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.

1980 to 2010 diagram explaining our generation is marrying later

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

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.