“Missing Men” and the Ticking Biological Clock

In public policy debates, it’s often assumed that women freeze their eggs in order to put off childbearing during the prime time of their careers. According to new research, however, more and more educated and successful women are choosing to freeze their eggs because they cannot find a man they want to marry. Many men are “missing” from higher education, work, and church – and are just not marriageable.

As a single woman, I am interested in the causes of this “missing men” phenomenon. While I think the Church and society should focus on forming men to be more marriageable, I am also concerned for the Catholic women who are single and want to get married. What should Catholic women do in this situation?

It is easy to become disheartened – even to despair – about the apparent lack of marriageable men in our culture. I’ve met many beautiful and intelligent single women who are worried they will never get married or they will get married too late to have children. They are willing to leave their careers behind in order to be a wife and mother, yet they simply cannot find the right man.

This is something new to our generation. It never occurred to my mother and her friends that they would never find a spouse. Most of them were happily married by their mid-twenties.

I won’t argue here about why egg freezing is immoral (that’s for another article). I’ve pondered, however, what Catholic single women should do in this culture of “missing men.” Here are some alternatives that I have found to be helpful in my own singlehood.

Simply do the will of God: I’ve often wondered if I was making an unwise decision by getting a PhD in theology. Was I “putting off” my vocation? Would I intimidate men and then be single the rest of my life? I discerned that God was calling me to pursue my doctorate. I could not wait around in a job that would not fulfill me. I want to get married and have children, of course, but I realized I could not waste my gifts just because I was fearful of never finding a man to marry.

We cannot ignore our “biological clocks,” but we also cannot let them rule us or make us discouraged. While there are many benefits to marrying early, this is not the path for everyone. Think of St. Gianna Molla. She became a medical doctor and married when she was thirty-three.

If you are united to the Lord in prayer, do not worry if you are ruining your chances of getting married or are seen to be “foolish” in the eyes of the world. God will put the man of your dreams where you will find him or where he will find you. Pursue God’s call and trust in His Divine Providence, and He may just surprise you.

Off by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1899 [Manchester Art Gallery]

Don’t give in to loneliness: We all fear being alone in our thirties or our forties – or of “dying alone.” Women are made for community and are not meant to live in isolation. Many women, though, suffer from loneliness. Satan wants us to feel isolated and alone because we need community in order to be truly alive. Embrace your dependence on others, and continue to foster relationships with your family. Build community in your work place, apostolate, or school. I have found that even married women struggle with loneliness – and that I can give much comfort to my married friends who may feel isolated during the day with a toddler or a newborn.

Rejoice with your friends and sisters who are getting married. Don’t be jealous or envious of their happiness. Jealousy can destroy peace and even lead to isolation. If you struggle with envy, pray to be freed from it. Gratitude can also cure jealousy. In my planner, I have a specific place where I write what I am grateful for each day. Find a place where you can write what you are grateful for to help you remember how God works in your life.

Even if you feel alone or anxious that you will be lonely, rest in the truth that Christ is enough for you. This can be really difficult since our desire for marriage is written in our nature. Ask Christ to give you the grace you need to embrace your cross and find joy in it. Through this particular sorrow, God teaches us how we rely on Him for everything. Focus on the Lord’s will for you today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Let Him heal you of your fear.

“Offer it up”: God may, in fact, be asking us to suffer for the sins of the sexual revolution, which is the reason for the situation in which we find ourselves. We should offer up the waiting, heartache, and loneliness for the reparation of the sins against chastity, such as contraception and pornography. Fast for our brothers and for our future husbands.

I have heard our situation described as similar to a period after a war. In this case, however, many men are not physically dead; they are spiritually dead. Many of them are addicted to porn or are facing a great spiritual battle. Fasting from technology, which is a source of struggle for many men, is an excellent way to help our brothers in Christ. I actually decided to delete my Facebook account and offer it up for my future husband.

If we stay faithful to the Lord in the midst of the darkness of our society and learn to completely rely on Him, finding that He is enough for us, we might just transform the culture for Christ. And because of our prayers and sacrifices, we may no longer experience this “missing men” problem.

Kara Logan is a PhD student at Ave Maria University. She also serves as an Affiliate Scholar with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio.