Did you catch this title in this week’s Irish Times? It certainly caught my eye! The opening premise that undying romantic love is not the main driver behind Irish men choosing their future wives rang a bell alright.
It appears that the decision to settle down and get married is often made for much more practical reasons such as timing and financial stability.
Dr Paul Ryan, assistant lecturer in sociology at NUI Maynooth, is writing a book based on the letters sent to agony aunt Angela McNamara, whose column appeared in the now defunct Sunday Press for 17 years (I remember it well!)
He presented a paper entitled How I Met Your Mother: Exploring Changes in Mate Selection in the Lives of Irish Men 1963-80 at the 38th annual conference of the Sociological Association of Ireland at University College Cork over the weekend.
In this paper, Dr Ryan looks at the extent to which the practices of mate selection changed when the traditional structures of community, class, education and family began to change in Ireland in the 1960s. As well as reading the letters sent to McNamara, Dr Ryan interviewed men who read her columns about their reasons for dating and marrying the women they married over that period.
‘All the literature in sociology shows that prior to 1960, marriage was all about farming issues and dowries with the man’s parents, particularly his mother, having a much greater say over the wife her son chose,’ says Dr Ryan.
‘As we moved into the great modernist era of the 1960s, we were supposed to have got rid of all this and the perception was that people were choosing their partners for love, but my research threw up a few contradictions.’
Dr Ryan found that love was not a main driver in proposing marriage for the men he interviewed. Timing was a huge factor. Waiting until they felt they were financially stable was another factor in the man’s decision to get married.
‘That concept of heroic love was not really there. One man told me that as his wife would be moving in with him and his parents, he had to choose somebody his parents would get on with,’ says Dr Ryan.
‘Another man broke up with his fiancee who was seven years older because his mother did not think it was a good idea.
‘Although the literature would say family became less important, my interviews found the men never married somebody their parents did not approve of.’
Dr Ryan points out that this unromantic basis for making the commitment to marry persists into the modern sociological literature.
In her book Talk of Love , Berkeley sociologist Ann Swidler writes of marriages that are the outcome of steady friendships in many cases or of couples who decided to marry after they ‘grew on each other’
‘On the one hand, we are sold this incredibly romantic notion of how couples meet and marry through the media and movies, but in reality, it’s often quite different,’ according to Dr Ryan.
Source: Irish Times 10/5/11
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