Avoiding Commitment: The Subconscious (or Very Conscious) Motivations of a 25-Year-Old Male

The average age that guys are settling down is way up compared to even our parents generation. Resident dating expert Ethan Fixell details the 5 ways men sabotage their own relationships until they're finally ready for the long haul. Which are you guilty of?

One especially uneventful day at my boring day job a couple of years ago, I decided to make a list of the girls I had slept with thus far. Not a moment after chalking up Number Two, a female co-worker traipsed over to my desk, flashed a rock the size of a baby’s head, and excitedly declared her engagement. At the time, both of us were 25.

I offered her congratulations, but I have to admit, I laughed first. How could two identically aged adults possess such vastly different mindsets? I mean, here I am, literally tallying the number of booties I’ve plundered – a quantifiable evaluation of the success of any straight male – when in walks my female co-worker, thrilled to brag to the world that she has actually tamed one of these pirate-beasts for her own exclusive use.

When it comes to love and romance, men mature more slowly than women simply because they can afford to. All humans are programmed by nature to effect the reproduction of their own genetic material. But while men are able to recharge in minutes, allowing them to spread their seed like a John Deere planter, women have a fixed window during which they can give birth only once every nine months. Unlike men, women must prioritize protection over sheer replication, making them biologically predisposed to retain partners as long as possible.

Now, I don’t mean to reduce us all to semen-pumping brutes and needy repositories. But our sexual and romantic wants and needs do have deep roots that probably stem back as far as prehistoric times. I can see it now: Bork imploring Ug to enjoy a nice wooly mammoth leg at home with her and Ug Jr., while Ug’s got only one thing on his mind: hunting for cave-vagina.

Yet, while remnants of this social conflict between genders have survived for centuries, something has changed drastically within the last 30 years: the ages at which this tug-of-war is finally reconciled. Whereas our parents might have married by the age of 25 and had children by 30, the path to adulthood looks much different for the current generation of twenty-somethings. Over the last few decades, the timeline has lengthened dramatically: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated median ages at first marriage for men and women in 1980 were 24.7 and 22 years old, respectively. By 2010, these numbers had increased to 28.2 for men, and 26.1 for women, signifying that our generation is marrying an average of about 16% later in life than our parents did.

This trend could be due to a multitude of reasons, including a widening average life expectancy, greater opportunities for women to lead economically independent lives, or even an increased number of young adults pursuing professional fields. As any lawyer, doctor, or professor will attest, intensive graduate and training programs make it much more difficult to settle down before competitive schooling is complete and dues have been paid. Whereas most of our parents had locked down careers by the age of 23, many of us won’t settle into careers until our mid- to late-twenties.

Whatever the cause of this delay, only a handful of men today will be stable enough to match their female counterparts in maturity by the age of 25. And most of us dudes who think we’re ready for commitment or marriage (as I did shortly after the “co-worker engagement incident”) don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about. Thus, the majority of us fall into a peculiar holding pattern of dating, either consciously or subconsciously avoiding anything too serious until our very late twenties or early thirties.

And so, here are the five main ways you, the average 25-year-old male, will likely experience relationships until you settle down for good:

1. Chasing the Physically Unavailable

The most obvious way in which men self-sabotage relationships is to go after a girl who literally lives elsewhere, and cannot partake in a relationship due to geography. At one point or another, we’ve all convinced ourselves we had a future with the beautiful out-of-towner or the exotic foreign exchange student. But then you visit her in Miami, or Denmark, or a mud hut in Ghana, and you realize, “This has nothing to do with the life I want.” And it shouldn’t: the very fact that the relationship can’t get serious is what draws us to the physically unavailable girl in the first place. In fact, it’s not a relationship – it’s a vacation.

2. Chasing the Emotionally Unavailable

In what is easily the most brutal path to take, you attempt to court a girl who, due to scarring from previous relationships, childhood trauma, or a sheer lack of interest, can’t or won’t let you in. If she’s not in touch with her “issues” (read: in need of therapy), she won’t allow her walls down to trust you with her feelings, or with other women. And if, on the other hand, she’s “just not that into you,” she’ll simply avoid committing to an exclusive relationship, potentially dragging the hook-ups along for months before you realize things are going nowhere. Get too attached to either of these types, and you are in for a world of pain, gentlemen. A world of pain.

