Overview:

In a politically polarized America, it’s harder than ever to find a life partner who shares your beliefs. As a result, more and more young people are single. Here’s what men can do to improve their odds of finding love.

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Yes, I really have dating advice for conservative men! I want to help them catch a woman’s eye, get a date, and turn that date into a relationship.

We’ll get to that. But first, let me establish my credentials, and then we’ll discuss why so many men, especially conservatives, are at an impasse in their love lives.

I’ve been married for 13 years, and I’d describe my marriage as blissfully happy. My wife Elizabeth and I have similar interests and similar outlooks on life. She’s always supported my writing, and in turn, I try my best to support her volunteering and activism. We make a good team: our talents are complementary, and we’ve helped each other grow and improve. Most important of all, we genuinely enjoy each other’s company and the time we spend together.

Our relationship isn’t entirely harmonious. We have our disagreements and our challenges, like any couple. But so far, we’ve been able to resolve them through communication and compromise.

I believe this isn’t a fluke or a stroke of good luck. Anyone can have a strong, fulfilling relationship if both people are willing to put in the work. Let’s talk about why it’s proved elusive for so many people.

The crisis of men

In the classical conservative worldview, men are the protectors and the providers, while women are the nurturers. The logic of this binary is that each gender brings something to a relationship that the other can’t, blending two halves into a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts.

In this conception, women’s role is to be the mothers and the homemakers. They birth and raise the children, perform domestic labor like cleaning and cooking, and care for elders and other family.

Men are the breadwinners. They do the labor outside the home that’s necessary to support their family. They’re also the rulemakers who lay down the law and provide discipline. In times of war or crisis, they’re also the warriors called upon to protect their wives and children, by laying down their own lives if need be.

Whichever political perspective you come from, we can agree that social change has upended this model. More women than ever are pursuing higher education and employment, choosing to get married and have children later, or not at all. Divorce is more common than it once was, with a concomitant rise in the number of single-parent families. Meanwhile, men are getting left behind, especially in economically depressed areas where factories have closed and once-thriving industries have vanished. Deprived of their purpose, unable to be either provider or patriarch, they feel as if they’re useless or unneeded.

However, the roots of this malaise are deeper than merely economic factors. There’s a widespread perception that the classically masculine traits—honor, courage, emotional stoicism, take-charge leadership, risk-taking, aggression, sexual forwardness—have fallen out of favor, or are considered downright toxic. According to this story, society has been overtaken by a mindset that elevates only feminine virtues, leaving no room for men to be themselves.

Like an animal confined in a cage and not allowed to roam free, depression, psychosis and suicide are the predictable results. The only way to heal these problems is to go back to the days when men could be men and women could be women.

The crisis of women

That’s the story told from one perspective. Now let’s hear the other side, starting with a historical perspective on marriage and relationships.

For centuries, marriage for women was scarcely distinguishable from slavery. The concept of coverture held that married women had no legal existence apart from their husbands. They couldn’t own property, sign a contract, get an education, or hold a job without their husband’s permission. The expectation for a married woman to change her last name to her husband’s symbolizes this submergence of identity.

In parallel to this, the custom of courtship (which, I note, some religious communities want to bring back) proclaims that a woman’s chief duty in life is to submit and obey whichever male authority figure is present. It treats women as property to be handed off from father to husband, like livestock for sale at the market. The wedding custom of “giving the bride away” hearkens back to this ancient notion.

While coverture laws were relaxed in the 19th century, other patriarchal notions persisted. Chief among these is that women didn’t have the right to vote. The 19th Amendment, which guaranteed equal suffrage, wasn’t ratified until 1920.

Even after women won the vote, other injustices persisted. Women were often forbidden to work after they got married. They were barred from seeking higher education. They also lacked access to money and finance. Well into the 1970s, banks routinely refused to open savings accounts or give out mortgages or credit cards to unmarried women, and gave them to married women only with their husband’s permission. And as recently as 1975, marital rape wasn’t illegal anywhere in the U.S. It wasn’t until 1993 that every state made it a crime to rape your spouse.

Men might pine for the golden age of the past, but you can see why women are less enthusiastic about it. In every way that mattered, they were denied the freedom to live and participate in society as equals.

Imagine a mirror image of this society: one where men weren’t allowed to vote, where men were taught from childhood to submit and obey women, where men were handed off from our mothers to our wives, where we were forbidden from getting an education or working or having a bank account without a woman’s permission. I ask my fellow men: If that’s not a world you’d want to live in, what makes you think women would be any happier with it?

Going backwards

You might object that all these things are in the past and are no longer relevant. However, women don’t see it that way.

The downfall of Roe v. Wade, and the ensuing rush among conservative states to outlaw abortion, was a drastic curtailment of rights that had long been established and that many women believed secure. Many of these state bans don’t permit abortion even in cases of rape or to save the woman’s life.

