The male unicorn. Why guys over 35 aren’t interested in settling down.
There is a concept in modern sexual culture about unicorns. The term is used to describe an attractive single woman (who isn’t crazy and likely to boil your bunny), and who would be delighted to join a couple for a threesome with no strings attached. That combination, while not being impossible is extremely difficult to find. Hence the term unicorn as they are almost a mythical creature.
Lately there appears to be another class of individuals that women are lamenting don’t exist. The title of “unicorns” can also be given to men who are between the ages of 35 and 60, who are smart, professional, heterosexual, sexually potent, successful, attractive, and confident and who are looking for a long term, monogamous relationship. These are the “happily ever-after guys”. In the dating pool these men are becoming increasingly rarer. It’s not that men are being body snatched, turning gay, or dying off in droves. It’s just that social expectations are changing and changing quickly. I’ve been talking about the culture of sexuality in North America for over 20 years. And I am always surprised at how quickly the sexual norms can change. In 20 years we went from monogamy being the only option to it being one of many options men are considering for the second half of their lives.
Canadian men are becoming increasingly gun-shy of being locked into an exclusive commitment. Single men over 35 who are available in the dating pool are often recently out of divorces. And like most divorces, these guys were beat up through the process. Breakups are emotionally draining and often very expensive. I’m seeing these men as clients of my sex therapy practice. The marriages these men are coming out of were sexually unsatisfying (or sexless), and these guys felt trapped by expectations, kids, and social conventions. And once the upheaval and heartache of a marriage breakdown is over the last thing these guys are interested in is getting back into an exclusive relationship. Many men felt that they couldn’t grow within the confines of the relationship they just left. And for many men that includes growing sexually. They are still interested in women and certainly still interested in sex but they aren’t interested in trying the storybook ending anytime soon. These men want to play, date, kick some tires and look at models beyond monogamy. They have played by the rules and found themselves unfulfilled.
I don’t think it makes them players (unless they aren’t being transparent about their intentions to date a number of women), but they realize that going back to sex with only one woman isn’t very appealing. The men I’m meeting are stand up guys. They take care of their kids, will buy you dinner and will treat you well. They want intimacy but find themselves very guarded about women who want to pin them down.
I’ve long believed in the idea that “men don’t fall in love with a partner; they fall in love with how that partner makes them feel.” And for men to feel relaxed enough to fall in love they have to know that their new partner isn’t trying to shuffle them towards the alter. They are looking for kind women who look good and who like sex. Creative, “hang from the chandelier sex” so much the better.
What’s also happening at the same time men are becoming more skittish is that the whole issue of monogamy has come under scrutiny. With an over 53% divorce rate, monogamy’s track record has been less than stellar. And more and more people are talking about swinging, polyamory, or some kind of friend with benefits arrangement while maintaining a primary relationship. It’s been much more common in Europe with an acceptance of transparent mistresses, but “outside the box” relationships are starting to become more commonplace in North America. All this doesn’t mean that marriage and long-term relationships are dead. It just means that the dating rules are changing again. Up until the last few years I would have encouraged people to try some of the conventional dating sites like Match and Plenty of Fish. Now I see online dating as more fraught with hucksters and more insincere people than it has ever been. Prudent daters can still find great people online but more caution and work is required. Groups like meetups, dating coaching, matchmakers, and community clubs are taking up some of the slack. Meeting face to face seems to be on the upswing. Everyone is still looking for love, but it may not be the exclusive love of your parent’s generation.
Neil Strauss in his new book The Truth has this to say about modern relationships.
“We expect love to last forever. Yet as many as 50 percent of marriages and even more remarriages end in divorce. Among those who are married, only 38 percent actually describe themselves as happy in that state. Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse. Thanks to technology, we now have more dating and hook –up options than at any other time in human history, with countless desperate men and women just a click or swipe away, making fidelity-or even committing in the first place-yet more of a challenge. In a recent Pew research survey, four out of ten people believed that marriage was an obsolete institution.”
So what’s a conventional single girl to do? How do you date in the modern world without getting your heart broken?
I think it starts with letting go of the fantasy of how things should be, and start looking at what you really want. Modern women have their own jobs, houses and cars. What they want is positive male attention and companionship. Women in the dating world need to be better educated about what life could be not what Walt Disney has fed them over the last few decades. That means embracing independence, but still wanting to need and be needed. It means reading books like The Ethical Slut, Why Men Love Bitches, and Mating in Captivity to see if anything resonates. And more than that it means being able to roll with the fact that modern love may open up new possibilities for love and intimacy. If the men can play the field, then so can women. And while I believe that few women have the makeup to be Samantha from Sex in the City, most have a little Carrie in them. In the end, I recommend you shouldn’t have so many lovers you can’t keep track of them, but you can be a modern girl about town and entertain a few men of quality. So go out and find your Mr. Big. And be open to men who are more than a little gun shy. And remember, unicorns need a delicate touch.