Reimaging how we define labor and love could be an antidote to men’s sense of disaffection lack of purpose.
There is a passage in the Jewish prayer book that reads, “We have not come into being to hate or to destroy, but to praise, to labor and to love.”
I’ll take interpretive license to see praise as a form of gratitude, and deal with that below.
But labor and love are simpler and clearer. Or are they?
Because if our purpose is in fact to labor and to love, then American men have lost their purpose. What remains is a dire mix of despair, loneliness, aimlessness, and disaffection.
One in 9 men considered to be in their prime working years have dropped out of the labor market. In the 1950s, it was one in 50.
And more than 60% of men in their 20s are single. Overall, 30% of U.S. adults are not in a committed relationship.
According to Pew, only half of single men are actively seeking relationships, and that number is decreasing.
There are many reasons for these relationship trends, and not all of them negative. With greater educational and professional opportunities, fewer women are dependent on a relationship for housing or financial security.
With that independence comes higher standards for what women want or expect out of a partner. As it should be: men need to learn and adapt to be better partners, especially when what they bring to the table isn’t money or health insurance.
And that’s especially challenging when men don’t even have that money and accompanying benefits to begin with because they’re unemployed. Rather than being a provider, which has its own antiquated, rigid gender role associations, unemployed men are instead a burden.
That leads to men removing themselves from the dating market as much as the job market. (Both of which, it’s worth considering, are filled with fake listings.)
This is more than an issue of relationships and couple-hood. This goes beyond being sex- or touch- deprived, though it is all those things, too.
It reaches into an existential crisis of manhood.