The Ongoing Drought
Fewer females are staying in rural and remote communities – leaving young men desirous of staying on the land, with the difficult prospect of finding partners in a diminishing pool of potential females– a grim prospect indeed. Far from being a humorous issue, this is an issue affecting the mental health and future of rural males on the land.
Dr John Ashfield
For details of all interviewees who contributed to this project, click here
Dr John Ashfield
Life for a lot of single men in rural areas can be very lonely and unhappy. And it rarely occurs to people who are married or attached, just how difficult it is for some single men to get through each day with the painful ache of being alone, not being able to say anything about it, and not knowing what to do about it.
For quite complex reasons, few other personal issues seem to have as much potential for embarrassment and “beating up on oneself” as not being able to find a partner. But this is a looming mental health issue of significant proportions in the bush, and it’s not one we can afford to laugh off or ignore. With so many young women departing for city education or work opportunities – leaving behind those young men who decide to stay because they hope for a future in farming, there is a problem of simple mathematics: too few potential female partners for available single males.
The thinning of rural populations in many areas, due to the diminishing number of smaller holdings, will likely add to the dilemma. Highlighting and openly talking about this mathematical reality may prove to be the best way of putting the problem in perspective, and significantly diminishing its stigma and embarrassment for single males.
Various efforts have been made to bring singles together. But one-off events, though successful for some, may leave others feeling less rather than more competent, for not having succeeded with that one opportunity. Creating opportunities for single men to meet women through reputable introduction agencies may well prove to be the most effective and sustainable way of helping them to become partnered.
Many single men also need to be coached in some of the subtle competencies required for approaching and engaging women more effectively. Too often their attempts are undone by fairly rudimentary mistakes – including the overuse of alcohol, and the wrong use of opportunities for conversation – like the tendency to talk about farm matters, rather than things that might build rapport and provide a basis for female interest.
Much more effort will also need to go into exploring new potential arrangements of relationships, that don’t demand that interested non-rural women necessarily try to adapt to rural life in a single leap. Combining the aspects of city/town and country living arrangements with periodic traveling may be necessary – including as a long-term compromise, if that’s what can make a relationship possible.
Being single and dateless is no joke – it’s a mental health issue, and it’s an issue that is profoundly affecting many rural men. Changes in the nature of farming, and in the social composition of rural communities, demand changes in traditional social conventions. There will be no escaping the need to accept ideas and options that may at first seem foreign and unorthodox.
First Broadcast – Monday 29 April 2013
Practical tips for males in search of a female partner may include:
– Be realistic – because the kind of woman you’re capable of attracting is the kind of woman you’ll likely have a chance with, and be comfortable with.
– You also need to be yourself – which is who you are when you’re sober. If you or others don’t like who you are, then you’ll need to work seriously on that. Pretending is never a good idea because eventually you’ll be found out.
– If you see an opportunity to make contact with a woman, don’t tell all your mates and give them chance to make a joke of it. Be thoughtful and discrete.
– If you’re really nervous, you could ask a female friend when and how best to make a move. On occasions they may even be able to act as a go between to smooth the way.
– You can’t avoid the possibility of being turned down. You may have to get used to that – and how it makes you feel. You may have to learn how to push through disappointments – if you’re to be emotionally ready for your next opportunity. You will have to get some tone into your emotional muscles.
– Use an opportunity for conversation with a woman to build a connection, to build on what she has to say, and to show you are a good listener. For goodness sake don’t show off, avoid sexual innuendo, and only talk about yourself and your interests in moderation. If you have to rely too much on alcohol, it’s back to first principles: you’ve probably got more work to do on yourself and your skills.
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