In response to my last article, Why Are You Still Single?, I received the following email (with a few edits for clarity):

I have three sisters with whom I’ve talked about the fact that I have not been married… and that women seem to take a shortcut in sizing me up.  As I have not been married, many women assume I had chances and wouldn’t commit OR that no woman would want me so why would they (as if all women are alike!).  This is the brutal honesty I could get only from women who would level with me (my sisters) contrasted with non-female relatives whom my sisters tell me want to spare my feelings. 

I made a TERRIBLE personal decision that I had no way of knowing at the time was horrible.  I had no idea that if by my mid-thirties I didn’t marry someone — ANYONE — my future prospects would diminish dramatically!!!!!  It is the classic cousin of the paradox, “You can’t get a job until you have experience, and you can’t get experience until you get a job.”  I can’t get married a first time IF it wasn’t done by this arbitrary cutoff.  And, yes, Erika, I imagine you know people who HAVE been married for the first time past their mid-thirties.  But isn’t it true that the majority take that step before that cutoff?  As Pink Floyd sang (if you know that British rock group), “No one told me when to run, you missed the starting gun.” 

I now feel chances are low that I can find a mutually satisfying person with whom to get serious about—marriage or not.  My mother warned me when I was in my late twenties and thirties to marry someone, anyone.  I thought her crazy!  Why do that and have to go through a messy and painful divorce????  I had NOOOOOO idea that being divorced once is FARRRRRRRR better when pursuing a new relationship than never having taken that walk down the aisle.  In baseball parlance, it is FARRRR better to have struck out than never having come up to bat marriage-wise.  Sad but true.

-Doomed Dater


Dear Doomed,

Thanks so much for writing and for sharing your thoughts with me.  It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it?  Like you said, it’s much like the job paradox: you need experience to get the job, but without the job, you don’t have experience.  I wish I could sugarcoat what you’re saying, but sadly, people do sometimes assume something is “wrong” if you haven’t been married by a certain age.  Granted, this generally occurs more on online dating sites than in person because marital history is given the exact same weight as variables such as age, hair color, education level, etc.  People use it as a way to rule people out.  As I always tell my clients, everyone has a story, and it’s important to hear it out.

I agree with you 100% that if you had the intuition to know that a relationship wasn’t going to work out in the long run, it’s better not to have gone through a divorce since you figured it out before getting married.  It’s all in how you frame it.  If you become defensive, someone may think there really is something wrong.  You could instead say, “I had the foresight not to marry the wrong person… now I’m excited to meet the right one.”

While I didn’t say this in my initial response to this question, I’d like to add it here now:

Everyone has something that’s perceived as a “red flag” to someone else.  Maybe it’s your education level, your height, your hair color, your age, your religion, your body type, or your marital status.  All we can control is what we put out there — the truth.  What we can never control is what people do with that information and what conclusions they draw from it.

As you know, people always assume things when they don’t have all of the information, so the fact that you’ve never been married and don’t have children may prevent some women of interest from reaching out or responding because they don’t know your story.  (This is true for women, too.)  That’s not something we can control, unfortunately.  The right ones will be open-minded enough to hear it out.

So, for this dater, and others with the same question, if it’s something that you’d like to get out of the way in your profile, I’d suggest saying something simple about it, like one of these lines:

  • “I’m not one to shy away from committed relationships, and I look forward to starting this portion of my life with the right person.”
  • “I value relationships with family — yours and mine.  I’ll gladly welcome you as you come, and I hope you’ll do the same for me.”

Here’s my last point:

