Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the various pros and cons that might run through the mind of a person contemplating a marriage that can be annulled through the process known as miyun.  Without us getting into the complex halakhic details, the Gemara discusses why a person might risk entering a marriage that could later be dissolved. One such rationale is:

תַּרְוַיְיהוּ נִיחָא לְהוּ, כְּדֵי דְּלִיפּוֹק עֲלַיְיהוּ קָלָא דְאִישׁוּת.

The marriage is convenient for both of them even if it is nullified later, so as to generate publicity about them that they are married.

Tosafos (“Tarvaiyhu”) points out that the correct text reads “both of them”, because the man alone may not be as motivated to marry.  The rabbis have established a truism of human nature that women generally tend to want marriage more than men, and Tosafos quotes several sources.

For modern times, what does the research show?  Are the assumptions of Chazal still active?  According to researchers Keera Allendorf, et al (J Marriage Fam. 2017 October ; 79(5): 1478–1496. doi:10.1111/jomf.12426.), indeed it is!

“Marital timing differs by gender, with women marrying earlier in life than men. This gender differential holds across contexts. The singulate mean age at marriage is higher for men in all 114 countries for which the United Nations has data. On average, men marry 3.3 years later than women in the world as a whole, ranging from a low of 1.8 years in North America and Northern Europe to a high of 6.6 years in Western Africa. Further, this gender gap of about three years has remained steady in recent decades, even as marriage is increasingly postponed and both men and women marry later in life.”

What are some theories to explain this sociological phenomenon?  The above quoted article explains:

  • Becker (1981) suggested that women exchange household production for men’s income-earning capabilities. Thus, women marry younger than men because they need a husband to support them and, if they are economically independent, women can forgo marriage entirely. In turn, employed men with high levels of income and education are more likely to marry, while women with those characteristics are less likely to marry.”
  • If men prefer younger women, which does seem to be the case in a general sense, families, community and individual pressures would act on women to enter the marriage market earlier than men.  And the opposite force might work on men to delay entry into the marriage market. Because, at least from late adolescence through early young adulthood, a woman's desirability as a mate may decrease with age, while a man’s may increase, because his social status and means of earning a living trends upward during those years.

In any case, returning to the Tosafos, the answer is psychologically nuanced. Tosafos is saying that even though the man alone would not be motivated to marry as much as the woman, once they both are connected and committed to the idea, the man becomes motivated as well.  This is an important lesson in marriage dynamics and courtship; the man’s initial reluctance and motivation changes and is increased once the marriage commitment is made between the two prospective mates.



Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)