What the Rise of Lonely, Single Men Means for Women
Recently, Psychology Today published an article called The Rise of Lonely Single Men and the internet — predictably — lost its mind. There has been sufficient commentary on the merits of the article and the others it has spawned in recent weeks; I'd like to talk about the implications for women here. There will be some, I'm sure, who will read what I'm about to say as victim blaming or putting even more emotional labor on women than current society already has.
It's Not just a Man's Problem
My point is that, while I agree with (and have experienced firsthand in every romantic relationship I have ever had in my life), the rising trend of lonely, single men is more due to a skills gap. Men lack essential relationship skills that women do not. If men do not step up and learn communication skills, increase their emotional intelligence and deepen their capacities for interdependence, more and more of them will find themselves going through their lives single. This is actually a problem for everyone, not just men.
Women are Not off the Hook
One of the trends leading to the rise of lonely, single men is the rise of dating apps. This has caused a real and perceived increase in options for partners, and it has arguably benefitted women more than it has benefitted men (though the iris app hopes to change that by starting with mutual attraction and the way it filters the profiles you see). Heterosexual women have felt like mothers, teachers, and free therapists to their partners for long enough. With the proliferation of dating apps and despite the woes that come with them, women have felt freer than ever to leave a relationship in which she does not see a man pulling his own emotional and relational weight. Of course, it is not a woman's job to raise a man, and no one should stay in a relationship where they are doing the work of both people (that's not really a relationship anyway). But, even if women don't necessarily have a moral responsibility to help men in this area, it behooves them to do so.
Lonely Men can be Dangerous
Though this is potentially extremely offensive to say, it needs to be discussed. And it is not just my opinion. Many people are warning about this problem: if you pair the widespread epidemic of loneliness in men with easy access to lethal weapons, you've got something that hardly ever comes up in the firestorm of discussion after mass shootings. It's not that women can't be lonely. Still, it's clear that women react to loneliness differently than men — that is, by either collapsing inward and withdrawing or using the emotional and social skills they have been taught, society expects them to make more connections. Are there exceptions? Of course. There always are.
What Can Women Do?
But, if women want to be safe — especially if they're dating — I invite us to consider how we can authentically contribute to closing the skills gap between us and the increasing number of lonely men out there. When wanting to use a dating app that is safe, look no further than iris, which uses a trust rating to protect people from catfishes and more. Something to consider is that women should not have to be free therapists or hand-hold a man throughout an entire relationship. But, since women generally seem to have relational and emotional skills that men do not, what's the harm in considering how we can use them in ways that do not overburden us and benefit the men in our lives? If you're a woman dating men and you notice a skills gap in relationship after relationship, it might help you and the man to ask yourself: is this man willing to learn what he needs to learn to close the gap? If so, consider how you might support those efforts, and it could be as "small" as championing him in finding help outside of you to grow and mature. Just a thought.