Just as no one wants to be asked such personal questions on a first date, like, “Why are you divorced?” people also don’t want to be asked, “Why haven’t you been married?”  These questions often bring up bad memories or immediately put someone on the defensive.   These are very private questions that should be answered on someone’s own time.  When it comes down to it, it is no one’s business why someone is not married (at any age).  You can’t prevent people from making assumptions (which are probably wrong).  That, of course, goes for things beyond dating, like why someone may be overweight or shy or jobless.  No one can know the causes, but assumptions are often made about these things, too.  We certainly can’t stop people from asking these and much more personal questions (as we all know!), but do remember that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your life choices… especially on a first date.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge and author of acclaimed Love at First Site. Her work has been seen on NPR, Talk Philly, The Washington Post, and more. To join her mailing list for tips and events, please join here.
  1. So I began online dating at age 24 … I’m now 32. I have grown. My choice of qualities and intrest have grown. I have to say that there are reasons I see why many of us are still single. I think it’s hard finding someone that you are attracted to. , then connect on a fun and mature level. Then there’s the location . Followed by the intentions of the guy or girl . Are you both looking for the same thing at the same time. Do you both observe on the same ways. Are your family backgrounds similar or so diffrent it’s a surprise to u both that u just click . There are just so may things to consider when choosing to be together as life partners. We all struggle searching , then saying it will come along, to the point of I sware I’m not looking lol ….. Because it will come then …. But the truth is Who is willing to be your support team. Who is going to want to make you happy. Who really wants to be there for each other…. And for most we feel we are allowing someone into our life. Rather than looking for someone wanting to grow in a life together. I think it’s worth it … Do you … If so. Consider these things when looking for the love of your life . It’s not just the physical , it’s not the wealth, in the end it’s the spark or connection. Jdate is known world wide for creating that jewish spark and connection …. There’s no better place to look. So when u out and about wondering. Why is everyone telling you you gotta be at the right place at the right time. We all want to know where to look. What’s the address of the place to find him or her… If you ask me a member of many years. I still belive there’s no better place to look than on Thankyou jdate for providing myself and all your members a chance each time we sighn on . There’s a chance each time I check my mail. Because of your site.
    All my love. Ahuvah

  2. I have to say that this letter worries me. I’m also 35.
    I cannot say I missed a lot of chances, one girlfriend wanted to get married but our relationship was a mess, so i’m happy in hindsight i didn’t take her up on the offer.
    I’ve been rejected way more than I have rejected. And women often want to play cat and mouse, which for me is a stupid game, so I lose out a lot there too. So i’m left here at 35, thinking, i have maybe 5 more years until things start to look really gloomy, but it feels bad already now to be honest.
    What surprised me in the letter was that the guy related to 35 as if it were 40. I thought that women would look at someone at the age of 40 with mistrust, but not 35.
    ah well, that’s life. G-d is great.

  3. Single woman, about to turn 33. Have been online dating since my early to mid- twenties. I am starting to feel my time is running out too. It’s more difficult for women in their thirties and up who are never married, as men tend to discriminate and seek women in their 20’s. It’s very difficult and frustrating. I thought I would have met someone easily through this site. I don’t want to blame Jdate. But I wonder if online dating is making singles too choosy for their own good. I’ve gone out with men that I felt I had a great connection with. But then, they faded after a few months, probably because they were looking for something and someone “better.”
    It is great to live in NY where there are so many Jewish singles.. but this is also a curse in that with the ease of meeting people with online dating, it can turn people into serial daters rather than trying to build meaningful connections that will lead to shidduchs… yet, it seems in our busy, modern day societies that online dating and Jdating can seem the best way to meet someone Jewish.

    I don’t have the answers, I can only tell you I feel the same frustration.

  4. Are you kidding me — people rule out potential dates based on hair color??? And the author here compared ruling out a never-married as a characteristic that should be considered MORE frivolous than ruling out some based on hair color??? Wow, I guess I have a lot to learn about how shallow people really are.

    Being married is a major experience. It seems entirely reasonable for a person to suppose that if a potential partner has never experienced it, though they themselves have, that will mean they and the potential partner are missing a major experience in common. Isn’t common experience a pretty reasonable basis to predict compatibility?

    Also, I think a lot of people learn a lot about what is really worth breaking up over through divorce: divorce is such a harmful experience, it really must be avoided at all costs. Our society tells us that divorce is a walk in the park, so the only way to understand how destructive it actually is, is to live through it. I think it is completely reasonable to stick to people who have learned this lesson the hard way, and are much less likely to breakup over differences that actually could and should be resolved or tolerated.

  5. Dear TooLate4Love, I am a woman and what you relate is true! Whenever I come across a man who hasn’t been married by his mid-forties, I immediately think that he has NO ‘relationship’ potential. Why? When I was a kid a nice native American lady who worked for us told me that if a man has not been married by the age of 40, he is not marriage material. And this wasn’t a Jewish lady, she was Latino! I think most women know that part of a relationship entails TAMING each other. And well, women are taught from childhood to adapt to a relationship. If you a man who isn’t married by the time he is forty, that might register, with a lot of women as a person who would simply not adapt to those circumstances, or who lacks passion, is unable to be a family man, is selfish, is a mama’s boy, or with whom no woman has fallen in love with, etc… Today, when I meet a man who hasn’t been married by age 45 I do see it as an alarm bell that there is some kind of issue and I after asking them why they have never been married, I walk away. I am simply NOT interested. I am sorry, but what I have learned from online dating is that there are no second chances.

