You are not crazy.

Your ex might have screamed that phrase along with a barrage of insults your way when he felt exasperated during one of your many arguments, or your friends may have hinted at the possibility; maybe even your kids have said it, but you are not. I am not.

We are all the product of accelerating change in our society. The acceleration of change is usually referred to when speaking of technology. However, the accelerating changes have affected every aspect of our lives. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, “The civil rights movement, legislation promoting equal opportunity in employment, and the women’s rights movement created an atmosphere that was hospitable to more women working outside the home.

The dramatic increase in the labor force participation rates of women during the period was accompanied by many other social, economic, and demographic changes in the status of women:

  • Women remained single more often.
  • Of those who married, many did so later in life, and the median age at first marriage increased substantially.
  • Women elected to stay in school longer, achieving higher educational attainment than in the past and pursuing better-paying careers.
  • Women postponed childbirth to older ages and had fewer children than in previous decades. As a result of improved child care, women tended to enter the labor force even before their children started school, and they were able to maintain a longer job tenure than in previous periods.
  • Women got divorced more often; this in itself increased their labor force participation rate.”(Toossi, 2002)

As more women elected to work outside of the home, other societal changes were taking place as well. “Norms surrounding behaviors relating to sexual behavior and reproduction have been shifting in the U.S. in recent years.” (Newport, 2015) If the changes in the workplace and societal norms have been changing at an accelerating pace, then it stands to reason that these changes have produced several unintended consequences; more women are single today. “Looking to more recent history, there has been a steady decline in marriage rates (and consequently, divorce rates) since the 1980s, with no sign of slowing down. In fact, when taking population into account, marriage rates in the U.S. are now at the lowest they’ve ever been in recorded U.S. history — even lower than during The Great Depression!” (Olson, 2015)

It is safe to say that more educated professional women are working today than there were 50 years ago. As we have become more educated in academics and have excelled in our chosen professions, our focus remains the same. “From the time children grasp the idea of coupling, they are told about marriage, and the idea they will one day marry is imbued in them. Little girls especially are saturated with the idea of marriage, whether it is by parents and caregivers or by the messages they get in the media.”(William Berry, 2012)

Girls are saturated with ideas of marriage, while boys are being saturated with ideas of promiscuity. Many of us are aware of that fact but have not given up on the idea of marriage and happily ever after. There would not be reality television shows, magazines, and books cashing in our need to be married if that were not true.

When super achievers mix and mingle, we speak of accomplishment and financial gain as the true measures of happiness and success. The pink elephant in the conversation among women is always relationships and dating. The austere demeanor we have been honing for years working in the corporate arena cannot hide the truth. The energy we spend building ourselves to be better at business has not translated into success in marriage. “Romance hasn’t been entirely sidelined, but we don’t waste our time trying to cultivate a relationship unless someone is really amazing.” (Faw, 2012) Other strong women often view strong women as weak if they emphasize their need for a relationship or marriage. Our work should be our purpose. Our children should be our reason for living and breathing. But while we are taking care of everyone else, who is taking care of us? Many professional women are afraid to admit that they want to be married. The desire to get married is still there, but something keeps getting lost in translation. “In 2016, almost one-third of all adults (32 percent) have never been married, up from about one quarter (23 percent) in 1950.” (Bureau, 2016)

There is also a segment of women who were raised in single-parent homes. I am a part of that demographic. Many of my friends are too. “Between 1960 and 2016, the percentage of children living in families with two parents decreased from 88% to 69%…

During the 1960-2016 period, the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8 to 23 percent.” (Bureau, 2016) Our single super moms set a great professional example. They trained us how to take care of ourselves and our families while we go out here in the world and earn a living. They taught us what we needed to know to get ahead in business as a woman in a male dominated work force. We followed their example of what a mother should be and do. Were we ever taught how to date and marry? Can a single mother cover all of the bases when raising her children alone? If there is no village to stand in the gap between the single mom’s views on marriage and the reality, then what useful information do most of us gain who were raised without our fathers in the home?

My well-meaning mother would drill into my head continually: “You don’t need a man for anything. You can do it yourself!” It is safe to say that my mother’s views on marriage were less than favorable. I know she thought she was doing her best by teaching me that I do not need a man. A loving mother attempted to keep me from the same heartbreak and disappointment she experienced with my father. Initially, it was an empowering thought that eventually conflicted with what most men are taught and believe. Most men are taught to seek a woman who needs them. I am sure you have heard a version of this from men you have dated: “You have your degree(s), you have your own place, and you pay your own bills. What do you need me for?” UGHHHHH!!!

Then there is that ever-widening gender gap. Women and men are still raised with opposing viewpoints. Women are raised to be nurturers, while men are still being raised to be conquerors. Most girls are given baby dolls to ‘nurture,’ tea sets to entertain our guests, and toy ovens to feed our families. Most boys are given toolsets to build cities, toy soldiers to conquer civilizations, and video games to strategize world domination.

The socialization of boys and girls stands to reason how any of us can have a productive and meaningful interaction with one another. The seeds are sown for women to be more domestically-centered when men seem to be more accomplishment-centered. It is as if our society prepares women and men to be adversaries instead of collaborators. “Walzer found that women do more of the intellectual, mental, and emotional work of childcare and household maintenance. They do more of the learning and information processing (like researching pediatricians).” (Wade, 2016)

The disparity between what men and women are taught about marriage could fill the Mariana trench. Double standards still exist. Women are expected to be corporate CEOs and domestic CEOs simultaneously. We are so hard on ourselves and even less forgiving toward each other. We have definitely forgotten that our Middle Eastern sisters are not the only women living in a patriarchal society. We feel sorry for their plight without realizing our own. “A key point here is that patriarchy is generally not an explicit ongoing effort by men to dominate women.  It is a long-standing system that we are born into and participate in, mostly unconsciously.” (Zale, 2011) Men are not the enemy. Like us, they are not conscious of their socialization. However, they accept all of the benefits and privileges of being a member of the ruling sex.

