TV writer and author, Tracy McMillian, has kicked up a mini-firestorm with her Huffington Post piece entitled, “Why You’re Not Married”. Tracy has a book to sell, “I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway” and so we might understand her bombastic approach to the subject of women who can’t find a husband. She definitely aims to agitate with her list of reasons for said singlehood – “You’re Shallow”, “You’re a Bitch”, “You’re a Liar”, for example. But I’m curious if we strip away the inflammatory language do we get to some real truth from Tracy McMillan?
She states from the outset that as a person who has been married 3 times, she certainly knows how to get married. She’s not, however, great at staying married, or perhaps choosing partners. That’s got to be a pretty drastic blow to her credibility as a woman who’s giving advice on marriage. BUT STILL…a broken clock is right twice a day. Let’s look at her advice with the silly stuff stripped away.
1. You’re too angry about some part of your life, and female anger is scary to men. – Some Validity
As a single man in my 30’s I did meet many, many, many angry women. The cause varied, of course, but a great deal of it seemed to stem from the fact that in a prior relationship some guy had used up too much of their time without a marriage proposal. This anger simmered beneath the surface and the smallest little pin prick brought a volcano-like eruption. It this scary to a man? You bet. Who wants a life partner with anger issues? This would be a great question for every single woman to ask themselves – do I exude an air of anger?
If you can honestly say, “I’m not angry!” Congratulations. This point isn’t about you.
2. You don’t have Character as your top priority in a husband, or you’d be married by now. There are many, many men of character walking around. You’re more interested in money, or height, or some other combo of traits with Character mixed in – Very little Validity
I’m not exactly sure that there are many men of strong character strolling the streets, but I do know that there are many plain, kind, hardworking, GOOD men who can’t get a date. This seems to be because women are hoping to get all the traits they want rather than settling for this one rock-solid trait. Honestly, it’s hard to blame a woman for trying to maximize her search. That’s human nature. If she can find a man who’s tall, rich, kind, and has a sterling character that’s pretty enticing.
The problem is that the perfect can be the enemy of the good. I have a buddy who won’t commit to a woman who loves him because he’s certain that someday soon he’s going to land a starring role on a TV show, and THEN he will be able to have wild adventures with various supermodels. He is a successful actor and this COULD happen for him, but is it wise to hold out for some fantasy?
In the end I think it would be crazy to marry a man with one trait you valued, even if it is as important as character. It takes more than that to have a successful long-term relationship.
3. You’re having too much sex outside of committed relationships and it’s hurting your decision-making ability. – Lots of Validity
This is, in my opinion, clearly true. eHarmony used to get lots of guff for trying to recommend that new couples put the brakes on sexual activity. The goal here wasn’t to provide moralistic counseling. Rather for many, many people sex is a bonding agent. When you’re assessing a new partner you want to make the best possible decision, and sex can make it hard to think straight. Tracy’s point is that if you’re looking for a serious relationship you need to choose men who are into that and sex can make it hard to discern.
If you can honestly say, “Sex has no bearing on whether I fall for a man or not.” Congratulations. This point isn’t about you.
4. You don’t tell men that you want to be married, because you’re scared you’ll scare them off, so you get in too deep with men who don’t want commitment. – Valid, but Hard to Manage
I feel for women. If they tell a man on the first date, “I’m ready for marriage,” he’ll feels pressured and thinks, “Hold on lady, I don’t even know if I want finish dinner with you.” If she says nothing and just goes along for a few weeks or months she risks falling in love with a man who wants to be a committed bachelor. I think most women have tried each approach and taken their hits. Clearly, Tracy’s scenario happens quite often. There’s no magic bullet. Just work up an artful way to share where you are on your journey and don’t do it on the first date.
5. You’re too self-involved to have a wife mentality. – Very little Validity
It is pretty easy for a single person to be mostly concerned with themselves, since there’s no one else around. Who’s to say that after the wedding day they won’t give with love and passion to a husband and then a child. I don’t really see how this would prevent a man from wanting to marry you unless your selfish ways are flaunted. He may later REGRET that he married you, because you’re completely self-obsessed. So, it’s worth a conversation with yourself to try and consider if you’re willing to focus less on your wants and needs and more on your partner’s. If not, it’s time to put the idea of marriage aside for awhile.
Don’t get me wrong. Selfish people are not attractive. If you’re a woman who only cares about yourself and your issues, then you’ll have a hard time finding a man (or friends for that matter). However, you just can’t assume that a woman who spends lots of time doing yoga, studying fashion, and tending to her career won’t make reasonable adjustments when she enters a new stage of life.
6. Your self-esteem is too low, and you don’t understand that marriage is more about giving than getting. – Lots of Validity
Here, Tracy connects nail and hammer. The idea that a woman wants a man who is a) brilliant b) successful c) very good looking, and on and on…seems born out of some idea that being able to attract such a man validates a woman. I’ve talked about how a co-worker told me with a huge smile that her new guy was a “Disney Animator!” I said, “You know a man would never get that excited about his girlfriend’s job.”
Whatever you are is perfectly fine in your mate. You don’t need to marry up.
I do firmly agree that many people have a fundamental misunderstanding of what marriage is – men and women. It won’t make you happy, if you’re not already. It’s really just an opportunity to give and love in an ever increasing series of changing conditions. It’s the old 80/20 rule. Give and serve 80% of the time and expect to get it back 20% of the time. If both partners are doing this, it’s relationship gold. Of course, we’re a society of “what am I going to get out of this situation” and that runs counter to the mindset that makes for a happy marriage.
A final comment…
The reaction to Tracy’s post has been huge. Many women are incensed that they are asked to change, even a tiny bit, in order to find a great man to marry. This is an unfortunate attitude, in my opinion. If you want something you don’t have, it only makes sense that you might need to change something about your life to get it – why is that so distasteful?