Ironically, men are most familiar with this pattern because we selfishly drag women through it all the time. But even some of the most experienced men I know have taken this train to Patheticville (myself included, if you couldn’t tell). All it takes is a crack in your confidence during an especially low point in your career or romantic streak, when a girl (often a bit younger and a lot hotter than you) suddenly shows a glimmer of interest in you as the flavor of the day.  Don’t be fooled by her fleeting flirtations: this woman will take…you…down.

3. Chasing the Mentally Unavailable

T-Pain immortalized this one in his timeless “I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)”.  Who hasn’t fallen for the girl whose breasts weigh more than the contents of her head? If you choose to follow this path, you’ll be dealing with someone who is either not intelligent enough to keep up with you intellectually, or mature enough to make the compromises necessary for a successful relationship. Hugh Hefner – I praise you for your ability to maintain a stable of Barbie-hot post-teens (and the ability to ejaculate in your eighties), but I don’t know how you do it. (And by “do it,” I mean “put up with those imbeciles,” not “do sex with them.” Although I obviously don’t know how you do that, either.)

This is not to say you won’t find yourself involved in a scenario that falls into more than one of these categories. Those of you masochists out there like me will even seek out the more complicated “overlappers.” And once in a rare while, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon that rare breed which encompasses all three. Mmmm, yeah…take a good whiff of that baggage: that’s some vintage 1987 Chateau Psychotic right there.

And yet, what if you’ve actually found an attractive, intelligent, sane woman who lives in your town and wants to make things work? Well, the truth is, if you’re like most males in their mid-twenties, you’ll find a way to fuck it up:

4. Not Chasing At All

You know the score: you meet a girl through a mutual friend who has passed every preliminary personality and background check a guy can conjure up. But by the end of your first date, she’s already giving you permission to fart in her presence, and you feel like you’ve been cheated out of a chase. If you’re in your thirties, looking to settle down and make babies ASAP, you may even value such straight-shooting. But for a 25-year-old guy, not having to work for a prize destroys its desirability. A girl who’s too into you from the get-go (i.e. “It’s so nice to have a boyfriend again!”) might as well be wearing your mother’s used panties over her face.

Even when the progression is a bit slower (i.e. normal), an overtly doting female could still be too much for some dudes to handle. These relationships might make it past a few months, but will fizzle out quickly once one or both partners begin to fixate on deal-breaking incompatibilities.

5. Avoiding the Inevitable

Sometimes a relationship will venture into longer-term territory, languishing for many months or years before meeting its inevitable doom. In this case, the male pushes off marriage with a loved and loving partner, only to eventually cite differences in life goals, religion, or family values as the basis for a harrowing, dramatic breakup. Why go through this horrific process when we know about these issues within the first few months of dating? Because we’re undermining the potential for marriage – that’s why.

Of course, there are also plenty of women who partake in some or all of these practices. But when it comes to pregnancy – one of the main biological goals of heterosexual relationships – women simply have more at stake genetically than men. Which brings us to my original point: While all twenty-somethings are delaying marriage longer than ever before, it takes men even longer to get to that “marriable” place.

If you are, in fact, one of the lucky few who has truly found his soulmate, but might not be able to tie the knot just yet because of financial, educational, or even physical obstacles – stand tall.  Hold your ground and don’t succumb to pressure from anyone else.  It’s alright to wait.

And if you’re still playing the field? Relax! There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Ultimately, everything settles in time, so don’t try to force anything. It’s more than okay to be in unsuccessful relationships – it’s actually healthy. Such failures teach you invaluable things about yourself, which will make for a stronger relationship when you really are ready to find love.  So go ahead and embrace the most fleeting of romances. Spend a steamy evening with your Grandmother’s hot best friend. Date the single mother of three who lives in Madagascar. Court that underaged go-go dancer with a drinking problem. Your future wife will thank you.

Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic "dating coach" duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of ActualConversation.com, a daily blog featuring humorous personal exchanges.


  • Reply January 31, 2011


    Primer ALWAYS seems to amaze me. It’s such a better source for info than Men’s Health, AskMen, whatever else. Guys here write on issues we care about and ones that haven’t been done to death a million times. Keep writing guys, this is great stuff.

