There is no perfect time to get married or to have kids, but when men follow through with both, it changes their lives forever. And conversely, men who never marry or have families are launched on a vastly different life trajectory. Society tends to teach us that remaining single is the territory of best friends in romcoms and those with intimacy issues. But this is, of course, far from the truth.
In fact, new research shows that single and never-married men lead healthy fulfilling lives that are full of friends, sensitivity, and resilience — something that flies in the face of research that holds up marriage and family as the best and healthiest life destination for men. According to recent scientific studies, men who never get married may gain strength from solitude, and have more extensive social networks and a deeper connection to work — but they’re differently vulnerable to some of life’s travails too.
Single Men Are Rich in Friendship…
Single men are not necessarily isolated basement dwellers. In fact, they’re significantly more likely than married men to have several close friends. One in eight men reports having no friends at all (and a lot of these men are married with kids), despite the research that shows that friendships help people live longer lives, stave off cognitive decline, and increase general well-being. Guy friends are a precious public health commodity that single men have covered.
…But Poor in Money
What single men gain in friends, they lose in money, studies show. Men who stay unmarried make anywhere from 10 to 40 percent less than married men. There’s evidence that fathers make up to 21 percent more than men without children, though studies also suggest men with wives and kids work longer hours and put up with more workplace bullshit than single men. Now, this does not mean marriage and parenthood cause financial success (though anecdotally, that sure doesn’t sound right). Indeed, other research argues that men are simply more likely to get married and have kids when their income is already rising. Either way, your unmarried, childless bachelor friends are probably making less money than you are.
Single Men Commit More Crimes…
Marriage reduces the likelihood that men will commit crimes, studies suggest, and data indicates that becoming a father quells criminal impulses even further. In societies with a disproportionate number of single men who cannot marry or have children, either as a result of polygamy or uneven sex ratios, we tend to see higher crime rates, higher rates of extremism, and more time at war across the board.
…But Bachelors Are More Sensitive to Feelings of Judgement and Regret
When men cannot have their own biological children due to fertility problems, studies suggest they may experience a period of bereavement and regret. And when they can’t have children because they can’t find partners, they’re more likely to be judged by others, and more likely to lash out. The perception of being judged for the inability to marry and have kids has stoked the rise of a dangerous group of extremists who refer to themselves as involuntary celibates or “incels,” a number of whom have orchestrated mass shootings. Married dads are far less likely to feel disenfranchised, at least in this way.
Being Single Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Being Lonely…
The good news for bachelors is that scientists are starting to suspect they’ve underestimated the upsides of being alone. Despite warnings of a loneliness epidemic, single men without children report deeper connections to friends, parents, and other family members, as well as to their work. Single people have a heightened sense of self-determination and are more likely to continue growing as people, one study found. Bachelors also may demonstrate more emotional self-sufficiency, especially when it comes to dealing with negative emotions.
…But It Still Isn’t Entirely Clear What It Does Mean for the Individuals
“The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude,” Bella DePaulo, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the American Psychological Association. “It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life — one that recognizes the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful.”