Men, who don’t bear the risks and the burdens of pregnancy, can afford to take a more relaxed attitude. But women see this as a massive governmental intrusion on their right to bodily autonomy. If you’re mad at high taxes or burdensome regulations, just imagine if the state was telling you what to do with your internal organs.

Then there are the religious sects (like the Duggars) who want to turn the clock back. As I already mentioned, many Christian churches want to restore customs of courtship, arranged marriage, and the expectation of male headship and female submission. Some conservatives argue that women shouldn’t work outside the home. Some conservative preachers and politicians go so far as to suggest that voting rights should be taken away from women.

Women, especially young women, believe—with reason—that their rights and freedoms are under attack, that conservatives want to return them to a state of subjugation. The predictable result is that they’re becoming dramatically more liberal. This shows up clearly in the polling data:

Forty-four percent of young women counted themselves liberal in 2021, compared to 25 percent of young men, according to Gallup Poll data analyzed by the Survey Center on American Life. The gender gap is the largest recorded in 24 years of polling.

Young women are trending liberal. Young men are not.” Daniel de Visé, The Hill, 6 October 2022.

This is creating an ideological mismatch among singles:

Liberal women and conservative men who want to marry face a particular challenge: Not enough single partners of the correct political persuasion are available today. In broad terms, there are only 0.6 single liberal young men for each single liberal young woman; likewise, only 0.5 single conservative young women exist for every conservative young man. Statistically, in other words, about half of these ideologically minded young singles face the prospect of failing to find a partner who shares their politics.

Now Political Polarization Comes for Marriage Prospects.” Lyman Stone and Brad Wilcox, The Atlantic, 11 June 2023.

The steady divergence of ideologies, like a widening tectonic rift, spells misery for both men and women.

It makes sense that most people want a partner who shares their views. Politics aren’t just about how you vote. They’re a big part of each person’s life philosophy: how we define good and evil, how we think of rights and duties, what we imagine happiness looks like. When it comes to life’s big questions—like whether to live in a big city or a small town, or how to budget and manage finances, or which church (if any) to attend, or how many kids to have—it’s easier to find harmony when you’re partnered with someone whose belief system is the same as yours.

But if there are more liberal women than liberal men, and more conservative men than conservative women… does that mean most of us are doomed to unhappiness? Will we be alone forever? Or worse, stuck in fractious, miserable relationships, always clashing with our spouses?

Supply and demand

Some preachers claim that women secretly enjoy being subjugated, and if they’re just reminded of this, they’ll happily return to being subservient housewives. You should reject this for the obvious wishful thinking it is. If women wanted to return to “the good old days”, nothing is stopping them. Instead, they’re doing the exact opposite.

If you’re conservative, you may not endorse the trend of women moving left. But you should acknowledge it as a reality. As the adage goes, facts don’t care about your feelings.

What can you do instead?

To invoke a classic argument from evolutionary psychology, women are the choosy sex. From an evolutionary standpoint, females have to invest more resources into each of their offspring, so they have to select the best candidate to mate with. To win them over, males need to demonstrate their desirable qualities. This is a common pattern in the animal kingdom, and many evo-psych writers assume that it applies to human beings too.

What are the desirable qualities for a mate today? It’s not muscles or testosterone; we’re not spearing bison for a living anymore. The polls tell the story: it’s about showing that you believe in women’s rights, in a political climate when that can no longer be taken for granted. It’s about showing that you’ll be a kind, loyal, and supportive partner—a man who complements a woman’s life and uplifts her in the pursuit of her own dreams, rather than treating her as an adjunct to himself.

To think of it in economic terms, this is about supply and demand. Feminist men are a product for which there’s a large demand and insufficient supply. If you want to be in a relationship, and if you’re willing to adapt your politics at least a little, you can gain a competitive advantage.

I’m not saying that you have to completely overhaul your beliefs or pretend to be someone you’re not. Nor am I saying that two people have to agree about everything to date. However, as a basic matter of logic and reason, it shouldn’t be surprising that women want to be with men who treat them as equals and respect their right to liberty, bodily autonomy, and self-determination. Men who are willing to extend that courtesy will have greater success in their love lives, compared to those who don’t.

This doesn’t mean that men have to stop being men. We can keep what’s good about traditional masculinity, while jettisoning the parts which assume that men are entitled to lord it over women. Women have education, careers, rights, independence, and power. They don’t need men to survive anymore.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. All human beings, regardless of gender, desire love, companionship, and a partner who respects, supports and fulfills us. If you’re an enlightened, self-aware man, the right woman will want to be with you, and it’s better to be wanted than to be needed. One promotes mutual respect, reciprocal pleasure, and the desire to be your best self. The other can only give rise to grudging and resentful dependence.