The men are not alright. That’s the gist of a recent study of 46,054 people in 237 countries in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, which found that men are now more likely to be “lonely and single” than women — not the case a mere 30 years ago.
When did this happen — and why? Greg Matos, PsyD, a couples therapist, put forth a theory in an article for Psychology Today. According to him, there are three broad reasons why men today are lonelier than ever, and why that’s a trend that’s likely to continue.
- There are more men than women on dating apps, making apps more competitive. (Heterosexual men make up 62 percent of dating app users these days.)
- Women are becoming increasingly selective, in part because they have so many options.
- Men are not closing the “relationship skills gap.”
Reading between the lines a little, many people took Dr. Matos’ point to mean: men are getting lonely because women have higher standards these days.
In fact, the “relationship skills gap” that’s so hard for men to fill is that women are looking for partners who are “emotionally available, good communicators, and share similar values,” writes Dr. Matos. And if the gap isn’t closed, heterosexual men will continue having fewer dates and extended periods of singledom.
“Now men have to improve their partners’ lives in other ways, and they are flailing and sulking about it.”
Dr. Matos does suggest a solution, and that is for men to go to therapy. His exact advice came in the form of a sports metaphor: “Level up your mental health game,” he says. “It means seeing intimacy, romance, and emotional connection as worthy of your time and effort.”
The Psychology Today article has received a lot of attention across the internet. One Twitter user wrote, “Men didn’t really have to step up until single women secured a lot of rights that allowed them to be independent (being able to have a credit card, get a mortgage, etc etc). Now men have to improve their partners’ lives in other ways, and they are flailing and sulking about it.” But not everyone was a fan of what Dr. Matos had to say; the therapist shared on TikTok that he received hate mail from multiple men after the story went viral. He responded in the video, “All I’m asking is for you to be the best version of yourself.”
This study and Dr. Matos’ article aren’t delivering totally new information. A 2021 Pew Research Center analysis that looked back over the last 30 years showed that men are more likely than women to be without a partner — and not necessarily out of choice. The report mentions one reason could be a decline in marriage among adults at “prime working age.” In 2019, The New York Times reported that a similar cultural shift was taking place in Japan, with more women opting out of marriage to avoid facing the double standard of managing housework and childcare while juggling a career. The behavior change was “alarming politicians preoccupied with trying to reverse Japan’s declining population,” writes Motoko Rich, Tokyo bureau chief for NYT.
With the current attack on reproductive rights and the double standards faced by many women today, it makes sense that, as Dr. Matos writes in Psychology Today, “healthy relationship standards have changed” to reflect a desire for something more egalitarian, and that some men are having a hard time keeping up with those changing standards. Men are affected by the patriarchy too, and if you are raised with gender roles that praise toxic masculinity, it takes effort to break out of it — effort that some people may be unwilling or unable to put in.
But speaking as someone who grew up on rom-com classics like “He’s Just Not That Into You,” it’s fascinating — and, frankly, a little refreshing — to be on the other side of this gendered game of romance where men are being held accountable for their singlehood. For so long, single women have been treated as a cause for concern, made to feel like something was wrong with them because they hadn’t managed to “settle down.” It’s insulting, and frustrating. So, seeing the lens get switched to men feels a little like comeuppance.
That said, as a queer woman who dates people regardless of their gender identity, at the end of the day, we all want healthy relationships fueled by mutual respect. Regardless of gender, respecting your partner(s) looks like learning each other’s communication style, in addition to working towards healing from past wounds. And yes, sometimes it means going to therapy.