In response, the feminist movement began taking stride. The feminist movement in America dates back to the mid 19th century. Women wanted the right to vote for the politicians representing them since their husbands’ and fathers’ political views were the only viewpoints considered in any family dynamic. More than 100 years later, feminism reached a fevered pitch. “In 1963, Betty Friedan published a book called THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE that identified “the problem that has no name.” Amid all the demands to prepare breakfast, to drive their children to activities, and to entertain guests, Friedan had the courage to ask: “Is this all there is?” “Is this really all a woman is capable of doing?” In short, the problem was that many women did not like the traditional role society prescribed for them. Friedan’s book struck a nerve. Within three years of her book’s publication, a new feminist movement was born, the likes of which had been absent since the suffrage movement. In 1966, Friedan and others formed an activist group called the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN. NOW was dedicated to the “full participation of women in mainstream American society.” (ushistory.org, 2017). “The feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s originally focused on dismantling workplace inequality, such as a denial of access to better jobs and salary inequity, via anti-discrimination laws.” (Tavaana.org) The majority of feminists’ sincere desire was equity, not necessarily equality. These feminists had no intention of competing with men, replacing men, or becoming men. They just wanted to be heard and understood, which was difficult in a society that traditionally taught women to be agreeable and subservient.

Maybe we are going crazy. We have more than the feminists fought for and could imagine. We lead nations, build businesses and run corporations. Women earn more money and have more political and social freedoms than at any time in our nation’s history. Societal norms are changing faster than the knowledge is being disseminated. Technology has contributed to changes in the dating landscape. Theoretically, the internet makes it possible for women and men to date globally in real-time.

Women do not have to marry the boy next door, their high schools’ athletic superstar, or their parents’ choice. Now that women have more opportunities to meet eligible men, why are the super-achiever women claiming the opposite? More opportunities do not translate into more successes. Women feel that we have more to offer a husband in terms of financial contribution to the family finances. We thought this would be a positive attribute to attract prospective husbands. Wives would share the financial responsibility that husbands have had to shoulder alone throughout history. We did not consider the changes in our collective psyches once the paradigm shifted in favor of women’s equality. Although these changes have been the catalyst for women’s great accomplishments, it tends to alienate us from our male counterparts.

So, you are not going crazy. The contradictions are making us crazy if we let them. I hate to admit it, but most super achieving women have allowed these contradictions to shape our views on marriage. Historically, our views on marriage were based on biblical or familial tradition. As with anything, biblical teaching was perverted by many pastors and leaders who seemed to have a hidden patriarchal agenda. Family traditions went by the wayside when women defied convention by entering the workforce. Whether we liked it or not, our married parents and grandparents thought they knew what qualities would characterize a good husband. That is why a prospective suitor had to meet your parents and, more importantly, your father. This man would have to demonstrate to your family that he had the wherewithal to provide a lifestyle comparable to the one he would be removing you from by marrying you and taking you away from your parental home. As stated earlier, an unintended consequence of the feminist movement is that many women are raised without their fathers in the home. If your single mom is busy bringing home the bacon, raising children, and pursuing some semblance of social life, does she have anything left to devote to vetting all of your dates? Super achieving women began to develop their own vetting processes. Many of these processes are based on popular cultural views on marriage. Some of us follow the guidance of jaded and cynical women who have not dealt with their daddy issues. More importantly, there are those of us who rely primarily on how we feel about him. As Dr. Phil so eloquently asks: “How’s that working for you?”

Occasionally super achieving women will seek wisdom from men they trust. These men offer a glimpse into the male psyche. This glimpse is sometimes hard to relate to or accept. When you have been blessed to know wise men in your life that are willing to listen to you and offer advice, it is a good idea to listen. Did I also fail to mention that super achieving women are sometimes difficult and hard-headed? Whether we agree with the information he is sharing; he is giving us invaluable insight. I think Dave Chappelle said it best in one of his stand-up specials. He said how women give most advice on men and dating, and they do not know what they are talking about. He alluded to the magazine articles about the many ways to please your man. But he said that there are only three. Most intelligent women’s heads explode at that point because it could not be that simple. Maybe these men are trying to confuse and control us. Why would a man want to make it easier to get along with a woman? This idea is ludicrous or maybe ingenious. When we run these ideas by most of our girlfriends, they usually reject male-based notions about relationships and dating.

My super achieving sister, we may be the very sexists our feminist sisters were protesting. Most women believe that we have the emotional advantage in relationships, making us more qualified to determine what a healthy relationship is. God save the man who disagrees and conforms. Yes, we have been conditioned that we are the ultimate prize to be won by a man, and once that prize was won, he would spend the rest of his life proving his worth. Fewer and fewer men share that sentiment.

We can speculate why this may be the case, but that does not get us the happily ever after. Men are not looking for the same things we are looking for in a mate, and they definitely do not think like women.

Men’s views on sex and relationships seem to be dominating the landscape. The proliferation of pornography and changing values have made it more possible for men to have sex outside of marriage. Women want to believe that a man’s proposal for marriage was a profound life-changing moment when in candor, they admitted a desire for sex regularly as one of their motivations. In the 21st century, most men can access sex across multiple platforms without much effort, and marriage seems to restrict that access in their minds. Why have one woman when they can have many? This ideology does not contribute to a super achieving woman’s sense of security, so she moves on. Serial dating is born.

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Posted by Gloria C. Joyner, M.B.A.

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