 29-year-old Sue, who works in personnel, had been dating for seven months when he popped the question. They first were an item 10 years ago but split up and went their separate ways.

"You know it's right when you meet the right person, " Ian explains.

"Before now, I knew I wasn't ready to settle down as I hadn't met the right person. I always knew Sue was the one - we've known each other for 10 years - she was my childhood sweetheart." Ian, unlike Rob, thinks settling down is a far more attractive option than playing the field.

"I've done it and you don't feel content - it's a short term buzz. Marriage on the other hand makes you feel content, it's all about commitment and feeling secure." At the ripe old age of 29, Ian feels he has experienced life, yet is young enough to enjoy "doing stupid teenage stuff" with Sue.

Whether "twentysomething" men are settling down or still sowing their oats, according to experts, their biological clock is still ticking away.

Psychologist Belinda Board believes recent studies into the decline of male sperm counts as they pass the 25year-old mark has become a cause for concern.

She says: "If men are getting more in tune, either consciously or otherwise, with their time clock, part of the male thinking is that their fertility declines slowly after 25.

"If this is true that men have a strong biological need to reproduce, you could theorise that they have an added awareness of wanting to marry and wanting to settle down. It is perhaps not seen to be 'uncool' to crop your oats.

"There were many more men in the survey that were interested in settling down than I would have expected 20 years ago and I think that's also a reflection of what's going on socially for women who are seeing themselves more independently." Ms Board, commissioned by Archers Schnapps as part of a wider year-long research project into the social behaviour of 18-34-year-olds in the UK, said the hit TV show Sex And The City was tearing down previously-held social preconceptions.

The Manhattan-based sitcom chronicling the activities and sex lives of four single women has reinforced a growing trend among women to be less reliant on finding a permanent partner.

Ms Board said: "If a woman is financially independent and if she has a career and a network of friends that satisfy her needs for affirmation and affection, perhaps she is listening to her biological clock but she is not ruled by it."

The survey found that women are far happier to be single while they play the dating game searching for their Mr Right.

Over a quarter of those surveyed expected to spend at least 10 years of their 20s and 30s in singledom.

The findings also showed that women are "wearing the trousers" in modern relationships with one in three claiming to finish deadend relationships compared with one in five men.

CAPTION(S):

NEW MAN Ian Haines, who got married on Saturday.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 21, 2002
Words:842
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