  6. To Tman. Of course I know for each of us with our life experience we get to this red flag point at different times in our life. When I was younger the ladies asked me what I did for a living as usually the first question. They wanted to know what kind of security I could provide them and probably the kids we would have. I was Not a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief so that itself presented obstacles for me. But I noticed the profession inquiry was soon eclipsed by marital status. I first I lied saying I was divorced but found that undermined trust that is essential in forming a permanent bond as eventually I came clean and declared I was NOT divorced (the norm) but unmarried (the bearer of the red flag). Let me also say to Tman I am a boomer (64 years of age) This is how MY generation responds to never wearing that wedding ring and trying to make a lasting connection. Perhaps younger generations will be more tolerant and understanding. we can only hope those of us never the bride or groom.

  7. To Toolate4love—How dismal it is if what you say is universally true. I have love to give. Listen to Paul Simon’s “Song for the asking” He sums up it well.

  8. To Judy—How dismal it is if what you say is universally true. I have love to give. Listen to Paul Simon’s “Song for the asking” He sums up it well.

  9. To Toolate4love-I find it disheartening you ask the guy why he hasn’t been married and walk away—-regardless of what he says. To many men all that means is don’t say you’ve never been married . Say you were and Hope it won’t matter later. This is why so many people on the computer use old pix. They hope it won’t matter what they NOW look like when you finally meet. Let me point out something divorced people may not like admitting–they didn’t have what to took for whatever they had to last. a flaw-an issue-a problem. Something that very well could resurface in their next relationship. I am untested-mostly due to unsubstantiated conclusions and shortcuts others take. Don’t sell me short. and please don’t act like we are all alike . WE are not. We all have out reasons. My piece of the puzzle may not fit with other ladies but as long as it fits you that’s all that Should and I repeat Should matter.

  10. To Anon- more cliche’s coming-the grass is always greener….My sister who is single tells me the same thing as you. Men want women who could potentially bear kids but I think we being such visual creatures (me too) we gravitate towards women at the peak of their outward beauty. Mea Culpa.

  11. Not everyone sees a ‘never married’ status as a negative. As a never-married woman myself, I, prefer to date a never-married man. With no exes or children you can put each other front and center.

    Like anything else you have to take each person as an individual, get to know them and their history. And that’s best done over time.

  12. Let me say to Taurus Rising I have noticed something puzzling now that you have brought it up. Some never married women declare here they do NOT prefer their never married male counterparts as a possible connection. It is like coming to Jdate and a Jewish person indicating they do NOT want to date another yid. To me that’s how it seems anyway. Very mystifying.

  13. I am not concerned about waiting too long before getting married. I didn’t wait long enough twice. I had another experience that is worth noting. I fell deeply, hopelessly in love with a shiksa about the time my biological clock was saying it was about time I screwed my life up again. This shiksa was about 10-years my junior, making her tremendously attractive. She had never been married, but looked like it was impossible the male kingdom had bypassed her. The thing I missed was she had vitriolic relations with all here exes; was beyond diffidence more like the relations between the Todd-Lincolns and the Wilkes Booths. My entire relationship with this shiksa was poor. Not consistently poor, but varying between nauseatingly horrific to raspingly painful. In the perspective of time. She liked to get the guy to think she was true and loyal, when in fact she had the loyalty of a garter snake and the sensitivity of a fencepost. Soon I flipped from chairman of the committee to nominate her to sainthood to a deep understanding of the genre of everybody plays the fool sometime music. My point if she has been single forever. There may very well be a damn good reason

  14. As I have read above by many other readers, people decide not to pursue someone based on all types of things and it is certainly easier to take these reasons on as personal to you. However, the people who “turn and walk away”, without takes nag the time to know if they are interested in YOU, are extremely shallow. Rather than taking it personally, try to see it as one of their shortcomings, as opposed to yours and that you probably wouldn’t want to be with that type of person anyway. Although it doesn’t make finding a partner any easier, it may make the “disappointment” a bit more palatable. I have been divorced – and hurt by men who pretended to be emotionally available and were not. Believe it or not, the former was easier than the latter. Just be true to your heart – and love will come to you!

  15. Wow,
    All this seems pretty silly to me!!
    Haven’t been married since my career was always put first, however at this time in my life, I am seriously looking for the love of my life and future life partner.
    It’s a new day, and that is why I am on this site.
    In fact, I find that many people that have gone through divorces are bitter and tainted. I am not.

  16. Perhaps I should just arrange a fake marriage and a fake divorce. “All is fair in love, and war, and marriage.”

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