We have several single male friends. One would like a wife and children, the other would like a harem - his word. Both have had far fewer girlfriends than would be expected of smart, funny, and reasonably attractive men in their thirties, who have proven themselves capable of love and friendships. They theorize WHY. A certain social inhibition is certainly part of it, too focused on their educations during those prime years, health issues, limited opportunities - again at key times.
I remember asking myself those questions all through high school and well into college, what is wrong with me? Why can't I get a guy to notice me? Two very short term relationships, one of which was more than a little toxic, just seemed to confirm my inadequacy. But did not tell me what, exactly, caused the problem. In retrospect, the very man who latched on until we got married, held the answer. Manipulators like people without confidence.
The first time I became popular was in army training. I'd learned to walk with confidence, I was strong and cocky and didn't give a ratsass about anyone else's opinion of me. The usual cues of make-up, fashion, hair, were irrelevant, along with having the odds in my favor. With each pass at me, every bit of attention, my self assurance grew.
When D and I first started spending time together, he made no secret of his interest in me. And I loved that courage, not to mention good taste (ha). That appreciation was stronger than any shyness, which meant he thought I was important enough to risk his ego. Also attractive.
And this speaks to one of the WHYs, why do women stay with jerks. Well, nice guys stay with crazy women too. And I think it's the same mechanism. There is nothing as potent as someone pouring out their charm on you, full attention, the kind of intensity often held by the self assured jerks, the neurotically needy, the manipulative addicts, even if only for the first few weeks. But if you don't know that before it happens to you, it's easy to mistake for a nice person falling in love with you.
Just read the book Sway which discusses our irrational behaviour. One of the chapters is on first impressions. And how we really hate giving up our first impressions, rationalizing away anything that doesn't fit. So abused spouses keep insisting that they "aren't really like that." And the jerks show that intense side of themselves just often enough to keep up the shiny belief.
I so want both of these friends to find joy and love in their lives, mostly of themselves as they are. I wouldn't wish marriage generally on anyone. Too risky, too much the wrong sort of goal. I've seen too many nightmares posing as marriages. The best ones can only end in death and bereavement. When that seems worth it, well, that's the right decision.
As I get older, and further from my own primary family, I see more good marriages. My cousins E & E, our friends Moira and C, two of D's brothers and their spouses, Dave and K, Ty and A, M and C. The list grows, which is like watching the light grow as the flame passes from candle to candle. But it doesn't need marriage, loves grows in clumps, inclusive and infectious as laughter.
(None of those are from our wedding. There are no photos of that event.)