Their parents typically married for economic and emotional security. But many of today's singles say they, too, are concerned about their economic and emotional well-being--and that's what has kept them single.
Consider, for instance, Maria Talamini, a 35-year-old manager of training and development for a local food manufacturer. Like many women today, Talamini has opted to postpone marriage until reaching a fairly high level of career and financial security.
She owns her own home. She has an MBA, and works at a fast-track job she finds satisfying and that affords her opportunities to travel. Only recently has she decided it might be time to consider adding a husband and children to the picture.
"I want to have a sense of independence before getting together with somebody and I've consciously put more effort into my career than I have my social life," Talamini said. "I guess, to be honest, I looked at my parents' relationship and decided I didn't want that. I think my mother got married because she wanted to be supported financially and wanted to get away from her family. And then, when things didn't work out, she felt trapped because she didn't have a sense of being able to take care of herself."
Lately, Talamini has decided to shift her priorities to include time for both work and an expanded social life. "I honestly believe I can have both (professional and marital success) now. What I did was establish one foundation and can go after the other now."
Talamini acknowledges that her approach is "almost like a male point of view." But she suspects that tossing out traditional sex roles might contribute to happier unions for men and women. "Maybe that's what we're doing: We're taking the sex roles out of it and going after what is best for each of us."
Not a Role Reversal
But Talamini is hardly looking for complete role reversal. In fact, she would like her mate to be at least as economically self-sufficient as she is, perhaps even more so.
"I know it's important to me," she said. "It may not be the only factor, but it's part of the compatibility factor--that they're going to have a sense of their own success just as I have mine. It's not necessary that they make X amount of dollars . . . . That's not it. They may have made some different choices along the way as to how they've set up their security. I'm not so inflexible that the guy has to come with a balance sheet and look a certain way."
By contrast, 33-year-old Michael Fischman has experienced the sort of financial success that appeals to many women (he previously earned $60,000 a year as a sales executive). But Fischman didn't find the job personally fulfilling and has chosen to work at a lower-stress, lower-paying interim job (also in sales) while he experiments with other career options, including forming his own business.
"I definitely would like to get married," Fischman said. "I feel part of me is ready emotionally, part of me is ready psychologically. The only hindrance is I haven't carved out my niche professionally. Personal development and finding myself has been my priority as opposed to putting my attention on materiality and career."
A New York transplant who moved to a Santa Monica apartment two years ago, Fischman believes the type of woman he wants to attract "is the kind of woman who'd want a man who has his career together."
And he approves: "I'd want to feel I was contributing and I'd want to be an equal (financial) contributor in the relationship."
But the downside he sees to such commitment, at least for now, is that he "probably wouldn't take as many risks financially" and could wind up making the relationship and a family a higher priority than "finding the ultimate career for myself." Then again, Fischman wonders what would happen if the "right woman" waltzed into his life and motivated him to achieve his career goals at a faster pace.
In any case, he said, "I'm not projecting myself as someone who has it together. I'm just projecting myself as who I am. I feel like there's a sign on my head that says, 'Hey, I'm a really great guy but I'm not ready yet.' . . . I think girls see a sign that says, 'Watch out for this guy. He doesn't have it together yet. He needs another six months.' "
Whenever Fischman marries, he expects his relationship to differ markedly from that of his parents. "I don't think they had the skills or the mechanics for avoiding arguments. I don't think they were really capable of expressing their emotions, to feel like they loved each other and were part of the same team," he said. "I want to find somebody that I'm compatible with and we're goal-oriented toward the same things . . . I want to pick a partner who's going to last a lifetime, not somebody who's going to last five years and then I'll move on."
In the meantime, Fischman claims to feel little pressure to move into marriage. "I guess the reason I don't feel it is I'm getting a stronger and stronger identity of myself. It's kind of like first you have a relationship with yourself and become happy with yourself. I would assume that the woman I'm going to get into a relationship with is doing the same thing."