  • Reply January 31, 2011

    Brad Alexander

    I agree with John. The canny thing is that when someone puts into words some confusing thoughts that are floating around in your head it suddenly all falls into place. This is what you’ve done here, I’ve done 4 out of 5 of those things but never thought about it in those terms until I read it. Cheers.

  • Reply February 1, 2011


    John and Brad, Thank you so, so much for the kind words. I’m really glad you regard Primer so highly. Primer has some very talented contributors who share their thoughts for nothing more than a desire for helping other guys with problems they’ve wrestled with themselves.

    Hearing from the readers that they appreciate it is what it’s all about.

    Thanks again, all my best,
    Editor & Founder

  • Reply February 2, 2011

    Ethan Mark

    I really admire your efforts you put for this post….great job man..…

  • Reply February 2, 2011


    This is really good stuff! Keep on doing it. I know a lot of these things and can attest that this article ist dopely – cocerning content and structure.

  • Reply February 2, 2011


    Ethan and Kobeeeee, I’m glad you like it, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂

  • Reply March 23, 2011


    great article! read it and laughed to myself through out. Although I’m 29 and still in the dating scene, it was relevant! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply April 6, 2012


    I hate everything and I love this website.

  • Reply June 10, 2012


    “Mmmm, yeah…take a good whiff of that baggage: that’s some vintage 1987 Chateau Psychotic right there.”

    It’s writing like this that makes Primer so thoroughly enjoyable.

  • Reply September 11, 2012


    What a reality check this was. A little painful too, I’ve been trying to understand the elusive relationship with my 25 year old and I. The first point hit the nail on the head for me.

  • Reply February 21, 2013


    A mud hut in Ghana??? Credibility literally tanked…what a stupid thing to write

  • Reply June 28, 2014


    The article is very well written. However, I’m repulsed by your use of the analogy, ” visiting the girl living in a mud hut in Ghana”. What a stereotype of how foreigners imagine African countries to look like. A little traveling to the African continent will really surprise you.

  • Reply January 14, 2015


    “potentially dragging the hook-ups along for months” IF ONLY! That’s every man’s dream. Commitment-free hookups with a younger, hotter chick (or chicks).

    • Reply November 3, 2016


      *teenage boy’s dream

  • Reply July 26, 2015

    aasd da

    You say the pitfalls are both chasing the unavailable women AND also not chasing them at all. So if a woman gives in too easily, she isn’t desirable. If she “plays” your game, and does not give in, she also does not satisfy you because she is “unavailable.” I think your article is a bunch of horseshit.

  • Reply May 19, 2017

    Brendan Johnson

    What a phenomenal read!! I Am 25 And You Nailed it. This is literally my life right now . Glad to see that I am not alone

  • Reply August 6, 2017


    “mud hut in Ghana” f$%king stupid stereotype

  • Reply October 10, 2017

    Mr. Moonlight

    “It’s more than okay to be in unsuccessful relationships – it’s actually healthy. Such failures teach you invaluable things about yourself, which will make for a stronger relationship when you really are ready to find love.”

    As someone who has been a victim of psychopathic/narcissistic abuse, the quote above made me break out in a cold sweat. Unsuccessful relationships are damaging. That damage WILL NOT make you healthy. You have to make the conscious choice to heal from the damage. If not, you will continue to find yourself in abusive/damaging/unsuccessful relationships.

    Truth is, if you’re continually in unsuccessful and damaging relationships it’s probably due to some sort of childhood wounding. It was for me. I have several Narcissistic Sociopaths in my family. Being raised by/around people like this will MESS YOU UP. You’ll naturally gravitate towards crazy ass people because that’s “normal” to you. What made me healthy was facing my wounds and healing through therapy as well as a spiritual relationship with God. The damage didn’t teach me about myself. Actually, it obscured who I really am. It gave me a false view of myself and I kept approaching relationships through that wounded filter. Now, that it’s gone and love is pouring into my life.

    TL;DR: Make a conscious choice to heal from unsuccessful relationships (preferably through therapy). That will teach you about yourself, how to heal, and what a healthy relationship is supposed to be like.

    • Reply October 11, 2017


      Unsuccessful relationships – not unhealthy ones.

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